Traditionally the responsibility of the groom’s family, rehearsal dinners today are often hosted by the bride and groom, and reflect their interests and individuality. A rehearsal dinner can be as casual or formal as you want to make it, and some couples may even choose to skip this event. Having a rehearsal dinner is a nice way to spend some time with your bridal party and families before the big day. Also, if you are giving your attendants thank you gifts, those are usually passed out at the rehearsal dinner.

The rehearsal dinner is generally held immediately following the wedding rehearsal, one to two nights prior to the main event. If your wedding is going to be a civil or smaller ceremony, a rehearsal may not even be necessary. However, nothing says you can’t have a rehearsal dinner without a rehearsal! There are as many options for rehearsal dinners as there are couples getting married. Your only limit is your imagination (and maybe the budget!).

First step is to decide who is going to “host” the dinner. If the groom’s family is in a position to do so, and expresses an interest, by all means, let them. This may be your only chance to hand over the planning of a wedding related event to someone else. If your future in-laws ask your input because they aren’t familiar with the city in which you are to be wed, give them plenty of options as far as price range and formality. However, if your fiance’s parents are unable to host, for whatever the reason, then it falls to you and your groom to plan and execute the dinner, should you decide to have one.

Often, couples who are having a formal, elegant reception will opt for a casual rehearsal dinner. If a home with a large backyard is available, a cook-out with volleyball, croquet, horseshoes and badminton would be a fun way to kick off the wedding weekend. If weather doesn’t allow, talk to a local favorite eatery about having your rehearsal dinner in part of their dining room. If your wedding is being held in your church, often you can hold your rehearsal dinner in a hall or dining area, and have party subs or pizzas delivered.

Opinions vary on who is to be invited to the rehearsal dinner. Obviously, all attendants are invited, and their spouses. Inviting the officiant and his or her spouse is also recommended, unless you are having a civil ceremony. Traditional etiquette also states that out of town guests should be invited, but depending on your situation, you could end up having two receptions! If you cannot invite all out of town guests, that is perfectly fine, just make recommendations to them for dinner options in your area so they aren’t left to their own devices in a strange city. You may choose to limit the rehearsal dinner to your families, including aunts, uncles and grandparents. The budget for the rehearsal dinner will help you decide who is invited outside of your immediate families and attendants.

Once you’ve decided on hosts, location, menu and guest list, all that is left is to have the dinner itself. Wrap up the dinner relatively early, so everyone can get a good night’s rest before the big day. Breathe deep, you’ve made it to the night before your wedding!

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