A formal dinner that follows the wedding rehearsal is a very old tradition. It represents an opportunity to bring the parents of the bride and groom, and possibly the best man and maid of honor, together. In some cases, it will be the first time these wedding party members have even met.


A rehearsal dinner isn’t mandatory. But it is an excellent way to bring together some of the wedding party and thank everyone for helping out. It also can cement or initiate some social bonds that will make the marriage easier during its early days, which can be bumpy.


No specific practices are set in stone, but there are some common elements.


The dinner often presents the perfect chance to toast all those present for their support. Add a practical element to that important emotional gesture. The dinner is a good time to give gifts to many of those involved in the actual wedding.


The groom’s parents traditionally paid for the rehearsal dinner, but times are changing. As social rituals evolve, more couples have elected to incur the cost themselves. In most wedding budgets it represents a modest percentage of the total, so financially it’s usually feasible.


Similarly, planning the event has shifted. It was often seen in days past as a way of celebrating the bride and groom, and particularly her efforts in planning the wedding. So, the task was taken up by the groom’s mother. This relieved the bride of at least one item on a very long list. Today, many couples choose to plan the rehearsal dinner along with the rehearsal. That puts it back on the prospective bride’s shoulders, but many prefer it this way.


In theory, anyone who has a part in the ceremony may be invited. But again there are no rules set in stone here. Some couples choose to open it up to include close friends. Others want to restrict the rehearsal dinner to a much more intimate setting that includes only parents and the bride and groom.


Printed invitations are still a good idea, though some of that activity has shifted to the Internet. This makes it easy to track who is coming and who isn’t and saves on printing and mailing costs. Be sure to send them out well in advance in either case. 


It isn’t mandatory to eat at the most expensive restaurant in town. But if you plan to have a rehearsal dinner at all, something a little nicer than the usual is appropriate.


Here again, reservations should be made at least a week in advance. Few fine restaurants can accommodate a party of 6 or 8 or 12 with only a few hours notice. That’s especially true for the majority of wedding rehearsals that take place the Friday before a Saturday wedding or during the highly busy summer season.


Relax at your wedding rehearsal dinner. It’s probably the last time you will before the big day.