Get it Right with a Great Rehearsal

I don’t think it is possible to over-state the importance of a good rehearsal for your wedding. One of my “favourite things in the whole wide world” is when the bride and groom are relaxed and genuinely enjoying their wedding day.

I know that far more goes into a wedding ceremony than ever meets the eye. It doesn’t have to be the day before the ceremony, it shouldn’t be a big deal at all, but there’s nothing to match getting all the participants together and agreeing on how the thing should go. You absolutely should have one. I’ve been to a handful of ‘un-rehearsed weddings’ and the stress created because one or other members of the bridal party disagreed about the fine details was just awful!

Your wedding rehearsal brings together all the different elements of your ceremony, so that you can de-stress and actually enjoy your wedding day, confident in every aspect of the ceremony. The  rehearsal often lasts longer than the ceremony will, and one of its main purposes is to allow everyone involved to relax, knowing exactly what is [and is not] expected of them.

The bare minimum would be that the bride and groom, and the celebrant, meet at the venue to walk through the arrangements, but ideally, you should gather together as many as possible of the participants in the ceremony:

  • Parents of the bride and groom. Unless they have 15 other daughters already married off, this is a special time for your parents. Spend some time going over any part the parents may be playing in the ceremony.
  • Bridal party, bride’s escort and any children who will be in the bridal party should attend for a walk-through of the entry of the bride. Unless the children will be playing a part in the ceremony itself, they can then be taken home, or let loose to run around.
  • Ushers.  This is a perfect opportunity for your ushers to meet with some of the VIP guests they may not know by sight. Spend some time going over the duties of the ushers, letting them know what’s supposed to happen, and when, so that they can do carry out their duties with excellence.
  • Groomsmen, and any readers or other participants, plus the bridal party, for a final walk through, and finalising of positions.
  • Musicians / sound guy for a full rehearsal of the bridal entry and sound check.

Photographer and/or videographer, so that they can offer their professional advice on lighting and placements, etc. This ensures that there will be no last-minute surprise changes. They may also be able to snap some candid photos as part of their package.

The rehearsal is also the best time to deal with any payments due to your photographer, celebrant, musicians, etc, so that you’re not worrying about carrying extra cash or paying bills on your wedding day.

I tend to start rehearsals by getting everyone into place, as they will be during the ceremony. This gives the bride and groom a chance to have input into the arrangements, and clarifies exactly where everyone will head when they rehearse the entrance. If you have members of the bridal party unable to attend the rehearsal, those on either side will be able to clearly pass on the details, and you won’t have to worry about it.

Once everyone knows where they are to stand during the ceremony, that’s a good time to agree on how the ceremony will end, and what the recessional arrangements are – the order in which the bridal party and immediate families leave the ceremony area.

Then it’s logical to practice the entrance sequence.  If you are going to do formal seating, immediate family will be ushered in at the last minute, and should stay in the “staging area” until everything and everyone is ready and all the other guests are seated. Once the families are in place, the Celebrant enters with the Groom and his groomsmen.

The guests will be asked to stand, and the entrance of the bridal party and the bride begins,  to the chosen accompaniment, if possible, so that each participant gets a feel for the timing of their part.

Once the entrance and exits are choreographed, the rehearsal of the ceremony itself is a breeze. I don’t think there’s any need to rehearse the whole ceremony line by line, but it’s worth giving an overview of the sequence of events, again pointing out cues and positions for participants, such as readers, ring bearers, etc.It is possible to have a “full rehearsal”, and still keep aspects
of the ceremony [such as personalised vows] secret from the other participants.

If you’re planning on giving thank-you gifts to your bridal party, after the rehearsal is a good time! It may be appropriate to host a ‘rehearsal dinner’ with your families and the bridal party. This doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate – a simple BBQ in the backyard, or even a fish and chips picnic will do just as well, as long as you make a point of sincerely thanking each person for their support,it will be a memorable event!


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