Destination I Do
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Destination Rehearsal Dinner Guide to Proper Etiquette

Words by Jennifer Stein
When it comes to planning a destination wedding, there are many situations where traditional etiquette may not apply, or at least not entirely. You've reached out and asked for our help, and we're answering your questions here!

Q: I am confused about who should be included in the rehearsal dinner. Sometimes people include out of town guests, but at my destination, everyone will be an out of town guest. Can you give me suggestions on how to handle this? ~Kaytee from Cincinnati, Ohio

A: According to traditional etiquette, the rehearsal dinner is the responsibility of the groom’s family. The only people that have to be included in this gathering are the wedding party and their significant others, parents and siblings of the bride and groom, the officiate and his spouse, and parents of any child members of the wedding party.

When you have a destination wedding, you may feel tempted to invite everyone. If you've only got about 20 people attending your wedding, it would be silly to leave out 5 or 10 people, so probably best to include everyone. If you have 70 or 80 guests, this may be a little more difficult. Communicate early on with your in-laws and groom to figure out what you will have a budget for. Logistically, you may find that doing a formal sit-down rehearsal dinner in a restaurant won't accommodate that many people, so figure out what your options are for a large group. You may have the option to do something really casual on the beach or at a private residence you rent out for the night.

Q: Do I have any input on where the rehearsal dinner is or who attends since we are having a destination wedding? ~ Tabitha from Sacramento, California

A: Since the rehearsal dinner is the responsibility of the grooms parents, the decision on the size and cost of the dinner should be up to them…this is your future mother-in-laws moment to plan so listen to her wishes. You will have plenty of things to plan without taking responsibility for this event too. However, you should have a say in the overall event and your feelings taken into consideration.

Embrace this time to get to know your MIL and do your best to be compromising and flexible.

Q: What if I want to invite everyone to the rehearsal dinner and not just the wedding party and immediate family? ~ Erin from Tallahassee, Florida

A: If you want all your guests to be there, compromise by suggesting an ultra casual event if budget is a concern to your future in-laws. A large beach barbecue is an idea or plan a “fiesta” with build-your-own tacos – something simple and budget savvy. If money isn’t a concern – work together to plan an event you all can feel comfortable with.

If you and your fiancé are the hosts, you can choose to limit the dinner to the wedding party or include all guests depending upon your budget and your wishes. You should not feel obligated to invite all guests to the rehearsal dinner and it should never upstage the main event.

Whether you choose to have your rehearsal dinner be formal and intimate or a picnic for all, the important thing to remember is communicate early so that guests at your destination are not left wondering. Family and friends have put in a great deal of effort to attend your destination wedding, and you want to welcome them graciously and show your appreciation.

If you are looking for ways of welcoming your guests and letting them know your appreciation for traveling to your destination, here are some ideas:

  • Provide welcome baskets in their room including a thank you note, waters, fruit, homemade cookies, local treats, chocolate, etc.
  • Provide directions to events, maps, brochures, itineraries, and contact lists for other guests.
  • Personally greet guests, and make an appearance at events planned.

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