Welcome back to our series on rehearsal dinners!  I thought we should jump right in into the nitty gritty.  The details.  The little things that you need to know in order to pull off a fun and festive party before your wedding.  Your rehearsal dinner is a chance to connect with friends and family, and take the pressure off of the big day.  Today, we have the rehearsal dinner basics from Washington DC area wedding planner Vicky Choy, owner of Event Accomplished.

Let’s back up for a second though.  What is a rehearsal dinner?  As I said before, there are no rules and thus rehearsal dinners are different things to different couples.  If we were to sum up a rehearsal dinner, it is this:  The night before a wedding celebration, the couple and the wedding party meet at the ceremony site to go over the details for the next day.  They will be shown things like where to stand and when to walk.  After the rehearsal, a dinner of some sort is hosted.  It is intended to be a smaller, more intimate gathering for those that are closest to the couple.  After the dinner portion, out of town guests or other wedding guests can be invited to share in the party or desserts.

Now that we have that covered, let’s turn to our expert from Event Accomplished.  Take it away, Vicky:

Photo Credit:  Jason Keefer Photography

Who hosts the rehearsal dinner?
Traditionally, the family not paying for the wedding.  However, it is perfectly acceptable for others to host.

Who is invited to the rehearsal dinner?
Your wedding attendants plus their significant others, immediate families and grandparents of both sides, and if there are children involved in the ceremony, the children plus their parents.  Some couples also include extended families.  Please also extend an invitation to your officiant.

What happens at the rehearsal dinner other than eating?
The couple can present their gifts to their attendants.  Those in the wedding party and family members not speaking at the wedding are welcome to give speeches during the rehearsal dinner.  We’ve also seen clients share a photo slideshow of the couple’s life and how they met.  Sometimes, couples elect to do a “groom’s cake” at the rehearsal dinner instead of at the wedding reception.  However, you do not have to do any of the above.  At my wedding, we had a wonderful dinner and thanked our families for coming.  No elaborate speeches or roasting of any kind was done.  At our friend’s wedding, all the groomsmen gave a speech, or more like a roast!

You should send out your rehearsal dinner invitation two to three weeks after the wedding invitations go out.  If you have planned ahead and know exactly whom you are inviting and want to save on postage, you can put it with the wedding invitation envelopes as well.

What time to hold the rehearsal dinner?
I recommend starting the dinner between 30 – 60 minutes after the end of your ceremony rehearsal.  Choose the appropriate gap according to where your dinner is being held and how your guests will get to the venue.  Since most rehearsal dinners are held on Friday evenings, please allow plenty of time for your guests to fight through rush hour traffic.

How long should the dinner last?
No more than three hours.  If you are having a gathering or welcome party after the dinner, you don’t want it to start too late.  Also, all those in the wedding party will want to get a good night’s sleep so don’t party too late and don’t drink too much!

Do inquire with your rehearsal dinner venue about the parking options.  Do they have valet parking?  If yes, what are the charges?  Would you like to pay for your guests’ parking fees?  If valet parking is not available, you should inquiry about nearby self-parking options such as the closest parking garages (What time do they close?) or street parking and inform your guests accordingly.  Metro or walking are also great options.  If most of your dinner guests do not live in the area and you are afraid that they may get lost, you can also consider providing transportation to take them to and from the dinner.

How much should I expect to spend?
The range varies greatly depending on a variety of factors including restaurant choice, food and beverage selections, and number of guests.  Remember to ask restaurants about food and beverage minimums.

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Photo Credit:  Jason Keefer Photography

General Tips:

  • The rehearsal dinner should not upstage the wedding to follow.
  • If you are at a restaurant, it is likely that the restaurant is open to the general public.  Ask your venue contact how your event will be separated from the rest of the restaurant (if semi-private) and how your guests will be handled.
  • If you are hosting the dinner at a private residence or at a special events venue, consider using your wedding reception caterer to also cater your rehearsal dinner.  You may be able to realize some savings.

How to Break the Rules

  • Type of Meal:  Keep in mind that the rehearsal “dinner” does not have to be dinner at all.  We’ve had clients host luncheons instead.
  • When:  Your dinner does not have to immediately follow the ceremony rehearsal or even on the same day.  We’ve had clients hold their rehearsals on a Thursday and then a dinner on Friday.

Other Fun Ideas

  • If you are offering transportation like a bus service, why not tag on a DC monument tour at night?  Your guests can see the sights in a whole new way.

Thank you so much Vicky!  If you are looking for more rehearsal dinner ideas, check out Vicky’s rehearsal dinner series on her blog.  She has reviewed lots of great venue options, giving pros and cons, like Sequoia in Georgetown, Columbia Fire House in Alexandria, Coco Sala in downtown DC, and many more.

Don’t plan your rehearsal dinner yet!  We have lots more rehearsal dinner week posts coming your way!  And, if you loved the pictures in this post, then you’ll for sure want to come back tomorrow, because we have this whole real rehearsal dinner in Charlottesville and it is fabulous!

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