How to Throw the Most Perfectly Paced Rehearsal Dinner Ever

Your rehearsal dinner sets the tone for the rest of the wedding weekend.

To ensure a perfectly executed event, Danielle Harrity, director of events at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, gave us her take on the ideal pacing for a seated dinner, plus take-home tips to keep things running smoothly.

5:00-6:00: The Rehearsal
Your event planner, your house of worship’s coordinator, or the officiant will run the show. Bring readings, your marriage license, and any props (unity candle, flower-girl basket, etc.). Invite only those involved in the ceremony to attend—more will slow things down.

6:00-6:30: Travel to the Venue
Unless you want to spend half the night driving, pick a location that’s within 30 minutes of the rehearsal site.

6:30-7:30: Cocktail Hour
Extend it to 90 minutes for more time to mingle. Drink lots of water, less champagne.

7:30: Guests Sit Down
Avoid uncomfortable run-ins (e.g., your mom and your new 25-year-old stepmother) by assigning tables. During a short welcome speech, point out the groups in the room (California cousins, Ole Miss frat pals), andthank whoever is hosting.


7:35-7:45 First Two Toasts
Whether your crowd is raucous and needs to be kept to a time limit, or shy and needs to be prodded to speak, asking a friend to emcee the toasts is a good idea to keep the evening on track.

7:45-8:45 Appetizer and Main Course
If you’re up for it, you can see more of your friends and family by switching tables with each course.

8:45 Dessert
Wait until everyone has dessert in front of them before starting a new round of speeches.

8:50-9:10 More Toasts
Conventional wisdom says to limit toasts to no more than five in a night. Rather have an open mic? Do it after dinner, when people are full and relaxed.

9:10-9:30: Coffee and Mingling
Make a point of saying hi to everyone before you go—yes, even Cousin Bernice.

9:30-9:45: Wrap-Up and Travel Time to the After Party
If you’re keeping the dinner small, an after-party is a great way to raise a glass with the rest of your wedding guests. On a budget? Invite everyone to an informal meet-up at your favorite bar.

9:45-11:30: After Party
You’ve got somewhere to be tomorrow, so be sure that you and the groom leave early.

—Lexi Dwyer

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