The rehearsal dinner is so much more than a relaxing meal either before or after the bridal party has rehearsed the wedding ceremony. It is usually the last time before the ceremony that wedding participants and their families will see each other. More importantly, it is a time that the bride and groom can give tribute and thanks to those who assisted them in planning their wedding.
Regardless of whether the rehearsal dinner will be formal or casual, as many couples today prefer, the invitation to the dinner should be of a formal nature. Etiquette calls for the invitations to be mailed to the guests. They can be handwritten notes, fill in the blank cards or printed cards. Traditionally, the wording of the invitation is formal, but that standard has relaxed when the dinner is in a casual setting. The invitations should be mailed well in advance, two to four weeks before the dinner, to give the guests ample opportunity to arrange their schedule to be able to attend. The invitation should also include a request and instructions for the RSVP.
Who Should Be Invited
Traditionally, only the wedding party and the parents of the bride and groom were invited to the rehearsal dinner. Modern times dictate that the spouses and dates of the wedding party also be invited, along with the person who will officiate at the wedding and, possibly, the musicians if they attended the rehearsal. It is also customary to include any out-of-town guests of the wedding. Because the rehearsal dinner is also a time for the couple to thank special individuals who helped them in preparing for their upcoming wedding, there may be someone who fits that category that is not a member of the bridal party. Those people should also be included.
As tempting as it might be to invite extended family and other close friends, do not. Not only will the event become more chaotic and stressful, but it will lead to confusion. It may become uncomfortable when the non-participating guests are unsure whether a gift is in order or wish to attend the rehearsal. It is far better to keep the guest list for a rehearsal dinner to only those directly involved with the wedding. The exception to this would be the grandparents of the bride and groom.