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The purpose of the rehearsal dinner is for the relatives and friends of the bride and groom to meet and have a good time. The couple generally takes this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped with the wedding preparations. Activities generally include toasting and the presentation of small gifts for those who have helped plan the wedding.

This guide will walk you through the basics to get you started on the right track. 

What It’s For?
The dinner is a great opportunity for the two families to get to know each other before the wedding day (if they don’t already know each other well) in a not-too-hectic setting. Take advantage of the relaxed environment on this night, come wedding night you’ll most likely be pulled in too many directions to put in any real quality time with anyone. The ultimate goal here is to relieve some pre-wedding tension and make everyone invited feel comfortable with the upcoming nuptials while not upstaging the big event.

Who Pays?

Traditionally, the groom’s family takes care of the rehearsal dinner and reception bar, while the bride’s family handles the rest of the ceremony and reception. Nowadays, things may be a little different. More couples are paying for their own weddings instead of making their parent’s foot the entire bill. Some families may collaborate and combine funds for the rehearsal dinner. It is important to establish who is paying before you start planning. This way you know what your budget is and what venues to look at for your rehearsal dinner. 

Happy Patrons

Who to Invite?

The main guests include your bridal party members, immediate family and typically out of town guests. You should also invite the officiant and his or her spouse to the dinner (they may not come, but it’s the polite thing to do). The dinner takes place after the wedding rehearsal, usually at a close by location. Bridal party members, family members and ushers should be present at the rehearsal. Those who are at the rehearsal should be invited to the rehearsal dinner.  It is polite etiquette to allow your bridal party members bring dates along to the dinner. The rehearsal dinner is also when you present your thank you gifts to your bridal party and parents, if applicable. From there you and your fiance can decide how many people you should invite. Taking your budget into account know your limit on who you can and cannot invite. 

What Venue?

Once you set your budget for the rehearsal dinner, decide if you want a formal or casual event, just making sure it doesn’t overshadow your big day! If the wedding is the climax of the weekend, the rehearsal should be the sneak peek. Look into venues nearby the rehearsal location or hotel where your guests are staying. Keep in mind that you don’t want to have something too similar to your wedding atmosphere or menu. Check out restaurants, smaller venues and even family members residence near the area. Make sure to book in advance so that you have your date secured. See what menu and bar options they offer for groups as well as how the meal will be served. Will there be a buffet, family style or plated meal? After deciding on the menu and venue you can think about if you would like to include a theme for your rehearsal dinner. 

Feel free to use the term “dinner” loosely — cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a buffet, and even a barbecue are all perfectly acceptable options. Just be sure you make this clear in your invites so your guests know what to expect.

How to Invite
If your rehearsal dinner will be fancy with lots of out-of-town guests in a hotel banquet room, a country club, or someplace similar, you should send formal invitations. You’ll also want people to RSVP so you have a head count for the venue. If your rehearsal dinner will be casual, at a restaurant or an intimate gathering at your future in-laws’ home, then you don’t need to be as “official” with your invitations. You can send e-vites, or call to personally ask people to join you. Just make sure it’s clear to your guests where they need to be and when.

If you are sending out invitations for the rehearsal dinner, get them out shortly after your wedding invitations to help everyone book their travel plans, and ensure timely RSVPs. Give out of town wedding attendants the basic plans far in advance so they can book flights with the proper arrival time.

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What Happens At A Rehearsal Dinner:

Meet and Greet: The rehearsal dinner is your chance to welcome everyone.

The Exchanging of Gifts: You may hand out the bridal party gifts at this time, but do it subtly. Make sure you stand up and thank your bridal party for all their support. Parents gifts can also be given at this time, but I prefer a more private moment.

The Last Reminder: As the evening winds down get your guests attention, make sure that everybody in the wedding party knows exactly where they are going on the big day, what they are supposed to bring, and when and where they  have to arrive to get dressed and ready.

Remember to relax and enjoy because the best is yet to come!

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