They say practice makes perfect—and, yes, this adage holds true for your wedding day. Doing a run-through of the wedding ceremony ensures that everyone knows where to be and what’s expected of them, and it can help calm pre-wedding jitters. (Everything seems more manageable when you know what to expect!) But the rehearsal is also a fun pre-party that officially kicks off the festivities, and it’s an ideal way to spend quality time with close family and friends before the big day.
But, as with everything wedding-related, there’s planning involved. Where to start? First, nail down the basics by figuring out who is planning the event. Traditionally, the bride’s parents host the wedding and the groom’s parents are in charge of the rehearsal dinner. Settle on a budget with whoever is hosting, taking into account costs like the venue (a private room at a restaurant or a dining area at your venue are popular options), food and decor (this is typically far less involved than wedding decor; think: flower arrangements for the tables). Secure your rehearsal dinner venue four to five months in advance.
When booking your rehearsal dinner, think about whether you’d like to serve a full meal or keep it simple with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. If you’re inviting a large number of people (for instance, all out-of-town guests), consider throwing an event that’s more of an informal cocktail hour than a sit-down dinner. You’ll save money and also encourage mingling. Win-win!
Your next to-do: figure out your guest list. The rehearsal dinner is typically more of an exclusive event than the wedding, and includes VIPs like immediate family, the wedding party and their significant others, and anyone who is participating in the ceremony, like readers, ushers, flower girls and ring bearers. (Tip: It’s always good to give the little ones a practice session so that they’re comfortable on the actual day, although no amount of practicing can guarantee that your three-year-old flower girl will make it all the way down the aisle without getting distracted.)
Plan on mailing out invitations one month before the event. Make it clear on the invitations where the ceremony rehearsal is taking place, especially if it’s at a different location than the dinner, and plan for enough time for a full practice-run. Wedding rehearsals usually take at least an hour, so be sure to budget enough time for this as well as travel to the dinner venue.
The rehearsal dinner is a prime opportunity for the bride and groom’s immediate families to spend time together, and it’s also a chance for people not giving toasts at the wedding to say a few words. It’s common for the groom’s parents to give a short speech at the rehearsal dinner, though other guests—like grandparents, bridal party members or siblings—often like to chime in with wishes for the couple. (Psst: This is a terrific time to present gifts to your bridal party and parents before the wedding whirlwind begins.) Ready to get your practice on?