The rehearsal dinner is a wonderful event. It’s the perfect way to learn more about your new family, reunite with dear friends, share your blossoming love with the world—oh, screw it. Who are we kidding. We tried.
Planning the rehearsal dinner will probably be a pain in the ass.
Yes, yes, there’s plenty of upside–good friends from out of town, great food, flattering toasts, honest-to-God fun with your fiancée…but you already know all that.
It should be fun. It should be a triumphant payoff for months of planning and slogging. Yet if you don’t take some preemptive measures and follow some key rules of etiquette, your rehearsal dinner could be absolute hell.
Here’s how you minimize that risk.
Will be hell if: It outshines the wedding.
Never show up the bride. Never show up the bride’s family. The rehearsal dinner can never, ever overshadow the wedding itself. If her parents are funding your reception at Woody’s Barbecue Pit, your parents—despite their preferences or generosity—simply cannot host a rehearsal dinner at a four-star restaurant like Nobu. Make this clear.
Will be hell if: You get pissed drunk.
Your most important job at the rehearsal dinner will be to stay sober. This won’t be easy. Most of the evening will be uncomfortable and stressful, so your first instinct, naturally, will be to lean on your oldest and most loyal friend, Alcohol.
Getting wasted is suicide. One: you will be hung over at your wedding. Two: You will act like an ass-clown in front of everyone you know. Three: This will be photographed and immortalized. Four: You will sabotage your relationship with your new in-laws, extending that misery for another several decades. Five: You will piss off your fiancée. Six: You will butcher your toast. Seven: You will forget to talk to the guests you only sorta like (the out-of-towners you grudgingly invited), which will leave them disappointed and rejected.
So pace yourself. Never have more than one drink an hour. Meticulously follow this guideline: drink one glass of water for every one glass of fun. Eat.
At the end of the night you will have one last temptation. After the “adults” have gone to bed and drifted off, your friends will linger at the bar, calling you, heckling you, begging you to join them for “one last drink.” How’s your stamina? Do you trust yourself? Here’s a hint: we don’t trust you. One drink will probably snowball into 13 drinks. If you are truly a man of iron discipline then fine, linger for another round or two. But remember…your next day will be a bitch and a half with a splitting migraine. One trick is to tell your best man earlier in the day that you must be gone from the bar at midnight, and that his job is to forcibly throw you out if you resist.
Will be hell if: You turn into the Invisible Man.
If your most important job is to stay sober, your second most important job is to schmooze. You need to shake hands, pump flesh, kiss ass. It’s a real goddamn treat. You need to be an ambassador. You need to introduce her uncle to your mother, your best man to her father, etc. Stay on your A-Game. For your introductions, try and identify your guests’ mutual areas of interests. Example: “Paul! Have you met Rick? You both enjoy midget-porn. Discuss!”
Will be hell if: Your toast sucks.
Don’t skip it. Don’t rush it. And don’t wing it. For the full gamut of toasting advice, click here.
Will be hell if: Your mother steamrolls your fiancée.
Since the rehearsal dinner is traditionally hosted by your parents, it’s likely that your mother will seize the reigns of planning. This could create tension with your fiancée.
Mom or Bride? How do you play this? Who do you side with?
Keep this in mind: your mother will always love you; your bride might not. Therefore you should always take sides with your fiancée. Make sure that her wishes are understood by your mom, that she has a voice in the planning, that mom’s not going to “surprise” you with a barbershop quartet.
Will be hell if: You screw up the invite list.
You’re in an awkward spot. Assuming that your parents are hosting this thing, they’ll have no clue who should be invited amongst your friends, the bride’s friends, and the bride’s family. Guess who’s the go-between? You’ll need to communicate requests and help prioritize.
This should be obvious, but a quickie reminder of who must be invited: the wedding party (and their plus-ones), the officiant (but only if they’re someone you’ve personally known for years; otherwise, save the money and let him dine by himself with God); and the not-too-distant family members. Oh. And don’t forget to invite Aunt Gertrude from Ohio. Maybe you hate her. Maybe she smells like feet. It doesn’t matter; out of town guests need to get invited. It’s an unwritten law, a custom, just like how visitors shouldn’t stay at your house for more than a week, you tip a waitress at least 15%, and that—in a rule that no longer affects you—if a first date includes both dinner and dessert, there’s a tacit understanding that there will be at least a little bit of tongue.