One of the final responsibilities a couple has before they tie the knot is planning their rehearsal dinner. Typically the night before the wedding, the rehearsal dinner is an opportunity for the families of the bride- and groom-to-be and the members of the bridal party to get to know one another over a good meal.
Planning a rehearsal dinner is much less complicated than planning the wedding, but couples still must take steps in advance of the dinner to ensure it goes smoothly.
* Choose the right restaurant. Couples who are having their ceremony and reception at the same venue may be able to have their rehearsal dinner at the venue as well. But many couples still prefer the rehearsal dinner be held at a different restaurant. When choosing the restaurant, be sure to make a reservation several weeks in advance and choose a restaurant that's fully capable of accommodating your party. The restaurant should have a menu that's versatile enough to accommodate guests on special diets or those who are vegetarian or vegan. The rehearsal dinner party can be quite large, so you'll want to make your reservation as early as possible so you can get the restaurant of your choice. The larger the group, the earlier you should make the reservation.
* Invite the right guests. Some couples may be confused as to whom they should invite to their rehearsal dinners. Wedding party members and their significant others should always make the cut, as should the parents of both the bride and groom and the person officiating the wedding. Kids who will be in the wedding and their parents also should be invited. Many couples even invite their immediate family members and siblings, even if those relatives are not in the wedding.
* Determine who is paying in advance. The groom's family traditionally pays for the rehearsal dinner, but that tradition has largely fallen by the wayside. Couples should determine who will be paying for the dinner in advance so there's no confusion once the meal is over. Couples who are handling the bill for their weddings should include the rehearsal dinner in their overall wedding budget.
* Try to create a relaxed atmosphere. Many of the people invited to the rehearsal dinner may be meeting one another for the first time, so couples should aim to create a relaxed atmosphere to reduce any nervousness and tension. The rehearsal dinner may also be the only time couples can relax and let their hair down with their family and friends, as the wedding day itself and the ensuing reception can be hectic. So take advantage of the more relaxed atmosphere and share a few laughs with those closest to you.
* Bring the gifts for members of your wedding party. The rehearsal dinner is when brides- and grooms-to-be give their bridesmaids and groomsmen their gifts. If the gifts are especially large, then you might want to give them before you enter the restaurant or even back at the hotel. But in many cases, it's perfectly alright to give out the bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts at the rehearsal dinner.
* Allow time for toasts. Toasts are not just a tradition of the wedding reception, but of the rehearsal dinner as well. The couple's parents often want to toast the bride- and groom-to-be, and such a toast may be conducted in tandem. But the groom is also expected to give a toast, most notably to his bride-to-be. In addition, the couple walking down the aisle can toast their bridal party during the rehearsal dinner, thanking them for being a part of their big day.
Rehearsal dinners are typically a fun chance for couples and their families and friends to enjoy an intimate and relaxing dinner with one another the night before the couple's big day. But as relaxing as the rehearsal dinner should be, couples should still follow certain protocols to ensure the dinner goes off without a hitch.