Wedding Etiquette 101: Who To Invite To Your Rehearsal Dinner (And Who You Can Leave Out)

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A lot goes into planning a wedding: favors, decorations, centerpieces, food, venue, and so much more. But the biggest part of planning a wedding is sometimes the guest list. Once you're done making your guest list and seating chart, it's time to plan the rehearsal dinner, and choosing who to invite begins all over again.

The primary players of your wedding should be at the top of your guest list. That would include close family and your wedding party, along with plus ones. Beyond that, it's entirely up to you on who to add to your wedding rehearsal dinner. Here's a handy guide to get you started.

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1. Everyone in the wedding party

“At the minimum, you’ll want to include anyone directly involved in the rehearsal,” says Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services, who is also a certified planner.

Be it parents, immediate family members and the wedding party, the dinner typically takes place right after the rehearsal, so it’s natural to want to include everyone in the festivities.

2. And their guests, too

The question often arises: should the wedding party members bring a guest? Suggests Dennis, “Just like your wedding, it’s expected that they can bring their spouse or long-term partner.” With that, it’s really up to you whether you want to extend an invitation for everyone to bring a guest. 

3. Kids in the bridal party

However, they need to be invited with their parents. But it really comes down to the logistics on this one.

“Remember to include the flower girl and ring bearer’s parents, and potentially their siblings if you plan to include children. The parents should be in attendance with their children, and they’ll certainly appreciate not having to hire a babysitter for two evenings in a row,” Dennis recommends.

4. Your officiant

“He or she may not ultimately be able to attend, but it’s a nice gesture. If you’re able to, consider offering the officiant a plus one for the rehearsal dinner,” says Dennis.

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5. Out of town guests

According to Oleta Collins of Flourishing Art Design Studio, “Some will argue that out of town guests are required to be included, but if you think your guests will be fine entertaining themselves that evening, it is okay to leave them off the list. You can even place a card in your welcome bags that highlight things they can do and the best places to eat.”

6. Avoid awkward moments

“Be mindful of those who have a role on the wedding day and may be at the rehearsal, such as readers, as they should be invited to the rehearsal dinner,” Dennis says. If you don’t, imagine that it could get pretty awkward when the majority of the rehearsal heads to the same location, leaving others behind. 

7. Consider two phases of dinner

“If you want to celebrate with them, but you don’t necessarily want a large sit-down dinner, consider hosting them for a welcome party following your formal rehearsal dinner,” Collins suggests.

Timing is critical with this as you don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable if your dinner is running long. So, says Collins, “Consider giving yourself a 30- to 45-minute buffer, especially if you are hosting at the same venue.”

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8. For destination weddings

“When hosting a destination wedding, it’s encouraged to invite out-of-town guests to your rehearsal dinner if your budget allows for it,” Heather Jones of Wente Vineyards says. 

Weekend-long celebrations are gaining in popularity, and it’s a great way to spend more time with those who have traveled a great distance to celebrate your wedding. 

9. One word of warning

Just be mindful that your rehearsal dinner may grow so large in size that it runs the risk of taking away from the big day itself!

Advises Jones, “Be mindful of themes, colors and menus when planning both the rehearsal dinner and wedding to ensure you ultimately don’t duplicate elements from one evening to the next.”

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.