This is the height of wedding season. As the big day approaches, couples begin thinking about the rehearsal dinner and how to handle the logistics. The dinner may be one of the first events at which members of the bride and groom’s families meet, so it should be planned with care so as not to offend.
Traditionally the rehearsal dinner is held after the wedding rehearsal. If the rehearsal is held early in the day, the couple might have a rehearsal brunch or luncheon rather than a dinner.
Who hosts: Usually the groom’s parents host the meal, and as hosts, they get to decide the location, the formality, and how much they can afford to spend. If the groom has been married before, his parents are deceased, unable to attend or can’t afford the cost, the bride and groom or the bride’s parents might choose to host. If cost is a factor, keep it simple with a picnic, pizza or just dessert.
Who is invited: At a minimum, the members of the wedding party and spouses, parents, grandparents and siblings of the couple who are not part of the wedding party are invited. It is courteous to also invite the minister and the wedding coordinator. It is not necessary to invite the flower girl and ring bearer. If you do, their parents should also be invited. (The bride and groom will have better things to do than babysit.) If a close relative or friend of the couple is in town and will be at the rehearsal, it is courteous to invite them as well. It is not necessary to invite readers, musicians or soloists unless they are close friends. In some areas of the country, it is considered proper to invite all out of town guests who have already arrived. Doing so, however, can turn the dinner into a mini reception. If the groom’s family wants to invite them, do so, but don’t feel as if you must.
The groom’s mother consults with the bride and her mother to be certain the appropriate people have been invited. Failing to do so can result in someone who was excluded feeling as if they have been snubbed by the groom or his family. Not a good way to start a relationship. It is thoughtful to provide a written invitation that includes the location and time. This is particularly helpful for spouses of wedding party members. If a verbal invitation is issued, everyone invited, including the spouses, should receive a personal call. Don’t expect most men to remember the details and communicate them to their wives.
What happens: Rehearsal dinners last only a couple of hours. Very little alcohol, if any, is served so everyone is alert the next day. The father of the groom might offer a toast and might invite the bride’s father to offer one as well. The couple often gives their gifts to the members of the wedding party. Then it is time to bring the festivities to an end so everyone can get a good night’s sleep.
If you are hosting a rehearsal dinner, take time to find out what is socially acceptable; don’t guess or assume you know. Offending your future daughter-in-law and her family is not a good way to begin a lifelong relationship.