Rehearsal Dinners: What they are and how they started

Rehearsal Dinners: What they are and how they started

Rehearsal dinners are by no means compulsory and, of course, are not the main event. However, I’m sure we can all agree that they are part of the fun of wedding celebrations. In fact, they set the tone for the beginning of the festivities.

The event commonly comes after a run-through of the wedding ceremony. While the rehearsal dinner is centred around fun, food, family and friends, it also serves some important purposes.

Often, the rehearsal dinner is the first time that all friends and family of both the bride and groom are under one roof. Many guests will be meeting for the first time. This is important as it allows all the guests and important attendees to get to know each other; it ensures that, on the special day, everyone is getting along and comfortably able to have fun with each other.

Another important function of the rehearsal dinner is the speeches. Most people prefer to keep the speeches on the wedding day to a minimum, with only the parents of the couple, the maid-of-honour and best-man saying a few words. Obviously, there are more people who might want to celebrate the happy couple with a word or two; maybe some friends, siblings, or other close family members. The rehearsal dinner is the time for all of these speeches. It allows for everyone to say what they want and feel as if they are a part of the wedding, without extending the duration of wedding speeches unecessarily.

But what is the origin of the rehearsal dinner, you ask?

Wedding historian Susan Waggoner notes that “Hundreds of years ago, attending a wedding could mean days of travel. The night before the event would find the tent, hut, castle, or manor house jammed to the rafters with friends, relatives, and emissaries, all of whom had to be fed.” Essentially, the tradition was created as a result of necessity. The couple would invite guests from far and wide and because traveling back then was not as easy as it is now, the visitors were often hungry on arrival.

After this, however, the tradition evolved to something a bit more fantastical. The rehearsal dinner, while still serving as a mass-feeding of arriving visitors, also became an opportunity to chase evil spitits away. It was believed that if attendees of the event were loud and rumbustious then evil spirits who wanted to ruin the couple’s chances of having a happy life together would be scared away. So, the idea was to gather all the guests for a dinner before the big day, and have everyone be as noisy as possible.

Today, the event remains useful in many ways and is sure to be a good idea.

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