Inviting Parts of a Group to the Rehearsal Dinner

Soon your rehearsal dinner is gonna look like this.

Soon your rehearsal dinner is gonna look like this.

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

For the rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding, we are planning inviting all our out-of-town guests. However, I have a large group of friends who I met while we all lived in the wedding location. Some of these friends have since moved away from the wedding location while some still live there. Is it okay to only invite the ones who now live out of town to the rehearsal and exclude the ones who still live in town, though they are part of the same set of friends?


Not Wanting to Exclude

Official Etiquette

Officially, you don’t HAVE to have a rehearsal dinner and even if you do, traditionally you only have to invite your bridal party and immediate family. It is a nice gesture to invite out of town guests and it’s fine to draw clear lines if you can’t afford to host everyone.

Our Take

Jaya: My idea is that everyone can understand setting a hard line between people who had to travel and people in town. This isn’t a “we liked these 5 people more so we invited them” situation.

Victoria: Exactly. Although, I will bring up the point that if we are talking about 10 people out of town and 1 person in town….maybe at that point just bite the bullet and invite all of them. But if its a fairly even split, then yeah, people will understand. I am interested to know when this whole “invite the out of town people” thing started. And at what point it gets ridiculous. Like if 3/4 of your wedding list is at the rehearsal dinner….

Jaya: Yeahhhh, I mean, I think it has decent intentions. If people have traveled you want to make them feel welcome.

Victoria: Totally!

Jaya: And then I think it went to “all out of town family” which again, reasonable. And then all out of town everyone.

Victoria: Haha yeah, I think so. My cousin got married in… 2008? And did not invite out of town family to the rehearsal and we were fine. I think maybe we arrived the morning of the wedding anyway. We will see if that holds true at our next family wedding this fall.

Jaya: Yeah, I also think it depends on where it is. Like, if you’re getting married in the middle of nowhere and there’s nothing to do, it’s nice to offer a fun dinner instead of your guests sitting around ordering room service in your weird suburban home town.

Victoria: Yesss!!! That’s a very good point.

Jaya: But sometimes I’ve gone to weddings in fun destination places and it’s like, quit it with the events, I want to explore! That’s a sad thing to measure, though. “Is your wedding destination boring as hell? If so, entertain people.”

Victoria: HAHAHA. I mean, you could just be practical about it….like, okay, our hotels are actually miles from any food and people didn’t bring cars, so let’s entertain them vs. we are downtown in a big, cultural city, people will be fine.

Jaya: Right.

Victoria: Or like, we decided to make everyone camp in the middle of the woods for four days so we are providing ALL the meals.

Showers, Bachelor/ette Parties, and Rehearsal Dinners, oh my!

All your pre-wedding parties will be in beautiful soft focus. [Via Flickr user tmarsee530]

Despite weddings already being a huge big party that is going to stress you out for a year or more, people like to have other, smaller parties around weddings. Fun! As a soon-to-be-married person, you might have some expectations about these parties from things you have seen from wedding shows and movies. These expectations might be wrong, but we are here to help! You also might find yourself wanting to avoid these parties, in which case see this previous post about how to handle avoiding having a shower.


  • Showers shouldn’t be thrown by family members or (especially) the couple! However, family members can throw family-only showers. In this instance family members mean your mother, your significant other’s mother, your sibling, or your grandparents. It is okay for aunts/uncles/cousins. The reason for this is that a shower is defined by being all about showering the bride (or couple) with presents. Since, traditionally, the bride’s family was responsible for setting her up with her trousseau, her family requesting presents from other people for her was essentially like asking for presents for themselves to help defray the cost of setting up her home. Though this isn’t really true anymore, family thrown showers still have a tone of “greediness.” However, in many social circles it is completely fine and normal, so just be sure to check.
  • A shower shouldn’t be something that the bride requests or expects but once it is offered, the bride should be the one to provide the guest list and have final veto of activities. (Or veto of the event altogether.)
  • Shower invitations can include registry information as the whole purpose of the party is to give presents
  • You need to write thank you notes for all gifts given at the shower- make sure someone is writing down what came from who (it is not a cute shower game to have guests self address envelopes for their thank you notes, however.)
  • If you have multiple showers, the guests lists shouldn’t overlap (except, parents/siblings and wedding party), but if they do, guests are only expected to bring gifts to ONE shower. A kind bride will acknowledge that duplicate guests gave a gift at a previous party.
  • Often, someone will collect the ribbons from the gifts and create a “bouquet” for the bride to carry at the rehearsal.

Bachelor/ette Parties

  • Bachelor/ette parties are not gift giving occasions. Though some groups will decide to work a lingerie shower into the festivities (but this should not occur if the same group is already throwing a regular shower).
  • Bachelor/ette parties are optional and you must wait until someone offers to throw one. You can’t just assign it to the maid of honor/best man. However, you do get to have input and final say on the activities of the party.
  • You can throw your own bachelor/ette party if you are truly hosting ie paying for everything, such as having a “slumber party” at your house or something. If you expect everyone else to go out to something you plan and cover your dinner, drinks, strippers, whatever, you shouldn’t be the one planning it.

The Rehearsal

  • The rehearsal is important if you have a long or complicated ceremony. Most people opt to have one just so everyone will know where to stand and when. There are a lot of different arrangements of who walks down the aisle in which order and who stands where, so you don’t want to assume that you are all on the same page.
  • Everyone participating in the ceremony should be present at the rehearsal so they all know where to go and when during the ceremony.
  • Superstitious brides don’t participate in the rehearsal but watch from the side with a stand-in walking down the aisle.

Rehearsal Dinner

  • Rehearsal dinners are not a requirement, though they are a nice way to gather with your most important people and thank them for showing up for the rehearsal.
  • Traditionally (except this tradition really only goes back to the 1940s/50s), since the bride’s family was hosting and paying for the wedding, the groom’s family would pay for the rehearsal dinner. Now, you will have to all decide together who is going to pay for it.
  • Typically, you invite both sets of parents, the whole wedding party and their significant others (if applicable), any readers, and the officiant. Many people like to invite out of town guests and close relatives as well.
  • You want to make sure to actually invite your guests to this event, either with a formal paper invitation, evite, or a simple email or phone call. These invitations should be sent fairly soon after the wedding invitation
  • You don’t have to have a fancy sit down dinner; a pizza party or backyard barbeque sound like awesome rehearsal dinners!
  • It doesn’t even have to be a dinner, but can be a brunch or lunch immediately following the rehearsal.
  • People often give spontaneous toasts at the rehearsal, this is perfectly fine.
  • Many couples give gifts to their attendants during this time.

All parties

You can’t invite people to wedding parties who aren’t invited to the wedding itself. An exception would be a shower that your co-workers or other specific group (such as a sports team) throw you.