The Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner is among the top "stress topics" during wedding planning.  Who do you invite?  Where do you host it?  How formal should it be?  Who pays? Who plans it?  How do we invite guests?  Let's end this mystery!  Top Tips from the VOWS desk below.  WHO DO YOU INVITE?

1)  Traditionally, it is anyone participating in your ceremony:  your immediate family; maids and men (including partners); flower girls, ring bearers and their parents; readers, candle-lighter, guest book/gift attendants and the officiant if you know him/her personally. This is etiquette you can fall back on if you want to keep it small.

2) Modern tradition now includes out-of-towners since they spend time and money to fly in to see you!  With some weddings being up to 90% out-of-town guests, you can see where this could be a pickle budget-wise.  It is possible to be all-inclusive without breaking the bank...see below.


Some ideas. Don't feel like you need to replicate your wedding.  Keep it casual. 

1) Fish House. A lake-side deck, fish & chips, burgers, and beer!  How could you go wrong? Duke's Chowder House (three locations at Alki Beach, Greenlake and Lake Union) is a fabulous option in the Seattle area. You can choose to host the entire meal with a couple entrée options and spring for the first round or cover the entire bill. Seattle classic Ivar's can also host groups. 

2)  Condo roof deck.  Who has one and can it be reserved?  (Don't forget a plan B if it rains.) Survey your friends and family. Usually they are large spaces with killer views. Bring in galvanized tubs-o-beverage and BBQ.  Tom Douglas for more dainty meat-eating or go with Dixie's for a more down-home, bib-wearing spread.

3) Pub or Brewery.  If you're looking for a cozy, welcoming space to get out the rain, a pub or brewery is your answer. Fireplaces, pints-a-flowing, and if you schedule on a night with live entertainment, even better!  You can host a buffet or heavy appetizers. Beverages on you for a set number of hours then let your guests party into the night while you head home for your beauty sleep. My favorites in the Seattle area are:  Fado, Kells, Redhook Brewery, Elysian, and Pyramid Alehouse.

4) Private room at a restaurant or winery.  With a smaller group or a bigger budget, these are options.  But remember to keep fun a priority and formality to a minimum.  Comfort food with an Italian menu is always a winner. I love Tulio's private "wine room" in downtown Seattle. Their fried gnocchi is to die for!  Also, check out Januik Winery's Cellar Room and catering in Woodinville.  It's worth the drive!  This romantic cellar room seats 26 at a 24-foot salvaged Western Red Cedar table surrounded by glass, oak barrels, and up-lighting that rotates color. Truly one of the coolest rooms in Seattle right now.  If you want to show off Pike's Market to your guests,  you can't go wrong with Cafe Campagne or Matt's in the Market .


Traditionally, the groom and his family are in charge of this celebration. Bride, this is the one time where you do need to keep your nose out of it, however...

Today, some couples are hosting it themselves or the more involved family is taking the reins. 

With today's economy and often sensitive family dynamics, the planner/payee may not be who is traditionally on point, but who makes the most sense. 


A separate rehearsal dinner invitation (with a card/email/phone RSVP) inserted into the wedding invitation envelope is ideal.  This gives the guest plenty of time to make arrangements to be in town early, etc. Make sure to communicate if they are expected to attend the ceremony rehearsal itself. 

If you can't get your act together that soon, a separate invitation works or if it's really last-minute, an Evite is just fine.  Happy planning!