10 Rules of Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette
A rehearsal dinner party is, for the most part, a simple, laid-back affair. The important elements are family, friends, food, and fun. But, as with any tradition, rehearsal dinners do have their own set of rules of etiquette. Lucky for the bride and groom (and their parents), these rules are easy to follow. Here’s a quick guide:
1. Hosts: Traditionally, the groom’s parents host the rehearsal dinner. But today, couples pitch in to help their parents or even simply throw their own rehearsal dinner, as a way of saying thanks to those who have helped them plan the wedding. Make sure you talk with your parents about your expectations and wishes and that you arrive at an arrangement that suits everyone. If the groom’s parents will be handling hosting duties, offer your input, but also be flexible.
2. Style of party: A rehearsal dinner can be whatever you want it to be-formal, informal, or semi-formal; a three-course meal or pizza and beer. Whatever you choose, it should be conducive to celebrating and having fun.
3. Timing: The rehearsal dinner traditionally follows the wedding rehearsal; if you won’t be having a rehearsal, plan the event for early in the evening on the night before the wedding, when most people will be in town.
4. Guest list: Deciding on the people to invite to the rehearsal dinner doesn’t have to be rocket science. You have a few options: you can invite just the wedding party and close family; the members of the wedding party and their significant others, along with close family and friends who have played a role in the wedding planning; all of the previous plus out-of-town guests and the officiant; or everyone invited to the wedding. The guest list will largely depend on your budget and the type of party you want-be it a small, intimate gathering or a large, boisterous celebration. Also decide if you’ll be inviting children to the dinner; keep in mind that it might be difficult for families to attend without their children, so make arrangements on their behalf if you can.
5. Non-wedding guests: Traditionally, only those people invited to the wedding are invited to the rehearsal dinner, which is a way of saying thank you to those who have arranged to be with you on your special day. But if you want to celebrate with friends or coworkers who couldn’t be invited to the wedding, consider having an informal get-together of some kind before the rehearsal dinner and wedding-such as a potluck or cocktail hour.
6. Invitation wording: You’ll want to make sure you include all the pertinent information: the names of the couple being honored (just first names or first and last names, whichever you prefer); the day, date, time, and location (name of venue and address); and the names of the hosts and an RSVP contact. The invitation line itself can range from the short and sweet “Please join us” to a lengthier, more personal message.
7. Guest seating: If you’ll have more than one table for your guests at the rehearsal dinner, you can either let them choose where they want to sit or assign them to a table. One benefit of giving table assignments is that it encourages people to mingle and meet or reconnect with other guests. Do what you think will make your guests most comfortable. And consider icebreakers to give guests who might not know each other something to talk about.
8. Food: Again, the options are endless. Determine the menu based on your budget and theme. A full meal is the traditional choice, but that meal can consist of multiple courses, buffet options, or serve-yourself items like barbecue or a seafood boil. If you serve alcohol, it is appropriate to offer only beer and wine, especially if the wedding reception will feature a full bar. Serving dessert is also fitting-just opt for something different than what the guests will enjoy at the reception.
9. Thank-you gifts: It’s a good idea, and traditional, for the bride and groom to present thank-you gifts to the wedding party and, if you wish, the couple’s parents at the rehearsal dinner. You can do this in private or after giving a simple toast.
10. Toasts: When it comes to toasts at a rehearsal dinner, a few are expected: the groom’s parents, especially if they are the hosts; the bride’s parents; and the groom or the bride and groom together. The best man and maid of honor may speak here or at the wedding reception. These brief toasts to the couple may follow the main course or the full meal.
Rules, as they say, are meant to be broken. If you enjoy turning tradition on its head, feel free to toss these tips and try something new. As long as everyone is comfortable and having fun, your rehearsal dinner party will be a great success.
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