Rehearsal Dinner Planning: From Invites To Decor

The rehearsal dinner is a perfect opportunity to kick off the wedding weekend and relax before the big day. It’s usually held after the wedding rehearsal and the night before the ceremony to celebrate the happy couple in a more intimate setting. Not sure what type of dinner you want to host? These rehearsal dinner ideas will give you plenty of food for thought.

Below, we’ve included everything you need to know to plan the perfect rehearsal dinner, including when to send out rehearsal dinner invites and how to fit this event into the wedding timeline.

What Is A Rehearsal Dinner?

People eating and laughing at dinner table.

A rehearsal dinner is usually held directly after the ceremony rehearsal and the night before the actual wedding. It’s a time for the wedding party, close friends, immediate family, and out-of-town guests to meet, toast to the happy couple and present them with gifts. It’s completely up to the host or the bride and groom how formal or casual the dinner is, so be sure it matches their personality and style.

Who Pays For Rehearsal Dinner?

Traditionally, the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner. However, that tradition has become much more relaxed. It may be a family member from either side who pays for this fun evening, or even the bride and groom themselves. Some families prefer to split expenses.

Who To Invite To Rehearsal Dinner

Woman and man laughing with glass of wine.

This pre-wedding dinner is usually smaller and more intimate. The guest list should include the people who are a part of the ceremony or are close to the bride and groom. This includes:

  • Bride and groom
  • Close family
  • The wedding party and their spouses or significant others
  • The officiant and their spouse or significant other
  • Out of town guests

This is the perfect time for family members to meet and connect. The location and the menu can vary depending on your style and theme. Some opt for a formal dinner, others prefer to have a casual taco bar in a friend’s backyard. If you’re having a destination wedding, a restaurant may be the easiest option.

When To Send Out Rehearsal Dinner Invites

Pink and white wedding invitations.

Rehearsal dinner invites should be sent out at least 4-6 weeks before the wedding, but always make sure you send them after the wedding invitations have been sent out. Be sure to include:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Dress code
  • RSVP details

What To Wear To A Rehearsal Dinner

Group of people eating dinner and doing a cheers.

What to wear to your rehearsal dinner depends on the venue and personalized theme of the wedding reception. Always base your outfit on the location and time of the event. Be sure to check the invite for details, but typically the women can wear a dress, pantsuit or jumpsuit and the men a suit, jacket, button-up, and slacks. Casual dress code means there’s more flexibility, so jeans and casual wear are fine.

Rehearsal Dinner Menu

Charcuterie board and appetizers.

When planning your rehearsal dinner menu, be sure you consider the time of year, weather, venue and the wedding itself. Coordinate with the bride and groom’s wedding planning so the rehearsal dinner doesn’t outshine the wedding reception!

Dinners can be as formal as a three-course meal or as casual as a taco truck. Just make sure it fits your personality as a couple.

Be sure to order menu cards that list the dinner options. If you’re at a restaurant, you’ll want to clarify if an open bar is available—otherwise, costs could go over budget.

Rehearsal Dinner Decor

Long dinner table with decor.

For the rehearsal dinner, you may want to use place cards to assign seating so that guests can mingle with the other families and friends.

Rehearsal dinner decor will rely on the theme, type of event and location. If you plan to decorate with bright florals for a formal event, try to coordinate with the same florist the bride is using. For other themes, like a seaside clambake or outdoor food truck, have fun and get creative with rustic decor and outdoor games.

Decide early on if you’ll host an open bar, a closed cash bar or wine with dinner—drink costs can escalate quickly and people will want to have cash on hand if you’re planning a cash bar.

Don’t forget the little things, like pre-ordering the wedding napkins and menu cards so that they’re ready in time for the rehearsal dinner.

Rehearsal Dinner Timeline

Woman and man laughing at dinner.

Just as you have a planning checklist for the wedding, you should have a checklist and timeline of events for your rehearsal dinner.

Usually, the practice ceremony is held first and lasts about 45 minutes to an hour, which gives everyone time to ask questions and learn their positions for the ceremony. The rehearsal dinner follows where guests will eat dinner, mingle, eat dessert and lastly make toasts to the bride and groom. Three hours is typically plenty of time for the dinner.

The rehearsal dinner is also an ideal time for the bride and groom to distribute thank you gifts to parents and attendees. It can be a busy night, so don’t forget to live in the moment and enjoy. This is an intimate night with your closest friends and families before you tie the knot and say I do!

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