Also known as “the party before the party”, the rehearsal dinner is a traditional pre-wedding ceremony (and an American custom) that is held the night before you tie the knot. Although considered to be an intimate formal affair, it’s a great way in which to officially welcome your bridal party guests to enjoy the celebration of your nuptials on the following day.
To ensure that your rehearsal dinner runs smoothly, and is fun for everyone, it’s essential that you do some careful planning for the last pre-wedding party before your married life begins.
1. Don’t Delay Booking Your Rehearsal Dinner Venue
Regardless of whether the guest list for your rehearsal dinner is small or large, you will need to find a suitable venue to accommodate everyone. Most couples pick a venue that is situated within easy reach of the wedding reception venue, as this allows guests to get familiar with the location.
Leaving your booking arrangements until the last minute is never a good idea. To guarantee venue availability for your rehearsal dinner, it’s important that you make your reservation at the restaurant, bar or other venue of your choice, four to six months in advance of the eve of your big day.
2. Don’t Forget To Send The Invitations
Once you have chosen the perfect rehearsal dinner venue and have made your reservation, it’s time to turn your attention to the all-important guest list and the save the date cards.
As a rehearsal dinner is traditionally an intimate get-together, your guest list should ideally include immediate family and members of your bridal party – the best man, the maid of honour, bridesmaids, groomsmen, the flower girls and ring bearers (and their parents), and wedding officiates. Don’t feel obligated to invite children that are not invited to the wedding ceremony just because their parents can’t organise a babysitter so that they can attend your rehearsal dinner.
It’s a nice touch to also add a ‘plus-one’ so that your guests can bring along their significant other. You can also send save the date cards, for the rehearsal dinner, to close friends that are travelling a long distance to be with you on your special day.
The design of your rehearsal dinner save the date cards should complement the theme of your wedding, without upstaging the personalised wedding invitations that officially request the pleasure of the company of your guests at your wedding.
3. Do Not Exclude The Rehearsal Dinner Hosts
It’s customary for the groom’s family to pay for the wedding rehearsal dinner. Many couples however, opt to cover the cost by incorporating it into their wedding budget. If you’re sticking with tradition, it’s good etiquette to involve the hosts in all aspects of the rehearsal dinner planning and any decision making process.
4. Don’t Forget To Rehearse
As the name implies, a rehearsal dinner is an opportunity to run-through your wedding ceremony before the big day. It’s important to ensure that you allocate sufficient time for the actual rehearsal before the dinner, and that everyone who is part of your bridal party is in attendance at the venue.
If you hire a wedding photographer for the evening, or ask a reliable friend to take photos at the rehearsal dinner, you’ll have some unique photos to add to your wedding photo album.
5. Going Off-Schedule
You obviously want your guests to mingle with each other and to have fun at the rehearsal dinner. To make sure that guests get enough beauty sleep and wake up feeling refreshed, before your wedding, it’s important to avoid going off-schedule and staying up too late. It’s perfectly acceptable to wrap up the evening before 10pm.
6. Don’t Avoid The Toasts
It’s not a good idea to over-schedule your wedding reception with too many speeches and toasts. The rehearsal dinner gives guests ample opportunity to share heartfelt words, stories and anecdotes with the couple, in advance of the wedding day. If you want certain members of your bridal party to toast you at the wedding reception, invite them to practice their speeches at the rehearsal dinner.
The fathers of the bride and the groom also traditionally give speeches during the dinner. At the end of the evening, you and your beloved can say a few words to thank your rehearsal dinner hosts and all of your guests for their support and company.
7. Don’t Forget To Hand Out The Gifts
The rehearsal dinner is an excellent time to hand out the special thank you gifts that you have bought for your parents, in-laws and other members of your bridal party. Many brides-to-be choose to buy a beautiful piece of jewellery for their maid of honour or bridesmaids to wear on the big day. Don’t however expect to receive any gifts from your guests.
8. Overshadowing Your Wedding
A rehearsal dinner should complement your wedding day and not overshadow it. There’s no need to plan a pre-wedding event that is lavish and extravagant, or to feel pressured to provide more than you can comfortably budget for. The perfect rehearsal dinner should be a fun, but low-key occasion like when you take your family and friends out for dinner in a nice restaurant.
If you’re not planning to service a full meal at your rehearsal dinner, it’s polite to let guests know in advance. Eating and drinking in moderation, on the evening before your wedding ceremony, will ensure that you feel your very best on your special day.