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What Is A Rehearsal Dinner?


March 18, 2024

close up photo of a rehearsal dinner table setting on a wooden table with white wine glasses, water glasses, some candles and a main dish being served.

What Is A Rehearsal Dinner? 

Your wedding involves a ton of planning and preparation for you and the wonderful people that make up your wedding party. While many traditions can surround your festivities, only a few offer a celebration of the people who supported you. A rehearsal dinner does just that. This laid-back event is often paired with the wedding rehearsal and is perfect for extra bonding time with those closest to you.

What Is A Rehearsal Dinner?

In the United States, we traditionally rehearse our wedding the evening before the event. It’s not a complete moment-by-moment wedding rehearsal, but it is a time when the wedding party will be told where they are standing, when to walk, who they will walk with, and any other cues for the evening. After this quick session, which usually lasts about one hour, it is traditional to feed the wedding party. That is where the rehearsal dinner comes in. Simply put, it is a meal hosted for your wedding party after the rehearsal. But there can be more to it, which we will get into later. 

Who Gets Invited To The Rehearsal Dinner? 

Since the precursor to this event is the wedding rehearsal, the invites are typically extended to just a select few people. Traditionally, this would include the wedding party, ushers, flower girl, ring bearer, readers, parents, the officiant, and their plus-ones. Modern couples might also choose to extend this invitation to out-of-town guests and close friends and family who are not a part of the wedding as a welcome party. 

Who Pays For The Rehearsal Dinner? 

We commonly see the groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner, which includes food, drinks, the venue, and entertainment if you choose to have it. But as wedding traditions evolve and begin to include more guests, so does the person who pays. The bride’s parents could offer to pay for this dinner, both families could pitch in, or the couple themselves could pay. 

What To Do At The Rehearsal Dinner? 

After you rehearse the wedding, the rehearsal dinner allows you to celebrate with the wedding party. Your wedding party will be served dinner and the groom’s cake. Here, the wedding party is often celebrated with toasts. If you choose not to host the Bridal Luncheon, this is also an excellent time to hand out wedding party gifts. 


1. Are rehearsal dinners common in cultures outside the United States, or is it primarily an American tradition?

Rehearsal dinners are an American tradition that gained popularity in the 20th century.

2. How formal or casual is a typical rehearsal dinner? Are there any guidelines or expectations regarding attire?

A rehearsal dinner can be casual or formal, depending on the couple’s wishes and budget. If you are hosting this event, be sure to give your attendees an idea of how they should dress. Adding a note to your invites helps alleviate your guests’ stress as they plan their weekend.

3. Are there any specific etiquette rules or traditions associated with giving toasts at a rehearsal dinner?

The rehearsal dinner toasts are more personal than wedding toasts. Since they are given in front of a smaller and more personal group of people, this is an excellent time to tell an inside joke. These are typically brief and end with a toast to the couple and the uniting of two families. 

4. What are some popular choices for rehearsal dinner venues, and how far in advance should they typically be booked?

Rehearsal dinners are smaller events, which makes the venue choice more open to your preferences. Some couples host this dinner in their homes or backyards, while others look for a more formal venue. We suggest making this decision early in the wedding planning process, as all wedding-related venues book up quickly (especially here in San Diego). 

5. Are there any alternative options for couples who may not have the resources or desire to host a traditional rehearsal dinner?

It is not a popular tradition worldwide, so you can skip it to replace it with something else or ease up your wedding weekend agenda. Just be sure to have some sort of wedding rehearsal, whether that means going over the wedding day agenda with your wedding party the morning of the wedding or having your wedding planner come up with a creative way for everyone to practice together. 


The rehearsal dinner is a classic wedding gathering that can be scaled up or down depending on your personality or budget. We have indoor and outdoor rehearsal dinner venues in San Diego County to fit any party. We would love to help you plan the best experience for you and your guests. Contact us today for more information.