A rehearsal dinner occurs a night or two before the wedding and provides an opportunity for you to thank everyone who has helped with the wedding planning. Etiquette does not require you to host a rehearsal dinner, but doing so is a good idea. Hosting even a simple dinner can accomplish the task of making guests feel appreciated, included and welcomed.
Traditionally, the groom’s parents plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner. They traditionally hold the dinner at a restaurant, hotel, banquet hall or at their home. With tradition so often falling by the wayside, however, check with your future mother-in-law. If she and her husband are willing and able to take on this responsibility, let her take the lead. She will feel included and happy to be able to help. If she is not in a position to host, ask your parents if they are interested. If neither parents care to host the dinner, you and your fiancé should start planning. This occurs so frequently these days that couples often include the rehearsal dinner cost in their overall wedding budget, and there are cost-cutting wedding ideas to help make it affordable.
When inviting your guests, indicate the formality of dress. Invite all members of the wedding party with their spouses or special guests, and parents of young attendants. You should also plan to invite anyone who will attend the wedding rehearsal, including clergy, spouses, and musicians.
For an informal rehearsal dinner, you may invite local guests by phone, in person, or by sending out printed invitations soon after you send your wedding invitations. Printed invitations need not be formal. You may hand-write them or simply use an existing template to print from your personal computer. For a more formal rehearsal dinner, send out invitations fitting to the occasion.
Informal or formal, it is a nice gesture to invite all out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner. You are not obligated, however, to include everyone. Traditionally, rehearsal dinners were only for the wedding party and the immediate family of the bride and groom. If you still feel on the hook but worry about how to pay for all of the additional guests, schedule the rehearsal dinner for two days before your wedding. That way, you can invite everyone travelling from out-of-town, but some guests will be unable to attend. (As a bonus, you will be able to get plenty of sleep the night before your wedding.) Or just keep the event simple and low-cost. This will alleviate your guilty conscience by allowing you to invite everyone for a rehearsal dinner held the day before the wedding.
A rehearsal dinner may be anything from a backyard barbecue for a cost-cutting wedding idea to a meal at a fancy banquet hall. There is nothing set in stone regarding the location, formality, or budget of the dinner. Talk to some of the Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque reception sites about getting a discounted rate for booking your rehearsal dinner with them.
The meal itself is not that important. Rather, it serves as an occasion for you and your groom to thank and to toast your families and the wedding party. Other guests may make informal wedding toasts or “roasts.” In addition to eating, you may want to include other activities, such as ice-breaking games or a short homemade movie. The rehearsal dinner also provides a good opportunity to give bridesmaids and groomsmen their gifts for being a part of your wedding.
Overall, your rehearsal dinner is a time to show your appreciation, relax, and enjoy the company of your loved ones. So have fun, but don’t overdo it. You’ll want to be fully rested for your big day.