Rehearsal Dinner: Everything You Need To Know

Anyone up for a backyard beach party?

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Do you have to have a rehearsal dinner? Or if you do throw a party the day before the wedding, does it have to be a rehearsal dinner? The answer to both questions is probably no, but the real answer is that this is going to depend on your crowd, as well as regional and social expectations. In other words, I’d tell you no, night-before dinners (whatever you decide to cal them) are optional, but your mom might strongly disagree with me, and you might care about what your mom thinks a little more than you care about what I think. Which is as it should be.

rehearsal dinner etiqutte for the modern world

The rehearsal dinner has long been the property of the parents. And though a lot has changed about weddings, this hasn’t (totally). Which is a good thing, because let’s be for real: you can’t throw two weddings in one weekend. As such, the party the day before the wedding gives you a great space to compromise. Your in-laws want a formal wedding, and you’re getting married on the beach? Hand them the rehearsal dinner. Your mom really wanted to serve lobster, but you’re going vegetarian? Throw her a claw the day before. The upside to this is that parents who get what they want at the the night before generally have to pay for it.

But that isn’t to say your dinner has to be everything your mother-in-law wants. It doesn’t even have to be a dinner at all. The reason to have a party the day before you get married is to get an additional (and much more laid-back) chance to see all those people you love who came together to see you get hitched. And you know, when you think about it that way, a whole world of options opens up:

rehearsal dinner etiquette

  • Do you even have to have a rehearsal dinner? The real answer is only you (or possibly your mama) know for sure. In some parts of the U.S. these dinners are considered mandatory. In other parts of the country people can take it or leave it. So if you’re not sure if you want one, ask around and see what the reaction is… and then decide if you care.
  • Who comes to the rehearsal dinner? Traditionally, this dinner was only for immediate family, the wedding party, and their dates. You know, the people that would otherwise be at a wedding rehearsal. But these days, dinners often include everyone in from out of town, or just… everyone. In short, that means you have a lot of control over how big or how small you want to make this thing.
  • Who pays for the rehearsal dinner? Traditionally, the dinner was paid for by the groom’s family (since, you know, the bride’s family paid for everything else). But thankfully those days are (mostly) gone. That means the rehearsal dinner costs are generally just split up as part of the general wedding expenses. Though, if one or the other of your parents WANT to pay for it? To hell with it, let them!
  • Does the dinner have to match the wedding? Nope! In fact, the more different, the better—there’s no use in throwing two of the same party back to back.
  • Who toasts at the rehearsal dinner? Back in the day, the father of the groom got to do his toast here, because you know… he paid for it, and only men speak, and a lot of terrible traditions. These days, think of the night before meal as a place to knock out some of your more long-winded toasts. (Like chatty Uncle Hank… get his toast done here instead of stealing dance floor time at the reception!) And yes. If there is a groom, and he has a dad, and said dad wants to toast… let him.
  • Does it have to be dinner, and does it have to be after the wedding rehearsal? Not at all. Brunch? Cocktails? A softball game and picnic? The answer to all of these questions is, yes!
  • Anything else I need to know? Try to start and end relatively early, and don’t make it a total booze fest. You, and your guests, don’t want to be hungover or terribly sleep deprived the next day for the main event.

P.S. If you want lots of rehearsal dinner ideas, well, we’ve got you covered on that too.

did you have a rehearsal dinner? Do you come from a part of the country where these things are MANDATORY? What are your best Tips?

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