The who, what, when, and why of this time-honored tradition
The rehearsal dinner traditionally is a meal held the night before a bridal couple’s wedding. It’s a time for the families of the bride and groom to come together in a less formal setting than the wedding. Although called a rehearsal dinner, this pre-wedding event may be celebrated as a luncheon, brunch or even as a cocktail party.
The rehearsal. The actual wedding ceremony can be a complicated event, involving multiple players and several different cues that must be hit in order to keep the event flowing smoothly. A rehearsal the day before is traditional. For many couples, the rehearsal is held at the church or venue where their exchange of vows will commence.
The rehearsal typically involves the full bridal party (including ring bearer and flower girl), the officiant and the parents of the bridal couple. Others in attendance may be the siblings of the bride and groom if those siblings are not part of the bridal party. Parents of the young attendants (ring bearer and flower girl) should also be included. Everyone attending the wedding rehearsal should be invited for the dinner, which often immediately follows the rehearsal.
Rehearsal dinner hosts. Etiquette expert Emily Post states, “It is customary, but not obligatory, for the groom’s family to host the rehearsal party. If the groom’s family chooses not to host, then it’s fine for the bride’s family, or the bride and groom to do so.” Both the families of the bride and groom can choose to host jointly as well. To keep from causing additional stress for the bride and groom, it’s best not to place an importance on who hosts the rehearsal dinner.
Venue. The rehearsal dinner does not have to be a formal affair. It’s meant to be an intimate, fun gathering for both families. Many bridal couples opt for casual meals at a local favorite restaurant for dinner, a luncheon or brunch. Whatever time of day is chosen, the host(s) do need to secure reservations well in advance. It’s also a good idea to consult with the bridal couple regarding location.
Invitations. If a sit-down meal is planned for the rehearsal dinner, a printed or handwritten invitation may be sent. Another option is to send an email invitation. The invitations should include location with address of venue, date, time and R.S.V.P. information. It’s also polite to include directions from the church or venue to the dinner location if the dinner is scheduled immediately following the wedding rehearsal. Emily Post recommends sending the invitations three to six weeks before the date.
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