Rehearsal dinner: how does it work?

I guess this is an opinion question, but if it’s more MPSIMS, then it can be moved.

Recently there has been some controversy about the rehearsal dinner for my wedding, which is happening the evening before the wedding day. My fiance’s parents are supposed to pay for it. They want only immediate family and the best men, and they want beer, pizza and wings. My dad says that he has about 7 out of town guests coming in that day and that all out of town guests who are in that night should be invited. He thinks it should be an actual dinner, and he’s willing to pay for his guests and to have it at a real restaurant, not a pizza and beer joint (he can’t eat hot wings or pizza, and he doesn’t do beer).

I do not know what the right way to handle this is. I really don’t want to have to plan this, or resolve disputing ideas of how the night before the wedding dinner should go. Am I supposed to be planning this? Is there some etiquette rule for how it works? Some SOP I should know about WRT who gets invited and what kind of dinner it should be, and who should pay? Even the friends I’ve asked don’t seem to agree. I’d appreciate some opinions and advice for negotiating this. Can I just have the parents call each other and hash it out? Or is that a bad idea?

Part of me wants to have Mike go off this his side of the family and me go off with mine. We’re not rehearsing anything, so “rehearsal dinner” is kind of a misnomer. We’re also not having bachelor/bachelorette parties, so we could do that evening separately with our own people. Or is that a total faux pas? It would be nice for the families to meet in a less formal environment before the wedding, but if people really want different things, should I try to make them mesh? ARgh.

Thanks for any input.

I don’t know that there’s a strict etiquette for rehearsal dinners. In my neck of the woods, the groom’s family usually hosts it, but that may not be the case everywhere. I think it’s nice to invite out-of-town guests if your budget will accomodate it, but it’s not necessary. We had a fairly low budget for our wedding, so we only invited our immediate family and those actually participating in the ceremony and did dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant. If your fiance’s parents are paying for it, it’s up to them to call the shots, with, of course, input from you. I do think it would be considerate of your future in-laws to host the rehearsal dinner at a place where your dad can find something to eat.

Are you only having best men, or are the poor bridesmaids and the maid of honor disinvited?

I’ve always felt the rehearsal dinner is just for the people at the rehearsal…bride, groom, parents, wedding party, and brothers and sisters of the bride and groom if not already part of the service. We didn’t even invite the bridal party to bring their dates/SO’s. The event where the out-of-town guests attend is called “the reception”. Unless they are staying at your home or the parents’ home, in which case it’s up to the hosts. And the host gets to pay for the food they prefer, though in my case I picked out the location, and I don’t recall my husband’s mom being able to attend…otherwise she would have known where the church was, and not gotten lost on the way to the wedding. Though maybe she drove up with the groomsmen.

The person who hosts the party, plans the party, although I agree with the idea that it would be nice to take your dad’s needs into account. It’s always been my understanding that the rehearsal dinner is for the people who attend the rehearsal, and probably their SO types. Likely immediate family, too. For my brother my parents did the restaurant thing, with the bride’s parents and the wedding party invited. I know I was there, even though I wasn’t in the wedding, but I don’t remember the bride’s brothers attending. Long time ago, though. For me, my parents hosted the wedding party people at their house for sloppy joes and that kind of stuff. My in-laws weren’t in a position to host anything, so Mom and Dad offered. But it wasn’t until I started hanging around here that I heard anything about inviting all the out-of-town guests. Kind of makes the reception a little redundant, seems to me. Not to mention putting an extra burden on the hosts.

And this might be a silly question, but if you aren’t having a rehearsal, why have the dinner? Isn’t it usually kind of a “reward” for the people giving their time at the rehearsal? You know, because it isn’t nice to ask people to come out and use up their time and effort without giving them something, or at least feeding them? :slight_smile:

Where I’m from, it’s traditional to invite out of town guests, presumably because otherwise they wouldn’t have anything to do in a strange city. You don’t have to, though.

It is common to invite out of town guests, especially the single ones. However, my wife is flying to a wedding in Florida next weekend for her best friend in college. My wife was specifically told she can’t come to the rehearsal dinner but just because the people hosting it don’t have much money. We invited her to ours but I know she is being genuine so that is fine.

The rehearsal dinner is supposed to be fun and a reprieve from everything that is going on. A rather formal sit down dinner is uncalled for especially since there will probably be much of the same the next day. My parents rented out part of a restaurant that did lobster and clam bakes. We had a long cocktail our and then we just hung around and ate lobster. There were no speeches or formalities. We just got to hang around the people that we really wanted to regardless of where they fit in and it was great.

My little brother had a backyard barbecue for his and it was great as well. The whole point is to hang around with people you really want to be around and have a little relaxing. It should be like an un-wedding (if yours is traditional).

We had out of town family plus the wedding party and their significant others at ours. I think the pizza/wings/beer thing sounds a little tacky if it means that your dad can’t eat anything. To clarify that, if EVERYONE involved was into the whole pizza/wings/beer thing I wouldn’t see a problem with it. (Similarly, a Star Trek themed wedding would seem tacky to me if it was only the bride or only the groom who was a huge fan of Star Trek, but if everyone was really into it then it would be totally fitting.)

As far as who is invited that has a lot to do with budget and with how many out of town guests are coming.

I had a nice post about my past experience with rehearsal dinners, but my computer hates me tonight, so you don’t get it. Instead, you get a dose of advice intended to be helpful and practical but which may not be useful to you.
Such is life, especially as an advice giver.

What about having the separate sides gather separately early in the evening for Pizza and Wings on the one side, and A Nice Dinner on the other. Then, later, like 8 or 9 pm, collect both sides for a Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae or something, drinks optional. This gives you some of the best of both worlds.

I agree it’s not so common as to be “mandatory” but it’s not so uncommon that such a request is unreasonable. The fact that the future in-laws are resistant to not only the additional guests but even a restaurant I find a little discouraging. This is supposed to be a special night, not a Super Bowl party with the kinfolk. Wings & Beer are T-A-C-K-Y, and it speaks more to their own interests and not to the consideration of others in the party.

I was relieved to read this because it sums up my feelings exactly. The sort of disingenuous, “But everyone likes beer and pizza, right? That’s what we should do” idea would be OK for a weekend get-together, but for the first time his immediate family is meeting mine? It does feel a bit cheapskate-ish to me. Also, the place they want to have it is their regular hang-out, an hour away from where we live. That would mean my dad would have to drive 5 hours, get here, then get back in the car for a 2-hour round trip to hang out in a bar. To be served food he can’t eat.

I don’t want a fancy deal either, believe me. Just a place where everyone can sit down and have a real dinner. Is it weird for the in-laws to expect my dad to pay for his guests? He is paying for the wedding 100%.

This is turning into exactly the sort of thing I don’t want to deal with.

Then don’t. It is your wedding, do what you want. Of course, that might mean paying for it yourself, but if you’re OK with that then do what you want to do.

I pissed of plenty of relatives at my wedding when I said “nope, I don’t care that it’s tradition, here’s what we’re doing.” Some people got a little pissy, but they got over it, and everyone had a great time.

I’m suddenly getting flashbacks to my sister’s rehearsal dinner. Her in-laws put up a lot of stink about paying for it despite the fact that they weren’t contributing anything (time or money) to help with the wedding. Eventually, my dad just decided to say screw-it and he threw the dinner himself. We had it at a local restaurant and invited all of the people who were in the wedding party plus significant others. I can’t recall if there were any guests in from out of town, but I think there may have been a few who came to the rehearsal dinner. It would have been close family friends though, like my sister’s godmother and whatnot.

I don’t have any practical advice, but I wish you luck.

Rubystreak, can your fiance talk to his parents about it? Say something like, “Mom and Dad, thanks so much for offering to host this, but we’d really prefer to have it somewhere convenient for all of the guests.” I.e., not an hour away from you and where your dad can eat. Like Athena said, you might have to pay for the alternative yourself, but it sounds like it might be worth it.

This is the first time they’re meeting each other? Wow. I’m going to give your FIL (future in-laws) the benefit of the doubt and consider them uncouth rather than selfish and inconsiderate, but the impression it leaves is about the same either way.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to set a couple ground rules: (1) equidistance and equal convenience for both families, (2) sit-down restaurant, nothing necessarily fancy, (3) 1 & 2 are deal breakers.

Your fiance needs to be your ally in this, and if he is in any way sympathetic to their cause more than yours (are there any “pros” to their side of things in this situation? Financial hardship, maybe?), it might be better for you to scuttle the whole RD enterprise. Let each family do their own thing, and if FIL want to know why, just reiterate the Special Day/Equal Convenience reason and leave it at that.

A great solution is Chinese Food. Most people like it. Lots of selection. BBQ is available. Condusive to sharing. Not particularly expensive. And most Chinese restaurants are fine with accomodating large parties.

It sounds like the additional guest thing is a non-starter (it seems like you have enough of an uphill climb already), though if there’s someone in particular from out-of-town who needs the attention, I’d say bring them along and just foot their bill yourself.

More than anything, you should find a solution that creates the least anxiety for you. If it becomes too complicated creating some sort of compromise with the FIL, or if you end up arguing point after point with them on the details, you shouldn’t feel bad about simply washing your hands of it. Let them have finger foods at Duffy’s. You go out with your folks and bridesmaids and those guests from out-of-town (and hopefully your fiance will join you) and have a blast. That’s what the night before should be all about, and if you’re going to have more fun without the FIL than with them, then it’s their loss.

I agree, and it’s probably going to leave a bad impression on my dad of cheapness and inconsideration on their part. Bad enough his mom has invited everyone she’s ever met in her life (I am not kidding: her sister’s ex-husband’s sister is invited, who my fiance has never met) but they aren’t paying for any of the wedding. To me, it doesn’t look very nice.

My fiance sees nothing wrong with beer and pizza, but I think it’s knee-jerk defending his parents’ lack of couth, because he knows the extra driving and the food choices are unreasonable for my dad. Scuttling it has definitely crossed my mind. They are claiming financial hardship, but his mom offered months ago to, in her words “pay for the rehearsal dinner.” It must have been a massive miscommunication if our ideas of what that is are so far apart. The main reason for not canceling it is that I wanted them to meet for the first time in a lower presssure situation than the actual wedding. It would also be nice if everyone could make a good first impression. I accept that I might not get that.

That is possible. We were also thinking of an outdoor barbecue at our house. That would be cheaper and lots of people could come. I just hope the clean-up isn’t too much.

Again, I think you’re right on. That is probably what I will offer.

It’s a wedding party of 2-- the two best men and their SO’s. We have one sibling each. Thing is, at least 5, maybe 7-8 of my relatives/close family friends are coming in from out of town, and my dad thinks they should get to eat with us. I am going to try to convince him to have them come in the day of the wedding b/c it’s at 6:30pm. That would make my case for a sit-down dinner better because it would be much smaller.

My parents ended up paying for my cousin’s rehearsal dinner, because the goom’s parents “don’t do weddings”. My dad just quietly stepped up and offered as “We wanted to do something nice for you, and we haven’t been able to make it up here for the showers and alll…” We had a nice (I mean, not super-super fancy, but tablecloths) dinner at a neighborhood restaurant up there, and all the out of town guests were invited. (Considering we were out of town guests and we paid for it, you know.) It was nice but low-key - no speeches, although my dad gave a brief toast. Low pressure. The groom’s parents, who “don’t do weddings?” Yeah, when we left the reception the next day they were still there, drinking the open bar to the ground and dancing the night away. Now that is tacky.

My parents have some faults, but they’re all class, I gotta say.

I honestly don’t envy your situation. My wife and I paid for our wedding ourselves, so we made all the rules. Putting a limit on guests (especially strangers) was one of them. That horse has left the barn for you, so I have my sympathies.

Yeah, it seems like the one thing you hope to get out of this event is becoming increasingly less likely to happen, what with the tension around the circumstances of its planning, location, etc.

If you have the time/resources, maybe you should simply reschedule a post-wedding brunch the day after instead. Since the families aren’t likely to interact that much on the wedding day (would they really? I imagine they’ll be socializing with their own clans), post-wedding informalities might be a good way for them to get to know each other better now that the Big Day is behind everyone.

No no no no no! It may sound easier on the face of it, but I suspect you and your folks will be holding the bag for clean-up, and that’s just one more thing you shouldn’t have to worry about the night before.

I think relatives are a no-brainer. No way should they not be excluded from the RD. If the RD attendee list is so small (and it sounds like your wedding guest list is dramatically longer), then you have more of a case for the close family friends (especially if they have nicknames like “Aunt” so-&-so or “Godmother” or something).

Wow, I’m sorry you have to deal with this. :frowning: Hopefully, some of the more muddled or stubborn parties will see the light. Congrats on the nuptials ( :slight_smile: ) and best of luck resolving this so everyone’s happy and nobody’s feelings get bruised.

I did the cookout thing and overall, it worked out pretty well.

The cookout was at a nice public park, I had reserved a picnic area.

The wedding was at the brides parents, which was not near where I and bride lived, or near any of my family.

In addition to the wedding party my family came to the cookout and her family and a few of her out of town relations that were coming. We did that because the bride probably wouldn’t get to spend much time them the next day. Except for the behavior of certain quests, everything went well.

Just talked to my dad. He said to pick an Italian restaurant near me. If the FILs don’t want to pay, he’ll cover it. I hope they will at least step up to pay half, since they volunteered. Aggravatingly, the guest list for this is around 25 people, so I bet my dad will have to chip in. He says he doesn’t mind, but I kinda do. They are claiming poverty, but his mother e-mails me at least once a month about how much money she made gambling. :rolleyes:

I hope my BF will be able to tell his parents about this diplomatically. After all, my dad can’t eat the food, and my best man is vegan. I’m a vegetarian and lactose intolerant, and no one who drives 5 hours to get here should have to spend 2 more hours in a car. I’m afraid, though, that the reasons for vetoing the beer, pizza and wings are going to seem like they amount to snobbery. Which maybe it is-- I can’t see a bar for a rehearsal dinner.

The other thing that’s coming up now is having a breakfast also the day after the wedding. :confused: :smack: Another thing to plan. Grrr.

Pizza is great.
Wedding excess will not be forgiven in the future - your children will mock it fer sure.