Your Rehearsal Dinner Guest List, Explained

While it used to be more clear-cut, today anything goes. We listed both the must-have guests and the extras you can include at your rehearsal dinner.
by Maria Bouselli & Maggie Seaver

Traditionally your rehearsal dinner was just that: a dinner after your ceremony rehearsal in which you'd invite your attendants and immediate family for a small prewedding celebration. Today, however, a rehearsal dinner can run the gamut—think: clambake on the beach with all of your guests or an intimate dinner at your favorite restaurant with just the wedding party members, your parents and each other. So how do you decide who gets an invitation? The answer, really, is up to you. If you want a small gathering to catch up with close friends and relatives, keep it intimate. Rather have a big blowout bash? Go for it. The most important thing is to invite the people you really want to be at your rehearsal dinner—whether it's a cozy family dinner or an all-inclusive event. Here's how to craft the perfect guest list to fit your rehearsal dinner vision.

The Obvious Picks

Your A-team should definitely be in attendance at the rehearsal dinner. This includes your immediate families, close relatives (looking at you, Grandma and Grandpa) and wedding party members.

Less Obvious Musts

After your core group, there are a few must-invites you may not have considered. As a nice gesture, you should invite your officiant and their spouse since they're an important member of your wedding ceremony and will be with you at the ceremony rehearsal earlier on. They may not even accept, but it's important to make the ask. Then don't forget to include your wedding party members' spouses or significant others (everyone in your wedding party should be allowed a plus-one, whether they bring one or not). Finally, decide whether you want to include any little attendants like junior party members, flower girls and ring bearers. If so, invite their parents along too. The kids don't need to stay late—feed them a quick dinner (maybe serve them dinner while you're served a first course) so they can scoot off to bed before the more adult-centric toasts start.

Make It a Party

You can certainly expand the group while keeping your rehearsal dinner relatively intimate. Open your guest list to loved ones who aren't in the wedding party, such as cousins, godparents, college roommates and so on. Or, you can go all out. Invite all of the above, plus out-of-towners who've already arrived—or include everyone on your wedding guest list. This is a great way for all of your guests to meet each other before the formal wedding events begin. Remember, your rehearsal dinner doesn't even have to include a sit-down meal. You can have passed appetizers or buffet options, if you'd rather. Plus, just because you're having a black-tie reception at a ballroom doesn't mean your rehearsal dinner has to match that vibe. Give guests a chance to let loose with a more informal get-together, like a barbecue in your parents' backyard.

The Best of Both Worlds

If you feel bad not including all your guests at a smaller rehearsal dinner, meet up with everyone for drinks after dinner either at or near one of the hotels where out-of-towners are staying. Make this a more informal get-together and let guests know about it on your wedding website or by word of mouth (and don't feel like you have to pick up the tab for this one). Another way to ensure face time with both close family and farflung friends is to have your rehearsal dinner two nights before the wedding and hang out with out-of-towners the night before.


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