What to do at a rehearsal dinner

If you think about it, the Rehearsal Dinner has the potential to be an even more significant time for you than even your wedding rehearsal.  Think about who attends the Rehearsal Dinner:  Your best friends (bridesmaids/groomsmen), their dates or spouses, your closest family members and all those people who love you enough to have traveled from out of town to be with you on your special day.  The people who surround you during your wedding rehearsal are your life’s core.  The dinner gathering after your wedding rehearsal is your gift to them.   These are the people who have helped you to plan for, pay for and set up for your wedding ceremony and reception. These are the people who, ultimately, will help you stay married. You definitely want to take advantage of this rare opportunity for you to be surrounded by the people who are the most meaningful to you in all your life.

Typically, the groom’s family hosts the Rehearsal Dinner. It is often the one opportunity the groom’s family has to express their own personality, and their own gratitude, to those most important people in their son’s life. But what do you DO during the rehearsal dinner? How do you best take advantage of this opportunity? How do you make it more than just another dinner together? Well… here’s how:

One of the most meaningful rituals to take place during the Rehearsal Dinner is The Welcoming Ceremony. This is your moment to very outwardly welcome the bride into your family.  During this ceremony, each member of the groom’s family presents a gift to the bride that represents themselves or the region from which they come. For example, if the groom’s brother lives in California, he might present the bride with a lovely California wine. If the groom’s parents live on a farm, they might present the bride with a jar of jam made from the blackberries picked last summer.  Maybe the groom’s cousin is a world traveler. He might present the bride with a trinket picked up in Thailand that he thinks would remind her of his family.  Maybe the groom’s brother is a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He and his family might present the bride with a Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirt.  During this ceremony, it is also traditional for the groom’s parents, as hosts of this event, to present the bride’s parents with a welcome gift as well.

Besides the very meaningful Welcome Ceremony, there are also a lot of really fun (and funny) activities you and your guests can do during this time together…

  • Provide one bucket for the male guests and one for the female guest, with small pieces of paper in front of each. Ask each guest to write wedding advice for the bride and groom, then read the advice out loud later than evening.
  • Or, provide blue Post-It notes for the men and pink Post-It notes for the women, with markers, and let them post their wedding advice all along one open wall. All night long you and your guests will be able to read all the new advice posted as the evening progresses.
  • Take a Polaroid photo of each guest or each couple as they arrive for the evening. Using double stick tape, paste the photo into a blank notebook. Provide your guests with a box of colorful pens and ask them to write a note to the couple below their photo. Present the book to the bride and groom after the Rehearsal Dinner as a keepsake that they will treasure for years to come.
  • The Rehearsal Dinner is also an ideal time for the bride and groom to offer THEIR thanks. The bride & groom may take this opportunity provide the bridesmaids or groomsmen with gifts as thanks for participating in their ceremony. 
  • Since there are likely to be a variety of family members and out-of-town friends present, after dinner the bride and groom can introduce these guests since they are likely not known by the larger group. The bride or groom can tell a story about how they know each of these far-flung friends, and why these people are important in their lives. It is very meaningful for the bride or groom to offer a toast to their guests (rather than the other way around). It is especially meaningful if those guests have traveled some distance, or if they have held a particularly meaningful place in the lives of the bride or groom.

It is so tempting to make the entire wedding weekend all about the bride and groom. Each bride and groom know, though, that they are only as good as the family and friends they pick to make up their safety net. The Rehearsal Dinner is fun, yes. But it is also a really good opportunity to recognize who the most important people in your life are…and to celebrate them!