A wedding rehearsal dinner is not required, but it is a great way to start your wedding festivities. This occasion gives your friends and family members the opportunity to meet and get to know each other. Most of these people will be meeting each other for the first time, and will be connected by your marriage. You will also have special family and friends out for your wedding. It is wonderful to be able to spend more time with them, than just the wedding day where they will see you along with a crowd.

Who Pays? Who is Invited?

The rehearsal dinner is traditionally paid for by the parents of the groom, but this is no longer a requirement. Sometimes the bride and groom will host it, or it may be hosted by several people. It is customary that they send the invitations and include the immediate family of the bride and groom, your clergy person or officiant and their spouse, and the entire wedding party and their spouses or special guests. If you have friends from out of town who have already arrived, they should also be invited. The invitations should be less formal than your wedding invitations. It is also a good idea to include RSVP cards that have guests choose their dinner option, along with the dinner invitations.

Name Tags and Seating Arrangements

It is a good idea to provide name tags for your guests as this is probably the first time many of them will be meeting. Explanations after the names can be helpful, such as Lisa Smith-Bridesmaid. You might also create a seating arrangement, so that people you think would get along nicely, but who don't yet know each other, can visit over dinner. The bride and groom should be seated at a focal table with their immediate families, or with their wedding party members.

Another great way for your guests to get to know each other: after everyone is seated, the bride and groom stand up and introduce each person to the group..."This is Rachel, my bridesmaid, we grew up together and have been friends forever..."

Location, Location, Location

There are unlimited options for the rehearsal dinner location. The parent’s home may be large enough to accommodate the group. In that case, outdoor barbecues or theme parties are fun and festive. If you have your rehearsal dinner in a restaurant you should consider a limited menu offering to keep the meal timely as well as cut costs. Also, decide ahead of time if drinks will be provided, or paid for by each guest. It is a nice idea to give your rehearsal dinner a different style and menu than your wedding. If your wedding has a formal sit down dinner featuring chicken and steak, have the rehearsal dinner in a more casual environment with Thai food.

What Happens At The Dinner?

If your dinner will be held in a private room at a restaurant, or at a private residence, have a table of appetizers setup and have a cocktail hour before sitting for dinner. This is lots of fun and it allows people to meet and chat before everyone is sat at their separate tables.

The rehearsal dinner is traditionally the time for the father of the groom to make his formal toast to the couple. It is also the perfect time to give out attendant gifts, perhaps set out at each place setting as their placecards. It is also a great time to thank both sets of parents for all they have done for you, in front of everyone. This dinner can make for some touching and memorable moments - make sure someone has a video camera and/or photo camera.

Today, many couples are using the rehearsal dinner as an opportunity to show videos or photo montages about the bride and groom and their families. This further helps new family members get to know each other and the bride or groom. This video is also a sentimental keepsake. Copies may be burned to CD and handed out as favors at the dinner.

This dinner is also a great time to break out the Groom's Cake! A yummy chocolate cake is enjoyed by everyone!

What Happens After The Dinner?

Talk ahead of time with your attendees, many find it fun to plan a party to follow the rehearsal and dinner. Having an afternoon rehearsal and early dinner makes this option more enjoyable. If this occasion is the night before your wedding, make sure you get in bed at a decent hour! You will need to be rested (and not hung over) for your wedding day. Your wedding day is one where you want to feel your best!

By Michelle O'Connor

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