By now, you’re well aware that planning a wedding isn’t for the faint at heart. Come to think of it, the entire process from the engagement until you’re ready to walk down the aisle can take a lot out of you. And today, more and more happy couples are taking on an additional wedding “event,” so to speak—a rehearsal party.

Whether you plan a small dinner for immediate family and bridal party members, or go “all out” and invite the entire wedding guest list for a wedding pre-party, rehearsal dinners are a big deal for some couples.

If you think you want to throw a rehearsal dinner party event, plan ahead. Here’s how to make the most of your rehearsal dinner party.

Consider the Budget

Determine who is paying for the event. In some cases, especially if the bride’s family is footing a good portion of the wedding day costs, the groom’s family covers some of the rehearsal party costs. If this sounds like your situation, remember to get a set price or budget ahead of time. A good way to handle this is to ask those paying for the event to hammer down the details, that way, they are in control of the expenses.

Some couples choose to throw the rehearsal themselves. Again, be clear with the budget. If you only have a thousand or less to spend, consider an intimate dinner with friends.  Bigger budgets could mean more invitees or a better venue.

As in all wedding planning, rehearsal dinner budgets really do matter.

Create Strict Guest List Parameters

It’s easy to worry when it comes time to create a guest list. Who knows what will happen if you invite your Great Aunt Sally but not your Grandpa Joe? If you know that someone is just bound to be offended by their lack of invite, then create strict guest list parameters.

Rehearsal parties that include more than the bridal party need a clear line of division. Consider one or more of these:

  • Bridal party + Immediate family
  • Bridal party + Out of town guests
  • Bridal party + Adults only
  • All wedding guests

Find a Venue

Choosing a rehearsal party venue is a ton of fun, regardless of the crowd size you’re trying to handle. Try to find a location that really speaks to who you are as a couple. I’ve seen rehearsal parties just about everywhere. Check out these venue suggestions to see if one fits your relationship personality:

  • Microbrew-lovers: Brewery
  • Vinos: Vineyard
  • Couples that love to travel and explore new places: An ethnic restaurant
  • Dance-fanatics: A dance club or reception hall

Rehearsal Party Pro-Tips

  • Hire a Photographer: Especially if you’re getting everyone together, consider talking to your wedding photographer about capturing some images from the rehearsal party.  It’s a great way for everyone to get comfortable around the camera and for your photographer to feel out the crowd before the “main event.”
  • Make it Easy on Yourself: You have enough going on, the last thing you want to to be the one actually throwing the party. If you find yourself agreeing to prepare food, bake a pie, or act as bartender, take a BIG step back and remember that your wedding weekend is all about you. Take it easy!
  • Don’t Fixate on Details: Ignore the urge to make or even order decorations. Instead, save all these details for your wedding.

Rehearsal parties can be loads of fun, but they shouldn’t add more to your already full plate. Instead of worrying about the ins and outs of your rehearsal, ask a friend or family member to help with the planning and event preparations.

After you factor in your budget, create a guest list, and find a venue that fits your budget and your crowd. After all’s said and done, a rehearsal party is just the first event in what is likely to be a whirlwind weekend for you and your new spouse.