The tradition of the rehearsal dinner seems to be something you don’t hear about as much anymore. I think, in part, it’s because budgets are tighter, or maybe because people don’t really understand the point of a rehearsal dinner. Well, it’s called the rehearsal dinner because it follows the ceremony rehearsal—when you and your attendants go through the motions at the church or hall to practice how your ceremony will play out, from the processional to the recessional. The accompanying dinner is the opportunity for two families, who may not have spent much time together leading up to the wedding, to finally sit down and get to know each other.
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These dinners are meant to be intimate and encourage conversation—not a place to have loud music or dancing. You want to create an environment where people feel comfortable with one another. I always tell my brides and grooms that the rehearsal dinner is also the ideal setting for those toasts from various family members and friends that too often get squeezed into the wedding reception timeline. If your Uncle Joe, Aunt Sally, cousin Rich, and long-lost cousin Mary want to say a few words, the rehearsal dinner is the place to do it. That way, you’re not constantly disrupting the celebration or taking precious time away from your wedding.
That being said, you also don’t want to turn a three-hour dinner into three hours of speeches. Toast guidelines still apply. Each person needs to be aware that they should talk for no more than two minutes. And this is no open mic at a karaoke bar… you’ll need to know ahead of time who is speaking and in what order. Someone other than the bride or groom (for example, the best man or maid of honor) should be in charge of politely informing people when it’s their turn to speak -- and politely thank those whose time is up.
Overall, the rehearsal dinner should be casual, celebratory and, most importantly, an opportunity for members of the bride and grooms' families to break the ice.
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