When most couples think of their wedding, they think of it as the most special day of their life. But often it is much more than just one day. From your welcome party to your rehearsal dinner to your brunch send-off, your wedding can be a weekend full of quality time celebrating with your closest friends and family.
There are many elements to a wedding weekend. Here, we are going to touch on the welcome party and rehearsal dinner. While sometimes used interchangeably, they are in fact two separate events with unique guest lists and purposes. Read on to discover the difference between a welcome party and rehearsal dinner and how to plan spectacular experiences for both.
What is a Welcome Party and Rehearsal Dinner?
While both a welcome party and rehearsal dinner extend the wedding celebrations to more than one day, they do vary in their purpose and guest list.
A welcome party is a pre-wedding event typically open to all wedding guests. This is a fun social gathering that kicks off the wedding weekend celebrations. While generally less formal and more low-key than a wedding reception, a welcome party does include toasts and the sharing of stories about the couple. For the couple, this celebration is really about soaking in the joy of having all of your favorite people around you.
A rehearsal dinner is a pre-wedding event that is invite-only and typically includes VIP guests, such as immediate family and the bridal party. Often, it precedes a welcome party, although some couples choose to hold distinct events on separate days. Similar to the welcome party, a rehearsal dinner includes heartfelt toasts and time for meaningful conversations.
Both the welcome party and rehearsal dinner are also great opportunities to incorporate cultural elements into the pre-wedding celebration. For Jewish couples, this may include a Shabbat dinner on Friday in lieu of a rehearsal dinner and the day before a Saturday welcome party. For Indian and Pakistani couples, this may be hosting a Sangeet celebration for all guests on the night before the wedding.
Planning Your Welcome Party and Rehearsal Dinner
When it comes to planning your wedding welcome party and rehearsal dinner, keep the differences mentioned above in mind. Then, follow these steps to plan the details for each event, or consider how to combine them for a shorter celebration.
1. Decide Who is Hosting the Events
Traditionally, the groom’s family is responsible for the welcome party and/or rehearsal dinner before the wedding. But with weekend-long wedding celebrations becoming more popular, it’s certainly not a faux pas to have both families split the cost and host all events together. With that said, always communicate with both sides of the family beforehand to set clear expectations for the budget of each event.
2. Take Time to Plan the Events
Unlike your wedding day which may be a more formal occasion, a welcome party is usually casual and relaxed. Being one of the first pre-wedding celebrations, your welcome party sets the tone for the weekend, so consider investing some creativity and budget into the evening. The same goes for your rehearsal dinner. Although a more intimate event, it is a unique time where your closest family and friends get to spend time with you and with each other, so it is worth making memorable.
3. Choose Your Guest List for Each Event
As mentioned, welcome parties are typically open to all while rehearsal dinners have a select guest list. However, there are no set rules on who you can and cannot invite to any event. With that said, it is a kind gesture to intentionally include “out of town” guests who are traveling to your wedding as a sign of gratitude.
If all of your wedding guests are invited to the welcome party, you can include the information on your wedding website or details insert in your invitation suite. However, if you’re planning a rehearsal dinner or event that includes only a subset of your guest list, be sure to include a separate invite and RSVP card so non-invited guests don’t feel excluded.
4. Decide What to Serve
What is a celebration without good food and drinks? Naturally, a rehearsal dinner includes dinner, and you can decide whether you want a sit-down dinner (either plated or family-style) or a buffet station. While there is no right or wrong answer, if you are planning your wedding during COVID, consider additional health and safety guidelines for serving food.
Since welcome parties are typically more casual, consider serving tray-passed appetizers or drinks and desserts set at stations, especially if it takes place on the same night as your rehearsal dinner. To make matters even more fun, include creative details like a “Signature Sips” cocktail, feature local cuisine on the menu for a destination wedding, or have a BBQ or taco food truck for a more interactive gathering. Doing so creates a unique and unforgettable guest experience.
5. Don’t Forgo the Details
As you can tell, welcome parties and rehearsal dinners are designed to be fun, enjoyable events for couples and their guests. Because actual wedding days can be more formal, use these pre-wedding celebrations to inject a little more personality into the details.
For example, coordinate your outfit to the style of your event. At HauteFêtes, we love to provide stylist referrals to our brides for all wedding weekend attire, including pre-wedding outfits that ensure your ensemble is picture-perfect at every event. And just like the wedding, you’ll want to make sure to incorporate decorative touches and florals that add to the ambiance, as well as an escort card station if you have a seated dinner or live music. Most importantly, don’t forget to rent microphones and speakers for the toasts since that is one of the main highlights of both a welcome party and rehearsal dinner.
6. Plan Your Exit Strategy
While it may be tempting to party into the wee hours of the night with your friends and family, remember the pre-wedding fête is just the beginning of a long weekend. Set an end time so you can gracefully exit and get a good night’s rest knowing more festivities will begin bright and early the next day. Your guests will also thank you, so they can be at their best for your big day, too.
Plan Your Welcome Party and Rehearsal Dinner with HauteFêtes
At HauteFêtes, we are known for our full-service wedding planning services. This includes all of the pre-wedding celebrations that turn your wedding day into a wedding weekend to remember. We ensure your journey to the aisle is fun, enjoyable, and an extension of your most special day. Let us design, plan, and produce a fun welcome party and intimate rehearsal dinner for your wedding.