The wedding rehearsal is a run-through of the ceremony with the minister (hitting the highlights of the ceremony and giving everyone their cues for the big day) from beginning to end, allowing everybody involved to feel more confident about what will happen on the wedding day. Walk through the ceremony, establishing the pace and timing, in the order each element will occur, where everyone will be standing and make sure all of the participants know their responsibilities.
The only people required to be in attendance at a wedding rehearsal are those who will participate in the wedding: the bride and groom, their parents and the wedding party.
To make your rehearsal go smoother. . . here is a HOT TIP: Provide the Wedding Coordinator at your wedding venue, ALL the details of the rehearsal, if any, BEFORE the rehearsal NOT at the rehearsal. Example: Names of Groomsmen, Bridesmaids, who seats the parents & grandparents, are the guys walking up first or will the Groomsmen walk with the Bridesmaids, names of the ushers (if any), etc. This will help make your rehearsal go much smoother and less time consuming.
Send an e-mail a day or two before the rehearsal to the coordinator with the names. Please send your minister a copy of the e-mail too. A well-coordinated rehearsal should not take longer than 30 minutes provided everyone arrives on time. Please encourage those who will be in the wedding party to be on time so everyone can move along to the rehearsal dinner after the rehearsal.
The wedding rehearsal is usually followed by a dinner for members of the wedding party. All attendants, the bride and her fiancé’s immediate families, the minister and spouse, as well as any out-of-town guests are usually included in the guest list. Family and friends of the bride or the host may also be invited. It is generally acceptable to invite the spouse or significant other of each attendant.
If money is an object, only invite the key players. Rehearsal dinners can offer a contrast to the formality and stress of the wedding day and give the families a chance to get to know each other in a more casual setting.
The purpose of the rehearsal dinner is to allow both families and your special friends to meet one another, socialize and have fun together. It is a great way to begin your wedding festivities. Consider an icebreaker game to encourage mingling and establish acquaintances.
The rehearsal dinner is usually held the night before the wedding.
HOT TIP: Some couples prefer to have the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner two days before the wedding to allow a day of rest from the stress of having two busy days in a row. Wrap it up early enough for the bride to tend to any last minute details the next day like doing her nails or packing for her honeymoon, and to allow her the opportunity to wind down, relax, and rest well for the big day ahead.
This may not work if guests who are in the wedding party do not arrive in town in time for the rehearsal. However, if only one or two bridesmaids or groomsmen cannot attend I encourage the couple to go ahead and have the rehearsal without them and catch them up just before the wedding.
Nobody says the rehearsal dinner has to be a “dinner.” Instead, opt to have a rehearsal brunch or breakfast. It could be a picnic in the park or meet up at a favorite breakfast spot for some delicious breakfast entrees and mimosas.
For a nostalgic touch, have the rehearsal dinner at a spot that is special for the couple. If Italy is the honeymoon destination, for example, an Italian restaurant would be fitting. Perhaps the dinner can be held at the restaurant that was the site of their first date or the site of the proposal.
The rehearsal dinner is often held in a private home or a restaurant and is as formal or informal as the host would like. Special instrumental music will make this event even more elegant. Consider hiring a pianist, harpist, or a guitar duo.
Depending on the guest list and budget, and the wishes of the hosts, the event can be anything from a formal banquet to a casual outdoor picnic. From a pool side barbecue to a formal sit-down affair, there are no hard and fast rules for the rehearsal dinner. While the excitement and stress of the big day may loom before you, this event lets you enjoy quality time with loved ones.
The wedding rehearsal dinner is traditionally given by the groom’s family. Planning the party is usually the responsibility of the groom’s mother. Many mothers of the groom are eager to participate. This is her opportunity to get involved in the planning process and contribute to the wedding.
It is a good idea for the bride or her representative to ask the groom’s family if this is an event she would like to take on. If the dinner is not something that a specific person can do because of cost or location, any member of the wedding party can take over planning the rehearsal dinner. Although it is traditional for the groom’s family to pay for the rehearsal dinner, it can also be built-in to the wedding expenses by both the bride and groom.
Given the more relaxed standards of modern times, other relatives, close friends, or even the couple themselves can plan and pay for the event. Whoever throws the party should definitely confer with the bride and groom to avoid any conflict with the theme, menu, or decorations of the wedding.
Invitations should be sent at least four weeks before the wedding; or a simple phone call informing the guests of the time, location, and perhaps formality of dress. Usually rehearsal dinners are informal affairs, however a classy restaurant can be a welcome counterpoint to a formal dinner.
Consider using place cards to ease seating arrangements. Decorate the dining area with flowers and candles. You may want to mix your guests up a bit to allow them to meet someone they do not know. It is important to arrange seating in a way that will make guests feel comfortable, while at the same time encouraging conversation. Try to keep the guest list small, so that the dinner is intimate enough to invite conversation between people who have never met.
If the attendants gifts have not already been passed out, now is a good time to do so. An early evening is suggested as the events of the wedding day will be exhausting. The bride and her attendants will appreciate their beauty sleep.
The toasts (with perhaps a few roasts – no off-color remarks, please, as children may be present) at the rehearsal dinner are given by the host of the event (usually the groom’s father) first. Next would be the bride’s father, then the best man offers a toast to the bride and groom.
The bride and groom may also toast at the end of the others. The groom with a toast to his bride and her parents and the bride with a toast to her groom and his family. This is an opportunity for them to thank everybody for support, etc. during the engagement. As part of the introductions, the bride and groom can stand and introduce the bridal party one by one and tell a little about each person. This is a great way to put together names to faces and get people laughing.
Not everybody must toast, but this is a perfect time to get the more personal stories and feelings out to the couple in a more intimate atmosphere.
Wedding rehearsal dinner ideas are only limited by your imagination. While there are elements of a rehearsal dinner that are traditional, this is the part of a wedding that has the most flexibility.
Following dinner, of course, is dessert and chit chat. Delegate someone to take some photos. Then the evening usually wraps up, particularly if the wedding is the very next day. Discourage members of the bridal party from capping the evening by going to a club to continue the celebration – everyone should be rested and refreshed for the big day. Bloodshot eyes don’t look good in the wedding photos! 😉
Horror stories abound of the bride, groom, or members of the wedding party showing up at the wedding late, in extremely poor condition, or at a minimum – not rested, after a late night on the town the previous evening as part of the rehearsal dinner festivities. The big celebration should be saved for the wedding day itself, and the rehearsal dinner kept a little more low key and laid back.
Now. . . take a deep breath. Take another. And another. Breathing deeply – in through your nose and out through your mouth – is a powerful force and can wash away your worries and stress in most cases. Breathing in through your nose and out through you mouth is not the normal way to breathe. You have to “think” about breathing this way. When you think about something other than what you are nervous about breathing this way has a calming effect on you. You’re almost there. Take another deep breath.
Quick recap. . .
• The rehearsal dinner is usually hosted by the groom’s parents
• The bride and groom’s parents, step-parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, close friends, the minister, readers, out-of-town guests, the entire wedding entourage and their spouses/live-in-relationships/fiances should be in attendance.
• The rehearsal dinner immediately follows the rehearsal of the ceremony, usually the night before the wedding. (Some prefer to have the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner two days before the wedding to allow a day of rest from the stress of having two busy days in a row.)
• The party can be as formal or informal as you wish
• The party can be hosted at someone’s residence or at a restaurant
• The bride and groom usually offer a toast to their family and friends for their love and support.
• Gifts for the wedding attendants are usually handed out at this time
• Consider using place cards to ease seating arrangements
• Consider an icebreaker game to encourage mingling and establish acquaintances
• Special instrumental music will make this event even more elegant
• Select a location for the rehearsal dinner “close” to the actual rehearsal site
• The toasts will take place during the dinner. Between courses is a perfect spot for the toasts.
BONUS Article: 5 Savvy Rehearsal Dinner Alternatives
Copyright © 2010 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s Wedding Website. Larry James is a non-denominational minister and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! Every wedding ceremony is customized to your complete satisfaction. Call to check availability: 480-998-9411 or 800-725-9223. You will find more than 455 pages of Wedding ideas, tips (95 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: http://www.celebrateintimateweddings.com. Check Larry’s availability.
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