Everything You Need to Know About the Day Before Your Wedding

photo of a table set for a wedding or rehearsal dinner with beautiful, bright flowers

The countdown is on! It’s only 24 hours until your big wedding day and you’re only slightly panicking about everything you have left to do. Well I’m here to help you prepare so you can relax with your partner, get a good night sleep and enjoy your wedding.

So, here are the basics. I’ll cover what the day before the wedding is for traditionally, what you should be prepared to do the day before, how to plan a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and anything else you need to know. Keep reading for a smooth, stress-free day.

If you haven’t already made a check list of what to pack so you don’t forget anything, check out this post on what most couples forget on their wedding day.

What is the day before a wedding called?

There are so many wedding traditions that mark the day before the wedding as an important part of the event. In the United States, the tradition the day before the wedding is to have a rehearsal of the ceremony and after a rehearsal dinner.

The day before a wedding is often called “the rehearsal day,” “the wedding eve,” or simply “the day before the wedding.” With so many different cultures and traditions out there, there isn’t exactly one term for the day before the wedding that covers them all. And cultures outside of the U.S. might have other names for the day before the wedding with their own rituals.

In other cultures, the day before the wedding might have a special significance. For example, in Germany it is traditional for weddings to have a party the night before (or sometimes up to a week before) the wedding called the Polterabend where guests break porcelain plates for good luck. Or in Indian culture, there is a a Mehndi Party where the bride has Henna applied to her hands and feet with her closest friends and family.

What happens the day before your wedding?

The day before your wedding can be whatever you want it to be, but there are some traditions that can guide you through planning. Typically, it starts with the rehearsal dinner and then moves to a celebration of the couple’s last night as single people.

In general, the following events happen the day before your wedding: you finalize any last minute preparations, pack up the necessities for the wedding and honeymoon, host a ceremony rehearsal and a rehearsal dinner for the wedding party. The day traditionally ends with the couple spending the night apart, sometimes with friends or family.

There are a few formalities that take place the day and night before the wedding. These are split into two big categories – the rehearsal dinner, and the night before. While both of these are on the same day, these both have their own traditions that deserve to be addressed separately. 

First, let’s start with more information about the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner.

What is a rehearsal dinner?

A rehearsal dinner is a meal following the rehearsal of the ceremony, usually the night before the wedding. At the rehearsal the couple and the rest of the wedding party practice walking down the aisle, saying their vows, and any other secular or religious aspects of the ceremony. After it is customary for the entire wedding party to have dinner.

There is not an official history behind the tradition of a rehearsal dinner happening the night before the wedding. However, Thomas Waters, the owner and event coordinator for The Renaissance in Richmond, VA, guesses that it slowly became a tradition when weddings went from causal affairs at churches and backyards to being more of production around the 1950s when the wedding industry really started to become its own thing. 

Do you have to have a rehearsal dinner?

You might be questioning if the rehearsal dinner is something you have to plan or if you can skip it.

It is not necessary to have a rehearsal dinner. You could plan your rehearsal earlier in the day and follow it up with a rehearsal brunch or lunch. Or you could thank the wedding party with an alternative token of appreciation. And some couples choose to have a welcome dinner and invite all of their out of town guests to expand the party.

Ultimately, the formalities that go along with a rehearsal and the dinner that follows are all tied to how big or formal your ceremony is. If you’re having a small, or informal, ceremony and you don’t want to put time and energy into planning the details of another dinner, you don’t have to. It’s all up to you and your future spouse. 

photo of two grooms holding a bouquet and holding hands

Who pays for the rehearsal dinner?

Speaking of time and energy, you may also be wondering about affording a rehearsal dinner after all of the other big ticket items that come with a wedding. For this event, you’re in luck if you follow tradition.

Traditionally, the groom’s parents are the ones who pay for the rehearsal dinner. This is because usually the bride’s family pays for the wedding reception. Today a lot of couples are doing away with that tradition mainly because they are paying for the entirety of the wedding on their own. 

If your groom’s parents aren’t able to pay for your rehearsal dinner, it’s totally acceptable to do it in an affordable way. Pizza back at your house or gathering at a BBQ joint would both be fun ideas to keep things more casual. I have additional alternatives to rehearsal dinners here, including how you can skip it.

Who attends the rehearsal dinner?

Ultimately, the couple getting married should determine who they want at the rehearsal dinner, but here is who is traditionally included.

In general, the following people attend the rehearsal dinner: the couple getting married, the wedding party – including bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, and ring bearers, anyone doing readings, ushers – and the couple’s immediate family. Many couples also invite the officiant of the wedding, including a priest or rabbi.

You may have heard that it is customary for guests who are coming out of town to be invited to the rehearsal dinner. This is more of a modern tradition to throw a welcome party instead of or in addition to a rehearsal dinner. And it allows for a lot of time before the chaos of the wedding to mingle and welcome guests, as well as thank them for coming to the wedding. You shouldn’t feel bad if you want to skip hosting a welcome party, even for a destination wedding where most of the guests will be in from out of town.

photo of an asian couple getting married

Are there toasts at the rehearsal dinner?

And because it’s a wedding event, you know there are formalities you are “supposed” to have at the rehearsal dinner – like toasts and speeches.

Generally, there are toasts at the rehearsal dinner. According to tradition, the groom is supposed to toast his bride and her family. And close family or friends who are not in the wedding party or won’t be giving a speech at the reception are typically encouraged to give a speech as well.

With modern traditions, it’s more typical that the couple will give a toast together or not at all instead of relying on the groom. And for couples who have siblings that won’t be giving a speech at the reception, this is a great time to offer them a chance to say something and give a toast if they would like. 

If the couple has religious beliefs, there can also be a time for a prayer or a sacred ceremony that doesn’t typically take place on the wedding day. 

Alternatives to the traditional rehearsal dinner

You don’t have to have an expensive rehearsal dinner after the rehearsal. You could do a pizza night, an informal rehearsal brunch, or even skip the meal entirely. Want to skip something fancy and stuffy and thank your wedding party in a way that is unique to you as a couple? Check out my full list of rehearsal dinner alternatives here.

The Night Before the Wedding

The night before the wedding is typically a time for the couple to celebrate separately with their closest friends. Traditionally, this would be the time for the bachelor or bachelorette party. But more and more couples are making this an event a few weeks before the wedding. And many of them are taking up an entire weekend with a destination bachelorette party. 

Can the bride and groom see each other the night before the wedding?

History would have the answer to this be quite simple – no. But seeing your bride or groom the night before the wedding is ultimately up to you.

Traditionally, the bride and groom do not see each other the night before the wedding. Many modern couples are skipping this tradition since they already live together before marriage. It’s ultimately your choice if you want to spend the night before with your partner.

A lot of brides and grooms will follow this tradition just to make it more fun when they see each other on the wedding day for the first time, whether it’s walking down the aisle or at a planned first look. 

I personally just spent the night with my fiance before my wedding. We had a “destination wedding” about five hours from where we live but where my now-husband’s parents live. Our venue had rooms to stay in and we booked it for the whole weekend. We had our rehearsal dinner, then an impromptu pool party with our wedding party, then a good night’s sleep at our venue. It was a very stress free way to set things up the day before. Including laying out all of my decorations and my outfit and accessories.

If you want to honor this tradition for the good luck or just to add some additional excitement to your wedding day, here’s how to do it:

Where does the groom stay the night before the wedding?

The groom typically stays with close friends or groomsmen at home, or in a hotel. A lot depends on where the wedding is and where the bride chooses to stay. And it all really depends on what the couple wants to do. The groom can also stay with his parents the night before the wedding.

two brides saying i do and holding a bouquet

Where does the bride stay the night before the wedding?

Again, this is something that is up to the bride. A lot of brides spend the night with their maid of honor and bridesmaids. If the wedding is local, the bride stays home while the groom stays elsewhere. Before you think I’m endorsing some sort of patriarchal reason for this, it makes a lot of practical sense. Given all of the outfit pieces, accessories, hair and makeup items that the bride has to keep track of. As well as any decor items the bride is in charge of. Keep things simple. Let the person with more stuff to manage stay in one place so you don’t forget anything.

Don’t want to forget anything for your wedding? Check out my checklist of the thirty most common things brides forget on their wedding day.

Of course if it’s a destination wedding, the bride can stay at a separate hotel room from the groom. Brides can also stay at a close family member or friend’s house. Or they can stay at their parent’s house the night before.

What does the bride do the night before the wedding?

These days, what the bride does the night before the wedding is completely up to the bride. There are so many different traditions in so many cultures, I couldn’t possible cover them all. There is nothing holding a bride back from doing what she wants.

A lot of brides take the time to spend a quiet night getting ready for the big day of festivities. Other brides like to go out for drinks and party it up before their new chapter as a wife.

I was accidentally the latter bride. I’m typically more of a laid back person who enjoys her sleep. Our rehearsal dinner ended. Then we transitioned into an impromptu pool party at our venue where we were staying with the wedding party. When you’re with your closest friends and family, the planning is done and the wedding is finally here, it’s hard not to want to celebrate.

The breakdown

Whatever you take away from this, understand that this is your wedding. You should handle all events and formalities the way you want to. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you are getting married to the love of your life. That should be the focus of everything on your wedding day and the days leading up to it. 


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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