I am asked frequently, who do I NEED to invite to the rehearsal dinner? As I have mentioned before, I don’t actually follow rules very easily, so instead here are a few hints…
Your wedding party, their significant others and your immediate families are a must to invite to your rehearsal dinner. Your dinner happens after you rehearse for your ceremony and most times these are the people at your ceremony rehearsal. That would be awkward if the people who were practicing with you weren’t invited to celebrate with you after, they need to be rewarded for their good behavior. This dinner should be paid by you as a couple, parent(s) or a generous host. Your guests should not pay for this gathering for it is a thank you gesture from you to them.
I like so very much, a larger festive gathering after you have a more official rehearsal dinner with all those that attend the above dinner, out-of-town guests, extended family and anyone else who wants to start the party early. This gathering can be on the outside patio at the restaurant you are already eating, a favorite coffee shop, restaurant, lounge that you as a couple frequent, a relatives/friend’s backyard (you should always offer to provide financial assistance if at someone’s home) or the bar at the hotel where most or many of your guests are staying. Doing a less “formal” gathering does a few things: you don’t have to pay (or pay for it all), more guests get to gather, meet and celebrate before your big day (who doesn’t like an elongated party?), and you can sneak out early if you need without really anyone noticing because of the larger crowd.
The rehearsal dinner and/or party is also a superb time to have speeches made by those that want to toast you but you feel it not appropriate at your reception. I suggest that this is the perfect opportunity that grandparents, wedding party, other family members, friends, your neighbor Bob, Aunt Glenda, and co-worker Ted make their heartfelt devotions of love to you.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that the rehearsal dinner is a time for people to get to know each other so that they can enjoy each other’s company more on your wedding day. It is a time to pre-celebrate your celebration.