A rehearsal dinner typically occurs the night before the wedding and is an event during which family, close friends, the wedding party and other special wedding attendees come together to celebrate the upcoming wedding outside of the stressful environment of the big day itself. Essentially, the event is a way to relieve some of the tension which comes with planning, organizing and preparing for a wedding, and is often a more informal and laid-back gathering in comparison to the wedding itself. It is also a chance to practice for the wedding ceremony to make sure everything goes smoothly and everyone knows their lines.
Although the rehearsal dinner is typically held the evening before the wedding day, the event can be a lunch, brunch or breakfast the morning of the wedding. It all just depends on what schedule is convenient for the wedding party and attendees -- sometimes the rehearsal is held days before the wedding if there just isn't time to try to fit in dinner the day before. Keep in mind any out-of-town guests you may invite, as they may not have the ability to come several days ahead of the wedding for a dinner. One of the main purposes of the rehearsal dinner is to give the bride and groom a chance to mingle with their family and closest friends, so the time the event takes place matters very little in the long run.
The purpose of a rehearsal dinner is to make sure any potential stressors are relieved before the wedding. At the rehearsal, those involved in the ceremony will get their chance to practice their responsibilities in the service -- they go over where everyone stands, what everyone is supposed to say and the ceremony's order of events. Typically, a relaxed meal follows, allowing the engaged couple to interact with family and close friends in a setting which is low-stress and intimate.
Not everybody on the wedding guest list gets an invite to the rehearsal dinner. The typical attendees are the immediate family members of the bride and groom, the wedding party and other particularly close friends of the bride and groom.
Because a rehearsal dinner is much more informal than a wedding, the event can be held almost anywhere. It can be in as simple as the backyard of the bride and groom or as fancy as an event hall or upscale restaurant. Either way, there is no standard or requirement for the location of this relaxing evening.
When determining a dress code for your rehearsal dinner, consider the time and location of the event. Unlike weddings, which tend to be formal or semi-formal, there is no precedent for rehearsal dinner dress attire.. Because the event tends to be more informal than the wedding, don't require the dress code to be anything more fancy than the requirements for the wedding. Typically, anything between semi-formal to smart casual is a safe way to go.