Your rehearsal dinner serves two important purposes. Firstly, you’ll be running through your wedding ceremony so everything goes smoothly on the big day. Secondly, this may be the first time many members of your family are meeting your fiancé’s family members.

With large families and lots of out-of-town guests, many couples struggle to create the intimate evening they wish for when it comes to their rehearsal dinner. To help create a practical guest list that won’t hurt feelings, prioritize groups of guests and don’t make exceptions once you set rules.

Wedding Party

Obviously, this one is a must. Your bridesmaids and groomsmen will be at your ceremony rehearsal and they may be giving toasts throughout the dinner. This is also the perfect time to give them the thank you notes and gifts you and your fiancé chose for your party, especially if it’s something you want them to wear during your wedding.

Your readers and ushers should also be invited to the rehearsal dinner, as they’ll be part of your ceremony rehearsal.

One group of guests that can be a bit tricky when planning your rehearsal dinner is the spouses, fiancés and dates of your wedding party and other people involved in your ceremony. Many times, this depends on your specific situation, such as whether the wedding party traveled to be at your wedding or if their dates know other wedding guests they can spend time with while your wedding party rehearses.

Immediate Family

Parents, stepparents and grandparents are just as important as your wedding party and should be invited to any rehearsal dinner. Siblings who are not in the wedding party fall under this must-have group of guests. Any immediate family members’ significant others are likely deserving of an invitation as well.

Officiant

Your officiant will be helping you walk through your ceremony, so they (and their spouse) should most definitely be included in your rehearsal dinner. The toasts and stories family and close friends share throughout the evening may also help your officiant deliver a more personalized marriage for you and your fiancé.

Close Extended Family

For large families, this is probably impractical, as you’ll end up with a rehearsal dinner just as large as your wedding. If you only have a few aunts, uncles and cousins, you can invite them to the rehearsal dinner. Godparents may also fall under this group of guests.

Out-of-Town Guests

This is perhaps the trickiest group of guests to cater to. As bride and groom, you want to be great hosts for the friends and family who traveled to see you exchange vows. If only a few individuals are visiting for the wedding, they can absolutely be invited. Once the list of out-of-town guests grows much larger, it may be wise to consider removing them from the rehearsal dinner guest list altogether.

If you won’t be including a large number of out-of-town guests in your rehearsal dinner, arrange for them to celebrate together with a dinner at the hotel, backyard bash at a family member’s home or post-dinner drinks at a nearby venue after wrapping up your rehearsal dinner.

Children

You can, but are not required to by any means, include your ring bearer(s) and flower girl(s) in your ceremony rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Depending on their age, practicing their duties before the big day may really help things go smoothly during your wedding. You should invite at least one parent to the rehearsal dinner, both as a thank you for being part of your day and to ensure kids feel comfortable. If you plan to invite both parents, consider extending the invites to any siblings of your ring bearer(s) and flower girl(s) as well, so parents don’t need to find a babysitter.

Depending on your family, taking kids out of the mix can drastically reduce your rehearsal dinner guest list. Before making a decision on this group, consider any children the bride and groom have, their nieces and nephews, and the bridal party’s kids.

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