The Rehearsal Dinner

OK, you know you're completely off the hook as far as the rehearsal dinner goes. You'll just put your feet up right now and think about the tasty filet mignon you're going to enjoy on the eve of your daughter's wedding, and on someone else's dime. Life is good, you're thinking.

Pop! (That's the sound of your bubble bursting.) Remember: Traditionally, you're not responsible for the rehearsal dinner — but if this entire wedding is turning into a very nontraditional affair, you may very well be called upon to help plan this event.

Are You Rehearsing Eating?

The rehearsal dinner follows the rehearsal of the wedding ceremony and is usually held either the night before the wedding or sometime within the week preceding it. The entire wedding party will arrive at the ceremony site and run through the service. You will need to arrive on time and in the right frame of mind. You may not enjoy taking directions from your minister, but on this occasion, it's really important for you to follow his advice. He does this week after week. He knows the drill.

You'll stand at the back of the church (or the banquet hall, or wherever the ceremony is taking place) and wait patiently with your daughter as each of the bridesmaids walks down the aisle in her street clothes. You'll wait for your cue (a break in the music, or when the maid of honor reaches a certain point near the altar), and then it's your turn to escort your daughter down that long aisle. While it's true that all eyes will be on her, they'll be on you too, so this is the time to practice your composure.

ALERT!

Watch out for that nasty habit that shows up when you're nervous. (Don't scrunch up your nose; don't chew on your lip.) Get a handle on your game face now; it will be captured on film during the ceremony, and you want to look like a normal person for posterity.

Chow Time!

After the rehearsal of the ceremony, the entire wedding party (including the officiant), along with all the spouses, will gather for a relaxing meal. The groom's family is usually responsible for planning this get-together, and if your daughter's in-laws are preparing something great, good for you. The same rules apply for any party that you aren't officially hosting: Go, be charming, and enjoy yourself. Don't try to run the show, but offer assistance as needed.

But what if the groom's parents are from out of town? How are they going to pull off this party that isn't your responsibility?

Here's where you have to remember: All of this is for your daughter. Though you might think planning another wedding-related event will just drain the life right out of you, it won't. If the groom's family is having a really hard time planning this event from their home on the opposite coast, be as helpful as you can. A few tips:

Tread carefully. Unless you're asked to get involved or completely take over, don't. Providing opinions and brochures are far different from telling the groom's parents what they should and shouldn't be doing.

Get specific. If they want your help, ask what kind of party they want to plan. If they're looking for something on the cheap side, don't recommend the country club.

Do some of the legwork. Even with Internet access, it's not always easy to nail down a facility's ambience or its price list. If you can check a place out for them, do it.

If you do end up taking over the duties for this event, keep in mind that rehearsal dinners don't have to be fancy or complicated. You'll need food, drinks, and a location. Can you host a backyard barbecue rehearsal dinner? Yes, you can. Chances are, the groom's family will want to pitch in on the cost, especially if you're paying for almost everything else. Don't argue. Let them.

Who Invited You?

In addition to the members of the entire wedding party, the minister, and their respective spouses, you should also include grandparents and godparents, regardless of where they live, along with any other special relatives. Any children attendants (the flower girl, ringbearer, etc.) are also invited to the rehearsal dinner along with their parents.

ESSENTIAL

You might also consider inviting any out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner. If you've ever made the trek to a wedding only to sit staring at your motel-room TV on the night before the ceremony, you know how you would have appreciated someone including you in the festivities.

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