Q&A: Should you host the rehearsal dinner when your parents can't? - Grooms & Groomsmen - Wedding Planning

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Photo Credits:
Groom and Father -- Geoff White Photographers
Groom and Groomsmen -- Sara Remington of Anna Kuperberg Photography
Nervous Groom -- Isabel Lawrence Photographers
Smiling Groom -- Geoff White Photographers
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Should You Host the Rehearsal Dinner When Your Parents Can't?

A Tradition dictates that the groom's parents host the rehearsal dinner, but if this isn't possible due to their circumstances, you should then take the role of host or share the position with them. The goal of a rehearsal dinner is to have an event where the two families and members of the wedding party can get to know each other. Plan with that goal in mind, and things will fall into place.
  • First, you should determine who's paying. Since you and your parents are hosting this party, your parents can foot the bill, the bill can be split between you and them, or you can pick up the bill. If they contribute financially but leave the planning to you, involve them on budgetary decisions.
  • The next step is to build your invitation list. Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is for the groom's and bride's families and the wedding party. Include any spouses or significant others as well. Beyond that, it's your choice if you'd like to include some close friends or people who have come from out of town.
  • The dinner should reflect the tone that you want it to and be as nice as possible within your budget. If you chose to have a formal dinner at a restaurant, look for a place with a private room so you don't have to worry about disturbing other diners. If a restaurant won't set your desired tone, you can organize a festive barbecue, a casual sit-down dinner in someone's home, or even a sushi party or luau. Whatever you decide, the rehearsal dinner should never be more formal than the wedding reception itself.
  • If cost isn't an issue, you can simply have guests order freely from the restaurant menu. A set menu is easier to orchestrate and will keep the cost per plate under control. An economical plan is to order a set meal for the entire party in advance instead of distributing menus, or you can discuss with the restaurant the option of offering a choice of two entrees.
  • If the dinner takes place at a nice restaurant, jeans and a T-shirt don't cut it. A jacket: yes. A tie: a good idea (you can always take it off). Making an effort to honor her family by looking sharp is a smart thing to do; however, keep the location and tone of the event in mind. If you went with the festive barbecue, a tie may not be appropriate, but you should still dress nicer than you would if it were a Super Bowl party. Also keep in mind where the rehearsal itself will take place, and dress appropriately if it's a place of worship even if the dinner is somewhere less formal.
  • As hosts, traditionally the father and/or mother of the groom make a toast. But whether you're "the host" or not, you should make a toast. The party is also a great opportunity for bridesmaids and ushers or brothers and sisters to make a toast too. A hint about toasts: Short is really good. After a few beers, you'll tend to ramble and make everyone squirm in their seats. So, write it down ahead of time, practice, and then stick to the script.

Peter Post is a director of the Emily Post Institute and author of The New York Times bestseller Essential Manners for Men: What to Do, When to Do It and WHY and Essential Manners for Couples. One of Emily Post's four great-grandchildren, Peter holds a master's degree in fine art from Pratt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Want more etiquette advice for guys? Check out Peter Post's new book, Essential Manners for Men.