Running your first few wedding rehearsals can be a daunting task. Many planners have commented this is their least favorite part of the wedding planning process. If the officiant or church coordinator will be at the ceremony rehearsal, communicate with her the week prior to determine who will be responsible for directing the rehearsal. Some church coordinators and officiants prefer to take charge which is helpful to know ahead of time. You can also inquire with the ceremony musicians to see if they would like to attend the rehearsal.
Here are six steps for directing a successful wedding ceremony rehearsal:
1. Introductions – Confirm with the bride and groom that everyone has arrived then start by welcoming the guests to the rehearsal and introduce yourself. Explain your process for the rehearsal by talking briefly about the steps listed below.
2. Take their places - Place the bridal party in their positions on the altar area (or under the chuppah, mandap or other religious structure) so they know where to stand during the ceremony. These details should be in your wedding day time lines that you created and finalized with the bride before the wedding.
3. Processional - After everyone knows their places, line up the wedding party, parents, bride, groom and officiant in the correct order for the processional then send everyone down the aisle. If the musicians are present, you may need to cue them. As the bride comes down the aisle, she will be on her father’s left arm if he is escorting her. When it’s time for her father to be seated, the bride will typically kiss him good-bye then shake the hand (or hug) the groom. The bride’s father will then walk behind the bride to his seat. At this point, the bride normally gives her bouquet to her maid of honor and the groom will extend his left hand to the bride.
4. Ceremony – After the processional is done and everyone is in place, you or the officiant will run through the basic ceremony sections. Be sure to determine who will have the rings on the wedding day.
5. Recessional – After the kiss, the bride will get her bouquet from the maid of honor. At this time, the officiant will introduce the couple and the recessional music begins. The best man and maid of honor will wait until the bride and groom are at the back of the room, then the best man will extend his right arm to the maid of honor and they will walk out together. The rest of the bridal party will follow in the same manner. It’s helpful to choose an agreed-upon distance where each couple will exit (for example: when the couple in front gets to the fifth row of chairs, then the next couple exits). This allows for a uniform bridal party recessional and gives the photographer and videographer time for photos. After the last couple recesses down the aisle, the parents and any people sitting in the front row should immediately follow.
6. Additional notes – Depending on the bride, groom and complexity of the ceremony, you may need to run through this process one time or up to four times until everyone feels comfortable. For Indian weddings, Jewish weddings and other religions, the processionals and recessionals may be very different from the basics we talked through today. Your clients and the officiant can assist you with the actual logistics and details specific for each wedding.
After the rehearsal is finished, confirm that the bridesmaids and groomsmen know where to meet on the wedding day and what time they need to arrive. You may also want to make an announcement about the rehearsal dinner if necessary.
Do you have any tips to share about running wedding rehearsals? Please share them in the comments!
photo credit: Jenna Walker Photographers