What to Wear to a Rehearsal Dinner | Cocktail Casual Attire for Guests

Rehearsal dinner dress guest

Updated by Sonia Su

If you're going to a rehearsal dinner as a wedding guest or you're getting married—congratulations! It’s a wonderful event in your life all about love, and let’s not forget: it’s about food and conversation too. That’s what the rehearsal dinner is about anyway, where you and your loved ones have a nice meal together and prepare for the rest of the wedding to come.

Whether that meal is something formal or something more relaxed is up to you, but it’s important to dress for the event with the right rehearsal dinner outfit. After all, it is an important wedding-related event. Here is the ultimate guide to learn how what to wear to a rehearsal dinner and make a statement.

 

What is a rehearsal dinner for?

As the name suggests, the rehearsal dinner is also known as the wedding rehearsal dinner so make sure you wear a snazzy rehearsal dinner outfit. It happens the night before the actual wedding with friends and family, and generally involves some kind of food even if it’s not a legitimate dinner.

The rehearsal dinner is meant to be a celebration of your upcoming marriage. You might not head over to your favorite local restaurant to have one anymore since these dinners are usually made into a huge part of the wedding, but it’s all about being with people you love.

rehearsal dinner table

For the most part, though, the rehearsal dinner is just a celebration without a dress code. You don’t need to dress like the wedding, and you can use this opportunity to enjoy time with each other while wearing what you feel good in.

Of course, since both of your families are having dinner, this is a great opportunity for your families to get to know each other and to mesh well. You’ll have a lot more quality time with your loved one too and can relieve some of that pre-wedding tension in a more relaxed environment, whether in cocktail attire, black tie, or semi-formal attire.

Wedding toast

 

What happens during this event?

Know that the rehearsal dinner is usually attended by the wedding party, your immediate family, and anyone who took part in the rehearsal of the wedding. This usually includes the officiant. You can invite anyone that you want though, including other wedding guests.

Many rehearsal dinners often include friends and extended family too, although the more people you have, the more you might want to have a smaller dinner with your wedding party and a larger party for everyone else.

Wedding toast

Your rehearsal dinner can be anything you want, from something more formal like black tie to a BBQ in your backyard. Whatever you do though, food is an integral part of any rehearsal dinner. Consider getting some catering and planning a menu, whether you’re looking for something more formal or not. During this event, everyone will eat and enjoy themselves and feel comfortable in a relaxed environment before the stress of the wedding.

You may also want to distribute gifts during the rehearsal dinner if you don’t plan on doing it on this special occasion. This is a great choice that allows you to have a more personal experience opening them if you’d like to open altogether.

toasting for rehearsal dinner

Don’t forget about the toasts either. Toasts are a key part of rehearsal dinners, usually done by the hosts of the event, but anyone can do a toast. Your families might want to toast you or toast each other. 

You and your future spouse may want to make a toast yourself as the happy couple, but either way, this can be a great opportunity to potentially lessen toasts during the actual wedding day. For those people that want to do a little roast too, the rehearsal dinner is the perfect opportunity.

You choose whether you want more a more formal or a more relaxed atmosphere with how you handle the invite list, the venue, the food, and the dress code. No matter what though, keep everyone on point, meaning: don’t get out of control. This dinner is about rehearsing for the wedding, so no one should be wasted or trashing the place.

Before everyone leaves, you can choose to hand out little gifts to your groomsmen or bridesmaids if you’d like so that you don’t need to carry all that around on your wedding day. 

Have fun with the rehearsal dinner though, and enjoy spending time with the people who love you and who are excited to see your wedding the next day.

 

What to Wear to a Rehearsal Dinner?

You know what you’re wearing on your big day—that’s been planned. But what in the world should your rehearsal dinner outfit be? Rehearsal dinner attire might not have even crossed your mind considering how many other things you need to plan and think about, so if you’re looking for ideas on what you want to wear, look no further.

 

Prepping for the Party

One of the best things you can do for your wedding rehearsal dinner is to do a little bit of preparation for it. Nothing major, but take a look at your closet. If you wear something that you already own, just try it on quickly and make sure that it fits nicely, that you still like it, and that you don’t need official rehearsal dinner attire. A classic dress shirt or midi dress will do, for example.

Dress shirts

If you’re buying something new, you can’t shop around for it the day before for this important event (unless as a last resort). Take a little time to find something you like, whether it's a classic cocktail dress or maxi dress—you can even wear jeans, if you want!

 

The Venue

Take a look at the venue to try and decide what rehearsal dinner outfit to wear. Whether at a country club or bowling alley, the venue is a good indicator of if you’re wearing black tie, semi-formal, or business casual. You may not need to try so hard to find the perfect option or cocktail attire, since there isn't a strict dress code. Here are some rehearsal dinner venue ideas to consider.

Either way, you’ll want to talk with your partner and with your parents and future in-laws about what you’re all wearing so that you coordinate well for the event—this applies to what to wear to a wedding.

 

Formal Dinner

You might plan a more formal rehearsal dinner, and if you do, that will affect what you wear. For instance, if you go to a venue that is a little more upscale with a more formal dress code, you won’t be able to dress casually—yes, nice ties should be worn! Bonus points if you wear tie clips.

 

Tie clips

 

The groom will need to slip on a suit or tux for this event, but make sure that you don’t wear your best suit. Your best suit should be saved for your wedding, after all. Try pairing your suit with a regular shirt, or adding in a little pop of style with some loafers or a colored dress shirt. Here are more dress shirt ideas for weddings and our latest dress shirts.

 

Blue dress shirt

 

Make sure to match your tie with your suit. For example, here are good options for a navy suit. To look sharp, match your dress socks with your dress shirt and suit and use a collar stay to increase the shelf life of your collared shirts.

 

Gray dress shirt

 

For a more formal event, the bride has a lot of opportunities to mix it up and does not wear white. Instead of wearing white, you have the opportunity to dress in a cute women’s tuxedo, or cocktail dress in a different color. Rehearsal dinner dresses can be anything you want, including a cocktail dress, maxi dress, or midi dress. It’s your rehearsal dinner, so you’ll have all eyes on you.

 

Informal Dinner

If you’re planning to wear something less formal instead, you don’t need to go all out with your attire or wear cocktail dresses. Just like dinner dates, you might be in a bowling alley or at a BBQ in your backyard, so think about dressing based on the theme rather than a specific dress code, or just giving yourselves a chance to relax before you’re all dolled up for the big day tomorrow.

For the groom, dress casually, but try to stand out a little bit. You’re the man of the hour, so even something as simple as a collared shirt will do. As long as you save the less formal t-shirt for another weekend, then you can't go wrong.

 

White dress shirt

 

Brides have a lot of options when it comes to a more casual dress, rather than wearing white. There are so many cute dresses that you can choose from, or you can pick a good pair of pants to out-bowl the rest of your guests.

 

As a Groomsmen/Bridesmaid

It's a good idea to talk with the groom and bride about the best choice for your rehearsal dinner outfit. If they don’t tell you, you can assume it’s a business-casual event, but it’s always best to just ask about the dress code before you dress up too much or too little by accident.

Wedding party

As long as you don’t dress in the same colors that you’ll be in for the wedding, you should mostly be fine.

This goes for all the other wedding guests invited to the rehearsal dinner as well. Steer clear of dressing nicer than the groom or the bride, and don’t wear anything that you’ll wear to the wedding the following day.

 

It’s A Party Dinner for a Good Time

Just know that no matter how you dress, whether formal or informal, it’s up to you to decide what it means to dress appropriately. You don’t need to dress any specific way, and don’t need to purchase a whole bunch of new clothing to make this happen. As a wedding guest, it’s about relaxing and enjoying the time with your loved ones, not about anxiously trying to choose the best look to match the wedding theme.

Whatever you do though, don’t go overboard. The rehearsal dinner is the day before the wedding, so you’ll want to be well-rested and looking awake and ready for those photographs in your wedding outfit.

That being said, don’t forget to enjoy the party either. Everything’s been taken care of, and now it’s about relaxing with your family and friends. For more ideas, here's what to wear to a wedding and summer wedding outfit ideas.

Rehearsal dinner

 

FAQs

What should a woman wear to a rehearsal dinner?

For formal rehearsal dinners (not black tie), men should wear dark suits and ties, while women should wear cocktail dresses or long gowns. A midi dress or maxi dress may also work. To semi-formal rehearsal dinners, men and women should wear jackets, suit pants (or slacks), and ties, while ladies should wear cocktail dresses, pantsuits, or elegant skirts and blouses.

Do you dress up for a wedding rehearsal?

Unless otherwise specified, expect that a wedding rehearsal is at the very least a business casual occasion. The least formal outfit you should wear is dress pants or khakis and a collared shirt (polo or button down). Women may wear a midi dress or maxi dress and nude heels.

Is it OK to wear black to a wedding rehearsal dinner?

It is perfectly acceptable to wear black to a rehearsal dinner. Due to the semi-formal or formal nature of the event, black is unquestionably appropriate. If in doubt, ask the bride about the dress code. This is entirely up to you whether or not you get your hair and makeup done for the rehearsal!

What groom wears to rehearsal dinner?

Grooms-to-be have a number of options for formal attire for the rehearsal dinner. A dark suit or tuxedo (navy, midnight, or black) is a good place to start. Think about selecting a look that isn't as "show-stopping" as your wedding look.

What should you not wear to a rehearsal dinner?

You are welcome to wear boots to a barn rehearsal or jeans to a BBQ, unless otherwise specified. Not your attire, but the couple, their family, and friends are the focus of the day. It is prohibited to include anything bright, distracting, brief, or exposing, regardless of the topic.