The rehearsal dinner is a pre-wedding ceremony in North American tradition, usually held after the wedding rehearsal and the night before the wedding ceremony.
Who do you invite? According to tradition, only the immediate family and wedding party are invited to the rehearsal dinner. Basically, only the actual participants in the wedding.
However, there are out of town attendants, their dates or spouses, out of town guests, extended family and all kinds of significant people you want to include in your pre-wedding event. So, where do you draw line to keep your rehearsal dinner from being as big as the wedding?
If you want to have a less formal affair, plan a late afternoon supper, at a restaurant that is located close to where most of the out of town guests are staying and the wedding venue. To this event, you will invite only the wedding party and immediate family. After the early supper, you can invite others to join you for cocktails and mingling. Make sure to have a definite cut-off time to avoid accidental over-indulging. Come on, we all know there’s one in every crowd!
Consider a fun, festive restaurant for the smaller crowd, complete with a patio for expanding the fun outdoors in the summer months.
Some couples cut corners by having a larger party at a less expensive restaurant and others do the opposite; a smaller affair at a posh venue. The choice is up to you.
The fact is that most out of town guests will not expect to be invited if they are not a member of the wedding party. Most out of town guests will be happy to spend the evening before your wedding getting much needed rest from their travel and perhaps even unwind. And they will not be upset or offended by a lack of invitation to the rehearsal dinner of any kind at any venue!
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago