Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Tips

Rehearsal Dinner Tips - The Essex Room Cape Ann MA


John Maher:  Hi, I’m John Maher, and today I’m here with Maureen Woodman, a wedding planner for on and offsite catered events at The Essex Room, in Essex, Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about wedding rehearsal dinner tips, to make things go smoothly. Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman:  Hi, John. Thanks for having me today.

John:  Sure. Maureen, what can make a rehearsal dinner challenging?

Potential Challenges With Rehearsal Dinners

Maureen:  A lot of nerves. I think a lot of people get really nervous the night before the wedding. You’re wondering, “Did I do everything? Is it all set?” I always like if you can have the rehearsal dinner two nights before, not the actual night before. It gives you that day in the middle to relax.

Too many people being there. It’s really the night of the most intimacy for the wedding party, and your family, and your groom’s family, to kind of come together, kind of let your hair down a little, and really start to have this bond with all these people.

When you have too many people there, too much of a party atmosphere sometime, you don’t get that emotion in there that you’re really looking for.

Planning the Rehearsal Dinner

John:  Right. Who generally plans the rehearsal dinner?

Maureen:  It should be the parents of the groom that would be completely taking over for this, so they should do the guest list, the invitations. They should plan the venue, where you’re going to have it. Typically they would take care of the bill that night, as well. It’s the first time that you kind of give up that power to your mother‑in‑law‑to‑be.

John:  Reckon that’d be a little bit challenging, because maybe you’ve — typically a lot of brides and grooms these days are planning their own wedding, and doing a lot of the planning of that, but now here’s the rehearsal dinner, and they’re kind of giving up that control and giving that over to their parents or their in‑laws. Can that be a little bit difficult?

Maureen:  Yeah, I think a lot of people think that it can be difficult, but I really think by the time you get to the night before the wedding, you’re so happy to have someone else take care of things for you. That’s really one of the things that’s a surprise.

People are like, “Oh, I want this. I want that. My expectations are so high,” and then by the time you’re there, like, “Oh, just thank God someone else took care of this for me. I want to sit back, and really get to meet all these people who are so important in my husband‑to‑be, his family, and I want my family to really meet his family, and everyone to start this bond as we begin our life together.”

Take Time to Relax At the Rehearsal Dinner

John:  Should you kind of try to relax a little bit, and not have it in your own mind what you want for your rehearsal dinner and just sort of let your parents, or your in‑laws, take care of that for you and kind of go with the flow? Is it a collaborative thing where you’re working with them to come up with a good idea that you can both agree on?

Maureen:  If somebody’s willing to plan the party for you, and you’re fortunate enough to have that. A lot of girls now, they don’t, because a lot of families are not necessarily splintered, but there’s multiple parents, because there’s so much divorce. If you’re lucky to have someone that’s taking the reins for you, I think you should go with it, and look at them and be very appreciative, and thankful, for all their efforts.

I think that you should really let it go, and have a good time. Try to relax.

Formal vs. Casual

John:  Is it better to keep the rehearsal dinner a formal affair, or is it easier to just kind of go casual, or somewhere in between?

Maureen:  Whatever your preference is, and whatever your budget allows. We’ve done a lot of really elaborate rehearsal dinners, and we’ve done a lot of really casual, fun dinners. Clam bakes on the beach, and we’ve had some really high‑end ones with plated dinners, depending on what you can afford.

If you surround yourself with people that love you and your husband‑to‑be, I think you’re going to be all right. Great food, and a really good atmosphere, and just try to have fun. Go with it.

Guest List Concerns

John:  If budget, maybe, is a concern, how can you limit the guest list of a rehearsal dinner without snubbing anyone, or making someone feel left out?

Maureen:  This is a really big challenge for the brides today and the parents of the groom. A lot of people, because they’re traveling from so far away, because you’re not marrying that neighborhood friend anymore, they feel a responsibility that if somebody’s traveled and they’ve come from out of town, that they should automatically be going to the rehearsal dinner.

Back in the day, the rehearsal dinner was really the parents, the grandparents, the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, the bride and groom. Even back then, you weren’t even lucky enough to take your spouse, or your boyfriend, and girlfriend, if you were in the wedding party. It used to be like 20 people.

Now some of these rehearsals are well over 50 people, because everyone is trying to put the out‑of‑town guests in. That’s where you can get into kind of a funny place where you might invite someone that came from out‑of‑town, but you might not invite someone that’s still close to you, that lives near you.

That’s where somebody might feel like they were snubbed, or avoided, or something. It’s not done that way. I think that you feel that you have to entertain this out‑of‑town guest, because obviously they’re here because of your wedding. They don’t know anyone.

John:  Sure. Otherwise they’re staying by themselves at the hotel room, or something like that.

Maureen:  Also, the night of the rehearsal is really an important time for you to spend with the people that you really care about, because the day of the wedding, you may get with the other people that come, but the ones that you’re so intimate with, you may not really get to see them that day, because you’re trying to spread yourself all over the place.

Again, that rehearsal is a time for the bride and groom to connect with the people that are closest to them. Really, on the wedding day, they might have to spread themselves out to the other guests.

Having a Smooth Rehearsal Dinner

John:  OK. Any final thoughts on having a smooth rehearsal dinner?

Maureen:  You have to really be prepared. Don’t look at the weather, because you know you’re going to know the weather probably at the rehearsal dinner for your wedding. A lot of times, a lot of girls spend a lot of time at the rehearsal looking at the weather forecast.

By now, you’ve had your nails done and you know if your dress is too tight, or too big. Just let it go. Just try to ride the wave, and enjoy the moment. You’ve worked really hard to get there. Just let it happen.

John:  Great advice. Maureen, thanks very much for speaking with me today.

Maureen:  My pleasure, John. Thanks for having me. I hope everyone finds these wedding rehearsal dinner tips helpful!

John:  For more information, you can visit The Essex Room website at, or call 978‑768‑7335.