What Should The Rehearsal Dinner Be Like? Tips And Ideas For A Successful Celebration

May 1, 2023 | Wedding

So much planning goes into the actual wedding day, but what about the rehearsal dinner? It’s almost just as important as the wedding, as it’s the kick-off party for the wedding. Everyone will get together in excitement for the upcoming wedding; family and friends from both sides will get to meet each other and mingle, and of course, you’ll hopefully be indulging in some great food and drinks. But where to begin? What should the rehearsal dinner be like? Let’s dive into some common questions as they relate to rehearsal dinners.


Who Should Be Invited to the Rehearsal Dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is typically a more intimate event than the wedding itself, and it is usually limited to the couple, their immediate families, and their wedding party. You should also take into account the people that are hosting the dinner and allow them (as a courtesy and nice gesture) to invite one or two people to the dinner. 

You may also choose to invite out-of-town guests, close friends, or other special guests who have played a significant role in your life. When deciding who to invite, consider your budget and the size of the venue, as well as any cultural or family traditions that may influence your guest list.

Bottom line: The bridal party, close family, close friends, and maybe out-of-town guests should be invited.


What Is the Purpose of the Rehearsal Dinner?

The purpose is to bring together the people who are closest to the couple and to thank them for their support. It generally occurs after the wedding rehearsal (which will usually take place at the location of your marriage ceremony). It is also an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company before the wedding day. In addition, the rehearsal dinner can serve as a time for the wedding party and families to become better acquainted, particularly if they have not met before.

Don’t forget to add a sprinkle of fun by asking friends and family to give toasts and share fun stories about the couple. This is a good way to give folks who aren’t giving toasts at the wedding reception the opportunity to publicly share their love and words for the couple.

Bottom line: The rehearsal dinner is a fun way to get your closest peeps together post-wedding rehearsal and enjoy some food and drink before the big day.


When Should the Rehearsal Dinner Take Place?

The rehearsal dinner normally takes place on the evening before the wedding, following the wedding rehearsal. This allows everyone to get together and run through the ceremony one last time, ensuring that everyone knows their place on the wedding day. However, some bride and grooms may choose to have the rehearsal dinner earlier in the week, particularly if they have out-of-town guests who have arrived early.

Bottom line: It’s up to you when to have the rehearsal dinner, but most people do it the same night that the wedding rehearsal takes place.


Where Should the Rehearsal Dinner Be Held?

The location of the rehearsal dinner should depend on the size of the guest list, your budget, and your personal preferences. It can be held at a restaurant, a private home, a park, or any other location that is conveniently located to the wedding rehearsal and comfortable for you and your guests. Choosing the perfect venue requires consideration of atmosphere and the style of the wedding, and also the needs and preferences of your guests. For instance, you might not want to host the rehearsal dinner an hour away when you have tons of out-of-town guests (the last thing they want to do is MORE traveling). 

Bottom line: Wherever you want! Many people opt for a restaurant nearby the actual wedding rehearsal.


What Should You Serve at the Rehearsal Dinner?

The most important part: food! There are a few different food options to consider. Some couples choose to have a formal sit-down dinner, while others prefer a more casual buffet or cocktail party.

If you are choosing a sit-down dinner, you may want to consider serving a menu that complements the wedding day cuisine or reflects the couple’s favorite foods. You could also offer a range of options, including vegetarian or gluten-free dishes, to accommodate all guests.

For a more casual rehearsal dinner, a buffet or food station can be a great option. This allows guests to mingle while trying different foods, and it can be a more budget-friendly option as well.

In addition to the food, you may also want to consider providing drinks for your guests. You could offer a signature cocktail or wine and beer options. Cheers! 

Bottom line: Depending on your budget or theme, serve up something fancy or casual–whatever you want! There’s no hard and fast rule here.


Rehearsal Dinner Decorations and Theme Ideas

While the rehearsal dinner doesn’t necessarily require elaborate decorations, it’s a nice touch to add a bit of personality and style to the event. 

Some popular themes for rehearsal dinners include:

  • Beach or tropical theme
  • Rustic or country theme
  • Vintage or retro theme
  • Garden or floral theme
  • Nautical or seaside theme

When it comes to decor, don’t forget about the table settings and centerpieces. Maybe you want to add something personalized and fun, like baby pictures of you and your partner (a different picture for each table) or disposable cameras at each table to add an element of fun to the night.

Bottom line: You don’t necessarily need a theme, but if you do opt for one, there are tons of options. You can also make it a little different by adding fun things to each table, like disposable cameras or baby photos of you and your honey.


Entertainment and Activities for the Rehearsal Dinner

While the focus of the rehearsal dinner is on spending time with loved ones, it may be a fun idea to have some entertainment or activities planned to keep everyone engaged and having fun.

Some ideas for entertainment and activities include:

  • A photo booth or selfie station
  • Yard games or lawn games
  • A group activity or game, such as a trivia competition or a scavenger hunt
  • A slideshow or video montage of the couple’s relationship
  • Live music or a DJ

Bottom line: You don’t necessarily need activities for the rehearsal dinner, but they don’t hurt! Adding something like a photo booth, trivia, or DJ can be a nice touch.


Rehearsal Dinner Speeches and Toasts

The rehearsal dinner is also a perfect time for speeches and toasts. Traditionally, the bride’s father, the groom, and the best man will give speeches, but you could also invite other family members or members of the wedding party to speak as well. The family that paid for the rehearsal dinner may also be the ones to give the speech (like if the bride’s family paid instead of the groom’s family).

When giving a speech, it’s important to keep it brief and to the point. No one likes to sit through a 20-minute speech (we want to eat and drink and be merry!). Thank your guests for being there, share a few heartfelt words about the couple or the wedding, and raise a toast to the happy couple. 

Bottom line: Speeches are required, but it’s always a nice touch to have someone thank the group for coming and raise a toast! 


What Should You Wear to the Rehearsal Dinner?

The dress code for the rehearsal dinner depends on how formal the event is and the preferences of the couple. Some couples choose to have a more casual dress code, while others prefer dressier attire.

As the host, it’s a good idea to communicate the dress code to your guests in advance so they know what to expect. You could also provide suggestions or guidelines to help guests choose an appropriate outfit.

Bottom line: Whatever you want! Fancy or casual, it’s up to you and the venue you choose. Whatever you do, just make sure to communicate that to your guests so they don’t show up in jeans to a black-tie event.

decorated table for successful rehearsal dinner

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about rehearsal dinners

We’ve gathered a few commonly asked questions about rehearsal dinners and what they should be like below.

Q: Who is typically invited to the rehearsal dinner?

A: Typically, the rehearsal dinner is attended by the wedding party, close family members, and out-of-town guests who have arrived early for the wedding.


Q: Who pays for the rehearsal dinner?

A: Traditionally, the groom’s family is responsible for paying for the rehearsal dinner, but it’s becoming more common for the couple to split the cost or for the bride’s family to offer to pay.


Q: Can the rehearsal dinner be held at a different location than the wedding?

A: Yes, the rehearsal dinner can be held at a different location than the wedding, such as a restaurant, a family member’s home, or a rented event space.


Q: How long should the rehearsal dinner last?

A: The rehearsal dinner typically lasts 2-3 hours, but the exact length can vary depending on the schedule of events and the preferences of the couple.


Q: Is it necessary to have speeches and toasts at the rehearsal dinner?

A: You can do whatever your heart desires! While it’s not necessary to have speeches and toasts at the rehearsal dinner, it’s a common tradition and a nice way to honor the couple and their relationship.


Final Thoughts 

Rehearsal dinners are so much fun. They’re filled with the anticipation and excitement of the wedding day to come; people from both sides are meeting and mingling, drinks are flowing, and it’s all in celebration of your love! What could be better than that?! Have fun, but try not to drink too much, and remember that a rehearsal dinner is a way to socialize, relax, and thank your closest family and friends for attending your wedding. Cheers! 


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