Your rehearsal dinner sets the tone for the rest of your wedding weekend—so ring in the festivities on a high note! We recommend beginning rehearsal dinner plans about six to eight months in advance of the wedding. Here are ten tips to keep in mind as you go.

Set the Budget

This might not be the most glamorous part of planning, but don’t overlook it. Make sure that the rehearsal dinner host(s) consider the cost and set a clear budget before making any major decisions.

Determine the Guest List

While there are no hard-and-fast rules to who is included in the rehearsal dinner, couples typically approach the guest list in one of three ways: inviting just wedding party members, their significant others, and close family; inviting the aforementioned guests plus all out-of-town guests; and inviting the entire wedding guest list. When determining who will get the invite, let your budget, venue preferences, and personal style guide you.  

Pick the Perfect Venue

When choosing a great spot for your rehearsal dinner, factors like cost, capacity, and proximity are key. Avoid cramming a large guest list into an intimate space (or vice versa) or asking guests travel to an inconvenient location, particularly if you have a lot of out-of-town guests or don’t plan on providing transportation. If possible, try to choose a venue with an atmosphere that differs from wherever the reception is to be held. If the wedding is taking place in a glamorous ballroom, for example, go for a completely different feel—a rustic barn or a modern gallery, perhaps? It’s always refreshing to mix things up.

Provide Advanced Notice

Your rehearsal dinner invitations should be sent separately from your wedding invitations since they are two different events. We recommend sending the rehearsal dinner invitations out at least four to six weeks before the wedding. You may want to inform out-of-town guests of the date and time farther in advance, however, so they can make travel plans.

Select the Menu

Have a little fun with the menu! Get creative with appetizers, opt for interactive food stations, or focus on local flavors. No matter what, make sure there are options for everyone and take dietary restrictions into account.

Cast the Speakers

Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner provides an opportunity for friends and family members to toast the newlyweds-to-be. While the father- or parents-of-the-bride, best man, and maid of honor typically save their speeches for the wedding reception, the rehearsal dinner is a great time for the groom’s family, wedding party members, and other friends or relatives to say a little something. Feel free to invite anyone you’d like to speak, or go with an “open mic” format. Just make sure you have access to a microphone or other audio/visual equipment. Ask your venue if they can supply this or if they can recommend a reputable rental company.

Don’t Go Overboard

Generally speaking, the rehearsal dinner is meant to be a laid-back, fun event. It’s a great chance for the couple to greet guests, for family members and friends to meet for the first time, and for everyone to get excited for the festivities to come. Maintaining a relaxed vibe will help break the ice and keep guests in good spirits.

Photo by davidiam photography