The Rehearsal Dinner: You're On!

There are no hard and fast rules about the rehearsal dinner and you may end up planning and paying for this as a couple, depending on how you’ve decided to handle your overall wedding costs. But if you’re choosing the traditional route, the rehearsal dinner is the territory of the groom and his family. It’s also the perfect place to let your mother dig in.

The rehearsal dinner can often be more fun than the wedding itself since it’s usually more intimate and filled with personal testimonials about the bride and groom. Typically you will have spent the afternoon marching up and down the aisle, waiting, standing, repeating vows, doing what you’re told by the coordinator. The rehearsal dinner is your chance to kick back, relax and have fun now that the lion’s share of the planning is behind you. The practice is over and you’re both as ready as you’ll ever be to take the next big step. Your goal should be to plan the rehearsal dinner that’s right for you as a couple, but in case you were searching for a few guidelines, we’ve laid them out here for you to peruse.

The Budget

Regardless of who’s bearing the expense for the event, it’s crucial to decide on the budget before any of the plans go into action. The choice of location, the food and the bar tab will be the three primary expenses, and there are many options that will help to keep the costs down. An outdoor casual dinner, a barbecue or even dinner at someone’s home are always good options. Costly hotels and upscale restaurants aren’t the only choices. Be creative and find a place where you and your guests can have a fun time together. It’s always good to have food choices, and restaurants or caterers will work with your budget in mind. Be certain that the service professionals you’re working with understand your financial boundaries completely before you strike any deals.

The Guests

Both families should be in on the discussion of the guest list for the party. The primary list is simple to create. It should include all parents and grandparents, siblings, and the wedding party. If space and budget allow, you may consider inviting your out of town guests who have arrived. If you’re trying to keep the event small, the next tier of guests should include your dearest friends and closest relatives rather than your family friends or long-tail relations. You want to relax and have fun, so you should be surrounded by the people who make you feel most comfortable. Traditionally, the groom’s mother is the hostess of the event, and she would send out invitations about a week after the wedding invitations have been mailed.

The Location

It’s very important to find a place for the event as early as you can. Great rehearsal dinner spots are at a premium. Act now! For the convenience of your wedding party and guests, keep the rehearsal and hotel locations in mind during your search for a dinner spot.

Many restaurants have large private dining rooms that could be just right for a rehearsal dinner. If you have a favorite smaller restaurant, the owners will often let you take over the place for the night. You know the food will be great, so there’s another hurdle overcome! Depending on the location of your wedding reception, the intimate dining room of a small hotel might make a good choice for a rehearsal dinner. To keep the other planners in the loop, especially if they live elsewhere, come up with a few acceptable spots and let your co-hosts help you decide.

The Food

When you’re deciding on the menu for the night, make sure to keep the wedding reception fare in mind. Try to offer food that the guests won’t be eating the next day. Work with the restaurant or caterer to offer a choice of entrees even if your budget is modest. If you’re expecting children at the party, ask their parents for a menu suggestion or request some simple fare you know they’ll like.

The Seating Arrangement

This is always a challenge and usually depends on the size of the guest list. There are a couple of directions you could choose here. Some like to mix up the guests at each table, seating Grandma next the your fraternity brother, Dad with your bride’s college roommate. This choice lets people get to know each other before the wedding. The alternative is to seat people with their old friends or favorite relatives. Since this is your night as a couple, you choose the arrangement you think will be the most fun. If the dinner is small, you may be able to fit at the same large round table or even a U-shaped arrangement.


As a couple it’s a good idea to begin the toasting yourselves by thanking the hosts and introducing the members of your wedding party. This is also the perfect time to present them with their attendants’ gifts. Thank your parents, each other and anyone who needs thanking at this point, then take your seats and let the friends and family start rolling with the anecdotes. If you have a reliable friend who’s comfortable in front of a crowd, you might consider enlisting him or her to be a Master of Ceremonies of sorts, moving the toasts along, making people feel at ease about standing up. At the end of all the toasting, it’s a nice gesture to thank your guests for coming.

The Bill

As we mentioned, the cost of the event is usually borne by the groom and his family, but there is no real rule. We do advise however that it’s best to decide as early as possible who’s footing the bill. Make arrangements with the restaurant or caterer ahead of time so that nothing more than a signature at most is required at the end of the evening. Ask that the bill be delivered to you privately at a predetermined time.
So there you have it. A few tips for planning a rehearsal dinner that will be well organized, fun and being the operative word.

By Hannah Goodman 12/13/2015 16:50:00

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