The rehearsal dinner is perhaps one of the most exclusive invitations at a wedding. This special event is held the evening before the big day, and it tends to be an intimate affair. The guest list is short, so the couple has to make some difficult decisions. Not everyone can make the cut.
Grandparents, immediate family, and the wedding party are considered to be the essential guests for a rehearsal dinner. These are the people who will be at the actual wedding rehearsal, so the dinner invite is considered polite.
Of course, no two weddings are the same – and neither are any two rehearsal dinners. When deciding who to invite, there are more than a few factors to take into account. This guide can help you put together the perfect guest list.
Who has to be at the rehearsal dinner?
Essentially, any members of the immediate family should be invited to the rehearsal dinner. That means the parents, siblings, and grandparents of both couples. A wedding isn’t traditionally just about the bride and groom; it’s about two families coming together.
The rehearsal dinner is a chance to really celebrate that aspect of the day. At the wedding itself, the bride and groom are expected to make time to speak to everyone. As lovely as this is, it does mean the conversations can be fairly rushed.
Many couples find the day passes so fast they barely have a chance to connect with their closest family. The rehearsal dinner gives you this opportunity in advance, so you can properly celebrate the union with the people you love.
While the immediate family is an obvious choice, extended family presents some discussion. Aunts, uncles, cousins, even godparents – can all potentially be invited to the rehearsal dinner. However, it isn’t considered standard. If you’re particularly close, or they’re involved in the wedding, they deserve an invitation. Otherwise, they aren’t expected to attend.
Inviting the bridal party is an absolute must. They’re an important part of the wedding day, and a rehearsal dinner invite is an opportunity to show your appreciation. If they’re needed at the rehearsal, then they’re needed at the rehearsal dinner.
Depending on the time and type of dinner, you may want to invite the flower girl and ring bearer. If they’re too young to be invited, then their parents should be included instead.
There is debate over the etiquette of inviting your bridal parties plus one. Some argue that if they’re invited to the wedding, they should be invited to the dinner. Others argue that the plus one extends to the day only, and therefore they don’t have a seat at the rehearsal dinner.
Etiquette experts can argue as much as they want, the best way to decide is to know what’s right for you. Budget and space are all important factors to consider, as well as your relationship with the plus ones.
If someone wants to bring their brand-new boyfriend to a small venue, you’d probably rather say no. On the other hand, if the plus one is a spouse or significant other, or someone you know well, the invite should be extended.
Finally, it’s considered good manners to extend an invitation to the officiant (or whoever may be presiding over the wedding). As the rehearsal dinner is typically held immediately after the rehearsal, inviting the officiant to attend acts as a thank-you.
Essentially, anyone who has been at the rehearsal, should be at the rehearsal dinner. This will form the bulk of your guest list.
There is one more type of guest who you may wish to invite to the rehearsal dinner: anyone coming from out of town. As they have had to travel to attend, the rehearsal dinner gives them something to do in the evening before the wedding. This invite isn’t necessary, and will depend on the exact situation of your wedding.
For a destination wedding with many guests coming out of town, it may not be feasible to invite them all. If there are only a few who made the journey, an invitation is a polite gesture.
But what if we aren’t close with our grandparents?
Families are a complicated thing, and no two relationships are the same. And while weddings can be perfect for bringing people together, no one wants the extra stress of warring relations.
If you’re not close, but not estranged, then it’s worth considering how much of an issue inviting versus not inviting will cause. Weddings can be the perfect occasion to foster a closer relationship.
Although etiquette dictates that the grandparents are at the rehearsal dinner, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own choices. No one understands your family situation better than you and your soon-to-be spouse, therefore you can be trusted to make your own decision.
Don’t forget to consider your budget when deciding on the guest list. Unfortunately, for many, it simply isn’t possible to invite every loved one to the rehearsal dinner.
If you aren’t inviting your grandparents (or anyone else) out of budgetary concerns, the best course to take is to explain in advance why you made that choice.
Sit down with them ahead of the occasion, discuss the factors that led to your decision, and explain how important it is to have them there at the ceremony. On the day itself, make a little extra time to talk with those who were unable to attend the rehearsal. That way, no feelings should get hurt.
How many people are invited to a rehearsal dinner?
There’s no clear answer for how many people need to be at a rehearsal dinner – it depends on your own circumstances. Anywhere between 10 and 50 people will be considered normal, and it mostly reflects the size of the wedding itself.
When deciding on the guest list for your rehearsal dinner, consider who you want to invite, who you have room for, and what you can afford. Etiquette guides can help, but ultimately the decision is down to you.