Wedding Rehearsal Ideas

What is a rehearsal dinner?

Your rehearsal dinner is (usually) the final pre-wedding party before the big day, and it’s an important one. Not only will it give you one extra night of fun to share with your friends and family, but it’s also the perfect time to set your plans for the wedding day in stone. If you don’t know the first thing about them, we’re here to help.

Wedding rehearsals are an important necessity: Practicing getting down the aisle in order will make sure you’re all on your A-game come wedding day! The other benefit? Rehearsal dinners follow rehearsals! This “party before the party” kicks off your wedding weekend, but what else is supposed to happen? Our experts weigh in on what goes down at a rehearsal dinner.

While the type of rehearsal dinner you have, from a formal sit-down dinner to a backyard bbq, is up to you, there are a few things that you should make sure to add to the timeline. The first, of course, is to eat! Whether you’re having dinner with just your immediate families or inviting the entire guest list for a pre-wedding feast, it wouldn’t be a rehearsal dinner without, well, dinner.

The rehearsal dinner is also a great time to distribute gifts to your wedding party and your parents if you aren’t planning to do so on your wedding day. You’ll be in a smaller crowd, and a have little more time to hand out and open gifts.

Another rehearsal dinner mainstay is toasted. Usually, the hosts of the event will kick things off, followed by the groom toasting his bride and her family. You could also stand up together and offer a more personal toast to your families and wedding party at this time.

Want to limit who is speaking on your actual wedding day? Cut down on mic time during your reception by scheduling some of the toasts during the rehearsal dinner, whether it’s a free-for-all or a setlist of who you’d like to have spoken. For anyone who may want to present a roast instead of a toast, the rehearsal dinner is the more appropriate venue for some good-natured fun.

Now on to dessert. Traditionally, the groom’s cake is served during the rehearsal dinner as well. Of course, you can serve it alongside the wedding cake on your wedding day, but every good party needs something sweet!

The most important part of a rehearsal dinner is the chance it offers for both of your families to spend a little more time together before your wedding day arrives. Encourage people to mix and mingle, and take the opportunity yourselves to squeeze in a little quality time with people you haven’t seen in a while.

Saying “I do” at Vogue Ballroom is an elegant and luxurious affair.

Here’s everything you need to know about rehearsal dinners

What is a rehearsal dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is typically the last of many pre-wedding events. It’s the last hurrah before the big day where your nearest and dearest can bond over amazing food and review what’ll be going down at the wedding.

What happens at a rehearsal dinner?

Well, as the name suggests, you and your guests will be indulging in some fine food – but that’s not all! Usually, there will also be a few toasts (given by those who won’t be speaking at the wedding), a bit of last-minute planning and a bit of wedding party gift-giving.

Where should I have my rehearsal dinner?

You’ll want to find a spot that’s easy for both you and your guests to get to. If you’re having a hotel wedding, host it in the hotel’s bar or restaurant (easy as pie!). Or, perhaps you’re looking to save money on a rehearsal dinner to be extra thrifty? Think about making it a backyard barbecue at your place.

When should I have my rehearsal dinner?

Your rehearsal dinner should happen within a few days of your wedding. It’s most commonly done on the night before as you want all the important details to be fresh in your wedding party members’ minds, but if you think you’ll be super stressed out on the eve of your big day, you may want to do it two or three days in advance.

Who all goes to the rehearsal dinner?

It used to be that only the wedding’s VIPs were invited to the rehearsal dinner (AKA your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, your wedding party and their plus ones). But times, they are a-changing’! If you’re doing a destination wedding or hosting a lot of out-of-town wedding guests, you can go ahead and combine your wedding welcome party and rehearsal dinner into one big event. Some couples even like to invite all of their wedding guests along for a bit of pre-wedding revelry.

When should rehearsal dinner invitations be sent?

Around four weeks before the event so that your friends and family have time to get their schedules in order. Good news, these don’t have to be formal letters on extravagant stationery! You can send them out by email or do it by phone (much less stressful than praying to the gods that Canada Post gets them out on time).

Check out our exclusive list of Wedding Invitation Ideas to help you choose the perfect invitation for your guests.

Who pays for the rehearsal dinner?

Way back when the groom’s parents would be responsible for footing the rehearsal dinner bill. Why? Because the bride’s parents would be paying the cash for pretty much all of the other wedding expenses. But, we’re in 2018 now, so really, anything goes. Nowadays it’s common for couples to pay for the dinner, but if your parents or some friends want to host it for you, there’s no reason to turn them down! Tip

Does it have to be dinner?

Dinner is the most common choice, but you could throw this pre-wedding event at any time of day. The only real “rule” is that it should happen after your wedding walkthrough wraps. So, if you’ve got a squad full of early risers, go ahead and host a brunch, instead. Or, maybe you’d prefer to do it later at night? Host a cocktail hour with bevies and apps once you’ve finished.

Practice makes perfect, which is why a rehearsal dinner is a must-do on your wedding list of “To-Do’s.” The rehearsal dinner is an intimate opportunity for the bride, groom, wedding party and family members to meet and mingle before the wedding day blur begins.

Make A Schedule

Traditionally, the ceremony is practised before the meal and mingling. Then, guests are wined-and-dined at a formal sit-down dinner, funded by the groom’s parents. However, at modern-day rehearsal dinners, it holds that anything goes. Short-and-sweet or long-and-indulgent, the type of gathering you want is solely up to you. There are also customs, such as toasts, speeches and game-playing, that you can add to mix up your dinner itinerary, making this one of the more enjoyable events for the bride.

Practice “I DO”

From walking to wedding party placement, practising “I do” is crucial to working out last-minute kinks and making sure everyone is on the same page. Typically, ceremony rehearsals require about an hour. Tell your guests to arrive 30-minutes before the actual time that they need to show up. Nevertheless, there is always one late straggler in every wedding party. 

Also, give yourself and your rehearsal guests plenty of time to leave the practice run and get to dinner from the ceremony venue. Although it may not be possible to accommodate all schedules, do try to be considerate of your out-of-town arrivals and those who have to work.

Pick A Theme

If the standard 7 pm sit-down-dinner isn’t your thing, keep it casual with a backyard BBQ, catered buffet or cocktail hour, featuring finger foods only. If you opt for a leisurely luncheon, rather than a dinner, offer guests a brief list of local eateries where they can help themselves the evening before the wedding. Likewise, if a full Italian spread or steak dinner meets your fancy, let guests know ahead of time so that you can plan accordingly for those with special food allergies and dieting practices.

Many of your guests will be meeting for the first time, which can be nerve-racking for some. You want everyone to feel comfortable. Nothing shrieks discomfort like blue jeans at a black-tie affair. Whether you are going the non-traditional route or not, provide details about attire and the setting of the event on the invitation, including whether dinner will be held indoors or outside.

Book The Venue

The Roberts Centre has various rooms available to accommodate parties of all sizes. Whether your guest list is small or large, choosing a locale close to the ceremony site or close to your reception venue is a way to help your guests get familiarized with the area. It is also encouraged to choose a location for your rehearsal dinner soon after booking your wedding venues. You don’t want to miss out on the perfect location because someone else books it before you do.

Vogue Ballroom is your perfect wedding venue in Melbourne delivering fairytale weddings for the bride and groom.

End Invitations

Invitations to the rehearsal dinner should be sent separately from the wedding invites with information including:

  • The name and location of the venue
  • Time of dinner
  • Time of rehearsal practice and location information (if different than previous)
  • RSVP contact and deadline information
  • Menu information (if available)

The formal RSVP is an important request for finalizing a headcount. The formality of the invitations should mirror the meal. If a fried chicken dinner in the backyard is what you are planning for, then print-at-home invitations or email invites should suffice.

The Need for a Rehearsal Dinner

You don’t have to have one, but there are very few reasons not to. You’re going to need to eat on that night anyway, why not eat with your loved ones?

Paying for It

Traditionally the groom’s parents pay, but nowadays you’ll often see couples include the cost in their overall wedding planning budget. Another scenario is for both parents to host it together.


It is traditionally the realm of the mother of the groom. Check-in with your mother-in-law and see if she is willing and able to do so. If she wants to, it’s a good idea to let her – it gives her a role in the wedding, and even if the rehearsal dinner is completely different from your taste, guests will presume that you didn’t plan it.

What Happens at a Rehearsal Dinner?

Along with eating, of course, the bride and groom offer up thanks and toast their families and the wedding party. There are often many other informal wedding toasts. Sometimes this toasting becomes a roasting of the bride and groom – but it’s all in good fun. You may also plan ice-breaking games or other activities including poker, pool, darts, a short funny home-movie, or backyard games. If you’re not having a bridesmaid’s luncheon, this is also an appropriate time to give bridesmaids and groomsmen gifts.

Inviting Guests

Typically, printed invitations are sent a few days after you send the wedding invitation. These don’t need to be elegant and expensive – the easiest thing to do is to get the templates to print on your home computer.

Inviting Out-of-Town Guests

Once upon a time, a rehearsal dinner was only for the wedding party and the immediate family of the bride and groom. Now, wedding magazines will tell you that you have to invite all of the out-of-town guests. It is a nice gesture so that you don’t leave them at loose ends in a strange town the night before the wedding. However, if you don’t invite them, you can include a list of restaurants or things to do in the area on your wedding website. Also, you can hold the rehearsal dinner on the early side, and then include a note in your invitations saying “If you’re in town the night before the wedding, we’d love to see you! We’ll be at the East Side Pub after 9 pm – please join us if you can make it.” A nice touch is to get the bar to provide pub snacks and appetizers to your guests, which will still be less expensive than providing them with dinner.

Affording a Dinner

First, re-examine your expectations – it doesn’t have to be some grand formal thing at a restaurant or catering hall. Some of the best rehearsal dinners I’ve seen are relaxed backyard barbecues which allow people to get to know each other. Set up a volleyball net or get a game of touch football going. It can even be a potluck. But do have one – it’s your opportunity to thank all the people who made your wedding day possible.

When should I start planning my rehearsal dinner?

As soon as you can make the reservation, do it, but the consensus is at least three to six months in advance of the date. By three months out, couples have a good idea of how many guests will be attending, and they can plan the rehearsal accordingly. Consider scheduling your rehearsal dinner on a Thursday night if you’re having a Saturday wedding. There’s an excellent chance you’ll reduce the cost of your rehearsal dinner, plus everyone can party as much as they want, sleep it off on Friday, and wake up for a wonderful wedding on Saturday. Hangovers are not invited.

What’s a good rehearsal dinner venue?

There are so many great rehearsal dinner venues it’s hard to pick one! Coordinators can help steer you in the right direction, but a favourite restaurant is always a good choice. Select a place that’s close to your rehearsal site so that it’s convenient for your guests, and make sure you’ve reserved a private room if you’re going to break out the naked baby picture slides or karaoke machine.

I’m having cake at my reception. Should I have cake at the rehearsal dinner, too?

Not necessarily. While we make love cake, the rehearsal dinner gives you a chance to sample other sweet alternatives. Love chocolate? Get a couple of dozen chocolate doughnuts from your fave bakery. Want to get fancy? Set up a dessert table with a variety of mini confections. One coordinator we know even arranged to have a snow cone and cotton candy machine at a playful couple’s pre-wedding event!

Also, try to make the dessert complement the meal. For example, if you’re serving a steak dinner, a lemon confection makes a light finishing touch. Chocolate works better after chicken or fish, and if the meal is very complicated go for a simple dessert of champagne sabayon, fresh berries, and pound cake. Your guests will be very happy.

Appropriate Activities

From gift-giving to speeches, the rehearsal dinner is a time for family traditions to be carried out and special moments to be shared. Show your bridal party how much they mean to you with gift-giving tips on our blog! Groomsmen, bridesmaids, the maid of honour, the best man, the ring bearer, and the flower girl all should receive gifts. You can also opt to give your parents gifts, but you may wish to do this in a more personal setting or on your wedding day.

The fathers of the bride and groom typically give speeches during the dinner. Rehearsal dinners are also a great time for sharing special memories in speeches given by any bridal party member. You can also invite other guests to participate in the story-telling. The wedding is reserved for the maid of honour and best man, but this evening any of the attendees can toast the couple. The bride and groom can bless the food or close the event with a final cheer thanking everyone for their love, support, assistance and attendance.

Try to wrap the evening up no later than 10 pm to ensure that everyone gets enough beauty sleep before the big day, but more importantly, relax and enjoy yourself; it’s the kick-off to “your” wedding!

Wedding Rehearsal Ideas
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