Neutral Wedding Reception Table Setting

Your Biggest Rehearsal Dinner Questions, Answered

Traditionally, hosting a rehearsal dinner the night before your wedding allows you to practice walking down the aisle, coordinate with your wedding party, work out the last-minute details with your officiant, and catch up with close family. Like everything else that comes with the wedding process, the rehearsal dinner requires planning. From who to invite to who receives a gift and who gives a toast, check out our answers to some of your biggest rehearsal dinner questions below.

1. When should you start planning a rehearsal dinner?

The rehearsal dinner should be planned before formal invitations are sent out. Talk with your wedding caterer in the early planning stages if you’d like them to provide food, or contact restaurants many months in advance in order to book their private rooms or rent out their entire space for the evening.

Wedding Invitation Suite

2. Who attends the rehearsal dinner?

The wedding party and their plus-ones will need to be a part of the actual wedding rehearsal, so these invites are a must. (This includes the parents of any minors with a role in the ceremony.) Couples also typically invite both sets of parents, everyone in the processional, any close friends or family who are active participants in the marriage ceremony, and the guests who are reading or giving speeches during the reception. And don’t forget the officiant!

Guests Lounging during Wedding Reception

3. Do you have any advice on how to handle awkward conversations regarding who is or is not invited to the rehearsal dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is for those actively participating in the wedding rehearsal and their plus-ones. It’s not for every family member, friend, or those who traveled to attend the wedding. If you do have a significant number of guests traveling for the wedding, or if it’s a destination wedding, consider having a welcome party either on a different day or following the rehearsal dinner.

Escort Cards

4. Who traditionally pays for the rehearsal dinner?

The groom’s family traditionally pays for the rehearsal dinner. But as gender norms and wedding traditions are shifting in today’s world, it’s becoming more common for couples to pay for their own wedding—and rehearsal dinner.

Madeline and Russ Walking

5. Do you send rehearsal dinner invitations? If so, how far in advance should those go out?

For a more formal affair? Yes! When the wedding invitations are mailed, your special guests should also receive their invites for the rehearsal dinner in the same envelope. This way everyone can make appropriate accommodations, adjust work schedules, or set-up childcare for the weekend. If you’re planning a smaller, more casual affair, then you have a little more flexibility, but aim to let your dinner guests know at least 6-8 weeks in advance.

Save The Date

6. What is a typical rehearsal dinner timeline ? 

First, the wedding party participates in the actual rehearsal at the venue, and then everyone can enjoy dinner, which includes speeches from those close to the couple, thank-you speeches from the couple, and gifts from the couple to the wedding party. After dinner, you can meet up and have drinks with wedding guests who were not in the rehearsal.

Guests during Cocktail Hour

7. Can you have a casual rehearsal dinner if  your wedding is formal?

Definitely! The rehearsal dinner is typically a more relaxed and low pressure wedding event. A casual dinner won’t take away from the special feeling of the wedding day. In fact, a low-key dinner might even make the next day feel more formal by comparison!

Dinner Spread

8. Do I give favors at my rehearsal dinner?

If the couple has gifts for the wedding party, they are typically given at the rehearsal dinner, but can also be given on the wedding day. For the bridal party, these gifts may be something to wear while getting ready (think robes) or jewelry to wear with their bridesmaid gowns. For groomsmen, it may be socks or watches. If the couple gives a speech thanking the wedding party, gifts can be given after.

If a couple has gifts for their parents, they can give them at the rehearsal or on their wedding day for a more intimate and photo-perfect moment. Couples typically exchange gifts with one other the morning of their wedding.

Wedding Favors

9. Do we serve cake at the rehearsal dinner?

It’s up to the couple! Dessert is optional, and it certainly doesn’t have to be cake. Less formal dessert tables filled with fruit, cookies, brownies, and other bite-sized treats are a popular option.

Mini Churros With Chocolate Sauce

10. What are some popular food items served at a rehearsal dinner?

Depending on what the menu is for the actual wedding, some people like to include local flavors found wherever the wedding is being held. If your dinner is at a restaurant, each guest may order individually, or you may want to have a set menu served plated, a casual family style meal, or a buffet.

Mini Tacos With Salads
Chicken And Waffles Station

Photos by Jen & Chris Creed Photography, Madi Flournoy Photography, Sara Bill Photography, and Steph Sorenson Photography.

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