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Rehearsal Dinner GraphicThe wedding rehearsal dinner is a long-standing tradition that follows the actual rehearsal, typically the night before the wedding. However, over the years I have noticed that there is often a lot of confusion surrounding the rehearsal dinner. Who is invited?  Who pays for the dinner? etc.

I just received this question from a bride and groom planning their wedding rehearsal dinner. 

When we have the rehearsal dinner and people decide to bring family and significant others, are we obligated to pay for them as well? For example:  the flower girl’s parents and siblings?

My etiquette answer to “Who should be invited?”: 

The rehearsal dinner is a way for the bride and groom to thank everyone who assisted with the wedding planning or wedding ceremony, so the guest list will vary. In general, the guest list for the rehearsal dinner should include the wedding party and their dates or spouses, the immediate families of the bride and groom, the officiant and his or her spouse, readers and musicians. If children are involved in the ceremony, they should be invited along with their parents and siblings. If there is a wedding coordinator or others who have helped with the wedding, invite them as well. Depending on your budget, you may wish to invite extended family and out-of-town guests.

My answer to “Who pays?”:

Traditionally, it is the groom’s parents who pays for this party. But this was more in sync with weddings that were paid for by the bride’s family. If both sets of parents are chipping in for the wedding (or you and your partner are footing the bill), you can be more flexible with who should handle the cost and planning of the night-before dinner.  The bottom line is you get to decide who shoulders the awesome pre-wedding party responsibility. Remember, though, that whoever pays gets the last word on the details!

My wedding relationships tip:

These kind of decisions can be awkward and very difficult at times.  Just be consistent in whom you chose to invite and try at your best to not offend anyone.  If it comes down to keeping a relationship in tact after the wedding, then, I would choose the relationship over the financial cost.

If finances are the real issue, here are several options that will allow you to enjoy a great rehearsal dinner at a low price:

• Have a barbecue at a friend’s or family member’s home. 

• Organize a simple finger food buffet at a friend’s or family member’s home. You can easily pick up finger food from a grocery store; ensuring minimum stress and low cost.

• Have a picnic. If your wedding is taking place during summer or spring this can be a fun and informal way to celebrate with your loved ones.

• Choose an all-you-can-eat buffet or inexpensive restaurant. There are lots of budget friendly options that provide a set menu for about $10. Holding your rehearsal dinner at lunchtime might allow you to make major savings.

The important thing to remember is that your rehearsal dinner is about you spending quality time with the people you loveEven if your rehearsal dinner is informal and inexpensive it can still be a great occasion, and one that makes many special memories.

What are your rehearsal dinner questions?  What are your plans for your rehearsal dinner?

Please share in the comment below.  I want to hear your questions or comments on your rehearsal dinner.

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Marsha VanArk at Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events