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The Ultimate Wedding Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner Checklist

Practice makes perfect, then you eat.

Contributing Writer
Photography by: Josh Gruetzmacher

The wedding rehearsal gives you, your bridal party, and the officiant a chance to iron out any kinks in your upcoming ceremony. Here's what you need to know about it and how to celebrate afterward.


Figure Out a Date

The rehearsal is usually held a day or two before the wedding, immediately followed by dinner (or lunch). The reasoning is that all the out-of-towners taking part in the ceremony will have already arrived at the wedding destination for the main event.

Decide Who Will Host the Dinner

Traditionally, the groom's parents pick up the check, but today, the almost-married couple or another family member might do it. The bride's parents don't usually get involved, especially if they're paying for all or most of the wedding. No matter who hosts, the bride and groom should have a say in the menu, décor, and timing.


Who Pays for What for the Wedding

Pick a Dinner Style and Place

It all depends on the budget and the hosts' wishes, but the meal could be a formal seated affair, a backyard picnic, and anything in between. Just make sure it's different enough from the reception so it doesn't come across as a preview of the next day. Once you've got the formality down, scout locations, such as a restaurant known for showcasing the local cuisine, a private home, even a public park, and make a reservation. Plan on it being an early night—everyone, especially you and the groom, need a good night's sleep!


Plan the Guest List

Anyone who has a role in the wedding ceremony and attends the run-through should be invited to the dinner. Besides the officiant, this includes the wedding party (even the flower girl and ring bearer), readers, and parents of the bride and groom. It's a polite gesture to let each guest bring a plus one, whether it's a spouse or date, to the dinner. Some couples also ask their grandparents, close friends, and all out-of-town guests. 


Guest List Etiquette Questions

Send Out Invitations

They can be written out on packaged cards—no need for formal printed invites. Mail them right after you send the wedding invitations.


Draw Up a Seating Chart

You don't need one if the group is small, but it helps if you've got a crowd. If some members of your family and his will be meeting for the first time, consider seating them together if you think they'll get along. 


Creative Seating Cards and Displays

Run Through the Entire Ceremony

At the rehearsal, your officiant should lead all the participants through the ceremony so everyone knows their part and the logistics of performing it. Practice going down the aisle (wear your wedding shoes), walk through the ceremony in the order it happens, and practice saying your vows.


Bring All of the Next Day's Props

 That would include the unity candle and program. This way, you'll have everything you need already on site.


Make Time at Dinner for the Toasts and Gifts

At the rehearsal dinner, since the guest list is limited, speeches aren't planned like they are at the wedding—the floor is opened to anyone who wants to share a special memory of the bride and/or groom. This is the perfect time to dole out bridal party gifts too.


Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

Get Our Step-by-Step Rehearsal Planning Checklist

About the Author

Nancy Mattia

Though Nancy has been writing about weddings for years, she admits that watching a bride walk down the aisle—even on TV—still makes her tear up. The New York-area writer's other favorite wedding moments are when the groom sees the bride for the first time, hearing the toasts, and when she sees a waiter with a tray full of hors d'oeuvres walking towards her. 


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