The rehearsal dinner is traditionally planned to take place the evening before the wedding. It is meant to be a way for the members of the wedding party and immediate family members of the bride and groom to get acquainted before the actual wedding ceremony.
A good rule of thumb for the rehearsal dinner is to invite all people who are required to attend the rehearsal. If they traveled from out of town with a guest or date, that person should also be included! Beyond this collection of guests, it is really up to the bride and groom to decide who else should be invited.
Don’t feel pressured to invite everyone you invited to the wedding, though! The rehearsal dinner is meant to be a much more intimate affair than the reception.
Ideally, the rehearsal dinner should start early- perhaps by 6:00 p.m. You do not want guests to feel exhausted at the wedding the next day! Try to end the rehearsal dinner on the early side to ensure that everyone has the opportunity for proper rest.
Now…what about the food? Really, anything goes for the rehearsal dinner nowadays. In the past, the rehearsal dinner was formal and almost like a modified wedding reception. Couples are now hosting more casual dinners that reflect their personal tastes! A barbecue, an Asian food buffet, a beach picnic, or a wine tasting followed by an Italian dinner are all fun and perfectly acceptable options.
If the wedding reception will be formal and upscale, many couples specifically plan a more casual and fun rehearsal dinner to help guests relax.