Photo by Carrie Draghi Photography

So. You’re getting married. Congratulations! Now time to plan. You’ve made a list right? Hair, makeup, dress, shoes, bridesmaids (all 12 of them), groomsmen, venue, reception hall… but have you thought about your rehearsal dinner?

You know, that awkward time (maybe it’s just me…my aunt stood up and sang to us at ours. Which wouldn’t have been a problem…if she could sing. Hence the awkward.) when your family and your new family get together, eat, and start to get to know each other? Have you considered who should pay? Where it’s going to be held? If it’s a dinner or a brunch (totally acceptable, by the way)? Your budget?

Read more about rehearsal dinners and sample ideas after the cut!

Okay. Before you totally freak out (please breathe!), let’s take a good hard look at what exactly constitutes a rehearsal dinner. The whole point is for everyone to get a little more comfortable with each other and to honor you in a more intimate setting than may otherwise be provided at your huge reception.

Normally, rehearsal dinners happen after the, well, the rehearsal. Hence the name. But it’s becoming more and more appropriate to host a rehearsal brunch or buffet. Think of it as a test run for your reception with only those closest to you.

Now for etiquette. The problem? There really isn’t any. It could be just the two of you. Or you, your fiancé, and your parents… or just immediate families and spouses. It’s totally up to you, and whomever is holding the checkbook. Rehearsal dinners are traditionally paid for by the mother and father of the groom. If you’re shelling out the cash, invite whomsoever you wish. If they’re paying, you’ll need to discuss it with them.

Now that we’ve gone over the technical stuff…what do you do at a rehearsal dinner? And how can it be, dare I say, fun?

My favorite rehearsal dinner ever was my brother’s, and he invited everyone to his favorite bar, and we had cocktails, played pool, and had some awesome bar food (the chef was amazing, seriously.). For my rehearsal dinner, my father in law rented out a restaurant, and we invited everyone that was blood related. It was fun, but not nearly as intimate.

Whether you pick a unique venue (how about taking everyone swing dancing after dinner?), or have a small party at your home, remember that the point of the rehearsal dinner is to combine your families. So be sure that wherever you choose everyone will be able to mingle. Sit down dinners at small divided tables aren’t necessarily the best choice.

So which setting is right for you? That’s something you’ll need to ponder, but remember, the whole point of this is for your families to mingle and say hello. Try to pick a space that’s conducive to that. Long tables, rather than a bunch of small ones, a buffet, a bar, or get even more homey and invite everyone over for a BBQ.

Brea Gunn works with a wedding marketing company and shares success strategies for the wedding business.