"Inviting out-of-town guests—or, at the very least, those who have already come in town for the wedding—is optional." Some couples invite out-of-town visitors to the rehearsal dinner to express gratitude for their travel and time. Others prefer to keep the events separate to avoid competition between friends and family members.
If you decide to have a joint event with your rehearsal dinner, then yes, you should include out-of-town guests. It's a great opportunity for you to show your gratitude to them for coming on such short notice. They'll appreciate knowing what day and hour of the night it is so they can plan their travels accordingly.
The only caveat here is that if there are still seats available at the restaurant, you shouldn't send out invitations yet. You want everyone to be as comfortable as possible with no expectations. The last thing you want is someone showing up late or not at all because they received an invitation they couldn't get to quickly enough.
Overall, deciding how to structure your rehearsal dinner depends on the type of event you're having and the amount of time you have before the wedding. But whatever you do, don't forget about your out-of-town guests!
Out-of-Town Visitors It's a good gesture to extend a rehearsal dinner invitation to guests who are traveling for your wedding. Because they are investing time and money to celebrate you, incorporating them in your pre-wedding festivities is generally common. If you have close friends or family members living in other cities, towns, or states, you should extend an invitation no matter where they are located.
It's also acceptable to exclude people from your dinner party. For example, if you're having a small wedding and can't afford to feed everyone involved, you can send out invitations specifically saying that you cannot accommodate all requests for meals and allow those who want to reduce their meal cost to opt out.
The only person who shouldn't be invited to your rehearsal dinner is the one who doesn't know any better. Even if someone isn't going to attend the dinner, it's courteous to send them a reminder email about two weeks before the event so they have time to make other plans.
In addition to being polite, extending a rehearsal dinner invitation is also effective marketing because it shows that you are putting effort into planning your wedding and that you think of others outside of your hometown community. This will make potential visitors feel welcome and included which will help build up your guest list.
You don't want to be the center of attention at your own wedding. It's also totally fine to hold a smaller rehearsal dinner and then invite friends in town for drinks and/or dessert at another place, such as the hotel where everyone is staying or a local bar, following. This way you can enjoy your night without having to worry about doing formal seating arrangements or serving meals.
If you do choose to have a small dinner, here are some things to consider: What will we serve? You can either buy something pre-made or cook up a meal yourself. If you go with ready-made, think buffets or pasta dinners since this allows you to invite more people than if you were cooking individual dishes. If you decide to make your own dinner, focus on using seasonal ingredients and avoid heavy meats (since you won't be eating after the rehearsal dinner).
Who will pay for the dinner? If you're not sure who will be paying, it may be best to ask before you book a date. Some couples prefer not to take costs into consideration until they see how much money there is available, while others like to plan ahead of time so they know what to expect financially. If you do end up needing to ask someone to cover the bill, be sure to let them know well in advance so they have time to save up enough cash.