Your wedding rehearsal dinner is a pretty special event because it means the big day is (finally!) just around the corner. But what actually happens at a wedding rehearsal dinner, and where do you even begin with organising one?
From etiquette tips to timelines and invitation wording ideas, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for our ultimate guide to planning your wedding rehearsal dinner below!
What Is the Purpose of a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?
Simply put, a rehearsal dinner is an event that takes place after your wedding ceremony rehearsal – usually, a day or two before the wedding. As the name suggests, it’s an opportunity to “rehearse” any key elements that will be taking place on the day and confirm final details such as timings, logistics, and responsibilities.
Along with acting as a practice run before the wedding, a rehearsal dinner is also a fantastic opportunity to get all of your VIP wedding guests together to mix and mingle before the day, especially those who haven’t yet met. Plus, it allows you to maximise some quality time with your closest loved ones (including traveling guests) and get excited about your upcoming nuptials together!
Who Should Be Invited to a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?
So, who needs to score an invite to your wedding rehearsal dinner guest list?
The day of your wedding rehearsal will usually be split into two parts – the ceremony rehearsal, and the rehearsal dinner taking place afterward. When it comes to the ceremony rehearsal portion of the day, only those who are directly involved in the wedding ceremony need to attend. This usually includes you and your partner, your bridal party members, your celebrant, your parents, and anyone else playing a special role in your ceremony such as flower girls, page boys, or those performing a reading. Read our guide to planning your wedding ceremony here!
When it comes to the rehearsal dinner itself, the guest list is really up to you! Along with the key people who joined you for your ceremony rehearsal, many couples will extend their guest list to include other important family members from both sides (such as grandparents and siblings), along with any relevant spouses or dates. It’s also a good idea to invite any out-of-town guests who may be traveling, to thank them for making an effort.
And what about couples planning a destination wedding? In this case, your rehearsal dinner will essentially double as a “welcome dinner”, so you’ll want to invite all of your guests and turn it into a group event.
Who Organises the Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?
Traditionally, a wedding rehearsal dinner would be hosted by the parents of the groom and was quite a grand, formal affair. But these days, rehearsal dinners are often much more intimate and relaxed – so when it comes to the host? Anything goes!
One set of parents may offer to host the rehearsal dinner, both sets of parents may decide to split costs, or you and your fiance might prefer to plan the rehearsal dinner entirely on your own. It’s entirely up to you and what works best for your unique situation, so don’t get too caught up in “tradition” when it comes to hosting.
If one or both sets of parents are hosting, it’s a good idea to have an upfront chat about the expectations from both sides. For example, who will be making the final decisions around your guest list and venue? Ideally, you’ll want to strike the right balance between being considerate of their wishes, while also ensuring you and your partner have a say, too.
What Actually Happens at a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?
When it comes to your wedding rehearsal schedule, there are no specific “rules” you need to follow, but the day will generally unfold something like this:
Before dinner, anyone involved in your ceremony will meet at the ceremony venue to attend the rehearsal. At the ceremony rehearsal, you’ll do a practice walk-through of your entire ceremony and the different elements involved – for example, figuring out where you want to make your entrance, walking down the aisle to your chosen music to practice pace and timing, finding the best position for standing at the altar, and confirming the order of events with your celebrant.
Following the ceremony rehearsal, you and your guests will then make your way to the rehearsal dinner location. Keep in mind, your rehearsal “dinner” could actually be a brunch, lunch, or afternoon drinks rather than an evening event – whatever suits your personality and vibe!
So, what goes down at the rehearsal dinner itself? Typically, the event will include the following elements:
- Meeting and greeting guests, and making relevant introductions for family and friends who haven’t yet met
- Sharing some food and drinks together
- Giving gifts to your wedding party members and/or parents
- Making any final announcements for the wedding – for example, ensuring everyone knows what items they’re bringing, what time to arrive in the morning, pick-up locations and meeting points for transport, order of speeches, etc.
Your rehearsal dinner can be as formal or informal as you like – whether you want a traditional sit-down meal at your favourite restaurant or a relaxed barbecue with lawn games in your own backyard. Ultimately, your rehearsal dinner is simply a chance to relax and soak up your final moments as an engaged couple together with your loved ones.
Are There Speeches at a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?
You may have already prepared a speech for your wedding day, but is anyone expected to give a speech at your wedding rehearsal dinner?
We’d say formal speeches definitely aren’t necessary for rehearsal dinners, but it can be a nice idea to toast your guests and thank them for joining you. You can also use this “toast” to make any final wedding announcements before the big day.
If your rehearsal dinner is being hosted by your parents, they’ll probably want to say a few words, too. It’s a good idea to ask them about this upfront, so you can make sure they have the opportunity to do so.
Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Invitation Wording and Etiquette
Now let’s chat invitations! Sending a formal invitation is the perfect way to make your rehearsal dinner feel extra special. So what are the basics when it comes to rehearsal dinner invitations?
Ideally, you’ll want to send your wedding rehearsal dinner invitations around 4-6 weeks before the wedding, after your wedding invitations have been sent. It’s a good idea to set your RSVP deadline around 2 weeks before the event will actually be taking place, so you can finalise things like catering and seating arrangements if needed.
Your rehearsal dinner invitations don’t need to be as in-depth as your wedding invitations. However, they should include the following details at a minimum:
- Names of you and your partner
- Names of hosts (if relevant)
- RSVP date and instructions
When it comes to your invitation wording, draw some cues from the style and formality of your rehearsal dinner. For example, if you’re planning a luxurious sit-down meal at a fancy restaurant, you may opt for more formal language – or, if you’re planning a relaxed cocktail party, you can use a more relaxed and conversational tone.
No idea where to begin? Be inspired by these wedding rehearsal dinner wording examples below:
Invitation Wording Example for a Formal Rehearsal Dinner:
Please join us for a rehearsal dinner
in honour of
and Henry Thomas
Hosted by Alan and Beverley Thomas
Saturday 9th September
Six o’clock in the evening
33 Maestro Parade
Kindly RSVP to Alan by August 23rd
(insert contact details)
Invitation Wording Example for an Informal Rehearsal Dinner
Eat, drink, and be married!
Please join us for Daisy
& Luke’s rehearsal dinner
20th November at 6pm
The Palms Rooftop
10 Tropical Road
RSVP by 5-11-2020
(insert contact details)
Invitation Wording Example for a Fun Rehearsal Dinner:
Cleo and Kyle
invite you to join in their
Wedding Eve Bash!
Friday 15th February
Cocktails, canapes and card games kicking off at 5pm
5 Prairie Lane
RSVP by 1st February to Cleo
(insert contact details)
Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette
Finally, keep these etiquette tips in mind to help you plan a seamless wedding rehearsal event:
- Don’t include the details of your wedding rehearsal dinner on your wedding website. Your wedding website should only include details for wedding events that apply to all guests, so stick to personalised invitations instead. Read our guide on exactly what to include on your wedding website here!
- It’s a good idea to start planning your wedding rehearsal dinner around 4-6 months before the wedding, to give yourself plenty of time to find a venue, organise invitations and make the necessary arrangements. The last thing you want to be stressing about before the wedding is pulling together a last-minute event!
- If your rehearsal dinner is taking place the day before the wedding, make sure you plan to wrap it up early. Trust us – you don’t want this to escalate into a wild night, or you’ll regret it on your wedding morning! Instead, have a set curfew in mind so you (and your guests) can be fresh and well-rested for the big day.
And remember – this is the last event you’ll attend together before becoming a married couple, so let go of any stress and enjoy the moment! This is a super special time to share with your closest loved ones, so take the opportunity to truly relax, look around at your favourite people, and soak it all in.