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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  • Rose

    We had our “rehearsal” dinner in my parent’s yard, since the tables and chairs and everything for the reception was already there anyway (just not most of the decorations, yet). The rehearsal was actually that morning, and we invited everyone to dinner. It ended up being cheap and fairly easy; my sister and mom made a couple of big pots of soup, my grandmother and some friends brought bread and cheese and cookies, there were a few bottles of wine, and we had a lovely time. We didn’t have any toasts, but we aren’t people who really emphasize toasts much.

    One wedding that I attended recently was very clearly falling into this pattern where the couple was going a somewhat less formal/traditional route, and the groom’s more traditional parents had the rehearsal dinner. The contrast was pretty entertaining, but both events were very nice, and it was clear that the parents really liked the rehearsal dinner, and the opportunity to give a toast, etc. From the outside at least, it looked like a really nice compromise, so I might recommend it to people who find themselves in that position.

  • Angela’s Back

    We had a small, family only destination wedding so our rehearsal dinner was just everyone getting together at a restaurant the night before the wedding. It worked out really well though–it was the first time all the parents were together in one place so we got a couple of hours for everyone to chat and get to know each other before the big event the following morning.

  • Lisa

    We had a rehearsal dinner, and I don’t think we ever questioned that we wouldn’t have one. (We’re from the Midwest and the west coast.) Since we were planning to have the dinner immediately following the required rehearsal, we tried to pick a restaurant that was nearby the ceremony location but that offered a completely different type of food from what was at the reception. As a result, we ended up at an amazing tapas restaurant, which had a base fee for the room and an upper guest limit. To get the most out of the money, we had everyone who was at the rehearsal come, and then we invited a few local friends and out of town guests to make up the difference. I’m so glad we did it; it was a chance to connect with some of our closest friends and family before the craziness of the wedding day!

    • idkmybffjill

      Did you guys do Babareba? My friend had her rehearsal dinner there and it RULED.

      • Lisa

        We diiiid! It was so good. They messed up on which paella we were supposed to get though so they ended up making another one, which no one ate. It all got packed up, and we ended up eating leftovers during hair and make-up the next day and handing out the extras to friends and family who were staying at the hotel. It was the absolute best!

        • idkmybffjill

          That sounds amazing!!! It was so so good. We just had such a blast. Copious sangria was helpful – although the bride was ever so slightly hungover the next day :).

          • Lisa

            Ooooh, yes. We did a number on the sangria for sure. My BIL had driven 4 hours after a work day to be there for the rehearsal dinner, and he was in no fit state to drive himself back to the hotel afterward. ;)

          • idkmybffjill

            I think we were all a little bit surprise drunk. When they just refill instead of letting you finish your drink it’s dangerous business!

  • I’m really excited about our rehearsal dinner. Our wedding is at a building owned by the county parks system and we’re serving barbecue food so it’ll be pretty darn casual. But I wanted our small rehearsal dinner to be a little fancier so we’re doing it at my favorite farm to table restaurant that has a beautiful upstairs event space and rooftop garden. At one point we contemplated having the wedding reception there but it was too small and way outside our budget, so this is our compromise. I’m looking forward to that delicious meal and also the chance to have a little more personal time with our wedding party and immediate family.

  • april

    I’m from Baltimore, and the rehearsal dinner was definitely mandatory, as far as my family was concerned. We actually did two events the night before the wedding. An early-ish, traditional, sit-down rehearsal dinner for immediate family and members of the wedding party (i.e., everyone who went to the wedding rehearsal) and a later informal reception for people traveling from out-of-town. If you are from a family that insists that you do something for all the out-of-town guests, this is a really good option. The reception was super easy to organize – we just told people to show up at a tavern near the hotel, ordered a couple rounds of appetizers, and left it at that (people payed for their own drinks). My fiance and I didn’t stay there long – we just breezed through and said ‘hello’ on our way from the rehearsal dinner to the hotel. I’ve actually been to a couple of weddings now that had a similar set-up, and I really like it. It’s a chance to meet other people who will be at the wedding and hang with the happy couple a little before the big day (when they’ll probably be too busy to spend much time with you).

    • lamarsh

      This is exactly what we’re doing and I’m super excited.

    • savannnah

      We are so trying to do this as our rehearsal venue tops us out at 40 pp which is basically just the bridal and partners and parents but having a hard time finding a large enough space nearby. My project for the week.

      • savannnah

        Sub-question: how did you phrase this type of after rehearsal event that was semi-hosted or not at all? If it had to go on a schedule or something?

        • Amy March

          If it’s not hosted, word of mouth, “hey, we’ll be swinging by the hotel bar post-rehearsal dinner, feel free to join” (I’d include email in word of mouth). Or if that won’t work, written down on a schedule somewhere (welcome bags? Website?) but keep it casual sounding- maybe “if you’re looking for a good local watering hole the bride and groom love Bob’s Wine House and plan to stop by after 9 for a glass.” The more you make it sound like An Official Important Event the more I expect it to be hosted.

          • savannnah

            Yeah, I am thinking to put in on the website schedule so that phrasing will probably work. Thanks!

          • librarygirl.totherescue

            My MIL hosted the apps and the first two drinks, so we phrased it as “If you’re arriving on Friday, we’d love to see you for a drink and a hello! From 8.30p on, in the hotel bar, hosted by Mrs FN LN. Details at theweddingwebsite.com”

          • idkmybffjill

            I think that’s perfect!

        • april

          We put the following message on our wedding website:

          Guests who arrive Friday night are invited to join us for an informal meet-and-greet at Heavy Seas Alehouse, only a few blocks from the hotel. Come say hello and sample some local craft brews. Light snacks will be provided and alcohol will be available for purchase.

          • suchbrightlights

            My friend is a brewer at Heavy Seas- nice pick. :)

            Also from Baltimore, and I think my mother’s heart rate escalated when I said we had no plans of doing a rehearsal dinner. A) My fiance’s sister is our officiant (her profession) and she asked us pretty early after picking a date if we intended to do a rehearsal; if not she would take another wedding the day before. Not super thrilled in retrospect that she asked soooooo early in our planning when we didn’t have a clue, but she did, we didn’t care in the moment, and it is what it is. B) My mother is paying for just about the entire shindig, so either rehearsal funding comes from my fiance’s and my budget (and we just bought a house) or it would be a big surprise from my fiance’s family.

            I think we’re thinking about pizza and lawn games. It’ll be great.

        • zana

          We just had it up on the wedding website, titled, “Drinks @ ____”, with a short description about where we’d be and that people were welcome to join. I think if we mentioned it in any emails, we put the word “Informal” in front of it to be a little more clear.

    • Katharine Parker

      The post-rehearsal dinner reception for everyone is becoming obligatory among my crowd (not always hosted, but usually some desserts or snacks if not drinks). I really enjoy it–it’s nice to see people casually before the wedding.

    • RNLindsay

      We did this as well! Had a 30 person rehearsal dinner, then told everyone else we would be at XX bar around 9pm. Most people were already there having a great time by the time we showed up!
      I will say this works best when locations are one in the same or within walking distance or an easy, quick drive/cab. My cousin wanted this type of situation out in rural CT but with a 40 min drive between hotel and rehearsal dinner location, no one really showed up for the “after dinner drinks” and stayed closer to the hotel instead.

  • savannnah

    Ugh- we are so trying to do this as our rehearsal venue tops us out at 40 pp which is basically just the bridal and partners and parents but having a hard time finding a large enough space nearby. My project for the week.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Are they in the wedding?

      • savannnah

        Yep- these are his groomsmen and his dad.

        • Amy March

          Major side eye

          • savannnah

            mhmm. At this point its kinda just hurtful.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Buncha goobers, the lot of them.

    • idkmybffjill

      Any chance your wedding is on a Friday? This happened to a friend of mine and that was the case in her situation. Such a bummer, I’m sorry.

      • savannnah

        Nope. Standard Saturday wedding.

        • idkmybffjill

          Ugh. I’m sorry!!

    • Lisa

      We had some issues with this, too, which is why we ended up last-minute inviting some local friends to the rehearsal dinner. I think for our guests it was more a question of timing than not wanting to come. We had a couple of awkward moments during the ceremony with our readers (my husband’s godmother completely forgot to come up, and the priest had to call out for her), but otherwise it worked out fine.

    • When/where are they travelling from? If they’re from somewhere rehearsals are less of a thing, they may think they’re doing you a favour and saving you some money on food, rather than failing to prioritise a significant wedding event. Have they been generally inconsiderate throughout the process, or is this a single (multi-person) oversight on their part?

      • savannnah

        They are from rural midwest and on my most generous days I kinda think about that but here is an example. Two of them are flying in from Arizona. The wedding is in Vermont, 30 min from the airport. They informed us after the purchase about their super cheap flights, we were like yay and they were like yeah they are into JFK at 4:00 pm so we’ll just drive to VT…which is an 5 hr drive. I mentioned to them they would miss the rehearsal and their response was that ‘yeah, they would be a little late’ so that’s going on.

        • Amy March

          Hahaha. They’ll be lucky to arrive by midnight.

        • Violet

          Oh my goodness. I’ve done NYC to VT a few times via bus. By the time they get out of JFK… I’m with Amy March, midnight would be fortunate.

    • sofar

      We had this issue, too, even though we communicated the time of the rehearsal well in advance. We did have a few doctors in our wedding, so, with them we totally understood because they had to come in the day OF the wedding (due to their schedules). But with others we found it kinda annoying. I’m a bridesmaid in an upcoming wedding, and, yes, it’s WAY cheaper to fly in later, but I’m eating the extra $100 cost in plane tickets to get in late-afternoon the day before the wedding, because I agreed to be a bridesmaid and attending the rehearsal is part of that.

      All in all, it worked out OK for our wedding. We had a day-of coordinator, so the ceremony ran smoothly, even though four of our attendants hadn’t attended the rehearsal.

  • Abs

    We’re not having a wedding party, and almost everyone is an out-of-town guest (wedding is in my home town), so we’re inviting everyone and doing an appetizers and drinks thing at my mom’s house, which is two blocks from our wedding venue. My stepmother is hosting a family-only dinner the night before that, so we get both things. And the progress that represents, that each of them are throwing an event and the other one is going with good grace–I am so, so proud of that. A little nervous, but mostly proud.

  • Make sure you establish everyone’s expectations for the rehearsal! My husband and I were definitely of the mind that the rehearsal was for the wedding party, their significant others, and our parents. It turns out my MIL thought we should be inviting any family that had to travel (i.e. all of my her/my husband’s family from Washington since the wedding was in my home state, California), but she never mentioned it until two days before my husband and I were flying down for the wedding. It caused major hysteria, to the point where I couldn’t really enjoy the dinner. We had tried to be diligent about asking what her expectations were for the wedding (she had little to no interest in the planning) but never thought to ask her about the rehearsal dinner. Don’t be like us!

    • Laura

      Whoa, did your MIL invite people to the rehearsal dinner without notifying you?? I’m with you that rehearsal dinners should be just for the wedding party and family of the bride and groom.

      • idkmybffjill

        For us, what constituted “family of the bride and groom” is where it got tricky.

        • That’s why we had tried to just keep it as our parents, our officiant, and the bridal party with their SOs. We felt like we couldn’t just invite an Aunt and Uncle on my MIL’s side who traveled, but not an Aunt and Uncle from my FIL’s side who traveled. Inviting one Grandma because she traveled, but not the other because she was local? We saw it as being such a slippery slope that we tried to avoid it altogether. We were extremely unsuccessful in that venture.

          • nutbrownrose

            My MIL is hosting (and entirely in charge of, which, thank god) the rehearsal, and ours will be bridal party, parents, grandparents, and some out of town people MIL considers family. FH has no aunts or uncles, and mine are all local and not invited. The only family member beyond grandparents is my cousin who’s a bridesmaid.
            This is going to be 50 people. My own mother is shocked, but I have convinced her that yes, her mother is invited even though she’s local. And if MIL wants to host 50 people at a restaurant, that’s her prerogative.
            I just have to taste test the restaurants, since we’re local to the wedding and she’s not. It’s great. They’re even paying for our taste tests. And it gives her a place to focus her energy that feels socially acceptable to her. I had to convince her she was allowed to wear a color other than beige…it was weird.

      • She called my husband and asked if we were sending out invites for the rehearsal, and if not what time/venue/info to give to her sister and mother. He said “none we’re trying to keep the rehearsal dinner as small as possible”. Madness ensued. She showed up at our house unannounced to scream at us about how we were being “willfully hurtful”, that we were going to “break up the family”, and that it had never crossed her mind that they would not be invited.

        • jem

          We are getting a bit of that from my parents (who otherwise have been absolutely wonderful). The rehearsal dinner is the only thing my future MIL has been charged with planning and is the only thing she’s paying for, and her vision for the rehearsal doesn’t match up to my parents’ (she wants to invite immediate family, our attendants plus their SO’s and a handful of her friends). Part of this is that all of my relatives have to fly in, so my parents feel they need to be hosted the evening before the wedding, whereas his family is 100% local. Not sure how exactly we are going to handle this…

          • BSM

            Could your parents host a casual, after-dinner get together for the out-of-towners the night before the wedding? Or, if they’re more concerned about dinner, could they get everyone on an email thread with some restaurant suggestions in the area and help them make a reservation somewhere?

          • jem

            These are both really good ideas, thank you! I’ll run these by them

          • Amy March

            I feel like inviting her friends makes this tricky.

          • jem

            Right!!!

  • librarygirl.totherescue

    I’m from San Diego, and we did a rehearsal dinner – it’s pretty mandatory in my family, but as my hubby had a LOT of groomsmen and a lot of dates, we bucked family tradition by doing bridal party and immediate family only. The rehearsal dinners on my side of the family is an open-mic concept so anyone can get up and tell stories and toast or roast the bride and groom. Since we didn’t have the entire family there, my sisters and mom got up and just brought me to tears with the stories they had to tell.

    We did do an after-dinner reception at the hotel that was open to all, as we lived in NYC but had our wedding at my family home in San Diego, so we had a lot of out of town guests. One of my pet peeves is traveling for a wedding and never getting to see the bride and groom and bridal party because the wedding is always so crazy! So we had the rehearsal dinner, reception, wedding, and morning after brunch to make sure we could spend as much time with people as possible. Yay for backyard weddings and pre-made quiches from Costco!

  • idkmybffjill

    Ugh I so wish we’d done a welcome party instead of a rehearsal dinner. We didn’t end up having an actual rehearsal, so it ended up just being more time with our nearest and dearest… which was great! Except that that’s who we were with all weekend. I wish we’d opened it up and just done apps for all our out of town guests. I would’ve loved to have more time to see everyone.

    ETA: LOL at not having to plan that shit though. In my experience, out of town parents are amazing for financial and emotional support. Not at all for logistical support.

    • Katharine Parker

      “LOL at not having to plan that shit though.” Yeah, I expected that my fiance’s parents would take the reins on the rehearsal dinner, as my mom had with my brother’s. Nope! I’m sure in their minds, giving us a budget and letting us plan it is being helpful, so we can do what we want. But I would have preferred to show up as a guest, even if I disliked every detail. At least my fiance is doing the bulk of the planning, not me, but it just adds to the general “wedding tasks” list.

      • idkmybffjill

        Same! We basically just planned like we planned everything else. MIL offered but she’s not very tech savvy and it quickly became obvious that helping her figure it out would’ve been more work. Very grateful for her help setting up decorations and paying for it though!

        • Katharine Parker

          My in-laws are very generous, and I hate being like “can you give me this generous offer in a different way?” But they’re being only sort of hands-off, which makes the planning so much more difficult (and also live in the same town as we do. There weren’t logistical difficulties). (Do they want formal invites sent out, or would paperless post be ok? Who is on their guest list, other than family+wedding party, as they’ve mentioned wanting to invite a few people but without any details? Etc etc.) My parents work very differently, and I also have a relationship with them where I can say, “that isn’t helpful. Can you tell me these things, so we can figure this out?” My fiance has a different relationship with his parents, and I don’t want to get in the middle.

          The rehearsal dinner is the place where I’m dealing with the combination of navigating family and money that I think most people find tough with a wedding. And it is nothing like some of the struggles people go through, and so I feel bad complaining about it. But it is frustrating…

          • idkmybffjill

            Yepppppp all of this. Different relationship with MIL than I have with my parents, either no opinions or no voiced opinions. Dealing with how different my husband’s relationship with his family is from mine. Definitely “first world problems” but it was the same for me – a real conflux of the “new family how do I deal” issues.

          • zana

            In-laws were paying for the rehearsal dinner, so FH planned the darn thing. Your parents’ money, you deal with it. Turns out, they didn’t want to plan the dinner either, just show up and pay. Which, yes, is quite useful, but we were so tired of planning things at that point…

    • Lisa

      One of my friends did something similar at her wedding in December. They had no wedding party, and the wedding kind of happened in the middle of a dinner party so there was no need for a lengthy rehearsal. There was a guest house on the winery property so they hosted a pizza party for anyone who was already on the island and wanted to come. It was fun and very low-key!

      • idkmybffjill

        I love that!

  • Eenie

    We had no rehearsal, and had no rehearsal dinner. We did tell everyone free appetizers would be available at X restaurant and the happy couple would be in attendance until 9pm. Most people came and got a drink or two, some ate dinner, and it was overall very lovely. I got to wear a rent the runway white sequin dress, which was a bonus all a round. We paid $300 for the food and a private area of the bar. We heard no complaints about the setup.

    • idkmybffjill

      Getting to wear an extra pretty dress is a major reason to have a rehearsal dinner type event (like what you’re describing), in my opinion.

      • Eenie

        Yeah, my husband wore jeans and a polo, while I had black sparkly 3″ heels and was covered in sequins. He thought he was underdressed, and I had to explain I just really wanted an excuse to wear all the things that sparkled.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      My wedding dress will not be white, but I’m planning to wear a white cocktail dress to the rehearsal. Just, you know, to have the experience of wearing one.

    • savannnah

      My rehearsal dinner dress is the cool girl wedding dress I’d wear if I wasn’t concerned with looking back at it 30 years from now and I’m way into it.

      • Eenie

        Take pictures! I think my father in law took some photos, but we have seen exactly zero photos of me in my sequin dress.

        • angela

          Our photographer offered the option to add an hour of rehearsal photography to our package for $200 – we had her come right before toasts, and I’m so happy that we ended up with photos of that event. My sister is getting married this summer, and while it wasn’t a service that her photographer offered, she asked about it and was able to work out a similar deal. Obviously it depends on your budget and photographer, but it’s worth asking about if you definitely want photos from the rehearsal! Some of my favorite images from the weekend came from that night. We also planned from out of town and we didn’t meet our photographer until the rehearsal, so it worked out to be a nice way to get comfortable with her in more casual setting and point out some of the people she should look out for at the wedding.

    • Engaged Chicago

      What time did the event start? That’s a great idea!

      • Eenie

        6:30. My husband stayed until 11 or so catching up with friends, but I left right at 9. It seemed like a great way to balance spending time with people that weekend and not needing to feed everyone a full second meal (it’s custom here to invite out of town guests to the rehearsal dinner…Which was all but six guests). We also got to use our venue research and pick the restaurant that didn’t have as good of a layout for the wedding but had really good food and in house brewed beer. There wasn’t any planning except reserving the space and choosing the apps which we paid for ahead of time. Highly recommend – can even be pulled off a couple weeks before the wedding if there’s extra room in the budget.

  • EF

    ohhhh our rehearsal lunch was one of my fav parts. we paid for it, but it wasn’t expensive. invited close friends/those in the wedding party and immediate family. it was the chance for them all to meet as they hadn’t been in the same place before! and since we were doing a non-traditional ceremony, it was really good to go through it with the officiant (who was also a close friend).

    anyway, what it looked like was: rent a big room in a local-sourced restaurant (in oxford. strongly recommend, they were awesome: http://www.turlstreetkitchen.co.uk/) and ordered chicken or veg for lunch. and mingled for a long time, did a quick run-through of ceremony events, it was so relaxed and great. it also made me worry a lot less the next day.

    only downside was realising how weak i felt at the end of the lunch and then that feeling that flu is about to set in…

    • Em

      I love Turl Street Kitchen! Their breakfasts are excellent.

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  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    We have a rough plan of doing dinner at the restaurant where we had our first date, which is a pretty casual place. My family is contributing money to our general wedding budget, and his isn’t in a place to contribute much, if anything, so we’ll just pay for it. We’ll have to decide whether or not to include out-of-towners (which would probably require switching to appetizers as opposed to a full sit-down dinner, because that could add up quickly). That’s about as complicated as I want it to get.

  • Ashlah

    We felt kind of silly having a rehearsal dinner because we weren’t having an actual rehearsal (largely because we had no attendants), but it was important to my mother-in-law to host her family who were traveling for the wedding. We had a super casual dinner at a local pizza parlor, and it was a great, chill opportunity for me and my family to meet his family who we’d never had the chance to meet before, and would probably not have much time to interact with at the wedding. And pizza, so win.

    • Violet

      Pizza’s always a win.

    • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

      Same for us. We had no attendants, so no rehearsal, but we bought pizza and booze for the couple dozen people who came up to our summer camp to help us set up. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole thing! I got to spend quality time with friends who had traveled far to be there, which worked out well, since I was so busy at the reception.

  • Sara

    One of my friends did dinner at a bowling alley which was so much fun. She and her husband gave everyone bowling shoes as their attendant gifts (except for me and her brother, since we already owned our own cause we’re weirdos). It was so fun and casual, and easy to add out of town people on.

    • Ashlah

      That is such a great attendant gift (and rehearsal dinner) idea! I would honestly love if someone gave me bowling shoes.

    • Laura

      What a great idea! I love that you and her brother already owned your own bowling shoes. Sounds like a great atmosphere for a celebration!

    • quiet000001

      That sounds like a fantastic meet-cute storyline. The only two in the group who already owned bowling shoes. :D

  • emilyg25

    We didn’t do a rehearsal dinner. But my family did have a gathering at my grandmother’s house (lasagna) and his parents hosted a casual dinner at their house. I went to mine and he went to his. Our families both live all over the country, so they just wanted a chance to see each other more. I loved it.
    (ETA: Oh, and we didn’t rehearse our wedding at all.)

  • Ice Cream for All

    We had a rehearsal lunch at an ice cream shop with fancy pizza. IT WAS PERFECT and everyone got to bring their kids, who weren’t invited to the wedding.

    • Ice Cream for All

      Oh, and we planned and paid for it but the whole thing for 30 people cost maybe $800

    • Violet

      This sounds amazing.

  • Laura

    I’m not married myself, but I’m of the school that thinks rehearsal dinners are for the people who are actually in the wedding, and that’s what I’d do someday. While I understand that it’s trendy to invite all guests to the rehearsal dinner, to me that might diminish the excitement of the actual wedding celebration and would certainly make things more expensive.

    Parent input is nice to factor in, but if Mom and Dad are helping you pay, they have some say in what the event looks like, and that may or may not be a good thing.

    Personally, I won’t get married until my partner and I are able to pay for it ourselves… the whole thing. We love our parents, but we don’t want them having any control over OUR wedding. I know if my parents chipped in, they would expect to be allowed to invite their friends and coworkers to the wedding, among other things. I don’t want random strangers at my wedding, so any financial assistance from my parents will be politely declined.

    • Just Me

      I understand what you’re saying and have no problem with anyone who keeps the rehearsal dinner small. But, we had a big reheasal dinner gathering and it didn’t take away from the excitement of the wedding at all – if anything it was the thing that most got me excited about the festivities the next day.

      We got married a few years after grad school and most of our close friends were scattered across the country, not to mention the fact that we had also moved away from both our families and didn’t get to see them often. We had a completely open rehearsal dinner with no RSVP required – we told people where we would be and said if they were in town and wanted to stop by, all were welcome. I’d guess that ~75% of our 80 guests showed up for at least an hour and it ended up being so much fun. Even though we were still the reason for the gathering, we were much less the center of attention which meant we could hang out with people for more than a few minutes without feeling like there were others “waiting” to see us. People showed up at different times throughout the evening which meant we could be excited to see people as they showed up and weren’t rushing to say hi to everyone as soon as the reception started.

      We paid ~$250 for appetizers from a local restaurant and gathered at a casual bar (we paid for a few pitchers to start but most people paid for refills and were happy to do so!). Maybe $250 is too much for your budget which is totally understandable but for us it was a really cheap easy way to spend time with our favorite people who we usually only get to see 1-2x/year.

    • penguin

      We’re inviting everyone to the rehearsal dinner, and I don’t think it’ll take away from the excitement of the reception/wedding at all. A lot of people will be traveling for our wedding and will likely be there in time for dinner the night before, so I think it’s nice (although certainly not necessary) to host them that night. Also, my future in-laws are paying for the entire rehearsal dinner, so they get to invite who they want.

  • Alyssa

    I just booked our rehearsal dinner, and I’m pretty pumped. Because we’re doing a small wedding abroad ( ~30 people), we’re inviting everyone, and we booked a Paris Food Tour in Montmartre. Apparently they take you to boulangeries, fromageries, a cured meat shop, a macaroon shop and a wine shop and the tour ends in a large space where you can set out all the goodies you just shopped for and have a fabulous Parisian Picnic. I hope it’ll be as fun as it sounds!

    • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

      This sounds amazing!

    • Kat

      This sounds totally magical!

  • Kelly

    Our family friends graciously offered to host our rehearsal dinner at their house, and it was great. Only source of tension was that my mom felt really embarrassed/stressed out with future SIL dietary restriction (vegan) that required making special dishes just for her during a pretty busy time for everyone. The dinner went great, but my mom was definitely a little peeved that SIL didn’t thank her or the hostess for going out of their way to make dishes just for her.

    • BSM

      Feel you there! My husband and I agonized over the menu choices (we picked a salad, a couple pastas, a couple entrees, and unlimited garlic rolls NOM) to be served family style at our rehearsal dinner and asked my in-laws for input multiple times (they were paying but didn’t want to do any of the planning, which was totally fine). SIL freaked out when they finally showed up, and she realized there wouldn’t be a regular menu available, so she was gonna have to eat some carbs. Luckily, our lovely server sensed a meltdown coming and made an exception so she could order her green salad no dressing. Bless him.

      • Kat

        I….can’t roll my eyes hard enough at this. My aunt (my dad’s sister) is exactly like that and my mom famously refused to have her as a bridesmaid when she dropped out of a friends wedding TWO DAYS BEFORE the wedding.

        • BSM

          Wow, suuuch a similar situation! Seriously kinda eerie.

          SIL was 18 when we got married and has history of epic tantrums, so no way was I having her as a BM (I was already dealing with my own crazy mom; I couldn’t handle two brats while planning/hosting/paying for the wedding).

          My in-laws called it out with my husband one time. Since I only had 3 attendants and he had 6, they were like why won’t BSM just include her? They seemed to kind of get it when my husband pointed out that our mismatched parties were an indication of some very intentional choices about who I wanted around me that day, not that I just was missing some extras to stand in.

          I was also legit worried SIL would wear her favorite white, strapless bandage dress to the wedding, so, in an effort to put the kibosh on that and include her a bit, we took her shopping for something to wear. She still trotted out the 6″ platform heels, but what are you gonna do? In-laws!

  • BSM

    One tip: make sure to impress the logistics of the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner on guests in the same way you would logistics of the wedding. Also, the rehearsal is the time to let it gooooo and enjoy yourself.

    We got married at a restaurant in Venice, which we’d bought out for the night, but that meant that we couldn’t have our rehearsal there the day before. No problem, since we wanted to do something different for the rehearsal/rehearsal dinner anyways, like Meg suggested. We decided to have the rehearsal on the beach (free! easy! kind of fun for out of town guests!), then walk up to an Italian restaurant for dinner (just a few blocks away), and then invited all guests to join us for after-dinner drinks at a bar on the same drag (did this via email, which worked well).

    We did a good job getting our bridal party to the rehearsal portion on time; not so much with my out-of-town in-laws. Traffic and parking in LA is atrocious, especially on a Saturday evening, and, while we put the fear of god in them about this for the wedding, for some reason that info didn’t seem to transfer. I felt bad that they had a stressful time getting to the restaurant and parking and that they were late, but they also decided to stay somewhere 30 minutes away from the venue (if you’ve driven on the west side in LA, you know a regular half hour drive can magically turn into an hour and a half of standstill traffic), even when we asked them to please please please use one of the hotels in Venice that we suggested.

    So, learn from my mistake and repeat logistics info/instructions 100x for the wedding AND the rehearsal. And then do be like me dgaf because you’re getting married tomorrow!

    • Katharine Parker

      Your in-laws insisted, against all your pleas otherwise, on staying in a hotel that was completely inconvenient for your wedding. Even if you had emphasized the rehearsal logistics even more, sometimes you can’t win!

      • BSM

        Yep! I felt a little bad bc I didn’t want any of our guests (especially family) feeling stressed around the wedding, but they did totally disregard our advice and requests re: accommodations.

        And! This led to basically all of my husband’s family staying at the same hotel as my in-laws in Redondo Beach (30 min from Venice with no traffic, which is a hilarious suggestion for a summer weekend by the beach in LA).

        Looking back, it might have been a good thing that they had such a rough time getting to the rehearsal because they were all *very* early to the wedding the next day… ¯_(ツ)_/¯

        • Katharine Parker

          Despite the fact that I spent hours calling hotels to select our wedding blocks, and we now have ample rooms (at two distinct price points, with transportation from both to and from the wedding), my father-in-law keeps telling me how guests should stay at this other, random hotel “because they always have rooms available.” No, Andrew, we shouldn’t encourage people to stay there! I made sure we had enough rooms available! Why must you keep suggesting this conference center!

          In-laws, man. In-laws.

          • BSM

            Lol. Whyyyyy Andrew????

    • Jane

      Aaaaaand, this is a good reminder of why I hate LA (even though I love all those beaches). My undergrad liked to claim that it was 40 minutes east of LA but it never took me less than 1.5 hours to get there.

      People who haven’t spent time in the area just refuse to believe how bad traffic can be. But, like you said, at least they all showed up on time for the wedding!!

  • Lawyerette510

    Our wedding was a pain the ass to get to for pretty much everyone we invited. It was about 3 hours by car from where we (and many of our friends) live, and about the same distance from major airports for the guests who were flying in (about half of our 55 guests). Also, we were married on a Monday, and it was the day after Mother’s Day.

    Given how far everyone was traveling, and that most people were making a long weekend out of it, we wanted to do something for all our guests.

    We had a relaxed evening at a really casual/ funky venue across the street from the hotel where nearly everyone stayed and where the wedding was the next day. A local place came and set up a taco bar, and instead of staying we just worked it out so we could bring the serving dishes and utensils back to them the following morning. We provided margaritas (just made a huge batch and put in a drink dispenser) and beer. Two friends offered to keep an eye on the bar and restock ice etc as needed. We also did a s’mores bar because the place included a bonfire. A friend volunteered to make two flavors of marshmallows, we also bought plain marshmallows, two kinds of graham crackers, and three kinds of chocolate so people could mix and match. We did a little something to recognize our moms, and also all the women in attendance who were moms.

    It was really nice to have that additional time with most people.

  • Leah

    We did an all-guests-invited picnic at a local park the evening before the wedding and I couldn’t recommend something like that more highly. There are so many people who traveled a long way for our wedding, and who I hadn’t seen in ages, and I got to have a real conversation with many of them only because of that event. It was super casual, we ordered sandwiches and some side salads from our favorite sandwich shop, and provided beer, a cooler of mixed G&T, and soft drinks, and asked local friends who were coming to please bring something potluck style (that’s common among my friend group – we do potluck weddings, etc regularly). We had lawn games and there was frisbee played. My husband’s dad did make a toast (my dad did the traditional wedding toast) – and it was a great time to let him have the floor for a while. We also went around and had everyone introduce their babies and dogs (there were many of both in attendance) which was a great icebreaker between friend groups, etc. (babies also went to the wedding, dogs sadly could not). And I got to be in bed by 10 :)

  • Becky

    Our venue doesn’t do rehearsals, so we’re not having one. I’m also fairly certain we’re not having a rehearsal/”night before the event” dinner either, which to be honest is totally fine with me. I’m pretty sure if my fiance and I have to plan one more thing, our heads will explode haha. If someone else wants to throw one that’s fine…but we’re not going out of our way to make sure one happens.

  • penguin

    My in-laws have offered to host the rehearsal dinner, so that’s going to be 100% my FMIL’s event to plan, which she is excited about.

    My one concern – we are getting married at an inn that has a restaurant. The reception itself will be there as well as the ceremony. My FMIL wants to have the rehearsal dinner there as well, which makes sense to me in terms of logistics. BUT – will it be too much of the same? I guess my fear is that we have the rehearsal dinner there, then everyone comes back the next day for the reception and it’s just more of the same and people think it’s boring. I also don’t really want to intrude on her planning, so I’m leaning towards just letting her do what she wants and trying not to worry about it.

    Other small stress point – she’s asked me (MULTIPLE times) who is coming to the rehearsal dinner. We haven’t invited anyone to the wedding yet, because we’re still working on the contract for the venue…

    • Violet

      I could only really see this as an issue if someone has dietary restrictions and therefore has to eat the restaurant’s one vegetarian option two nights in a row. That sort of thing. Still not really a “problem,” though, as far as world problems are concerned. Most of the time when I go to a restaurant I can’t decide between two meals, anyway. I’d be totally fine with the chance to go back the next night and try the one I hadn’t picked the night before.

      • penguin

        Great, thanks! The reception will be buffet style, with a pasta station, two “main” stations, salad/bread/potato/veg etc. I don’t know what she’s planning for the rehearsal, but I’ll ask her if she minds making sure that it has something different than the reception, which should be easy.

        • Violet

          I think even having one plated and the other buffet will be “different” enough. I wouldn’t sweat it.

    • BSM

      This would kinda bother me, but I think your idea to suggest that your MIL arrange for different food to be served is a good one if you’re trying to just let her do her thing.

      • penguin

        Yeah she’s really excited and wants to help (which is great) but it’s been kind of overwhelming in terms of wedding things, so I think setting her loose on the rehearsal dinner will be a good option. After reading this I kind of wish the rehearsal dinner would be somewhere else so we’d have some variety, but oh well. The restaurant that is part of the inn is doing all the catering, so hopefully they can have different options for the rehearsal. She may also have it be a plated dinner, who knows.

        • BSM

          Yeah, I think the surest path to maintaining harmony and your sanity is probably to try to just let her do it and not think about it. Easier said than done, though!

  • zana

    This is a bit nitpicky, but my hunch tells me that “Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner was only for immediate family, the wedding party, and their dates” is inaccurate, and that actually it was traditional to also include everyone from out of town as well. That back in the old days, you generally married someone from nearby, so very few people were from out-of-town, so you’d include them in the rehearsal dinner.

    Nowadays, more and more people are marrying people from further away, so you end up with weddings where 50+% of the guest list is from out-of-town, and it just doesn’t make sense to include all of them in the rehearsal dinner. You’d end up with a second reception on your hands.

    • I’m curious as to when it became a tradition. We don’t have it in the UK (we don’t generally have rehearsals in the UK, because ceremony venues are only available for the ceremony itself) though it’s not uncommon to have people who turned up the night before get together for drinks/food if there’s somewhere convenient nearby. It makes me think rehearsals probably don’t date back more than two hundred years at most, so if you can figure out when they become a thing, you can probably figure out when rehearsal dinners become a thing. I would have assumed if it’s more than about 70 years ago, the parents would have hosted out of town guests themselves (since they would probably be family) which means they’d have been included in any pre-wedding meals etc by default.

  • Engaged Chicago

    Still struggling with this! We’re having a winter Sunday wedding (when Monday is off for many). Both my sets of parents keep Shabbat so don’t use electronics or travel in a car or do any sort of “work” from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I’m debating with doing an event Thursday (but then my out of town guests and bridesmaids will miss), a Shabbat dinner on Friday (a good option but more $ to rent a hotel room and serve food and parents have to stay in the hotel through Shabbat), or an “evening of toasts” starting Saturday at like 7-8 (but then will it go too late and be tired for Sunday?).

    will prob wind up with some sort of combo so we can accommodate all our various kinds of guests and still get me to hear speeches from our guests and bridal party.

    • Amy March

      Saturday night sounds like the obvious choice to me! 7-8pm is prime dinner time, and you can ask that people give toasts throughout the meal so it doesn’t drag on too long.

      • Engaged Chicago

        Good point!! It

  • MrsRalphWaldo

    We actually went bowling for our “rehearsal dinner.” We rented out a few lanes, pre-ordered food and soda, and were able to invite more out of town guests because of the low cost compared to a sit down dinner. Everyone loved it! It was a great chance to just hang out, enjoy some family time, and truly have some fun before the big day that followed. I highly recommend going non-traditional.