Compared to the time and effort that goes into planning your wedding reception, the rehearsal dinner is a relatively low key affair—think of it as an intimate, pre-celebration to officially kick off wedding festivities. The rehearsal dinner also serves as a relaxed meet and greet for all of your wedding VIPs that you both know and love so dearly, but who might not have previously had a chance to properly get to know each other, including your parents, siblings, other key family members, guests who have traveled especially far to be there and the entire bridal party.
And, yes, you can expect rehearsal dinner toasts. But how much time should you allocate, when should they happen and who should have the mic first? Our wedding etiquette experts weigh in.
How are rehearsal dinner toasts different from wedding reception speeches?
Toasts are often the most memorable part of the rehearsal dinner, and unlike at the wedding reception—where speeches by the best man, maid of honor and, traditionally, the father of the bride are planned for in advance—rehearsal dinner toasts tend to be less structured and more spontaneous. Since the setting is more casual and intimate, other guests present are also welcome to have a few moments with the mic and share favorite memories, along with their well wishes.
Who should toast first?
To ensure a smooth round of toasts at the rehearsal dinner, follow these simple guidelines:
- If the groom's parents are hosting the rehearsal dinner—which is what traditional wedding etiquette dictates, although by no means is this a hard and fast rule—the groom's father might start off by welcoming all the guests and offering a toast to the happy couple as guests sit down for the meal or during the meal at some point. (In advance of the arrival of the main course, during the main course or between the main course and dessert are all appropriate options.)
- Traditionally, this toast is met by a return toast from the father of the bride, who thanks the groom's family for hosting the rehearsal dinner and also welcomes all of the guests present. Whomever speaks on behalf of the bride's family with a welcoming toast should feel free to share a heartfelt or humorous story or memory, of course! And mothers and grandparents are always welcome to share a few words, too, if so inclined.
- Next up: the best man. While he's also expected to give a wedding reception speech the following day, his (or her, as the case may be) rehearsal dinner toast will probably tend to skew in a humorous direction—a mini roast of sorts. It's a much more intimate gathering and everyone's in a celebratory mood.
- One major difference between wedding reception speeches and rehearsal dinner toasts is that, following key players, the mic is open to any other guests present (as well as other members of the bridal party!) who may have a few words of wisdom or loving memories to share.
Keep in mind that rehearsal-dinner toasts can be a bit longer and more humorous than at the wedding, so definitely invite toasters to share their favorite memories, stories and marriage advice, too!
As the rehearsal dinner toasts wrap up, be prepared to rise from your seats and thank all of those who have toasted you. This also traditionally the time to present gifts to your parents and members of your wedding party—especially if the gifts are items you'd like them to wear during the wedding day—and to thank everyone for their love, guidance and support.
Cheers to that!