Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette, Sticky Situation from Previous Question

Updated on August 27, 2019
S.L. asks from Arvada, CO
19 answers

See my last question for more details on the continuing saga of my husband's niece and her fiance. Anyway, my dd was left out of the wedding party for her cousin's wedding but just today, we received an invitation to the rehearsal dinner....none of us are in the wedding. Hmmmm.. This is particularly awkward....the groom used to work for my husband and left in a huff (see previous post about this) and my DH's relationship has been strained with both of them since (we usually see them on holidays).
So I'm not trying to sound ungrateful for a nice invitation (sent by the groom's parents), but I really am just trying to figure out why they invited us. I feel bad for my daughter because she's not in the wedding (which is kind of a tradition for them to be in each other's weddings) and this rehearsal, although a nice gesture from the parents, may actually be rubbing salt in the wounds for her.
I guess we are going, but I'm mainly confused! It's almost like the grooms parents made a mistake - like they thought our dd was in the wedding...can't figure this out. Any perspective would be appreciated!

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So What Happened?

I'm really not stewing about this as many of you have suggested - I really hadn't thought much about all of this lately until we got an invitation to the rehearsal dinner. My dd is 16, she does feel a little bad about not being in the wedding...I feel bad because she does (honestly, I'm not one for big formal occasions.) Also, they post endlessly on social media about dress shopping, they had a weekend getaway for the bridal party...etc. etc. My dd sees all of this because she is connected to them on instagram, Facebook, etc.
But we really had pretty much dropped it until yesterday when we got the notice about the rehearsal dinner.
Yes, we plan to go, but I wanted to get other opinions on how these rehearsal dinners work nowadays. The last rehearsal dinner I went to was when my dd was in her other cousin's wedding...but it was only for the wedding party. But it sounds like these dinners are come one come helps to know that.

Featured Answers


answers from Santa Fe on

For my cousin's wedding I was invited to the rehearsal dinner and I was not in the wedding. I thought it's just kind of a big family get together. I didn't realize it was supposed to be only for the wedding party...I thought it was for wedding party and all family. Just think of it as a family party/dinner/get together.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

You really don’t have to try to analyze the people involved or their decisions. If you get an invitation, simply accept or decline it. Some people, probably myself included, do not know or follow what some consider “tradition.”

6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Houston on

Okay seriously enough.

Your daughter isn't in the bridal party. It's their choice and its your daughter's choice to still be upset. Honestly, its time for everyone to put their big girl pants on and move on.

Rehearsal Dinner... my son got married 2 years ago. We invited over 60 people to the dinner. We invited the wedding party and their plus on. We invited all family members and special guest who traveled from out of town, which was pretty much everyone we knew because they got married in Kentucky and we live in Texas.

FYI - with the cost of weddings/rehearsal dinners, I doubt very seriously that the groom's family is doing this to torment you or your daughter.

Go to the Rehearsal Dinner. Everyone have a good time. Free dinner and wine. Yum.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

wow, still chewing on this?

i'm heading out today to get decorations and supplies for my son, who's getting married on saturday. the rehearsal dinner is tomorrow.

used to be that only the wedding party was invited to the rehearsal dinner. sensible, but it's no longer the norm. like it or not, that's how it is. everyone who's invited to the wedding is usually invited to the rehearsal dinner.

in this case it's not too difficult, as this wedding is on the casual side, and the rehearsal 'dinner' after the rehearsal will be 'catered' by chipotle. big spread right there at the wedding venue.

when my older son got married a couple of years ago they had a big traditional wedding with a big rehearsal dinner. 200 people were invited, about 100 showed up. it was at a local restaurant, handled buffet style in a banquet room.

i hope your daughter isn't quite as hair-trigger and prone to keep anger at a low boil as you are. i hope you are all capable of accepting the invitation in the lovely spirit in which it's being extended.

if you're going to be stewing inwardly and bitter, decline.


8 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Sounds like they are inviting all extended family to the rehearsal dinner. If you think that it will be unpleasant for anyone in your family, politely decline.

I think you are reading way too much into this invitation.

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answers from Chicago on

Go and have a good time. If there was ever a time to take the high road, this would be it. The work relationship didn't work out, but that doesn't have to mean awkwardness forever.

You and your husband have the option to continue to be angry at the groom, or hope that he will learn and grow and be a good husband to your niece.

You can also choose to be angry on your daughter's behalf for being left out, or you can try some understanding that your niece probably just wanted to avoid the tension. A wedding is just one day, they have their whole lives to enjoy family and heal their relationship. You can model moving on for your daughter, or you can model holding onto resentment. Your choice.

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answers from Washington DC on


Will you be the adult and go or will you stay home and pout and continue the "feud"??

While "traditionally" the rehearsal dinner is for the wedding party - they have been known to include family as well. Instead of being negative about this? Be gracious. Accept and go. Be adults and let the past go.

As to your daughter? How old is she? Are YOU reminding her of this 'tradition' and how she was 'left out' or are you not going over it and just letting sleeping dogs lie?

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

At our wedding, my MIL just announced out of the blue that she was doing a rehearsal wine/cheese/buffet type thing for everyone at the church (everyone - family/friends/etc. had come to just hang out as pretty casual) so we all just headed back there. So my cousins etc. who were not part of the wedding party were there. There wasn't an official invitation - but all extended family came - even the ones who weren't at the church - but were out of town and at the hotel. I don't know if that helps, but I think the 'tradition' of it only being wedding party is not always the case these days.

That was decades ago - so it's probably even looser now.

It just sounds to me anyhow, like the bride and groom are not following your family's traditions to a T - and that's ok. They are doing their own thing. I would just go with it.

The part about the bride not asking your daughter to be a bridesmaid - I didn't ask my cousin to be one. She came from overseas and I didn't ask her. I only wanted my best friends to be in it. I have no idea if she was insulted. She never got married so I was never asked to hers.

I think you just have to realize that not everyone follows traditions - that's an expectation you're putting on someone else, that you don't really have a right to. When your daughter marries, she might not even want to follow tradition. She may want to, may not want to. It's really up to them.

My MIL got very caught up in traditions etc. and is still very hurt that we didn't do everything according to 'plan' - and still brings it up. She is hurt my family didn't do certain things she felt we ought to have. **She didn't communicate this until later - and took everything personally. That was her choice. No one set out to hurt her or anyone else.

I get you are upset - I think you feel embarrassed (?) your daughter wasn't included, or is it hurt (are they very close?). I can't tell.

As for this being confusing, and not knowing if it was a mistake, and not wanting to show up if it really is a small affair, why not just check with your brother or sister and see if they know - but be discreet and just say you're just checking. I think if I was really concerned, that's what I would do if it could be done casually.

ETA - I have heard of younger relatives being included in bridal parties as flower girls, etc.

I am not familiar with a 16 year old going to weekend getaways, dress shopping, etc. with bride and friends in their mid 20's (I take it)? (from previous questions).

You mention your daughter was included in another cousin's wedding, but did she really go on these kinds of excursions?

When I was 16, I was in my sister's wedding (just because there was that many groomsmen and I was required) - but I did not attend any of those festivities. Quite frankly, I would have felt awkward and out of place.

That's just my two cents' worth. I definitely had a bond with my sister (a relationship) but some of these excursions/outings are more fun done with your gal pals/peers than a teenager.

There is a period of time between flower girl and an appropriate adult age, where being asked to be a bridesmaid doesn't always work. That may be the case here. Just a thought.

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answers from Washington DC on

The rehearsal dinner is supposed to be for the wedding party, but many people invite the out of town family because they’ve come a long way and family usually wants to spend time with the bride and groom.
When my daughter got married, we wanted the out of town guests to be invited to the rehearsal dinner because our family is from out of town and we rarely get to see them. The groom’s family did not want that as all of their out of town guests were staying with them and they’d had enough of them by then. Needless to say, my daughter was a bit put out, but understood.
When my son got married, we told the bride we’d like to invite all out of town guests and any family or friends she and our son wanted to be there. It was a really fun and casual party with everyone there.
So, go, have fun, and enjoy the happy couple!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I don’t think you need to read into it or assume it was a mistake. I was recently a bridesmaid in a wedding with a huge rehearsal dinner (basically, the bride’s MIL threw her version of a wedding reception, lol). And I also think that is fairly common in the situation of destination weddings, to welcome the guests (I cannot remember whether the wedding you are discussing here is destination).

Just treat it in a straightforward way - either you want to RSVP yes or you want to RSVP no. I do not think you should let your mind wander down the path of overthinking it or wondering if it was “a mistake”.

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answers from Springfield on

In my family, it's tradition to always invite the siblings of the parents and their children to the rehearsal dinners. I attended the rehearsal dinner for 4 of my cousins without being in any of the weddings. It broke my heart that my MIL refused to allow me to invite my aunts, uncles and cousins to our rehearsal dinner. My parents offered to pay for the extra guests, but she refused!

I know you are hurt. I really do, because I'm still hurt. I've been married almost 14 years, and I'm still a little upset. But you have to let this go.

You were invited to a dinner with your family. Don't read into it. Go! Have fun! They are getting married and want you to be there for the celebration.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

ETA: I'm editing my answer now that I know your daughter is 16 and old enough to be aware of the traditions and aware of some of the personalities involved. The way you worded this and because I made an assumption that you were talking more about a flower girl, I had the impression that she was younger. Okay, so she's part of this on her own and not just by observing your reaction to the situation and your husband's problems with the fiancé. So I would not weight my answer more heavily on the "high road" and "do the right thing even when others around you are not" philosophy. Your daughter is learning, a few years before she goes off to college to deal with professors, administrators and a diverse student body, or before she goes into the working world of bosses and corporate policies, that not everyone you deal with and have to be around is nice. There are bad employers, there are bad customers/clients. So we need to find more neutral and unemotional ways to cope with situations we cannot avoid. I think that's what you work on. It's not always wise to focus on how someone "got shafted" and often we have to focus more on "Someone made a decision I don't like. Life lesson.

Original answer:
Years ago, the rehearsal dinner was for wedding participants. But in recent years (at least 10 in my experience), it's been a chance for out-of-town guests to be welcomed (since they've had the expense of traveling) and for family members to see each other. The bride's relatives and good friends meet the groom's relatives and good friends, and it's also a chance for people to get some of their chatting/catching up out of the way before they are seated together in the wedding and perhaps posing for pictures.

So that's all that might be involved. I think nursing this hurt over your daughter is silly, and I think it's terrible for HER if she's been told about this. You say this is "rubbing salt in the wound for her" which troubles me greatly. She's young and should be excluded from all the shenanigans. No one is required to have flower girls and ring bearers and junior bridesmaids and so on, so your family tradition may, in fact, have been a burden on many couples before this wedding.

There's an expression that says, "When they go low, we go high." You can accept, and hold your heads high, and be charming to all. That will have the effect of mitigating any rumors about you that you seem to feel probably exist. Let people meet the real you and your real husband. Be polite, make this evening about the other couple, and be exceedingly gracious to the groom's parents for including you. Maybe they know nothing of the prior drama. Maybe they're trying to heal it. And get a sitter for your daughter - kids don't attend adult dinners usually. Let her rest up for the big wedding day and save all her good behavior for then. Now, I've seen dinners where lots of people get up and make a toast to the couple, so you and your husband can work up a brief "we wish the happy couple all the love in the world" type of message, and practice delivering it in front of a mirror so you know if you are smiling or grimacing. I'm not saying this occasion will arise, but at least you'll be prepared for it. And you'll be in a more charitable frame of mind, which will be good the next day.

Or, you can decide you don't want any part of this, and you can decline gracefully, and you can play something at home (movie night? game night?) so you aren't stewing and getting all churned up about what's happening in a room where you're not present. If you don't think you can fake happiness and display great manners, then don't risk going. Don't say you can't get a sitter for your daughter, though - if the hosts invite her, you're stuck. Just say you cannot attend but look forward to seeing everyone at the main event.

But since you see them at holidays anyway and you could have 30 more years of this, as someone said below, it might be time to use this occasion to heal some old professional differences and move on. Your husband will be a better employer if he writes this one off, and you'll be a much happier person if you aren't steaming about this for years. I'm sure the guy is a total jerk - I'm not doubting you. I'm just saying that families marry into other families and we all have to deal with it. You'll be modeling outstanding character for your daughter too.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I’m changing my answer because I got your story mixed up with someone else’s, thinking that you all had been uninvited to the wedding. I should have gone back and read your post first.

RSVP and go according to the invitation. Keep your heads down, enjoy the evening (don’t drink much) and only say nice things, and punt answering anything that this POS groom would use against you. Change the subject or excuse yourselves to the bar or bathroom if you need to in order to get out of a conversation. Blend in. That’s all you want to do.

I will keep this part of my message, however. You and your daughter would be doing yourselves a kindness by unfollowing them on social media. They won’t know, and it’s not in your faces.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

I'm not big into weddings since most people I associate with are long past that and their kids aren't old enough yet. But, I do know that many people go overboard and have tons of showers, dinners, you name it. Maybe the parents just invite a lot of people - even if they aren't in the wedding. I'm guessing that they had to get your address from someone, so I don't think it's a mistake.

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answers from San Diego on

I had a small wedding so I was able to invite all the guest to the rehearsal dinner. I even invited the church organist. There are no rules to who can and cannot go to a rehearsal dinner.
It’s just a meal before the wedding.

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answers from Washington DC on

Do you know anyone else going to the rehearsal dinner that is not participating in the wedding? Your parents, etc? I guess just go and have a nice meal, let your daughter know that this has zero to do with her and leave early if you are not having a good time.

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answers from San Antonio on

You really have two answers and you know your family best.

One is go and have fun. Its a party and if for some weird reason not attached to being in the wedding itself. Go and enjoy being with family. No fuss, no drama, just dinner.

Or you decline, you aren't in the wedding party and so wouldn't feel comfortable at the dinner.

No matter what go and enjoy the wedding! She might be married to this "jerk" for the next 30+ years and at least you celebrated their union with them and didn't cause waves. I'm sorry your daughter was left out...that hurts. Hugs!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It's a rehearsal dinner for people who will be participating in the wedding.
If none of you are part of the wedding party is makes no sense for you to go to the rehearsal/dinner.
I'd call the parents (rsvp) and explain your confusion and then politely decline the invite.

It's not to punish anyone for none of you not being in the wedding party but simply decline because you have no purpose in being there.
You certainly don't want to discuss any of this at the rehearsal/dinner - so you are avoiding drama and being polite in declining.
In short - declining is doing everyone a favor - regardless if anyone else sees it that way.

My 30th anniversary is coming up in a few weeks.
I wasn't aware that the rehearsal dinner had morphed into more of a meet and mingle free for all.
Between wedding shower(s), rehearsal, wedding and reception not to mention other holidays during the normal course of a year - it would be a bit much for me to be gathering to see family this often but most people enjoy these things more than I do.
If you want to go then go - if you don't want to then don't.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

Okay, so I dove deep and read much of your backstory to get an idea of your daughter's age and family dynamic. For this event, just buy your daughter a couple of nice outfits, go to the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, be family and put this behind you. Your niece will be part of your family forever, this Tom dude probably won't make it 5 years. And send a nice gift, your daughter's graduation is around the corner.
Now, on to some major advice: stop stressing out so much about your daughter's feelings! She will get her feelings hurt, that is life. Start teaching her appropriate coping skills for handling hurt, rejection, fear. That is what parenting is about. It is SOOOOO hard, but this is the meat of parenting. I say this from experience and my daughters are now grown and gone and well adjusted after cheer drama, social media drama, party rejection drama, everything you have stressed about. Stress is a normal, perfectly reasonable reaction from a mother, but you must teach your daughter's how to cope successfully. You can do this! You sound like a very loving, attentive mother and I feel your intention is well placed. This could be a perfect time to rise above the awkward dynamic and show your daughter how a true lady deals with an uncomfortable situation. YOU GOT THIS!

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