Is A Wedding Rehearsal Necessary?

bride and groom smiling and embracing

You might be wondering whether or not to have a wedding rehearsal just to add to the craziness of the celebration. There is so much you will have to do in the days leading up to your wedding. But the day right before tends to be the most hectic for couples.

You should have a wedding rehearsal if the ceremony requires your wedding party to perform tasks like walking down the aisle. Or if it requires you and your partner to perform actions in a predetermined order. Or any other coordination for a formal ceremony. You can skip the rehearsal if your wedding ceremony will be simple and small enough that a practice run isn’t necessary.

With a smaller ceremony or elopement a rehearsal might also not be possible depending on the location.

Ultimately, your wedding and everything leading up to it are supposed to be what you want to make of it, and all the decisions on whether or not to go the traditional route are entirely up to you and your future spouse.

Here is everything you need to know to help you decide whether or not you should have a wedding rehearsal. 

What Is A Wedding Rehearsal?

Now that you know why you should have a rehearsal, you might be wondering what a wedding rehearsal even is.

A wedding rehearsal is a run-through of the ceremony that is usually held the day before the wedding. This is time for the officiant, wedding party, immediate family, and anyone else involved in the ceremony to learn their part. This ensures that the wedding day goes smoothly.

This is not to be confused with a rehearsal dinner. A rehearsal dinner typically takes place after the rehearsal in a restaurant or someone’s home. If you’re looking for more information about rehearsal dinners, keep reading.

Why Do Weddings Have Rehearsals?

The history behind having a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner isn’t exactly clear. They started to become the thing to do around the 1950’s. That’s when weddings became more of a larger affair rather than a simple ceremony at a church or courthouse. 

Again, the rehearsal is more for the people who are involved in the ceremony, including the bride and groom. Smaller weddings don’t require a rehearsal because they don’t involve a lot of steps or as many people. If you’re eloping or having a micro wedding, you may be able to skip the rehearsal.

Interested in learning more about micro weddings? Check out this article on micro weddings and how much they cost. 

Should I Have A Wedding Rehearsal?

While you don’t have to have a rehearsal, it is recommended if you’re having lots of people in the ceremony. This also depends on the type of ceremony you’re having. Religious ceremonies usually have a more traditional order to them. So it’s important that you have time for everyone to get learn the process and timing. 

If you’re having a small wedding with just a couple of people involved in the ceremony, or none, you don’t have to have the formal rehearsal. Couples who are eloping or having a small destination wedding don’t really have a need for a rehearsal.

steak and roasted vegetable dinner

What Is A Rehearsal Dinner?

As I mentioned earlier, the rehearsal dinner is separate event from the rehearsal. Here’s a quick explanation of what a rehearsal dinner is and if you need to have one.

The rehearsal dinner refers to the dinner held after the rehearsal, which is normally the night before the wedding. The dinner usually includes everyone who attends the rehearsal. Modern weddings sometimes include other close family members and guests who are coming from out of town. 

If you’re having a rehearsal, it is typically expected that there will be a meal served afterward, but you really don’t have to host a formal dinner. If you weren’t originally so keen on having a rehearsal at all, this is not something that you are obligated to do.

Do I Need To Have A Rehearsal Dinner?

You don’t have to do a rehearsal dinner. But it is recommended, especially if you’re having a big wedding. And despite possibly feeling like it’s going to be a drag, it can actually be really fun! 

You do not need to have a rehearsal dinner if you’re not having a rehearsal. If you are having a rehearsal, you should thank your wedding party for attending the rehearsal. Traditionally this is with a dinner but you can get away with another token of appreciation.

I have an entire article on alternatives to the formal rehearsal dinner. If you’re looking for something less expensive or just less formal to do after your rehearsal, you can show appreciation another way.

2020 bride Alyssa had her wedding during the pandemic. As a result, she had to keep it smaller. She said, “I wasn’t super excited about the whole rehearsal thing, but it ended up being so much fun! We spent the day at the venue with close friends and family to set up for the reception, had the rehearsal, and then went to dinner. It was a special time I got to spend with the people that mattered most.” 

While Alyssa had a great time, others might not experience the same. Ashley, who had a wedding of 200 people last year with a bridal party of 24 people did not have as pleasant of an experience. “I wanted to do the rehearsal dinner and I’m glad I did because it made the wedding day easier – but it was hectic and stressful! I spent the whole day doing last-minute things for the wedding, and then by the time rehearsal and dinner came around, I was beat, and just wanted to get to drinks with friends.”

In short – it’s all up to you. If you are having one, it’s best to go into it seeing it as just extra time you get to spend with your closest friends and family. Put most of your energy into having the best wedding ever. 

Do something simple or extravagant for the rehearsal and dinner – it’s what you want. 


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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