As many frequent wedding attendees know, often the biggest night of the wedding weekend is not actually the night of the ceremony and reception. Instead, it’s the eve of the wedding that stands out most: what is known as the rehearsal dinner. These dinners take many forms. Though traditionally hosted by the groom’s side, in modern times it’s becoming increasingly more common for both sides to split the cost, or even for the bride and groom to cover the cost themselves. There are a few reasons this night ends up being one of the highlights of the wedding weekend: there’s not as much pressure, everyone has just arrived and is ready to start celebrating, and the toasts are often the most memorable part. Again, though it has become customary for more than just the best man to speak at the wedding, the rehearsal dinner is often the more intimate night in which members of the wedding party, family, and other special guests have the opportunity to toast the couple.
Make no mistake, this night does require some attention to set the tone for what’s to come.
- It’s not a bad idea to put the vibe out there that you’re open to toasting and even roasting! I attended one wedding where the groom’s father asked that people please keep their toasts brief and to the point. Of course this mild request basically turned everyone off from toasting.
- Attendants and family: use this night as an opportunity to be playful with the special couple. The best dinners I’ve attended included the shoe game in which bride and groom sit back to back and each hold one of the other’s shoe in their hands. As members of the wedding party as the couple questions, each must hold up whichever shoe represents the answer. Kind of a pre-newlywed game of sorts –but fun and lively and always a crowd-pleaser.
- Another wedding I attended in Florida included favors for the wedding party from the mother of the bride: each bridesmaid received a copy of Anne Morrow Lindberg’s A Gift from the Sea. This was such a nice personal touch – a way to thank the wedding party in a private and thoughtful way before the rest of the guests descend on the weekend.
- Be a planner! There will be plenty of out of town guests clamoring at the opportunity to begin celebrating. Choose a festive bar or restaurant for everyone to descend upon during or after the dinner. But watch yourself….you don’t want to fall victim to the “rehearsal dinner” night syndrome, in which you have a little too much fun or are what my dad likes to call “over-served” to enjoy the actual wedding and reception the next night. Pace yourself and maybe give yourself a curfew.
Whether you choose to keep this night simple, with just immediate family, or open it up to a much larger group – it is most often the beginning of it all: be present and enjoy every moment.
Liz Mathews is a Connecticut based mother, teacher, and freelance writer who blogs on children’s books and related topics at La La La. Her work has appeared in Quality Women’s Fiction, Town and Country magazine, and Literary Mama.