There are tons of fun events that take place before the wedding. Whether it’s the engagement party, the bridal shower, or the bachelorette party, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate before your big day.
The rehearsal dinner—typically held the night before the wedding—is the last opportunity to celebrate before the big event. During the rehearsal dinner, the whole wedding party practices what they’ll do during the actual ceremony. And, of course, they eat, drink, and tell stories about the happy couple.
You want your wedding to be as perfect as possible. For this reason, the rehearsal dinner is an important last step of the wedding planning process. But we definitely don’t want it to feel like work. So, here are some of our favorite tips to make this night one of the most exciting, enchanting, and memorable events of your life:
Before the Rehearsal Dinner
- Decide Who Will Host It: Traditionally, it was the groom’s parents who paid for and hosted the rehearsal dinner. But these days, wedding traditions are being changed all the time. So, today, it’s not uncommon for the couple to pay for at least a part of the rehearsal dinner. To decide who will host the event, It’s important to have an honest talk with your partner and your family about what you’ll be able to contribute.
- Set a Budget: If your partner’s family has offered to pay for the rehearsal dinner, then the budget will pretty much depend on them. But if you’ve decided to chip in, then it’s important to be realistic about how much you’re willing to spend. While we want our pre-wedding events to be as glamorous as possible, the main purpose of the rehearsal dinner is to spend time with loved ones before the big day. So, don’t feel pressured to make this an all-out affair and focus on making this an intimate gathering.
- Pick the Venue: Since a rehearsal dinner is more intimate than other pre-wedding parties, the venue doesn’t need to be anything too extravagant. The most traditional place to host it would be a restaurant; however, anything from a small park to a rooftop bar to your own backyard would make for a perfect location.
- Pick a Theme: If a traditional sit-down dinner doesn’t excite you, then a rehearsal dinner offers plenty of options to experiment. You can keep this event super casual with a backyard BBQ or super fancy with a cocktail hour, full bar, and multiple courses. And if you want to get the show on the road early (while slashing costs) then a rehearsal brunch is another amazing idea. Just keep in mind that if someone else is taking care of the costs, then they’ll probably want to help out with this part, too.
- Invite the Right People: Your guest list for the rehearsal dinner should be kept as small and intimate as possible. The basic guest list would include the entire wedding party, the couple’s families (keeping it to parents, grandparents, and siblings), and any other people incredibly close to you. While it might feel awkward to not invite out-of-town guests, it’s definitely not obligatory.
- Create a Menu: If the food menu at your wedding is supposed to be classic, traditional, and appropriate for all of the guests, then the rehearsal dinner menu can be the exact opposite. Because it’s fairly low-stakes, you can take this as an opportunity to experiment with all kinds of unique dishes. Whether you want to serve your favorite comfort foods, introduce your loved ones to unique culinary traditions, or cook your grandmother’s favorite recipe, the choices here should be a true reflection of you.
- Order a Cake: Traditionally, a groom’s cake—a cake influenced entirely by the groom—was served at the end of the rehearsal dinner. This was back in the days when the wedding cake was chosen by the bride. Today, it seems like couples are splitting the task of choosing a cake 50-50, making a groom’s cake unnecessary. That said, serving a small cake at the end of the rehearsal dinner would definitely be a nice touch and give you another reason to eat cake!
- Make a Schedule: Although the rehearsal dinner is meant to be a celebration, there’s definitely work that needs to be done! While the activities of your rehearsal dinner are completely up to you, it helps to make a schedule to make sure they get done. For us, a traditional rehearsal dinner will have the practice ceremony happen before any festivities. When that’s out the way, we would host a cocktail hour, followed by speeches and toasts, and finally, dinner and dessert.
During the Rehearsal Dinner
- Enjoy Yourself: Unlike your wedding day, the rehearsal dinner should be a pretty laid-back event. Besides rehearsing for the ceremony, it’s all about being with your loved ones. So, sit back and enjoy being with all the people who showed up for you.
- Give Gifts: Although it’s not a must, gifts are a great way to show others how much you appreciate them. While which presents you decide to get is completely up to you, we’re sure that your entire wedding party and your family members who helped with planning the wedding will be thrilled to get gifts from you.
- Pass the Mic: Speeches and toasts are part-and-parcel of the rehearsal dinner. Typically, the parents of the happy couple will be the first ones to give speeches during the dinner. Following this, the rest of the bridal party can give speeches and tell stories about the couple. And finally, to wrap things up, the soon-to-be-married couple should give the final toast and thank everyone for all of their help with the wedding.
- Do Last-Minute Wedding Prep: We hope that after the rehearsal dinner, everything is on track to going perfectly. But if there’s anything else that needs to be taken care of before the wedding, this is the perfect time to do it.
After the Rehearsal Dinner
- Minimize Clean-Up: If you’re hosting your rehearsal dinner without the help of professional staff, then cleaning up after is something that will need to be done either by you, your wedding party, or your family. Keep things as easy for them as you can by using disposable tableware. With today’s high quality of plates and cutlery, no one will be able to tell them apart from the real thing.
- End the Dinner Early: We definitely get the appeal of staying up ‘til midnight with your loved ones and a cocktail in hand. But everyone’s got a big day ahead of them, so it’s a good idea to end the festivities in the early evening. If you’re throwing a rehearsal brunch, this isn’t something you need to worry about. But for a dinner celebration, the ideal end time would be before 9:00 PM.
- Thank Your Guests: The importance of expressing gratitude to your loved ones for all they have done can’t be overstated. While the happy couple is probably the most exhausted after all the wedding preparations, your wedding party and your family have also worked seriously hard to make your big day as perfect as can be. Parting hugs, kisses, and thank-yous will show them that you’re eternally grateful for all they have done for you.
- Go Home (Together or Alone): Back in the old days when couples didn’t live together before marriage, it was expected that they would go back to their separate living situations after the rehearsal dinner. For some reason, this tradition prevailed. And honestly, it feels kind of exciting not to see your future spouse until everyone is gathered at the altar during the wedding ceremony. That said, it’s completely up to you if you want to go home with your S.O. or spend the night apart.
- Get Some Sleep: You have a big day ahead of you so getting some restorative shut-eye is absolutely a must. If the pre-wedding excitement keeps you up, our favorite methods to relax include journaling, deep breathing, and visualizing the most perfect wedding day anyone can have!
Here’s To Your Love and Happiness
A rehearsal dinner is the very last celebration of your union before the big day. Its purpose is to rehearse the wedding ceremony so that everything goes perfectly on the day of your wedding.
But it doesn’t have to be all hard work. With a little planning, your rehearsal dinner can be one of the most memorable events of your wedding preparations. We hope our tips for your rehearsal dinner have inspired you to do what feels right for you. Here’s to your love and happiness from Sophistiplate!