The 6 Key Elements of Planning a Rehearsal Dinner

Are you planning a rehearsal dinner? While there’s no rule saying that you have to have this event as part of your wedding itinerary, I always think it creates a wonderful bridge between the pre-wedding phase and the big day itself. It’s the moment where you can sit back, take a deep breath, and start really enjoying being a bride or groom. It’s also a great way to merge families and friend groups. And, if you’re having an intimate destination wedding, it can even double up as a welcome party. Some couples prefer to keep it casual with a backyard barbecue or relaxed dinner. Others prefer a more formal event. Whichever you choose, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. Here are the six key elements of planning a rehearsal dinner.


A rehearsal dinner typically takes place immediately after the ceremony rehearsal. However, couples are now opting for more unconventional options to start off the wedding celebrations. If a dinner doesn’t suit your tastes or timetable, go for something that does, whether it’s a brunch, a drinks reception, or an activity like a winery tour. Whatever you choose, make sure you plan so that it isn’t too late of an evening. After all, the rehearsal dinner should never overshadow the main event!


If you’re planning a traditional dinner after the rehearsal, then you should choose a restaurant or other space close to the wedding ceremony venue. Another aspect to keep in mind, especially for a destination wedding, is the proximity to your guests’ accommodations. Try to keep things as central and easy as possible.

When it comes to the venue itself, one option that is always a success is choosing a place that has sentimental value to the couple or to their families. A family home also works well for this reason. Another idea is to use a space at your wedding venue or hotel that won’t be part of the big day, like a pool, bar, courtyard, or restaurant.

The Hosts

Traditionally, the bride’s family paid for the wedding and so the groom’s family acted as hosts (and paid for) the rehearsal dinner. However, with more couples paying for their own weddings these days or splitting costs in non-traditional ways, the rule has evolved. If one side is still paying for your big day then the other should cover the rehearsal dinner. But it’s also perfectly acceptable for the couple to pay for it themselves or for it to be a mix of contributions from all parties. The most important thing is to have an open conversation with both families well ahead of time so that their wishes and expectations are clear.

The Guest List

There’s also no absolute rule when it comes to who to invite to your rehearsal dinner. Partly it will come down to how big or intimate you want the event to be. But generally speaking, you should invite your immediate family members, anyone participating in the wedding ceremony (including the officiant), and their guest. If you can, it’s also a good idea to include out-of-town guests who have traveled to be with you. One of the great advantages of this is that it will allow you some extra quality time with them that you probably won’t have on the wedding day. If they’ve come a long way, then that’s something they will especially appreciate. Invitations can be as formal or informal as you like, ranging from printed cards to a telephone call. Just as long as everyone who is invited knows the details of the event. A beautiful invitation card always makes a special touch though!

The Speeches

Toasts aren’t just part of the wedding reception. They’re also expected at the rehearsal dinner. These should take place after the meal or while the guests are enjoying dessert. It’s customary for the hosts to begin, followed by the bride and groom. You could even open up the floor to the guests. This can be a good way of managing the number of toasts on the actual day. Before the night ends, be sure to make any necessary announcements about the wedding day, such as start times, transportation, or directions.

The Gifts

The rehearsal dinner can also be a good time to hand out gifts to your wedding party and parents. It can be done during the couple’s speeches and can be an extra special way to thank them. Plus, if their gifts are something they’ll be wearing at the wedding, it ensures they’ll have them ready to put on.

So there you have it! Everything you need to know to start planning a rehearsal dinner!