Wedding Rehearsal Dinners: Guest List, Etiquette, and Expectations

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The wedding rehearsal dinner is a break between planning for the wedding celebration and the wedding itself. The rehearsal has just been completed and participants are feeling more comfortable with their role in the event. It’s a welcome time for new family and friends to start the blending process as they meet and greet each other, often for the first time.

In the past, the groom’s parents paid the bill for the wedding rehearsal dinner. That tradition still continues in many cases, but it isn’t uncommon for the couple or even a friend or other members of the extended family to cover the cost. No matter who pays for the event, observing proper etiquette will make it a more enjoyable and relaxed party for everyone involved.

The Guest List

Wedding rehearsal guest lists will vary in size depending upon the number of members in the wedding party. Rehearsal dinners are typically a more intimate event than the reception. While couples may choose to invite additional guests,  these people should always be included on the guest list:

  • The mothers and fathers of the bride and groom
  • Maid of Honor and bridesmaids
  • Best Man and groomsmen
  • Ushers
  • Flower Girl, Ring Bearer, and their parents
  • Readers
  • The Officiant
  • Spouses of all of the above

This list may be expanded to include out-of-town guests. Hospitality is the name-of-the-game when it comes to weddings and couples worry about these guests being left alone in their hotel rooms. An alternative is to have a friend host a party or arrange a separate get-together for them.

If your family or religious tradition demands that you invite additional guests to the wedding rehearsal dinner, limit the guest list for the rehearsal itself to participants and expand it exclusively for the dinner.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette for Everyone

The dinner should be hosted immediately after the rehearsal has been completed. The wedding rehearsal itself should be scheduled one or two days before the wedding is to take place. When the rehearsal is scheduled the day before the wedding, an early end time should be enforced so that wedding participants have plenty of time for sleep in anticipation of the big day.

When the Bride, Groom, and party throwers follow etiquette, the rehearsal will be a warm and friendly event. They should:

  • Pick the venue early in the process. There will be more time to plan a menu that complements the food at the wedding and to reserve accommodations large enough to comfortably seat your party.
  • Set the date and invite in advance. While invitations to the rehearsal dinner aren’t as formal as they are for the wedding, it’s important to let people reserve the date and time to avoid conflicts.
  • Consider a seating chart. Friends and family don’t always mesh. To avoid conflict, arrange for feuding guests to sit as far apart as possible.
  • Mingle freely. This is your opportunity to visit with your very special guests. At the reception, you’ll be so caught up with events and additional guests that you won’t have the time.

Guests have responsibilities as well. Keep the following in mind:

  • It’s all about the couple. Don’t introduce your own drama and let them enjoy themselves.
  • Don’t overindulge in alcohol. The bride and groom are counting on you to be there on time for the wedding ceremony.
  • Join in the fun. Some guests come prepared with short written toasts. Others spontaneously offer stories and other recollections. You are among friends, so be prepared to join in the fun.

What to Expect

Venues for wedding rehearsal dinners vary widely. They may be as casual as a picnic in a backyard or in a special restaurant noted for its cuisine. Dress accordingly and come prepared to have a good time.

Most guests will know at least one other person at the party and all will have a connection through the bride and groom. For this reason, wedding rehearsal dinners are noted for their intimacy and festive atmosphere. Guests who arrive with the intention of having a great time will leave with a smile on their faces.