10 Tips for Planning Your Rehearsal Dinner

Local event planner David Handy, of David M. Handy Events, shares his best advice for planning your prewedding celebration.

Donald Dallaire and David Handy / Photograph courtesy of David M. Handy Events

When it comes to planning a wedding, Boston- and Nantucket-based event planners David Handy and Donald Dallaire know “there is nothing more important than Every. Single. Detail.” That, of course, includes the rehearsal dinner. Here, Handy, the co-owner of David M. Handy Events, shares his 10 best tips for planning your prewedding celebration.

Decide Who’s Hosting

“Traditionally, the parents of the groom host the rehearsal dinner, since the family of the bride generally pays for the wedding. In today’s trends, we are seeing other relatives, close friends, or even the couple themselves plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner.”

Send Invitations

“If more than just family will be attending the rehearsal dinner, invitations should be sent out by the host around the same time as the wedding invitations. They should include the name and location of the venue, the time of the dinner, the time and location of the rehearsal, RSVP contact and deadline information, and the menu.”

Think About Design

“The style of the rehearsal dinner can complement the wedding, but it should not be the same or overshadow it. You should choose completely different menus, styles, décor, or even opt for complete contrast. For example, if you’re hosting a black-tie wedding, perhaps an informal BBQ [would work] for the rehearsal dinner.”

Consider the Guest List

“The rehearsal dinner is not just for those who actually take part in the rehearsal: The guest list for dinner may be a bit longer, as you want to thank and celebrate everyone assisting with your stroll down the aisle. This includes your bridesmaids and groomsmen, parents, grandparents, spouses, and even your officiant. It’s generally much less formal than the reception meal, so the more the merrier!”

Create a Seating Chart

“This is often the first meeting of close friends and family of the [couple.] The rehearsal dinner can feel like a reunion. For a more formal dinner or one with a large guest list, we strongly suggest creating a seating chart so there’s no confusion or musical chairs when it’s time for guests to be seated.”

Stick to a Timeline

“When thinking about your rehearsal dinner, there are a few questions you need to consider. When will dinner be served? Are you doing toasts? Do you have a slideshow? Will you give out gifts to your wedding party? By creating a timeline, you will ensure that the evening’s activities move along smoothly from start to finish. [The staff at] your venue will love that they, too, can follow this timeline to guarantee a perfect night! Keep in mind that the party should end somewhat early to give everyone a chance to get plenty of rest before the big day.”

Plan for Toasts

“Toasts and speeches are often a big part of the evening. These should definitely be mapped out ahead of time and included in your timeline. It’s important to know who is speaking and gauge the length and type of speech they will be giving (funny versus sentimental). Per tradition, whether it’s the groom’s parents hosting or the couple themselves, [the hosts] will likely want to say a few words.”

Make It a Party

“Turn the rehearsal dinner into an amazing welcome party! While this is especially important with destination weddings, it’s a nice way to show your guests your appreciation for the extra effort [they made] to celebrate with you. If you’re working with a limited budget, stick to a smaller group for the rehearsal dinner and consider having an informal welcome cocktail or dessert party for out-of-towners later in the evening.”

Capture the Moment

“While you have already mapped out your photographer for the big day, it’s very special to capture moments from the rehearsal dinner. Often, photographers will include this as part of their package. If not, even having a designated friend [to take] photographs is a great way to capture fun, memorable moments from the night.”

Don’t Forget to Celebrate

“You have spent countless hours planning up until this very moment. Take advantage of the fun, relaxed environment, and enjoy every minute as you celebrate with your closest friends and family.”


Getting married? Start and end your wedding planning journey with Boston Weddings' guide to the best wedding vendors in the city.