Your wedding is your big day. You're saying "I do" to your S.O. and that's one of the most special events in your life. Chances are you'll spend months planning it to the smallest detail to make sure it's perfect. And while most of your resources and efforts should go towards putting your wedding day together, you should also spend some time organizing a fun rehearsal dinner.
Wedding etiquette usually calls for inviting only your closest friends and family (together with their plus ones) who will be in the wedding to the rehearsal dinner but, of course, it's good manners to extend the invitation to your out-of-town guests.
To make sure the event is a complete success, we reached out to industry experts at Carats & Cake and asked them to share their best tips on how to plan the ultimate night before.
WATCH: Before You Move In Together, Ask These Questions
1. Make Sure the Party Doesn’t Upstage the Main Event
“You don't want your welcome party/rehearsal dinner to overshadow your wedding, you want it to complement it. Keep things laid back and leave the high-octane partying to the actual wedding day. This will also ensure people are not too hungover to enjoy the wedding.”—Wendy Kay, owner & creative director, Birds of a Feather Events
2. Later is Better
"Your guests will either have been working the day of your wedding, or traveling, so giving them time to unpack and rest, or go home and change, is a good idea. This gives you a chance to have a smaller, more intimate rehearsal dinner, then a larger welcome reception where everyone can be invited. Perfect for destination weddings!”—Adam Donovan-Groves, owner and lead planner, Donovan-Groves Events
3. Use Food to Bring People Together
“The welcome party is the first impression, but people need to ease into what is likely to be a super fun and high energy weekend. Set a casual vibe by choosing a family-style meal with lovely wines and great background music.”—Calder Clark, owner and creative director, Calder Clark
4. Bring On the Ice Breakers
“We love having guests pick a number out of a hat to tell them which table they are sitting at. It’s a great way for your favorite people to get to know each other better, meet new friends, and kick off the weekend with the element of surprise.”—Jodi Moraru, owner, EVOKE
5. Give Your Guests Something to Talk About
“Kick-start the wedding weekend by creating a focus for your guests that will encourage everyone to strike up a conversation. Entertain in an innovative way! Some crazy musical entertainment to get everyone talking or a food station that simply everyone has to comment on.”—Lynn Easton, owner, Easton Events
6. Create a Welcoming Environment
“Position residential and eclectic lounge vignettes at your party so you create a casual environment that has a variety of seating options! Guests will love having these cozy furniture groupings at your party.”—Erin Sprinkel, co-owner, Sterling Social
7. Differentiate from the Wedding
"Keep the vibe of your welcome party or rehearsal dinner totally different from the wedding day. From the location, food, decor and atmosphere—you want to ensure it doesn't upstage the wedding!”—Candice Coppola, owner and creative director, Jubilee Events
8. Capture the Moments
“Plan on hiring your photographer to work the rehearsal dinner and other pre-wedding events. This allows additional opportunities to get photographs with special guests that can easily get overlooked in the excitement of the wedding day. Another plus to getting some shots out of the way early—more time for you to spend with your honey on the dance floor!”—Kathleen Geiberger, lead photographer, Kathleen Geiberger Art
9. Take Care of the Toasts
“Plan to have most of the weekend’s toasts given at your rehearsal dinner. Nothing kills a wedding faster than a string of toasts that lasts more than 20 minutes … but nothing makes a rehearsal dinner better than a string of short, clever toasts from all your dearest friends and family!”—Heidi Mayne, owner, Red25 Events
10. Keep Things Cohesive
“Even though the welcome party and wedding are two separate events, pull in similar elements in order to create a similar feel at both. The simplest way to do this is by using a similar color palette for both events—use the same base colors with different accents.”—Kelly McLeskey-Dolata, owner and creative director, A Savvy Event