The Rehearsal Dinner Lowdown

Good morning, lovebirds!

The wedding of Irene Legaspi and Chris Josol was photography by Hannah Arista for Docuvitae at the Carondelet House in Los Angeles, CA on September 27th, 2014.

Photo Credit: Docuvitae

Here at Marisa Nicole Events, we hope that your wedding weekend be some of the most memorable and most enjoyable days of your life! We put in so much time helping couples flush out the details of their wedding day, but your rehearsal dinner deserves some love as well! If you think about it, it is the one time when all your truly favorite people who you want to be around are gathered in the same place. For many, this combination of people may never be replicated again! Although we specialize in creating kick-booty weddings, as planners we see our fair share of rehearsal dinners and welcome parties. To help you put together a pre-wedding gathering that you and your fiance can look back on as an awesome event, we thought we’d share with you the lowdown of throwing a fab rehearsal dinner for your friends and family. As always, we will be walking the line of traditional wedding etiquette and practicality, so bear with us as we walk you through this!

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Left: The Great Romance Right: Rachel Red Photography

Who to Invite

  • Top Priority: Start with including anybody who is invited to the rehearsal (i.e. anyone involved in the ceremony or is walking in the processional) and their significant other. For those bringing a date to the wedding, make sure to include a plus one so all your guests will have someone to talk to.
  • Must Include: Be sure to invite immediate family including the grandparents.
  • If You Have Room: Ideally, all extended family should be included, but we understand that in big families, this can get tricky. If you have over a hundred people in your extended family, it just might not be practical. Talk to your parents and find out who needs to be there and make your decision on a case to case basis.
  • Old School Etiquette: According to traditional wedding etiquette, all out of town wedding guests are supposed to be invited to the rehearsal dinner. With that being said, we totally get that this isn’t always financially practical for everyone, so you use your discretion on this one, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you what’s what!


Photo Credit: Becca Rillo Photography

How the Evening Flows

  • Mingling: Start the night with cocktails and a 30-40 minute period of passed appetizers and socializing. This will give your guests time to trickle in from the rehearsal and also serves to loosen things up (rather than inviting guests in and asking them to sit immediately).
  • Welcome Speech: Once seated, a welcome speech of sorts can be given by whoever is paying, as it is a good moment to recognize them.
  • Toasts: Many people will want to toast (or maybe even roast) you, but they can’t all do that at your wedding, so after dinner is a great time for toasts. This can be from a few people or it can go on and on, but it is more laid-back and non-formal.
  • Gifts: The rehearsal dinner is also a good opportunity to give your bridal party (and parents) your gifts to them. Your wedding day can be hectic, so now is the perfect time to honor those who have helped you.
  • Your Speech: If you and your fiance want to throw in a mini speech at any point, that is always appropriate and appreciated by your guests.


Photo Credit: Andrew Aabjian

Who Pays

Traditionally, the family of the groom pays for the rehearsal dinner in whole. However, not all families are able to do this, so it may come out of your own pocket. We firmly believe that no one should have to pay for their own dinner, and at least a drink or two should be provided (at minimum something other than water to drink), but that doesn’t mean you need to have an open bar. The traditional rehearsal dinner is that of a sit-down, plated meal, however you can also choose to have something that works for your overall vibe and budget by having a buffet, stations, or even just small passed cocktail bites.

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Left: Carmen Santorelli Right: Emily Blake Photography

What to Wear

Make sure to wear something foxy that you look and feel good in. As the couple getting married, feel free to wear any color you look good in, including white. If you are an attendee of the rehearsal dinner, just in case, we would suggest avoiding white as a color. In fact, in general, for event leading up to a wedding that you may be attending, just in case the bride-to-be chooses to wear a shade of white, we suggest staying away from any white, off-white, ivory, or champagne colored outfits. It’s just the nice thing to do…

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Left & Right: KStone Photography

Where to Host

There are no set rules as to where your rehearsal dinner has to be, but usually the easiest place to host this is at a restaurant. The key to a rehearsal dinner is having a PRIVATE or at least semi-private space. This way, you can make toasts or present a slideshow in a more intimate space. If finances are an issue and you have relatives nearby, a backyard picnic or buffet style cook-out is also an easy and super fun option! Some people have thought about public parks, which are easy and cheap to reserve, but keep in mind that typically no alcohol can be served in these locations. The most expensive option is hosting your rehearsal dinner at an event venue, bringing in a caterer, rentals and all that jazz… but it will be kind of like creating a mini-wedding (on top of the other wedding you are already spending a ton of time, energy and money on the next day – so be ye warned!).


Photo Credit: Andrew Aabjian

Our Last Bit of Advice

Rehearsal dinners are typically hosted the evening before your wedding day and is a time for friends and family to come together and be with you before the big event. But, your wedding day IS the next day, so make sure that you get plenty of rest so that you can be glowing and feeling great the next day.  So, our last advice for you is twofold: 1 – Schedule your rehearsal and rehearsal dinner in a way where you can end your evening early enough to get to bed at a reasonable hour with a bit of time built in for vow rehearsal (if you are writing your own vows).  2 – Plan to have anything and everything that needs to be completed done before you walk into your rehearsal, this way you can fully enjoy you rehearsal dinner and the morning of your day, without having the pressure of any final tasks hanging over your head.


Photo Credit: Becca Rillo Photography

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