Rehearsal dinner table with flowers and cross back chairs

Photo: Stephanie Yonce Photography

As the kick-off event, your rehearsal dinner truly sets the tone for the rest of your wedding weekend. We recommend starting to plan your rehearsal dinner at least six to eight months before your wedding day, and remember these tips as you go.

Here are 10 ways that will guarantee your an aweseome rehearsal dinner!


Figure Out Who’s Hosting
Traditionally, the groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner, but nowadays, couples are doing things differently. Some couples choose to pay for the rehearsal dinner themselves, sometimes both families chip in, and more. It really depends on your situation and what feels right for you and your families. The most important thing is to have an open and honest discussion with all parties involved to make sure everyone is comfortable and understands their role at the onset.

Set a Budget
It might not be the most fun part of planning, but it sure is important! Make sure that you and whoever else is contributing financially to the rehearsal dinner set a clear budget before any decisions are made.

Create a Streamlined Guest List
It’s the big question: Who are you inviting? There are several different ways to handle the guest list. Some couples invite just wedding party members and close family, other include all of the out-of-towners, and still others invite the whole wedding guest list! It really depends on your budget and style. We like the idea of hosting a smaller rehearsal dinner with close family members, friends, and wedding party members, and then inviting everyone else for drinks or dessert afterwards.

Find an Amazing (and Convenient!) Venue
There are lots of factors to consider when selecting your rehearsal dinner location. Does it fit your budget? Will the space be able to comfortably accommodate all of your guests? You’ll also want to make sure that the rehearsal dinner venue is conveniently located – especially if you have a lot of out-of-town guests. If you choose a location that’s not near their lodging, it’s a good idea to provide transportation. And also consider how far away it is from your venue itself, if you’ll be traveling directly from your ceremony rehearsal.

Pick the Right Day and Time
Usually the rehearsal dinner is held the evening before the wedding, directly after the ceremony rehearsal. Try to err on the earlier side if possible – you and your guests will want to get a good night’s rest before the big day!

Provide Plenty of Advanced Notice
Your rehearsal dinner invitations should be sent under separate cover from your wedding invitations, at least four to six weeks before the event. If you have many rehearsal dinner guests traveling long distances, you may want to provide more advanced notice in case they need to adjust travel plans.

Don’t Forget About the “Rehearsal” Part
If you are planning on hosting a ceremony rehearsal before the rehearsal dinner (as is customary), make sure your ceremony venue, officiant, and/or wedding planner are on board, as well as anyone who is participating in the ceremony. Basically, the ceremony rehearsal is a run-through of the actual ceremony, from who walks down the aisle when (and with whom) to where everyone stands. Make sure you allot enough time for the rehearsal so that everyone gets to dinner on time (and factor in travel time!).

Offer a Great Menu
When selecting the menu, make sure there are options for everyone and consider any dietary restrictions your guests may have.

Cast the Right Speakers
The rehearsal dinner is usually the perfect time for family members and friends to give speeches. Usually, the father or parents of the bride, best man, and maid of honor speak at the wedding reception, while the rehearsal dinner can include the groom’s family, and other bridesmaids and groomsmen. But really, it’s up to you! If there are other friends or family members who you’d like to speak, feel free to invite them up. We’ve also seen some couples have an “open mic” style rehearsal dinner, where anyone and everyone can have a chance to say a few words. A note: Make sure you have access to a microphone or other audio/visual equipment should you need it – ask your venue!

Keep It Casual
For the most part, the rehearsal dinner should be a relaxed and fun event where the couple can greet their guests before the wedding day. This may also be a time for family members and friends from both sides to meet for the first time. Keeping the mood casual will help break the ice and keep everyone happy!