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How to plan a wedding rehearsal dinner

Rehearsal dinners have been big news in the US for years and they're becoming popular in the UK now too. Here's everything you need to know about the pre-wedding celebration

From brunch the morning after your wedding, to bridal showers, more and more American traditions are making their way into the world of UK weddings.

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One such event that we’re seeing crop up more and more at UK weddings is a rehearsal dinner. It’s a chance to spend more time with valued guests, and if you’re feeling anxious ahead of your wedding, it will settle your nerves to run it through before hand, reassuring you everything will go to plan!

Read on for everything you need to know about rehearsal dinners.

What is a rehearsal dinner?

Rehearsal dinners are an established tradition in the US, and are a chance for members of the wedding party to meet and get to know each better in a relaxed atmosphere before the big day. It is also an opportunity for the bride and groom to thank family members and others who’ve helped with planning the wedding.

When do you hold your rehearsal dinner?

“We usually suggest one or two nights before the wedding,” says wedding planner Mark Niemierko.

“I usually do a rehearsal of the ceremony with the couple and their parents, best man, ushers, bridesmaids and flower girls – and perhaps siblings. Then they head off and meet the others at the rehearsal dinner venue.”

It might take place at the hotel where you’re staying the night before your wedding, maybe at the groom’s family home, a local pub or restaurant; it could even take the form of a barbecue in the back garden.

Who should host a rehearsal dinner?

“The groom’s side often hosts this part of the evening but it’s not essential. As with most things in a modern wedding, there are no rules.”

The groom’s family may enjoy having an event which they can call their own, so it may be worth suggesting it to your mother-in-law. She’ll probably relish having her own project and even if it’s not to your taste, it will make her happy.

READ MORE: Mother of the groom role and responsibilities

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Is there any set etiquette for rehearsal dinners?

Mark says, “No, it should be informal – really relaxed and fun. It’s about bringing everyone together so people who have never met get acquainted and people who haven’t seen each other for a while can catch up.”

You may also want to use this occasion to hand out thank you gifts to bridesmaids and the best man.

Who should be invited to a rehearsal dinner?

“Often it’s just close family and the bridal party,” says Mark.

If you have guests who have travelled far to attend your wedding, you may wish to invite them too. It’s a chance to catch up with them at greater length than you’ll have time for on the wedding day.

Does a rehearsal dinner have to be a dinner?

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Mark says, “Sometimes just cocktails and nibbles are enough, with a 10pm finish. Although I have known the groom and his party to carry on into the early hours!”