The wedding rehearsal dinner is a very important element in the wedding planning process. There are two types of rehearsal dinners - the formal and the informal.
Planning the wedding rehearsal dinner can be stressful on top of all the other wedding planning - especially as the dinner is traditionally held the night before the wedding itself.
Originally the wedding rehearsal dinner was a sit-down affair hosted by the groom's parents. However in these changing times "anything goes", so there are more informal wedding rehearsal dinners hosted by friends, bride's relatives, or even the couple themselves. (My friend Bill and his bride Lynn took all of us on a dinner cruise.)
For all wedding rehearsal dinners, however, there are several guidelines that should be followed.
1) The wedding rehearsal dinner guests include the wedding party, the bride and groom's parents and close relatives. Asking out-of-town wedding guests to the rehearsal dinner will give the bride and groom an extra opportunity to welcome and spend time with them. The wedding rehearsal dinner is a great time for all the guests to get to know each other before the wedding reception.
2) Mail invitations (e-invitations, too) ahead of time so that everyone knows about this event. Even though you are going to be really busy with the wedding, you don't want to leave anyone important out of the rehearsal dinner or there could be hurt feelings that reverberate down through the years. (My grandmother didn't speak to her brother-in-law for 20 years because he forgot to invite my uncle to a rehearsal dinner where he was going to be an usher and reader. She took these things very seriously.)
3) Be sure to serve sparkling drinks (champagne and nonalcoholic versions) for some toasts. Unlike the toasts at the wedding where the time is limited, this is a perfect occasion for the best man and maid-of-honor to toast the couple in anticipation of their other toasts the next day.
It is also where the bride and groom can toast their parents to thank them and each other’s parents in appreciation of the joining of their families. Others may join in - and it could be a rollicking good time as stories of the bride and groom are shared.
4) Since the wedding is the next day, (and hopefully the bachelor and bachelorette parties are dim memories) control the consumption of alcohol, whether the party is formal or informal. Start with the champagne toast and surreptitiously switch to nonalcoholic drinks during the evening. Have each guest's wineglass marked with a wineglass tag after the first drink, so that you know that alcohol was served. This way you can switch to the nonalcoholic sparkling wine. Above all you need to make it your goal to get them "to the church on time" – and relatively sober.
Another time, we will go into more detail regarding how to host an all-out formal elegant sit-down wedding rehearsal dinner or an informal bash that is unique and fun!