Finalizing the guest list for your wedding rehearsal dinner isn’t as easy as it may seem. Your wedding day is a special occasion, after all. It’s natural to want your loved ones to celebrate the big day, and all the wedding weekend events leading up to it, with you.
But many couples may feel pressured to determine who receives an invitation to the rehearsal dinner. Should you stick just to the wedding party and family members? What about inviting other relatives such as grandparents or godparents? Is it a good idea to extend out-of-town guests an invitation? What do you do if your wedding is a destination wedding, where everyone is technically an out-of-town guest? Should you just invite everyone who RSVP’d to the wedding and call it a night?
Keep calm and remember: Rehearsal dinners do not need every wedding day guest in attendance. Figuring out who to invite to the rehearsal dinner means you have to go back to the basics.
The Traditional Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Guest List
Traditionally speaking, who should attend the rehearsal dinner? According to The Emily Post Institute, the following individuals should be present:
- The bride
- The groom
- All wedding party attendants including the best man, maid of honor, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and their spouses and/or partners
- Parents of young attendants such as the ring bearer and flower girl
- The couple’s immediate family/close relatives
- The wedding officiant and his/her spouse
What about the traditional rules for inviting out-of-town guests? Emily Post notes that wedding travel is a growing trend. If you invite some travelers, but not all, to the rehearsal dinner, do so in a clear manner. For example, this may mean sticking strictly to rehearsal dinner invitations for out-of-town relatives, but not for friends.
Should Anyone Else Be Invited to the Rehearsal Dinner?
Many wedding planners agree with the guest list rules from Emily Post. In addition to those listed above, the following individuals should also receive a rehearsal dinner invitation.
Anyone With a Role in the Ceremony
Irene St. Onge, a New York City-based wedding planner behind Soirée Special Events, has overseen countless wedding rehearsal dinners. She advises anyone with a role in the ceremony, in any capacity, to be invited to the rehearsal. Beyond the bridal party, ring bearer, and flower girl, this includes:
- People bringing up gifts
Each individual should also receive a plus-one invitation out of courtesy.
Earlier, we mentioned the officiant should be invited to the rehearsal dinner, as well. St. Onge says not to be too disappointed if they decline the invitation.
“Depending on the relationship, the officiant doesn’t always take you up on it. Nonetheless, they should be invited as a gesture of thanks.”
Guests Not Required to Attend the Rehearsal Dinner
Planning the rehearsal dinner guest list is often prepared on a case-by-case basis, according to St. Onge. She uses the example that godparents are not required to attend the rehearsal dinner unless they play a major role in the wedding. The same goes for aunts and uncles.
Ultimately, the bride and groom will make the personal decision of who to invite to the rehearsal dinner, beyond the bridal party. When in doubt, try to be consistent with your invitations. For instance, don’t invite the groom’s godparents without extending an invitation to the bride’s. The same rules apply for aunts and uncles.
Etiquette for Plus One Invitations
Kate Lerman, the owner and founder of Chicago Vintage Weddings, and her team plan dozens of luxury events each year, including weddings.
Lerman says that your invitation should indicate if you can bring a plus one to the rehearsal dinner. Members of the wedding party should receive a plus one, as should guests in committed relationships. It’s also a nice gesture to provide out-of-town guests traveling to a destination wedding with a plus one. They may not know many people at the rehearsal dinner, so having a plus one will allow them to feel more relaxed.
Should Out-of-Town Guests Receive Rehearsal Dinner Invitations?
There are two ways to define an out-of-town guest. They may be traveling either out of state or out of the country to a destination wedding. Or, an out-of-town guest may also be quite literally out of town and attending a wedding that is local to most of the wedding party, but not for the guest.
Kylie Kinnaman, a recent bride who was married on May 4th, 2019, says that a good rule of thumb for inviting out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner is the hotel rule.
“If a guest is staying at a hotel the night before the wedding, they should be invited to the rehearsal dinner. This implies that they likely traveled an hour or more to attend the event.”
Wedding and elopement photographer Karen Norian also agrees with Kinnaman. Norian, who works for Simply Eloped, has planned hundreds of budget-friendly elopements and intimate weddings across the United States.
“If guests are traveling to your wedding, it’s a thoughtful gesture to invite them to your rehearsal dinner,” Norian says. “For destination weddings where many friends and family are traveling for the big day, the guests who are arriving in time for your rehearsal dinner should be included.
Need Help Managing Your Guest List?
Let Joy assist you with managing the details for your big day! With just a few taps and clicks, Joy’s free guest list manager can help organize guests, assign plus ones, and allow guests to RSVP with electronic invites your website or app.
Heather Taylor is a contributor for Joy. Her bylines may be found with Advertising Week, Business Insider, Brit + Co, Fairygodboss, and more. Find her on Twitter @howveryheather.