Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette Questions Answered by Birmingham Venue Owner

So, you are soon to be married. The perfect gown has been discovered, wedding ceremony is planned, the menu and entertainment has been set for the reception, now what?

Well, tradition demands a rehearsal dinner, also called the Groom’s Dinner. The rehearsal dinner is an American tradition that seems to have come about as a time when guests and family members from far and wide join together to get to know each other prior to the actual wedding.

Some questions couples ask are:

Who Gets Invited to the Rehearsal Dinner?

There are no real rules for the guest list other than that the entire wedding party and both immediate families are always invited. Beyond that, pretty much anything goes. Budget will dictate most guest lists. A more recent trend is for this dinner to become a pretty large event with long lost relatives and friends from far away getting onto the invitation list.

Who Pays For The Rehearsal Dinner?

It is customary that the groom’s side pays for this event. That means the parents or in many cases, especially for late marriages or second marriages, the groom will pay. Occasionally a family member or close relative will host the party. If asked by a relative, the bride and groom should always be aware of the costs involved and avoid financial hardship.

Is a Venue Needed?

Most rehearsal dinners are held at a restaurant or catering hall. Some are held at homes if a large enough house is available. Again, there are no rules. Some are held at a beach or even a park. Woodrow Hall has a second banquet hall that is perfect for rehearsal dinners. It can hold up to 100 people and if you have an outside caterer or relatives prepare the food, it is much less expensive than a restaurant … and it is private!

What About Invitations?

Invitations are a must and should not be sent inside the wedding invitation. They should be sent after the bride’s parents send the official wedding invitation. Some couples have moved to e-invites, but this is not the best etiquette!

Are Centerpieces and Decorations Needed?

This really depends upon the venue. Something small like a candle is typically fine. Most couples do not go to the expense of floral bouquets. Our two banquet halls are elegant enough that decorations are not needed! Also, Woodrow Hall will provide you with a selection of vases and candle holders if you hold your rehearsal dinner at our facility.

Are Children Supposed To Attend?

This is entirely up to you and the venue. If you are holding the event in a pub or other place with alcohol, some venues do not allow underage attendees. Also, remember that if this dinner is after 8 o’clock, most flower girls and ring bearers will need to be asleep.

Toasts? Roasts?

YES! The host of the dinner should give a toast to the couple and to the parents of the bride as well as anyone else who has contributed time or money for the wedding. This is also a time when roasts can occur! One absolute rule: keep it civil! No off color jokes or anything that would damage the sacredness of a wedding is permitted!


Favors are not required, but many couples will provide some small token to remember the event. There are thousands of ideas. Again, the budget is the limiting factor.

Finally, remember the groom’s dinner is a more intimate event than the actual wedding reception. It is typically a much more casual affair with casual clothes, lighter food and an early end so as to allow the bride and groom to obtain a good night rest prior to the most important day of their lives!

Woodrow Hall would be delighted to host your rehearsal dinner. In fact, if you hold your wedding and wedding reception at Woodrow Hall, we will give you a significant discount off the usual price of our second smaller banquet hall, The Magnolia Room. Call 205-243-4243 to set up a visit to this remarkable historic banquet facility just minutes from downtown Birmingham or the Airport!

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