Rehearsal Dinner — Who, When, Where?

There are many things considered traditional when it comes to weddings — the bride’s dress, the wedding cake, the bouquet, the rings and the reception to name a few. Another tradition is the rehearsal dinner. It has long been held that the bride’s family is financially responsible for the wedding and reception while the groom’s family takes care of the rehearsal dinner. But, as with many of the traditions, society has seen a number of these take on a new twist. Nowadays, the couple has a lot of say in all aspects of planning. With this in mind, here are some points to keep in mind:

  • If the groom’s family is able and willing to handle the rehearsal dinner, they may ask you for suggestions as to the type of meal, locations and number of guests you had in mind — or they may make all the plans and only ask for a guest list. Either way, if they are paying for the entire affair, the final decision is ultimately theirs.
  • If you and the groom are contributing to the cost, or the bride’s family is involved, then you can have more input on the size, location, menu, cost, etc. Keep in mind you may want to be flexible to maintain a good relationship with your soon-to-be in-laws.
  • Make decisions early. Popular places book well in advance — especially during popular wedding months.
  • Where rehearsal dinners used to be confined to the members of the wedding party and immediate family, now many couples extend the list to include out-of-town guests and close family friends. When considering places to hold the dinner, note the size and configuration of each location to make sure it will accommodate your party comfortably.
  • Do not be afraid to mix it up. Even if your wedding will be formal, your rehearsal dinner doesn’t have to be. In good weather, consider an outdoor barbecue or picnic-style meal. A vineyard, pool or country setting may be just the relaxed scenario needed before the big day.
  • If you are having a destination wedding, hopefully, you will have scouted out places already. Make sure everything is set when you first arrive. Don’t wait until the last minute and then be disappointed when it is too late to be corrected.
  • Keep in mind any dietary concerns of your guests and offer a varied menu. Pass on information to whoever is in charge of the planning of any guest that may have food allergies or other issues. Touch base with the food preparation people a couple of times before the event to make sure everything is on track.
  • You may opt for a location where heavy hors d’oeuvres make more sense allowing you to expand your guest list.
  • If you are not a superstitious person about seeing the groom the day of the wedding, and the timing works, consider having a rehearsal brunch after a morning rehearsal the day of the wedding.
  • Make sure invitations go out soon after the wedding invitations do. They should include some information giving guests some indication of what to expect. In other words, the dress for an outdoor barbecue would be different than a formal dinner party.

Whether a joint decision or solely the groom’s family, remember to keep the budget in mind, book early, send invitations, check on the status of the food and location months ahead and again as the date gets closer to make sure nothing has changed and, most importantly, relax and enjoy!