We are getting married in Mexico in January. Who do we have to the rehearsal dinner as everybody who is a relative is traveling to get there???
The rehearsal dinner is the groom's family's party, and the decision as to number of guests is theirs too. Originally, the rehearsal dinner included only the parents and those in the wedding, with their spouses. Nowadays, it is often a dinner to which the groom's family invites more relatives or maybe even all of the out of town guests who have already arrived. It is up to them as to how many they want to entertain, and where. Some rehearsal dinners are at lovely restuarants, while others are beach or backyard BBQs. It is part of the whole wedding weekend and helps get everyone acquainted before the BIG DAY, which is nice.
I think it's quite possible that with a destination wedding, there is a higher expectation of everybody being included in all events.
One option, though, could be to have the smallest possible short event just for the wedding party, and then a larger night-before-the-wedding dinner.
When I have coordinated destination weddings, we often have a small rehearsal dinner two days before the wedding even if the rehearsal isn't held that day. It is possible to have the rehearsal in the morning the day before the wedding rather than in the evening. That way, you take advantage of time when many of the guests have not yet arrived so you have more time to spend later in the day with the larger group. Then, the evening before the wedding we usually have a large casual dinner of some type for all of the guests. The rehearsal dinner is for just the wedding party, parents and siblings and may be a bit more upscale than the dinner the night before the wedding.
If everyone will already be there, I would invite them all.
I am part of a community that always invites all out of towners to the rehearsal dinner (or whatever the "night before" party is called) anyway, and I know that that is not true in every community.
But for a destination wedding? These guests have spent a lot of money and possibly used a good chunk of their vacation time to come to your wedding. To me, anyone who cares about you enough to do that is close enough to be the "inner circle" invited to the rehearsal dinner. It's not like they can stay home. What are they supposed to do instead? Arrange and pay for a restaurant dinner, then spend the rest of the evening sitting in their hotel rooms while you party? If I were one of your relatives, I would be stunned not to be invited to all the parties (and I would feel embarassed, as though the hosts never really expected or wanted me to accept the invitation).
I'm sorry if that sounds harsh. Obviously, you can do whatever you want. But remember, you cannot dictate how your guests will feel about it. Do you really want even one of your guests to be thinking, "They think it's okay for me to spend hundreds of dollars to come to Mexico, just so they could have a 'destination wedding,' but I'm not worth the price of supper to them?"
I think that it is perfectly fine to only invite certain people to a rehearsal dinner for destination weddings. Destination weddings are generally in fun locations, and the expectation is that guests will make a vacation out of it. Guests have to take some responsibility for making the most out of their trips and not sitting in their hotel rooms. It is not your responsibility to enterain all guests the entire time, though you may want to point them in some directions of recommended sites for meals, drinks, shopping, and entertainment for their stay. I think as long as your cut-off is justified then there is really no problem (if one uncle is invited then all aunts/uncles should be, etc). I have been to several destination weddings where I have not gone to the rehearsal dinner, and I don't see anything wrong with that. In fact, I am sometimes happy to have the down time to explore what the area has to offer rather than being booked the entire time. Guests can't expect you to throw two weddings, which in essence would be what you would be doing by inviting everyone, especially if your rehearsal dinner is formal, as mine is.
Wedding etiquette says that out-of-town guests have to be invited to your rehearsal dinner in addition to your wedding party and immediate family. So if you're having a destination wedding, well, everyone is an out-of-towner unfortunately...
If you feel that's too pricey, here's what I would do:
1. Plan a cheap dinner. Do pizza delivery by the pool. Everyone can come and everyone will have fun.
2. Have a smaller rehearsal dinner, but plan a gathering for the other guests who aren't invited. Think board games, beach olympics, sightseeing tour... That way even though they can't come to the rehearsal dinner, they'll still appreciate your thoughtfulness.