10 Rehearsal Dinner Mistakes to Avoid

picture of an outdoor party at night under a tree with lots of string lights
a rehearsal dinner under the stars

Rehearsal dinners are a fun time to practice the ceremony and mingle with loved ones before everything gets too crazy on the wedding day. But in the chaos of planning all the fine details of the wedding ceremony and reception, there can be a lot of mistakes made when it comes to planning the rehearsal. 

Don’t get caught stressing in the middle of it. Here are 10 mistakes you can easily avoid when planning the rehearsal dinner. 

1. Assuming the groom’s parents will be paying

Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for the reception, and the groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner. Many couples still hold onto that, but most modern couples are paying for the wedding on their own, and it’s hard to determine which parents are paying for what when the couple is not a bride and groom. 

Don’t assume that anyone is paying for anything. Talk to your parents in advance about who is paying for what and if they are going to be contributing or paying for anything in particular.

I have an article dedicated to how important these money conversations are and how to mange them.

2. Inviting too many people

It’s tempting to invite everyone who’s coming in from out of town, friends you haven’t seen in a while, every member of your family or more to the rehearsal dinner – but you don’t want to get caught paying for just as many people that are coming to the reception. Typically the people who get invited to the rehearsal dinner are the bridal party, and immediate family. You can also extend it to guests who are coming in from out of town or have a separate Welcome Party after the rehearsal dinner for them.

But depending on your wedding size, how big each of your families is, and how many people are traveling from out of town, you might accidentally bite off more than you want to chew with planning the rehearsal dinner. 

Think about who needs to be there – anyone who is walking down the aisle on the wedding day – and who you truly want to be there. You want the chance to mingle with your friends and family before the hectic process of the wedding day, but you also want to be able to breathe. 

champagne being poured into glasses
champagne toast anyone?

3. Not giving people notice

Do not assume everyone who you want to be there will be there. Sending out invitations to the rehearsal dinner is the best way to ensure that the bridal party and any friends or family who you want to be there will be there. 

Invitations to the rehearsal and the following dinner should be sent out at least three months prior. These need to clearly state the time and location of the rehearsal dinner and any other important information like dress code, parking details, and other things guests may need to know. 

4. You spend too much money

Depending on how many people you end up inviting, the venue you choose for the rehearsal, and what food and drinks you want, you might end up spending too much money than you really need to on the rehearsal dinner. If you want to have a lavish rehearsal with expensive food and you have the means to do it, go for it! It’s your wedding. 

But many couples these days like to tackle their weddings on a budget, and that includes the rehearsal dinner. So it doesn’t have to be anything fancy – you can save that for the actual wedding day! A lot of modern couples choose to keep it casual with a laid-back BBQ or pot luck dinner or a relaxing brunch, and some couples even go bowling or wine tasting with their close friends and family. Budget-friendly rehearsal dinners can be just as fun and amazing. Here’s an entire list of alternatives to the traditional rehearsal dinner for more ideas.

5. Not having enough food

Now, the caveat with having a chill rehearsal dinner is that you might not have enough food if you don’t plan accordingly. Even if you’re keeping it small, the expectation is that there will be food. 

Make sure you know your guest count for the rehearsal dinner to ensure you have enough food and drink for everyone. Working with a caterer or going to a sit-down restaurant is usually the best way to ensure that this is managed, but if you’re doing something alternatively like a potluck or cooking yourselves, make sure you know you’re going to have enough for everyone invited.

6. Not offering to let important people give speeches

Many couples forget that the rehearsal dinner is supposed to allow for time for important people who are not giving speeches at the reception to speak if they want to. But with traditions slipping away from modern wedding planning, many couples forget to extend the offer. 

Make sure you ask anyone who might want to give a speech if they will do it at the rehearsal dinner. This is also a great way to dodge people giving speeches at your wedding who you don’t want to have in front of the entire wedding. Give them a chance to speak at the rehearsal dinner instead. With less people and less alcohol, there’s less of a chance for embarrassment.

dinner table laid out with glasses, plates, bread, napkins and silverware

7. Giving up too much control of the event

This is your wedding – not your mom’s, or grandma’s, or anyone else. The biggest mistake you can make for your rehearsal dinner and your entire wedding at that is letting someone else take the reins in planning it entirely. 

Unless you have specifically enlisted someone to help you plan the rehearsal dinner or someone else is paying for it, stay involved in the planning.

It’s totally okay to remove yourself if someone you trust is planning and paying for it, like the groom’s parents. But you’ll at least want to know where it’s being held, who’s invited, what time and if the time and location align with your rehearsal time and place.

8. Not getting someone to run the rehearsal 

Before the rehearsal dinner… well, you need to rehearse. This is the only time everyone in the wedding will get to practice what they are doing in the ceremony. If you haven’t been in a wedding before, it’s especially important for you as the bride and groom to know what’s going on and where you need to be and when you need to be there. 

The ceremony is usually run by the officiant of the wedding, but as many people have a close friend marry them, you can also ask your wedding planner or venue coordinator to run the rehearsal. They will have the most experience in getting people down the aisle the right way. 

Read more information about what a rehearsal is and who it is for here.

9. Having too much alcohol

Not only is alcohol another cost you will need to add, but too much can also be dangerous. The last thing you want the night before your wedding is to drink so much that you’re hungover the next morning, or someone in the bridal party is throwing up.

Having drinks is totally fine, but make sure you’re not drinking too much, and also that no one else is, so that you’re ready to go on the wedding day. 

10. Stressing! 

The rehearsal dinner shouldn’t be a time for you and your soon-to-be spouse to rush around and stress about every little detail. Plan the rehearsal dinner so that you can enjoy it. Talk with loved ones, relax, eat good food, and relish the fact that you’re getting married the next day.

Final Thoughts

A rehearsal dinner is nothing to stress over. With these tips you’ll be prepared to plan (or guide) a successful thank you to your wedding party the night before your wedding. Need more information about what to do the day before your wedding to make sure you’re not forgetting anything? Try this article on everything you wanted to know about the day before your wedding. And this checklist to make sure you don’t forget a thing!


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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