Wedding Rehearsal Etiquette
A rehearsal dinner is much more than grabbing a bite to eat after doing a run-through of the ceremony before the wedding day. It’s an opportunity to bring together your inner circle – the bridal party, closest family members and friends — to celebrate the upcoming event in a more casual, less stress filled manner before the formalities of the wedding ceremony.
Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette
Here are some questions I have collected, and the information needed to create a memorable gathering before the big day.
Who do I invite to the rehearsal dinner?
The guest list should include everyone who plays a role in your wedding: soon to be parents-in-law, attendants, groomsmen, those who are doing a reading at the ceremony, and the officiant, along with their spouses or dates. Other frequent additions to the guest list are close family members and friends, grandparents and out-of-town guests. While written invitations are not necessary, it would be a good idea to get something down on the calendar. Doing so is a courtesy for those who will be traveling from out of town; they may need to make arrangements for their children in advance, especially for an adults-only affair.
When does the rehearsal dinner take place?
Typically, the dinner is held a day or two before the wedding, following the ceremony rehearsal. For Saturday weddings, rehearsals often occur on Friday, early evening, allowing everyone to get to the venue while also taking into consideration rush hour traffic and work schedules. Customize the schedule to work for yourself and your guests. Hosting a rehearsal lunch or brunch is an alternative option.
Where should the dinner be held?
The easiest scenario is to hold the rehearsal dinner at a restaurant. The main requirement is that your party can be seated together, so it helps if you choose a restaurant with a separate private room for groups (or at least a place where your group can be seated nearby). This can be a great opportunity to highlight a local hotspot to your out-of-town guests. If you have a friend or relative with space and the inclination to host, it can be at someone’s home.
How formal should it be?
Consider this meal a low-key opportunity for friends and loved ones to get to know each other better. It doesn’t have to be a formal, lavish affair; the wedding is the main event, so let the rehearsal dinner be a more simple, relaxed occasion.
Traditionally, the groom’s parents paid for the rehearsal dinner, with the bride’s family paying for much of the wedding expenses. Today, however, the rules are more relaxed and there may be many variations of splitting the cost of the wedding to include who hosts and pays for the rehearsal dinner. For example, if the couple is paying for their wedding, including the pre-ceremony meal, it’s perfectly fine to trim the guest list to the most vital attendees and consider a less expensive setting, such as a microbrewery or an outdoor music and BBQ venue.
Do we need place cards?
There’s no need to create a formal seating chart unless you feel that certain people would enjoy sitting together. Although it’s not necessary, it might be helpful for a larger group to break the ice with new faces, given that people who know each other well tend to group up and unwittingly make new guests feel uncomfortable. Ideally, the bride and groom would have a central location where they can preside over the group, and all the guests can see them, with their parents and best man and maid of honor seated close by.
Who makes the first toast at the rehearsal dinner?
Parents of the groom (the hosts) make the first toast. It’s a thoughtful way to acknowledge and unify the group before the meal. Welcome everyone to the dinner and thank them for taking the time out of their day to start the celebration.
The bride and groom can also give a short speech either after the host or before the evening ends, thanking everyone for attending. The best man or maid of honor are also good candidates for offering a toast.
Is it okay to talk “wedding day business”?
If there is anything your guests need to know about the wedding day – for example, details about group transportation for out-of-town guests – you can certainly use the floor at the rehearsal dinner to make a quick, friendly reminder. But don’t get bogged down in logistics for the big day. Hopefully, most of these issues will have been addressed at the rehearsal.
Any other advice?
The wedding day is guaranteed to be a whirlwind; take this evening to enjoy the people you are closest to and who play the biggest roles in your wedding and your lives. The couple will be busy mingling with their entire guest list after the wedding so if there is something special, they would like to share, do it at the rehearsal dinner, one to one before the wedding frenzy begins.
Kim Purscell is a trained and licensed etiquette and protocol instructor, an accomplished speaker, and experienced business executive. Ms. Purscell’s passion is to help people move upward in the workplace by improving their professional image, behavior and communication skills; and empower clients, to present themselves with power, confidence, and credibility anywhere in the world. Ms. Purscell can be reached at Kim@EtiquetteMatters.us