Rehearsal Dinner Guide

Rehearsal dinners can be a gray area of a lot of couples. There are so many questions about what the purpose is, who should be invited, what to do, and who is responsible to foot the bill.


Why a Rehearsal Dinner?

The party before the party! A rehearsal dinner is traditionally the first event of your wedding weekend. It usually coincides with the actual rehearsal where those involved in the wedding and processional can run through everything they need to do for ceremony. Rehearsal dinners serve three main purposes.

  1. They serve as a thank you to everyone involved in your wedding.
  2. It provides an opportunity for your two families and groups of friends to get to meet each other if they haven’t already. Its a smaller setting where they can mingle and have more one-on-one conversations.

It also gives you a chance to see and interact with out of town guests. Your wedding day will be filled with people that you love and depending on your guest count it can be difficult to make sure you have one-on-one interactions with everyone. The rehearsal dinner ensures you get good time with this group of close family and friends.

Who Pays for the Rehearsal Dinner?

The big questions right?! So traditionally one family pays for the wedding and the other family (usually the groom’s) hosts the rehearsal dinner. Many couples are opting for a modern approach of either footing the bill themselves or putting the money both sets of parents have given into a pool and paying for it from there. Depending on your circumstance really anyone can pay for it. Just remember that whoever pays gets the final say on who is invited and acts as the host of the evening.

What to Do at the Rehearsal Dinner?

There are so many options to include in your rehearsal dinner. Below are some example activities that could be included as part of your special dinner.

  • Give a toast! Remember one of the reasons for having a rehearsal dinner is for couples to thank those people involved in there ceremony. Especially, if you are not giving one at the reception, this is a great time to say a few words to thank those you love most.
  • Eat, duh! Of course having great food is part of it. It doesn’t need to be a three course meal either. One of the most memorable rehearsal dinners I have been to was takeout pizza from the couples favorite local pizza place. My sister and brother-in-law did a crawfish boil for theirs. So great creative and don’t overthink it!
  • Hand out gifts. Often couples get gifts for their wedding party, parents, officiant, or anyone else helping with the wedding. The rehearsal dinner is a great time to distribute them and it’s one less thing you have to remember on your wedding day.
  • Give opportunities for guests to mingle. I am a big proponent of people meeting and playing games. Think about yard games or activities that would help guests meet each other.
  • Take a look back at your relationship. Often couples incorporate some sort of slide show into their rehearsal dinner showing how they’ve grown from infancy to the beginning of their relationship to engagement.
  • Allow for others to give toasts. Toast are one of my favorite parts about rehearsal dinners. If you have someone that isn’t giving a toast on your wedding day but still wants to give a toast, the rehearsal dinner is the perfect place. You can ask who wants to give one before hand or do an “open mic” of sorts. Tip: if you do an open mic, let attendees know so they can prepare in advance.

Example Rehearsal Dinner Timeline

Still have questions about what should happen at your rehearsal dinner? Below is an example of what your rehearsal dinner could look like. A rehearsal dinner is more casual than a wedding so be flexible and lot of it will happen naturally.

6:00 Guests begin arriving, mingling, taking pictures, or playing games. Have drinks readily available.

6:15 Everyone is seated and host (whoever that is) gives a welcome toast and/or prayer for the meal. Everyone eats!

6:45 Start slideshow. After dinner is the perfect time to begin when everyone is finishing up eating. It also helps you get everyone’s attention for any toasts.

7:00 Allow for anyone who wants to give a toast to give one. This is a sweet time for family and friends to hear more about the couple.

7:30 Toasts conclude and there is more mingling! This is a great time to get one on one time with those most important to you and hand out any gifts to those key players.

Hopefully this give you a better idea of how to plan and what to expect from a rehearsal dinner. Let me know in the comments if this was helpful and if you have any other questions about rehearsal dinners.

Looking for help with planning your rehearsal dinner? We would love to share how we can help!

  1. Gigi says:

    Very helpful…. my grandsons fiance wants to invite out-of-town guests.. it gives them
    about 50 people. Think its too many.. What do you think?

    • Laura McCasland says:

      I’ve done some with over 75 people. I think it’s really up to them if they want to include all of the out-of-town guests. Definitely not too many though!

  2. Lori Johnson says:

    This was wonderful. My third son is getting married. For my other 2 I threw a day after party for out of town guests at my home. The couples opened their gifts then. Very casual. Had major issues with brides family inviting MANY extras to the rehearsal dinner. I wanted it to just be those involved in the actual weddings and their families. Still over 50. I paid for everything at the high end restaurants. I don’t anticipate that problem with this bride but I am sending her your link! So many questions answered! Thank you.

  3. Karen Miller says:

    Should the grooms Mom and Dad give a gift to the Brides parents at the rehearsal dinner? I’m not sure if that’s custom to do.

  4. Danell says:

    I want to do a shrimp boil but it will be the first time our parents will be meeting, think it’s too messy??

    • Laura says:

      Hi Danell,
      My sister and brother-in-law did a crawfish bowl for their rehearsal dinner and it was so fun! I think as long as the expectation for the rehearsal dinner is more casual a boil is perfect!

  5. Hi there,
    for an out of town/state wedding for our son, I’m having a dilemma with who to invite for the rehearsal dinner. We can’t have all of the wedding guests there. Could we have a welcome party after the dinner? I’m a little stressed about this.
    Thanks Laura

    • Laura McCasland says:

      Hi Laura!

      This is such a great question and the answer is absolutely. We do lots of destination weddings and always have a rehearsal dinner for those who are in the wedding or parents/grandparents. The welcome party is then extended to other out of town guests as more or a cocktail hour/grab a drink after dinner.

      Hopefully that is helpful! Let me know if you have follow up questions!

      • Thanks Laura for answering! I think we are going to wait and see who RSVP and go from there. The wedding is in a small town in MT so many people may not be able to come unfortunately.

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