The rehearsal dinner is an optional wedding event. Before World War II, it was uncommon, and the "tradition" of having the groom's parents act as hosts is even more recent. If a groom’s parents wish to skip it entirely, they would be committing no error.
Disagreements over the nature of the rehearsal dinner usually center around two topics: how lavish the dinner is, and who is invited.
The rehearsal dinner can be as lavish or as casual as the hosts wish, as long as it is not more formal than the wedding reception. If the hosts' budget is limited - or if they simply don't enjoy large, formal parties - this celebration may be as simple as offering a few hors d'oeuvres and a glass of wine. A backyard barbecue or a simple dinner at a casual restaurant are also appropriate.
While the hosts set the tone of the dinner, they have only partial control over the guest list. There are two sets of potential guests: those who must be invited, and those who may be invited.
The guests who must be invited are:
◾The bride and groom
◾The parents of the bride and groom (or, in complicated cases involving divorces, the parents who are actively involved in the wedding, along with their current spouses)
◾The wedding party, with their spouses or serious significant others
◾The officiant and his/her spouse
◾Other active participants in the rehearsal, such as a church organist
Other guests may be invited, at the discretion of the hosts. Sisters, brothers, grandparents, and other relatives of the bride and groom will probably be invited. Some families choose to invite all guests who came from out of town, but this is not required-in some cases, it would mean a rehearsal dinner as large as the reception!
Selecting a site
Some choose to hold rehearsal dinners at their house, however, given the timing, this can add a great deal of stress to an already busy time. However, it enable guests to mingle more freely and casually, usually for less money.
Many choose to hold the rehearsal dinner at a local restaurant. Common sense will dictate how to find the best one. You likely know of your favorite restaurants in the area or can ask those who are familiar with the area to recommend some. Another option is to research online. Reviews of restaurants in most major U.S. cities can be found at Zagat's website.