Google+ Southern Etiquette: Rehearsal Dinner Invitations - Southern Weddings

Southern Weddings

Hey, y’all!  Welcome back to another Southern Etiquette.  Today’s question comes from Rebecca in Virginia.  She writes:

“I am confused about the etiquette of the rehearsal dinner.  At first, I thought it was to only include the wedding party, immediate family and grandparents.  Now I have run across the idea that it also includes all out of town guests.  If a majority of both sides of the families are from out of town, wouldn’t this be like having two weddings?  Not that I am not up for having two parties all about me, I am just wondering who to invite and not invite!”

Great question, Rebecca, and one that’s increasingly relevant as more and more couples plan destination weddings and full wedding weekends.  Emily Post advises:

“The guest list normally includes all members of the wedding party and their spouses or partners; the close families of the couple; and special guests such as the officiant and his or her spouse.  Is the host obligated to invite out-of-town guests?  Though a nice thing to do, this is entirely optional.”

Agreed.  It is never incorrect to only invite “the essentials” to a rehearsal, but it is also a lovely gesture to open up a welcome dinner to the whole guest list.  As for your concern that doing so would essentially be like having two weddings, I’d recommend making sure that the two events are very different in tone and formality.  A great example is Kristen + Grant’s celebration in Sea Island, GA.  You can see their relaxed clambake welcome dinner here, and their glitzy, glam wedding here and here.

Another option, if money is a concern, is to hold a welcome dinner but not host it.  My sister is having a destination wedding this August.  90% of the guests will be traveling, so we want to spend as much time as possible with those we love and don’t get to see very often.  We’ve organized a welcome dinner at a local lobster shack on the Friday before the wedding.  On the card detailing the weekend’s events, we wrote “We recommend budgeting about $12 per person planning to eat lobstah!” as a gentle indication that we wouldn’t be picking up the bill.

What do y’all think?  Are you hosting a welcome dinner?  Are you holding one?  Do you think either is a better option?  Why?

Email me if you have a question you’d like to see discussed on the blog!  I’d be happy to take a stab at it.

Written with love by Southern Weddings
  1. avatar nb reply

    I have been part of a wedding party (destination wedding ) and was obviously included in the dinner portion. The bride then invited all the guests for dessert at the same location. It was a low cost way to include everyone.

  2. avatar kaity reply

    I’m definitely dealing w/this situation. All our family will be out of towners and only 15-20 guests out of our 80 person wedding will be local.Of the truly local guests, one of them is going to be our officiant – so I feel obligated to invite that circle of friends too, leaving me with nearly all guests at both events.I don’t mind, but it’s overwhelming to think about!

  3. avatar Julia reply

    "Lobstah"? New England destination wedding? Maine, maybe? Perhaps my FAVORITE place in the world. Great advice, by the way!

  4. avatar Emily @ Southern Weddings reply

    You got it, Julia! We’ll be in Maine this August — can’t come soon enough!

  5. avatar ShannonP reply

    We did a happy hour event before our rehearsal dinner which everyone was invited to. We supplied appetizers and left it as a cash bar. It was a great way to see all the out of town guests (though in towners were invited as well) before the wedding but keep our actual rehearsal dinner size smaller. Plus, it gave extended family members and friends a meeting time and place where they could congregate before heading out to their own dinner.

  6. avatar Emily reply

    We had a pig pickin’ as a rehearsal dinner and invited everyone, which turned out wonderful. Friends are surprised when we tell them there were 200+ people at the wedding, because they say it felt so intimate, partially because of having spent the night before getting to know everyone.

  7. avatar Cathy reply

    Being brought up in the north, we only had the wedding party and partners with the grandparents. Both of our children are getting married in 2017, both in Charlotte. Much to our surprise my son told us he wanted to invite all out of town guests, there are many!! Now is upset with us that we don’t agree. He hasn’t offered to help with the expenses and I don’t think the venue will hold the amount of people. On a side note, the brides mothers friend owns the rehearsal venue where I was expected to use. HELP!!!

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