Barbeque or banquet—planning your rehearsal dinner
Special feature by Robbin Montero of A Dream Wedding
The wedding rehearsal and subsequent dinner kick off the entire series of wedding events. What better way to introduce members of the wedding party and key family members than with warm introductions and a celebratory meal? Depending on the type of wedding, the number of guests at the rehearsal dinner is sometimes nearly as large as the guest list for the actual wedding. In general, however, this pared-down guest list is designed to renew acquaintances, arrange first meetings, and further deepen relationships between the two families prior to the distractions of the wedding. It also provides the bridal party, often friends, time to enjoy each other before the wedding.
So who is on the guest list for the rehearsal dinner? Etiquette dictates that the immediate family, members of the bridal party and their spouses (or dates), as well as long-distance travelers (i.e. those guests who have paid for airfare and hotel accommodations), are invited to the rehearsal dinner. Small destination weddings often include all guests.
In the past, paying the cost of the rehearsal dinner was optional for the parents of the groom. However, due to the rising cost of weddings in recent times, it has now become customary for the groom's parents to host the dinner. For convenience or consistency, some hosts allow the bridal couple to make arrangements and forward the invitations in the host’s name.
Most often scheduled the evening before the wedding, the rehearsal dinner can also be held two to three days before the wedding, depending what works for bridal party members. When planning a dinner immediately following the ceremony rehearsal, estimate that the dinner will commence roughly two hours after the start of the rehearsal, allowing ample time to rehearse and speak to the clergy and musicians before heading to dinner.
Book the rehearsal dinner at least four to six months in advance. Dinner invitations are sent separately from the wedding invitations and should be mailed six weeks before the wedding. They should specify the name of the site, date, time, and recommended attire. Provide maps and directions for guests, if necessary. If the event is casual, be specific.
Whether elegant or casual, the rehearsal dinner should not compete with the wedding reception. Choose a local restaurant, country club, park, picnic area, pizza hall, or backyard barbeque. At a picnic or park event, get everyone acquainted and having a good time by offering bocce ball, badminton or volleyball.
Because most guests who attend rehearsal dinners are close family and friends, there are many ways to enliven and personalize these events. Present a slide show or video montage of the bridal couple. Bring in a karaoke machine—yes, you’ll have fun even if you “can’t” sing. Conduct a roast (humorous toast). Roasts are not appropriate at the reception, but the bride and groom are pretty much “fair game” at the rehearsal dinner, so long as the remarks are appropriate for the audience.
Introducing out-of-town guests or long-distance travelers is another function of the rehearsal dinner. Encourage mingling between members of each family through introductions and rehearsal dinner seating arrangements. This is also an appropriate time for the bridal couple to present gifts to the bridesmaids and groomsmen, expressing advance gratitude for their participation in the wedding. The groom’s cake is served for dessert. Usually chocolate or the groom’s choice of flavors, the groom’s cake is entirely different than a wedding cake.
Conclude the evening fairly early if your wedding is the following day. If not, enjoy the fun into the evening. Done properly, the rehearsal dinner will enhance everyone’s enthusiasm for the wedding and the blending of families. It reduces the number of formal introductions the bridal couple have to make during the busy wedding day. So relax and enjoy a fun, casual rehearsal dinner.
“Stress Free, Leave the Details to Me,” is the tried and true philosophy of Robbin Montero, California Wine Country wedding planning expert and owner of A Dream Wedding. Robbin is the premier wedding planner in the Northern California Wine Country, transforming any vision into the perfectly designed wedding creation. Robbin and her weddings have been featured in The Knot, Brides, Elite Magazine, Your Wedding Day and Vine Napa/Sonoma magazines, and ImportantOccasions.com. Travel & Leisure magazine calls Robbin, “The expert wedding planner in the California Wine Country.”