Who is invited to the rehearsal dinner?

camlanDecember 30, 2004

Here's the situation: My cousin's 26 year old son is newly engaged and probably getting married in October. The bride and groom are living in South Carolina and are getting married in Charleston, where they live. The groom's mother is in Boston; the bride's family is from SC, but far enough away that they will have to stay in a hotel for the weekend of the wedding.

The groom's mother (my cousin) is ready to host the rehearsal dinner. She's divorced, her ex lives overseas becuase of his job and can't be counted on to attend the wedding, let alone help pay for the rehearsal dinner. My cousin has been informed by the bride's mother that is it "tradition" that all out of town guests be invitited to the rehearsal dinner.

When did this "tradition" start? Or is it a regional tradition? I've been to out of town weddings as recently as four years ago, and never even thought of being invitited to the rehearsal dinner. I thought the tradition was that the wedding party, immediate family of bride and groom and spouses were the guests.

Since everyone except the bride and groom and two members of the weddding party will be from out of town, my cousinis looking at a dinner for 200 people. There is no way of doing this cheaply by having the dinner in someone's backyard--the couple lives in a small apartment with no access to a yard. No way to do this potluck--everyone's from out of town. Basically, it would mean hiring a hall and having another reception. And this will be difficult to do from hundreds of miles away. The bottom line is that she can't afford a dinner for 200 people. She can afford the traditional wedding party, immediate family and spouses.

She's thinking of breaking this "tradition" and having just the wedding party, immediate family and spouses, but isn't sure how this will go over with the bride's family.

For the record, 60 years ago, the tradition was that the bride's family hosted the rehearsal dinner. The move to the groom's family was intended to relieve the bride's family of some of the financial burden of the wedding. When did it become some sort of second reception?

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It never did--I read a weddings magazine every issue, and it often says "this is a nice gesture" when talking about inviting the out-of-town guests.

Of course it's not going to go over well w/ that greedy MIL-to-be, but frankly that lady is going to be a pill sometime.

Your cousin should just simply say, "I'm sorry, but it won't be possible for me to host a large party." And just repeat that over and over and over.

And she can head off anybody's assumptions by promptly sending out packets that tell the out-of-towners where they might go to have their own dinners.

I suppose she could consider other options--if the couple's church has a fellowship hall, she might be able to borrow it for little to no money, and then hire a caterer to bring in buffet pasta or something.

I had everyone there (but it was only 30 people!), and we reserved a shelter house at a local park, and my brothers barbecued (if she saved on the venue, she might be able to find someone to bring inexpensive bulk food--even if it's pizza).

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 9:58AM
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At least here in the South, it is indeed traditional to invite all out-of-town guests, as well as local members of the bride or groom's families.

Like Talley Sue says, there are cheaper ways to do this. Charleston has lovely parks; why not have a simple Low Country Boil down at The Battery?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 12:23PM
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Talley Sue is absolutely right. It is thoughtful to include close family who have arrived early from out of town for the wedding, but it is not mandatory to invite them and certainly not expected that everyone from out of town be invited.

The groom's family are the hosts of the dinner, so they get to make the decison of who to invite and not invite to the dinner. IF the bride's mother wants to finance all of the extra guests, then she needs to offer to do so. Otherwise, she is a guest at the dinner and she has no in-put into the arrangements. The groom's mother, as the host, gets to make the decisions about who to invite and not invite. If the bride and groom want to visit with other out of towners before the wedding, they might meet them afterwards for dessert.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 12:26PM
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Inviting all of the SC guests to the rehearsal dinner would likely prove expensive and/or problematic for many of those guests anyway. These guests are most likely within 2 hours of Charleston. They likely want to drive out Saturday morning/afternoon for a Saturday evening wedding. They will then stay Saturday night in a hotel in Charleston, and go home Sunday. If they are invited to the rehearsal dinner, they must come to town on Friday evening, buy one more day at the hotel as well as meals. Under that type of arrangement, inviting them to the dinner actually makes life unnecessarily more difficult for them.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 4:42PM
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Under that type of arrangement, inviting them to the dinner actually makes life unnecessarily more difficult for them.

No one is being forced to attend. They can always decline the invitation. Sending the invitation is still the proper thing to do in the South.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 12:06PM
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Ahh, I see the difference. In the north an invitation to something not impossible to attend has a fair social pressure to attend. To disincline part of the invite (rehearsal dinner) but not all (wedding) would be considered impolite. Under that type of arrangement, to invite someone to something you reasonably expect to be probelmatic is considered unthinking.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 1:09PM
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Here in the South, people are gracious enough to accept that people may have obligations or other reasons not to attend an event. We certainly were not offended by anyone who was unable to attend the rehearsal dinner, but are glad our unavailable guests knew that we hoped they might be able to attend. So it is clearly a regional difference.

I think there are only a couple of events one cannot decline except in the most extreme circumstances: an invitation to the White House and an invitation to Buckingham Palace. In fact, one is never invited to the latter, but commanded to attend. (Of course, as an American, we can be churlish and refuse, but we'll miss out on some mighty fine vittles.)

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 11:08PM
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I have learned that the south approaches weddings far more elaborately than we did in the midwest and here in the west, which I am learning as DD is marrying a young man whose family is from the deep south. However, even Emily Post says that the rehearsal dinner is the wedding party, family, clergy and spouses, but MAY include all out of town guests as a nice gesture. We live close to the beach, and here the family often hosts a beach bbq-- paper plates and sodas (no liquor allowed on our state beaches), hot dogs, chips, potato salad, baked beans, cookies, etc. Lots of beach chairs and blankets. Very affordable. And they all have a wonderful time as they can relax and have fun--suits the young crowd to a Tee. A park would also do the trick, but talk to the city hall to see if you can reserve it exclusively for your party.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2005 at 3:43PM
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Yep, this is a regional differences thing (and maybe ethnic or other differences, too?)
I live in Ohio, and in our community all the out of towners are always included in all the events of the weekend, which usually includes a rehearsal dinner (or some sort of supper the night before the wedding) and often a brunch the morning after and a hospitality suite at the hotel over the weekend (usually friends or other local relatives host those). That is how it has been at all the weddings I have gone to in other cities, too. In fact, I remember a friend coming home from a wedding, I think in N.C., and reporting that he was just left on his own the night before while the family had some sort of dinner. We were all amazed -- we'd just never seen that happen, and it seemed very inhospitable and even rude to us. Note the reversal of the usual south-north geographical assumption here.

So I guess it comes down to what your group expects. If their expectations are different from yours, you can't send them all copies of Emily Post to "prove you're right." They will still think you ungracious if they do it the other way.

But that doesn't solve this problem. So many people, and it's hard to plan far away (although I will tell you I have often seen it done). But you said that your cousin may not even be able to attend her son's wedding at all, as she lives overseas. In that case, if I were her, I would explain exactly that to the bride's parents and tell them that although she would love to host everyone the night before the wedding, she simply can't under the circumstances.
By the way, I see nothing wrong with just pizzas or sandwiches and soda anyway. In fact, I like it when the supper the night before is casual. Less like two wedding receptions in a row. And you can feed 200 people pizza and soda for probably less than you can give 40 people a nice restaurant meal with liquor.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2005 at 1:16AM
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I would think that the two people who DO live in town would feel left out, if everyone else came to the dinner! :)

Even if it is a "tradition," it doesn't mean you have to do it. I've been an out-of-town guest at many Southern weddings and haven't always been invited to the rehearsal dinner, and my feelings weren't hurt. Especially when I wasn't really close to the bride or groom.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2005 at 2:49PM
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the groom's DAD is the one who lives overseas and probably won't be able to attend (the groom's mom is divorced from him)

I will say that for one cousin's wedding, our "packet" said, "the bridal party will be at this restaurant for the rehearsal dinner; if you would like to join us, let the hostess know, and she'll seat you at a table close to the room. However, there are other fine restaurants in the area; you might like to try them out."

The implication was, you can come be w/ us, but we're not paying for your meal. It didn't hurt my feelings at all--I didn't expect to be invited to the rehearsal dinner!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2005 at 3:02PM
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Thanks for all your responses. It seems that this is indeed a regional tradition, although no one would mind if they were invited.

However, things have changed. The current guest list is now at 350--all of the additional guests are the bride's guests. My cousin still has no idea how many people she and her son will be able to invite. A meal for 350 is probably completely out of my cousin's budget.

The MOB wants her only daughter to be married at a plantation. They have looked at one which costs $10,000 to rent the use of the grounds--tent, tables, chairs, food, servers, everything else is extra. Since this amount of money would cover an extravagant wedding in our family, my cousin is feeling a bit out of her league here. But the *bride* is not happy with spending this amount of money and is trying to talk her mother out of this.

The MOB has also informed my cousin that is it "customary" for the groom's family to take on two additional expenses, such as music, flowers or alcohol. Which two bills did my cousin want sent directly to her? With no say in how much these things might cost. My cousin now feels as if she is being held hostage for however much money the MOB can get out of her.

In addition, the groom has three half-siblings, children of his father and the second (now ex) wife. Neither parent will pay for the children (jr. high and high school age) to attend the wedding, but the groom would really like them to be there. So, although my cousin doesn't really know the kids, she has decided to pay plane fare and hotel for them, as part of her wedding present to her son.

And the bad news, my cousin has just found out that she will have to undergo a second round of chemo and raditation therapy in February. She will now need to find a wig to wear to the wedding, as she won't have much hair. With all of this, she needs to reduce the stress that the demands of the MOB are creating.

MOB is about to be introduced to one of our family's traditions. We don't go into debt for weddings.

My cousin has decided to do the following: pay for plane and hotel for half-siblings and the bridesmaid dress for the half-sister, as the bride has decided to include her in the wedding party. Pay for the rehearsal dinner for immediate family, wedding party and spouses/SOs thereof, but try to coordinate with MOB so that if MOB wishes, there can be a cocktail sort of party after the dinner to which the MOB can invite anyone she wants, at the MOB's expense. Determine how much money she can contribute to the rest of the wedding, tell the MOB of this amount, and make it clear that the MOB can spend this money any way she wants, but that is all there is.

Then she is going to concentrate on getting healthy for the wedding.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 10:10AM
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Here in the South, it is traditional for the groom or his family to pay for the alcohol, but I've never heard of this "two-out-of-three" rule. Of course, your cousin can buy cheap wine, right? No need for a full bar. If she pays the bill, she can choose the hooch.

$10,000 for the plantation? They must be looking at Drayton Hall or Middleton Place or one of the other truly landmark plantations. Can't they find a *smaller* plantation?

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 12:10PM
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your poor cousin!

Her course of action sounds sensible. And once she's clearly communicated this (perhaps in a nicely worded letter sent "return receipt requested" to MOB, groom, and bride? LOL! But seriously, she should put it in writing), she needs to cut off contact w/the MOB as much as possible.

Because she SURE doesn't need to spend her mental and physical energy trying to pick a wine that will not break her bank!

The groom and his wife-to-be need to point out to the MOB that the groom's beloved mother is fighting for her life, and shouldn't be stressed at this point.

And the poor bride! Her mom is gonna make her look like Bridezilla!

And it think it's really crummy for the bride's side to create a HUGE wedding and insist that the groom's side pay the alcohol bill for them all. It's one thing for the groom's side to pitch in, but neither side should be bankrupting the other.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 1:02PM
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In my area (Upstate NY) it's traditional to invite the wedding party, priest, parents of the bride and groom and spouses of those invited. It's not unheard of to invite some relatives from out of town but in my experience it's not that common.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 2:38PM
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I have heard of the tradition of the groom's family paying the bar bill, ALSO it it a tradition for the groom (or his family) to pay for his brides flowers -- but not those of the entire wedding party!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 6:49PM
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I've heard of the groom's buying the ladies' flowers--at the smallest, his bride's, her mom's, and his mom's. Sometimes the female attendants.

Not the tables, altar, etc.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 7:35PM
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As I understand it, groom buys ladies's flowers and the boudinierres for the grooms, not the table/altar flowers.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2005 at 9:24AM
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My bridal guide said it's traditional for the groom/groom's family to buy the corsages for the bride's attendants and both mother and for the bride/bride's family to buy them for his groomsmen/bestman and both fathers.

Altar and reception flowers etc came under the 'responsibility' of the bride's family.

My husband and I paid for our wedding with the exception of the reception which my parents gave us as a gift so it was all a moot point for us!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2005 at 3:04PM
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I agree with Tally Sue - your cousin can't win! I think she should tell her son, his fianee, and the fiancee's parents that she can afford to spend X dollars on the wedding and give them a check to use as they wish. Then, she should tell them that because of her cancer and upcoming treatments, she really won't be able to plan the rehearsal dinner or to provide any more money.

Honestly, I hope she doesn't let all these "traditions" and the pushy MOB intimade her into spending more than she can afford or doing more than she can do. Her priority has to be getting well.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2005 at 2:02AM
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It seems that its a no win situation. I have lots of out of town guests also, but we are fortunate that we can do a backyard BBQ. I agree with Talley Sue, if yyour cousin can rent or borrow a hall or a freind's backyard and do it there thas your best solution.
It is nice ot invite every out of town guest, but if you arel ooking at 200 ppl, that is not a reherlsa dinner, thats practically a second reception, so tell the MIL to bite teh bullet and accept the fact hat it will only be immediate family and wedding party...

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 4:30PM
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I don't know when it turned into an obligation to invite everybody and their dog to the rehearsal dinner either. It's not suppose to be a free for all that everybody shows up for. Not everyone can afford such a thing. The RD is an intimate time for immeditate families to get together with the bride and groom. Wedding party members, priest,rabbi,etc. and maybe the photographer if the B&G want professional pictures taken. That's all that need to be there. I feel for your poor cousin. Not wanting to disappoint, but not having the money or the health to do it. I would just tell her to forget about what others expect and to keep it small and intimate like it should be. The out of towners can get together on their own if they want to. This is NOT a reason to go into debt. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   January 17, 2005 at 8:04AM
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