Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette
Traditional rehearsal dinner etiquette dictates that the groom’s parents shell out the dough because “it’s the way for the groom’s mother to show that she knows how to entertain, too,” says Michael Willms of Entertainment Design Events. But as more and more couples choose to pay for their own wedding or share the expenses between both families, the bottom line is you get to decide who shoulders the awesome pre-wedding party responsibility. Remember, though, that whoever pays gets the last word on the details!
Who Do We Invite?
Bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, flower girls and ring bearers (with their adult supervision, of course!), your officiant and other close family and friends form the traditional group. But Michael Willms says, “In Jewish tradition, it is customary for anyone invited to the wedding to be invited to the rehearsal dinner. They’ve flown out, they’ve given a gift, and they need to eat. End of story.”
That said, you do have the right to invite who you want—or even hold two kinds of events. While some etiquette purists say two events makes some guests feel excluded and awkward, more and more couples are now opting to have their dinner at a swanky restaurant with the usual close-knit crew, then meet up with more friends and out-of-towners later at the restaurant’s bar for the pre-wedding toasts. Sean McKean at the Beach Chalet explains it’s all in how you word the invitations. One couple wanted to include every single wedding guest in the pre-wedding festivities, but their budget precluded it. The guests who weren’t included in the posh pre-wedding meal got invitations with a later time to join up for the rehearsal “party,” and these people never guessed that the actual dinner had already happened. They were too busy noshing on the delicious tray-passed appetizers, cocktails and desserts!
When should I start planning my rehearsal dinner?
As soon as you can make the reservation, do it, but the general consensus is at least 3-6 months in advance of the date. “By three months out, couples have a good idea how many guests will be attending and they can plan a menu that doesn’t conflict with their wedding day,” advises Scott Tessler of Silver Spoons Catering. Consider scheduling your pre-wedding dinner on a Thursday night if you’re having a Saturday wedding. Not only can this make your rehearsal dinner bill cheaper, but “everyone can party as much as they want, sleep it off on Friday, and wake up for a wonderful wedding on Saturday,” offers Michael Willms.
What’s a good rehearsal dinner location?
There are so many California rehearsal dinner locations it’s hard to choose! Coordinators can help steer you in the right direction, but a favorite restaurant is always a good choice. Choose a place that’s close to your rehearsal site to make it convenient for your guests, and make sure you’ve reserved a private room if you’re going to break out the naked baby picture slides or karaoke machine. See our Search Tips for pointers on how to effectively search for locations on HereComesTheGuide.com.
When do the rehearsal dinner invitations go out?
“Four weeks before the event and, of course, after the wedding invitation,” says Michelle Martin of Out of the Envelope. “And never put the rehearsal dinner invite in with the wedding invite!” she warns. “Remember, even though rehearsal dinners are a part of the wedding festivities, they really are two separate events. Formal invitations are perfectly elegant for weddings, but feel free to express your creative selves with color and thematic elements for the rehearsal dinner invites.”
I’m having cake at my reception. Should I really have cake at the rehearsal dinner, too?
Not necessarily. The rehearsal dinner gives you a chance to sample other delightful alternatives. Love chocolate? Joyce Scardina Becker suggests an “All Things Chocolate” Dessert Station with anything from spiced hot chocolate shots and warm chocolate macaroons to salt caramel ice cream pops dipped in milk chocolate. Alex Alexander even arranged to have a snow cone and cotton candy machine at one playful couple’s pre-wedding event. Michael Willms adds that you should try to make the dessert complement the meal. “After a steak dinner lemon is great, but chocolate is best after chicken or light fish,” he says. “If the meal is very complicated, try a simple dessert of champagne sabayon, fresh berries and pound cake.”
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