Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette

Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette
Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is held the night before the wedding. It provides an opportunity for the members of the wedding party to socialize after they have established that they understand their role in your nuptials.

Who Pays for the Rehearsal Dinner?

Traditionally, the groom's parents are responsible for the rehearsal dinner. However, as the average age of marriage continues to increase, it's no longer automatically assumed the groom's parents will pay. Often, the bride's parents will chip in as well or the couple will cover the full cost themselves.

One option that's never appropriate is asking your guests to pay for their own meals. When you invite others to a function, it's rude to ask them to cover the cost of their food and drinks. If you're working with a very limited budget, you may simply need to skip a formal rehearsal dinner in favor of a more casual event at a local pizza parlor or an inexpensive buffet restaurant.

Who Should Be Invited?

At a bare minimum, your wedding guest list should include:

  • Your bridesmaids and groomsmen, with their significant others
  • The flower girl, ring bearer, and their parents
  • Your officiant
  • Parents of the couple
  • Other close family and friends

If your wedding will be attended by many out of town guests, it's polite to ask them to attend the rehearsal dinner so they're not left scrambling for a place to eat the night before the ceremony.  However, if you can't swing the cost of a full dinner for such a large group, you could have a rehearsal party with appetizers and desserts instead.

When Should I Send Out Invitations?

Ideally, you'll want to send out rehearsal dinner invitations at least four weeks before the wedding. The invitations should include the date, time, and location of the event. The design can coordinate with your wedding invitations or you can opt for a more casual invitation that reflects the specific theme of the event. Our Rehearsal Dinner Invitations article offers additional tips for creating an appropriate invitation for this event.

What Should We Serve?

A rehearsal dinner doesn't need to be a formal sit-down meal, but you should consider factors such as whether or not you have any vegetarian members of the wedding party and if anyone has serious food allergies.

Here are a few unique ideas you can consider for your rehearsal dinner menu:

  • A buffet featuring all your favorite foods
  • Your favorite food truck dishing up special treats
  • A casual make your own taco bar
  • Farm to table meal with locally grown ingredients
  • A southern style BBQ
  • A New England style lobster bake
  • A menu paying tribute to your ethnic or cultural heritage

If you’re concerned about guests overindulging in alcohol, you may wish to omit cocktails all together or have just one celebratory toast. You don't want the members of your wedding party showing up hungover when the big day arrives.

Rehearsal Dinner Toasts

Do We Need to Make Toasts?

At a rehearsal dinner, your parents and the key members of the wedding party may choose to make a toast. When you are toasted, you should rise in thanks. You don't need to make a toast in turn, although you are welcome to if you feel comfortable doing so.

Keep in mind that it is customary to allow the host of the event the honor of making the first toast.

What About Presentations or Performances?

While not necessary, many couples choose to include presentations or performances in their rehearsal dinner. For example, you might use your wedding rehearsal dinner as a chance to feature the secular music that wouldn't be appropriate in a formal church ceremony. You might also want to put together a slideshow that showcases favorite photos from your courtship.

Should We Give Gifts?

The rehearsal dinner is often used as a time to give gifts to the members of the wedding party. This is a good idea if the gifts are something they will need for the big day, such as cuff links for the men or a necklace and earring set for the women. Giving gifts at the rehearsal dinner also prevents the members of the wedding party from having to tote around extra items on the day of the ceremony.

Parent gifts can be given at the rehearsal dinner if you wish, but many couples prefer a more private time for this exchange so they can fully express their appreciation.

Some couples choose to give special wedding gifts to each other as part of the rehearsal dinner. This is not required, however.

What About Favors?

Favors aren't an absolute requirement, but they are a good way to show appreciation for your guests. You want to choose something that's different from your wedding favors, however. For example, a chocolate bar or decorated sugar cookie with a tag that says, "Tomorrow Is Going to Be the Best Day Ever" would be an inexpensive yet thoughtful choice.


Written by: The Printable Wedding Team