Hosting A Groom’s Or Rehearsal Dinner (Quick Guide)

On the eve of the wedding, things are finally getting real. The big day is almost tangible! Hosting a groom’s or rehearsal dinner is the perfect way to kick off the festivities.

Traditional after running your wedding rehearsal to practice the ceremony, there’s one pre-wedding event that’s a must-have for your big day – the rehearsal dinner! Also known as the groom’s dinner or even the groomsmen dinner, this event is a special occasion for the bride and groom to gather with their loved ones and enjoy a night of celebration before the wedding day.

The rehearsal dinner is traditionally held on the evening before the wedding and is the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind before the big day. It’s a chance to catch up with family and friends, exchange stories and laughter, and toast to the happy couple’s future.

So, whether you’re planning a formal sit-down dinner or a casual backyard barbecue, make sure to include the rehearsal dinner in your wedding plans. It’s a time-honored tradition that’s sure to make your big day even more memorable

Rehearsal Dinner Vs. Groom’s Dinner

Groom’s Dinner and Rehearsal Dinner are “technically” understood as the same events and are often used interchangeably

As an expression, “groom’s dinner” (or groomsmen respectively) dinner is rarely used any longer and most couples opt for a more inclusive “rehearsal dinner”.

There is a slight difference between the two.

The rehearsal dinner is typically held on the evening before the wedding and is a chance for the bride, groom, and their families to run through the wedding ceremony and iron out any last-minute details.

The groom’s dinner, on the other hand, is a celebration organized and paid for by the groom’s parents. It’s a chance for the groom’s family to show their love and support for the happy couple and to welcome the bride’s family into their fold.

While the two events serve slightly different purposes, they both provide an opportunity for loved ones to come together and celebrate the upcoming wedding in style.

What Is The Purpose Of A Rehearsal Dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is the last of several pre-wedding events for the bride & groom, including their parents, wedding party, and close family members. Its purpose is to bring together the bride and groom’s families, as well as the wedding party, for a pre-wedding celebration

It offers a pleasant dinner for all the attendees of the wedding rehearsal in addition to any extra guests, such as out-of-town visitors who are already present on the night before your wedding.

In addition, it honors the groom and his family for raising him into an upright man who will marry into a new family. 

A rehearsal dinner is also a night for the groom to thank his parents, friends, and relatives who invested their resources in raising him into the man he has become so that he may be able to marry his bride and start a family of his own.

What Is Etiquette For Rehearsal Dinner?

We live in a changing world, and there is no strict etiquette for hosting the rehearsal dinner in terms of who is hosting, how guests are invited, or following a set dress code.

Who Hosts The Rehearsal Dinner?

In the past, it was common for the groom’s parents to be responsible for planning, paying for, and hosting the rehearsal dinner. Nowadays, it is not unusual for the bride and groom to take on these responsibilities as well.

And these days, with etiquette ever-changing, it can even be a mix of both sides of the family putting their forces together.

How Should Guests Be Invited To The Rehearsal Dinner?

According to wedding etiquette, guests should be invited to the rehearsal dinner in a formal or semi-formal way. This can be done through a printed invitation, an electronic invitation, or a phone call. The invitation should include the following details:

  • The host of the rehearsal dinner
  • The names of the bride and groom
  • The date, time, and location of the event
  • The dress code, if applicable
  • The RSVP deadline and method

It’s important to send out the invitations well in advance of the rehearsal dinner, ideally at least two to three weeks before the event. This will give guests enough time to make arrangements and RSVP. Remember to be clear about who is invited to the rehearsal dinner – typically, it’s the wedding party, immediate family members, and out-of-town guests, but it’s up to the host to decide.

If it is a larger party, an invitation could be sent out in the mail separately about six weeks before the event or coordinated and put in the same envelope as the wedding invitations, which usually should go out eight weeks before.

rehearsal dinner attire options – Do you Dress Up?

Unless addressed by the bride & groom or the groom’s parents, the best way to dress is semi-formal and festive to be considerate of the groom’s parents and in-laws, who are hosting.

But there typically isn’t a strict dress code as this is not the actual wedding reception.

If in doubt, double-check with your host when you are invited, or use your best judgment and check out the restaurant, hotel, or locale where the dinner is held beforehand.

Adapt your attire based on the dinner being a casual grill party in a backyard, held in an informal restaurant, or a fancy hotel banquet room at a four or five-star hotel.

What Should The Bride Wear At The Rehearsal Dinner?

A rehearsal dinner can be a very formal affair or more casual, depending on your plans. Naturally, you don’t want to look too dressed up or underdressed.

Determine the formality of your rehearsal dinner first before picking out what you’ll wear. And if you choose your outfit slightly more “dressy” than what your guests might wear, you’ll be on the safe side.

  • If you want to look your best for the occasion, wear white, off-white, cream, or champagne.
  • Light pink or blue are also good choices, and if you want to make a statement, experiment with bold patterns or prints.
  • Avoid wearing black or dark colors, as they are the opposite colors of a bride-to-be unless, of course, they are colors that go with a theme that you are planning for your wedding.

What should the groom wear to the rehearsal dinner?

Choosing the best outfit for the groom should take into account how it will enhance the bride’s style and colors while still owning your own personal vogue.

Nonetheless, having your own fashion moment, you should be as bold or subtle with colors and patterns as the bride to make a perfect outfit.

A more classic groom might want to go with more traditional attire, while a groom who is trendier and younger than average may want something that pops.

Make sure you coordinate your outfits and pair your fashion style ahead of time, so there are no surprises. You will be photographed many times during the dinner, and you want to look amazing as a couple in each photo!

Can You Wear Black To Rehearsal Dinner As A Guest?

If the host or bride & groom did not stipulate the dress code ahead of time and simply invite guests without any information about what sort of attire may be appropriate for the occasion, wearing black is totally fine.

What Happens At The Rehearsal Dinner?

Here are some common denominators of the rehearsal dinner flow:

1. Dinner: As the name suggests, the main event at a rehearsal dinner is the dinner itself. This can take many forms, from a formal sit-down meal to a casual buffet or barbecue.

2. Toasts: It’s common for the host of the rehearsal dinner to give a toast to the bride and groom, welcoming everyone to the event and expressing their love and support. The bride and groom may also give a toast, thanking their loved ones for their support and expressing their excitement for the big day.

3. Gifts: It’s not uncommon for the bride and groom to exchange gifts with their wedding party or for the groom’s family to give a gift to the bride’s family.

4. Mingling: The rehearsal dinner is a chance for everyone to get to know each other better and to catch up with old friends and family members.

5. Relaxation: Unlike the wedding day itself, the rehearsal dinner is a more relaxed and informal affair. It’s a chance for the bride, groom, and their families to unwind and enjoy each other’s company before the big day.

Overall, the rehearsal dinner is a special event that provides a lovely opportunity for loved ones to come together and celebrate the upcoming wedding in a more intimate setting.

Who Speaks At The Rehearsal Dinner?

It is customary that the host, commonly the Father of the Groom or the groom’s parents, open the dinner with a welcome speech and toasts.

More speeches and toasts can follow this from the Father of the Bride or parents of the bride, as well as by the Best Man and Maid of Honor.

Again, since this dinner is in a more intimate setting and less formal, speeches often include roasting the groom and allowing other guests to chime in to give any ad-hoc unrehearsed speeches to add to the fun.

Next bride and groom should also grab the mike and thank everyone for coming and offer gratitude and appreciation for their support throughout the planning process.

It’s also a perfect time for the bride and groom to give out personalized gifts to the wedding party and their new in-laws. Doing it at the rehearsal dinner instead of on the day of the wedding will save a lot of time the next day.

Hosting A Groom's Or Rehearsal Dinner

Who Goes To The Rehearsal Dinner?

Rehearsal dinners are usually hosted in a smaller, intimate family circle as opposed to the wedding.

It’s not necessary to invite every single guest to the rehearsal dinner, only those who are directly involved in the wedding ceremony.

This core group includes the couple’s parents, the wedding party, siblings, immediate family members, and close friends.

This could be different if you plan a destination wedding and if guests have already checked into the hotel. You may want to consider inviting them to the rehearsal dinner, too, to be hospitable.

Alternatively, you may host the family dinner initially planned, followed by an added cocktail party that all those invited to the wedding can attend.

Rehearsal Dinner Menu Design

Planning a rehearsal dinner menu is really not that difficult and can be fun to do as well! 

Pro Tip: When planning the dinner menu, the most important consideration is to not accidentally replicate items in the wedding menu that has been chosen for the next day.

This can sometimes happen unintentionally if the parents of the groom didn’t check with the couple.

In other words, if you have Filet Mignon and Sea Bass on the menu for the wedding, you don’t want to offer the same or a variation of it for dinner the night before.

You could also offer a dinner buffet, or family-style if the wedding has a plated dinner or vice versa.

Another option is going with a completely different cuisine by going to an Italian, French, Indian, Korean, Seafood, or BBQ restaurant or whatever type of food you enjoy since the options are endless.

How Long Does A Rehearsal Dinner Last?

On average, for the rehearsal dinner length, you should estimate about three hours for the event. 

For example, a three-course served dinner (appetizer, entree, dessert) can take an hour and a half to be completed. However, if you add a little bit of mingling time in the beginning, then adding speeches and giving out gifts to the wedding party, you easily can assume a three-hour window for everything.

Rehearsal Dinner Checklist

1. Determine who is hosting the rehearsal dinner.

2. Create a budget and determine who is paying.

3. Decide who to invite and create a guest list.

4. If your wedding will be large, consider hosting a small rehearsal dinner followed directly by a cocktail reception for all the guests.

5. Settle a date for the rehearsal dinner.

6. Plan to send formal invitations or invite guests less formally by email or phone call.

7. Decide on what type of venue (restaurant, banquet space, or another fun locale).

8. Search and narrow your venue list and arrange for a site visit.

9. Book a venue as close as possible to the rehearsal location to minimize travel time.

10. Plan the rehearsal dinner menu only after settling your wedding dinner menu first to avoid duplicate items on both menus.

11. Send out invitations about six weeks before the event.

12. Determine how formal your rehearsal dinner should be, and if you require a dress code, let your guests know in advance.

13. Check with your wedding florist if they also could provide flowers for the rehearsal dinner (see if you can get a deal).

14. Confirm the RSVPs.

15. Determine planned speeches/toasts and in which order.

16. Consider the timing and plan a timeline with the venue if needed for serving each course if it’s a plated dinner not to interrupt the speeches.

17. Plan a time for giving out gifts to the wedding party.

18. Remind your guests of anything for the next day that could be important for them to know should there have been any changes.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re excited or overwhelmed with all this information, remember to have fun planning your rehearsal dinner.

It can be as simple or formal as your vision and resources allow.

You may be thinking about budget, logistics, and guest list, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey of it all because soon enough, you’ll have a wedding!


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