To invite or not to invite?

It's hard enough figuring out who you're going to invite to your wedding. So when it comes to the rehearsal dinner, which is typically a smaller, more intimate event, who makes the cut?

“We let couples know that they need to invite those [who] are required to go to the rehearsal to the rehearsal dinner,” says Jamie Rapavy, wedding specialist for Columbus Bride & Groom. “You definitely need to start there.”

Rapavy explains that this usually includes the bride and groom, their parents and grandparents, anybody in the bridal party and those who might read or usher during the ceremony. It's nice—though certainly not required—to include plus-ones for these individuals as well.

But what about the etiquette that you should invite all out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner?

“That's very difficult for most people to do,” says Rapavy. “If finances are hard, or if traditionally the groom's parents are paying and they can't afford it, you stick to the standard group.”

Morgan and Peter Martin, who wed on June 26, 2016, had about 50 guests in attendance at their rehearsal dinner. A large contingency of out-of-town guests was the driving force to keep the dinner to just those involved in the wedding.

“We didn't invite everyone that was out of town, because most of Peter's family are out of town,” says Morgan. “Some are from Minnesota, some from Cleveland; that would have been a lot of people. We did have a cookout the night before the rehearsal for the out-of-town guests.”

Another trend is the rehearsal dinner “after-party,” where couples extend the celebration past dinner and include those who may have come from both near and far for their nuptials.

Lauren and Blair Suter, who married on Dec. 31, 2016, had a rehearsal dinner for about 25 people at Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus. Since they, too, had a large number of out-of-town guests, a post-rehearsal soirée was the perfect plan.

“We had the rehearsal dinner room from 6 to 8 p.m., and then from 8 to 10:30 or 11 p.m. we rented out the whole back of the restaurant and called it the ‘welcome party,'” says Lauren. “It was a debate with the dinner, because we had a lot of close family like aunts and uncles we're close to, so with this everyone could come and enjoy.”

“Etiquette can only go so far,” says Rapavy, in regards to the tradition of inviting more than those immediately involved in the wedding. “Some people use it; some people don't. Unless you're going to have that private little dinner, then [those required to go to the rehearsal] is the typical place to start.”