Wedding planning comes with plenty of checklists, meetings, tastings and decisions to make. But one of the most important decisions a couple may have to make is whether they’ll have a rehearsal dinner or not and how to plan that part of the wedding festivities.

The wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner are optional and often depend on the size and structure of the wedding. But if time allows, they can certainly be a helpful step in making sure everything is in place for the big day.

The wedding rehearsal and dinner serve as a celebratory kickoff for the wedding weekend, but also give you time to get a little bit of work out of the way, because the more you can plan ahead, rehearse and finalize before your wedding day, the smoother it will go. “So many things go on - on the day of the wedding,” said Mallory Huibregtse, owner of Breathtaking Weddings Event Planning in Yakima. “It’s important that people know what they’re doing, and you don’t want to add another thing to do the day-of.”

The wedding rehearsal generally starts off with the couple, the wedding party, the officiant and any other party involved in the wedding ceremony, such as ushers or readers, doing a run-through at the venue. The group will do a full mock ceremony, allowing everyone to learn where they should be at certain times and to get comfortable in their roles.

This is the time to make sure everyone walking down the aisle knows which order to do it in, where to line up and when to enter based on the musical selection. “This is a time to get all of the little things down like the music or when the couple should be facing each other, facing out or giving their bouquet away,” said Huibregtse. “It’s also a time to make sure that what is being said by the officiant is what was expected from the couple and that it’s approved.”

According to Huibregtse, the rehearsal also provides a great opportunity to go over the timeline for the next day, reiterating where the groomsmen need to be at certain times or when hair and makeup starts for the bridesmaids. “It’s a run through of the whole day and a chance to discuss little details,” she said. “Then, if people have last minute questions, they can be answered at that time.”

But once all of the rehearsing is done and the details are discussed, it’s time to add in a little bit of celebrating before the big day.

“The rehearsal dinner is a great way to host an intimate kickoff to the wedding,” said Huibregtse. “It’s also a nice time for family from out of town to get together and visit with who you maybe don’t see very often.”

Determining when and where to hold the rehearsal dinner will depend on the rehearsal venue, the food options on-site and the couple’s preferences. Some couples choose to host a rehearsal dinner that follows the same theme of the wedding, while others choose to host a completely different type of soiree. There is no right or wrong answer for planning the rehearsal dinner.

If your venue is available for you to do a run-through on-site, it’s preferred to get a real feel for the next day, but the venue may not offer food service to allow for dinner in the same spot. Instead, the rehearsal may be held in one location, while the group travels to meet the rest of the dinner party in another. “The majority of the time the rehearsal and dinner are at different places,” said Huibregtse. “Some couples may use their venue, while some do rehearsals in a friend or family member’s backyard, or they use a location like the Yakima Country Club or Apple Tree Golf Course if that’s not their wedding venue.”

The rehearsal dinner may serve as a formal gathering, welcoming everyone for a sit-down dinner. But depending on the bride and groom, it can be a bit more relaxed. According to Huibregtse, it’s become incredibly popular in the Yakima area for couples to host their rehearsal on someone’s property or in a backyard and then have a food truck come in to serve guests dinner, so everything can take place in one convenient spot.

The rehearsal dinner is a time for close friends and family to gather and to celebrate the day ahead. It can also serve as a great time for speeches, especially if there isn’t going to be enough time at the wedding reception for everyone to speak. There may be only a small window, and the rehearsal dinner allows everyone to say their piece in a more intimate setting without holding up the schedule for the next day.

“Overall I just tell people to make it fun. It doesn’t have to be just dinner,” said Huibregtse. “It can be a fun time to visit and play games and do speeches. I just always tell my groups to be sure they’re not up too late because they have a big day ahead of them.”

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