weddings 101

Rehearsal Dinner Primer

A generation or two ago, the rehearsal dinner was a pretty predictable affair: those attending the wedding ceremony rehearsal would gather afterwards for dinner at a nice restaurant, hosted by the groom’s parents. This arrangement may suit you perfectly. However, the rehearsal dinner is yet another wedding tradition to which the traditional rules no longer need apply.

Essentially, the rehearsal dinner is an opportunity to spend quality time with the people participating in your wedding ceremony (presumably your nearest and dearest) and to express your thanks for their help and support. How would you like to do that? As with everything else about your wedding, much depends on your budget and style. Are you trying to keep expenses to a minimum? You can throw a casual, low-cost party, or even forgo the rehearsal dinner altogether. If money is no object (for whoever is going to pay: the groom’s parents, bride’s parents, the bride and groom themselves, or a combination), you can pull out all the stops, assuming you have it in you to organize yet another event. In other words, pretty much anything goes, as long as it’s in good taste.

Some would say that the rehearsal dinner should not outshine the wedding, but this isn’t necessarily so. For example, if the gourmet dinner you would have liked for your 150 wedding guests was too expensive, you could have it at the rehearsal dinner instead. Similarly, if there were personal touches, activities, ethnic traditions, etc. that didn’t fit into the plans for the day itself, they might be perfect for this pre-wedding party.

Allow those invited to the party (usually the wedding party and your immediate families) to bring their dates, and extend the invitation to the officiator as well. If there are wedding guests who have travelled a long way to attend the wedding, it’s nice to include them too. The invitations themselves should reflect the style of the party: formal (e.g., printed and mailed) or casual (e.g., email or phone call). Toasts and speeches are always appropriate (roasting is fun, too!). And it’s a good time to present your attendants with their thank-you gifts.

The rehearsal and subsequent party often take place the evening before the wedding. If possible and practical, it may be wise to have them a day or two sooner. Either way, don’t overdo it! Limit your alcohol intake and make it an early night. If hosting it at home, reduce the workload as much as you can; for example, enlist helpers and use paper plates.

Here are just a few ideas to inspire you:

• Restaurant (perhaps with a private room)
• Banquet or party room
• Bar, pub, or nightclub
• Party boat
• Home (your own or someone else’s)
• Outdoors: backyard, park, beach…

• Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres
• Dishes that reflect your ethnic background(s)
• A trendy gourmet meal
• Food trucks
• A la carte at a restaurant
• Pizza and beer
• Wine and cheese
• Catering trays from a deli
• Pot luck
• BBQ (hamburgers, etc.) or picnic

• Toasts and speeches
• Slide show and/or stories about the bride and groom
• Karaoke
• Talent show by guests
• Bonfire with sing-song
• Games or activities that reflect your interests, family traditions, or ethnic backgrounds

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Image(s): James Pattyn/2life