Hosting a rehearsal dinner? Not sure where to start? You’re not alone: many of our clients feel a little lost when they first come to us for help with this particular occasion; and as it turns out, they usually feel this way for the same four reasons: the guest list, the venue, the music, and the speeches.

So let’s start with the guest list. If you’re struggling with whom to invite, remember that the rehearsal dinner is for a subset of people coming to the wedding: the wedding party — bridesmaids and groomsmen, of course; flower girls and ring bearers can be included, but will probably need a parent or chaperone present; extended family members, and close friends. If any of these guests are flying in for the wedding, the rehearsal dinner will also give the bride and groom a chance to welcome them the night of their arrival.

Rehearsal dinners can take place just about anywhere that can accommodate your guest count. Restaurants are a great option because they already have the food, bar, table service, and ample seating. During the warmer months, backyards offer a fun, intimate environment, where you have as much control over the menu and decor as you do over the guest list. But no matter where you decide to dig in after the rehearsal, you’re definitely going to need music as well as a sound system.

Unlike music for the wedding reception, the purpose of rehearsal dinner music is to blend with the venue’s atmosphere while allowing for guests to hold conversations. To this end, we typically recommend classical music for more formal venues, such as certain country clubs and upscale restaurants. Jazz ensembles are another great choice, and their versatility enables them to complement a variety of venue settings. On the other hand, if you’re interested in hearing music from different genres, then we suggest hiring a DJ, who can spin songs using either a playlist or his personal judgment. Another advantage of using a DJ is that they come with their own sound system.

This brings us to our fourth and final point: if your rehearsal dinner will have more than 50 guests in attendance, then you must (yes, must!) have a sound system. Perhaps the single most important reason for having a rehearsal dinner is to allow speeches from those who will not be speaking at the wedding. Giving a toast to the bride and groom at the rehearsal dinner will give the speaker a chance to tell the other guests a little about themselves and about how they know the couple. A sound system will ensure that each speaker is heard clearly throughout the room and given the attention they deserve. By the end of the evening, everyone will know more about the people they will be celebrating and dancing with the following day.