This is always a big topic for discussion during the wedding and it seems that now day’s people do what they want. So what I say may be old fashioned and I am defiantly from the south where we are more formal, so you may not follow any of these rules but I find it interesting to consider anyway.
So we all know the bride pays for the wedding and the reception at least in American culture. I understand that the Chinese do just the opposite as a good friend of mine had to pay for all this when his son married a Chinese girl. The bride also pays for the center pieces that go on all the tables during the reception and many brides make these to keep the cost down. It is perfectly acceptable to ask some of guests that are close family friends to help out in any way the you need. I have been asked to help on many occasions and I love to be asked.
Anyway what does the groom pay for? Well the tradition I always see carried out is that the groom pays for the flowers, the preacher or any church fee and the rehearsal dinner. Of course all this added together can be costly but not as much as the wedding and reception.
You can get many great ideas about the rehearsal dinner from this site: http://www.elizabethannedesigns.com/blog/2008/06/02/real-weddings-jillian-knute-part-i/rehearsal-dinner-beach/; and I love a beach dinner like this one.
If you do something like this you could actually prepare a lot of it yourself.
Or if money is no object then have a more formal event and get some ideas from this site:
Who to invite is always the big question. Well in the south you invite all the wedding party and their spouse or date; of course all parents and stepparents of the bride and groom; also any out of town guests that have arrived. So it can be large and quite expensive. In that case it would also be fine to hold it in someone’s home.
Just make sure the bride and groom relax and enjoy it.