D.I.Y. WEDDING REHEARSAL GUIDE
The third most significant event in a human’s life is their wedding (just behind birth and death). Therefore, it is important to know the logistics of a wedding rehearsal. This post is dedicated to helping you plan your rehearsal with a D.I.Y. wedding rehearsal guide.
WEDDING BELL DINGS:
Regardless of the type of wedding, a person chooses it is destined to be remembered in great detail and hopefully with fond, sweet sentiment through their entire life. In the end, you want to be happy with the results of your wedding day.
PLAN TO PLAN:
Most likely, if you are at the point of planning your wedding rehearsal, you have already completed the details of your wedding day. Think through the entire ceremony and the critical elements in detail, one step at a time!
By the time of scheduling the rehearsal, the die is set. Consider your cast of characters, tensions may be high and key players may be understandably nervous, no one wants to make a mistake. Try to make the rehearsal an enjoyable event. The more fun people have, the more they relax and a relaxed group is a good deal easier to direct than an anxious one.
Details: The importance and attention to detail for your wedding will determine the requirement and emphasis of the rehearsal. Believe it or not there truly is an art to walking down an aisle! The success of an event that is seamless and progresses according to plan depends on planning and practice.
REVIEW BEFORE REHEARSAL
Will Officiant Attend?: If the Officiant is available to participate they may run through their script. Most Officiates require being paid to conduct and be present for the rehearsal. Having the Officiant there is a bonus but not absolutely necessary unless you have the extra funds to pay them and you are extremely nervous. There are bonuses to having your Officiant attend the rehearsal.
Before the rehearsal check-list:
Review details with the Officiant before the ceremony and rehearsal. Any additional or objectionable details about the ceremony can be addressed with the officiate, before the ceremony in a pre-consultation or over the phone as well.
- Confirm the schedule for the ceremony
- Where will the unity table be placed?
- When is the appropriate time to light candles or pour sand?
- When and how will the rings be exchanged; will there be rings?
- Will there be vows read by wedding couple?
- When will the officiant arrive on the wedding day?
- When will you kiss and how will you be pronounced at the end?
These are some of the important details the officiant should cover with you either over the phone, in a Skype chat, at the rehearsal or in a pre-consultation. These are the essential things you may need to discuss with the wedding officiate before you do a rehearsal:
- The names of the bride’s attendants in order – if you have 5 bridesmaids, start with the name of the last in line first on your list (see the diagram below for reference).
- The names of the groom’s attendants in order – if you have 5 groomsmen, start with the name of the last in line first on your list.
- Name/s of flower girl/s
- Names of ring bearer (will the ring bearer carry the real rings?)
- Names of parents to be walked in and who will walk them in?
- Any other special elements such as unity candle table placement, unity sand, or other ritual additions should be discussed prior to the rehearsal.
Herding Cats: Sometimes organizing and carrying out a rehearsal can be like herding cats and having them do what you intend. Have you ever tried to get a cat to do anything you wanted? You need someone people will listen to, someone to keep people focused. It is highly recommended you appoint a director and stage manager.
Seriously, if you don’t have a clear idea of what your rehearsal will consist of and how it will take place before rehearsal day, then people will be going in every which direction. Also, it is an excellent idea to prohibit alcohol prior to the rehearsal. Imbibing only makes the attention span and focus of the bridal party that much worse. So, decide who you want to direct the rehearsal first. Then make sure you are on the same page and understand it yourself so that you’re happy with the end results.
Who Will Be the Director? You need to decide who will be in charge. If the wedding officiate is able to do the rehearsal for you, that is best.
The wedding director will wear many hats during the ceremony. You and your partner are the focus of the wedding and your desires are the essential considerations but remember, you will be busy with your own queues, so recruiting a firm, trusted “commander” for the practice session and the main event will be very important.
If you are not employing a wedding planner; select a trusted friend or relative to volunteer and fill the role of ceremony director. Review your plans before the rehearsal; make sure the “director” understands your vision.
Stage Manager: Also, if you don’t have a director, it may be necessary to appoint a stage manager to prompt the attendants on the timing and order of entry on the day of the ceremony. The officiate will be in place at the front of the alter or arch and will not be able to queue attendants in.
Who’s on first?
Who Should be There? Everyone (with the exception of your guests) holding a part in your wedding ceremony should be present at the rehearsal. It doesn’t matter if there are 2 attendants or 200. It is the time the wedding party reviews your script and learns their individual parts. It is also the dry run of the ceremony so potential hiccups can be discovered and corrected before the guests arrive. Most often rehearsals are held the day before the wedding date.
Important tip: Have your attendants show up early. Tell them it is a half an hour earlier than it actually is. One problem I often run in to is the bridal party shows up late. Also designate a stand in ahead of time if you find out not everyone in the bridal party can make it.
Instructions: The wedding director should go through the instructions with the group before a trial run. With everyone assembled in the same room describe the ceremony. It may be helpful to provide a printed copy (draft) detailing who enters first, the processional order, who stands and/or sits where, the playlist and timing of the music, every detail of your wedding ceremony.
Wedding Party Positions: The first part of the rehearsal will concentrate on the arrangement and position of the wedding party. The music should queue the processional to start. Then the attendants will rehearse their order of entry, placement, and exit.
Order of Seating: Typically the order begins with the seating of VIP guests; parents, grandparents, children, and so on. The wedding party enters with the last tiered attendants first, followed by the flower girl and ring bearer, the bride and her escort enters last.
Processional: Practice the order of the processional until each participant is comfortable with their entry, placement, and exit. Make sure any impediments to the party are addressed. Uneven grounds, steps, carpets, runners, ramps and the like can create an unfortunate mishap if people aren’t aware of the danger. Make sure cables for instruments, amplifiers, and other electronic equipment are covered and they do not pose a tripping hazard!
Here is an information video resource from YouTube giving advice for the processional.
Music: Having the person in charge of the music attend the rehearsal is very wise. This gives everyone involved in the music the time to practice the logistics of the intended songs to use for the processional and recessional. It gives the opportunity to fine tune the equipment set up and make sure everyone is clear on which songs the bride and groom want to be played too. I can’t tell you how many times there was a question about the music or problems with equipment on the day of the event. Complications such as these can delay a ceremony and add stress. It’s best to sort these finer details out on the rehearsal day. It will be important to hear lines for cues and know how long each song lasts. The music typically sets the pace for the “wedding march.”
Practice: Do not hesitate to have the wedding party practice the processional and recessional until everyone is clear and you are comfortable with their parts and directions.
Following the rehearsal,a dinner/party is traditional as a reward for participants and family, and to provide a time to relax and have fun! Save the alcohol and frivolity for after the rehearsal. Keep everyone focused on business during the rehearsal.
Poems, Readings or Songs: Speaking in front of an audience may be an issue, so it might be a good idea for partners to read a passage from a book to practice speaking through a microphone or talking in an audible voice. Save the special vows for the emotional reveal of the actual ceremony.
Practice any particulars that are part of the ceremony; kneeling for prayers, lighting candles, handing off bouquets, exchanging rings. Instruct the attendants responsible for holding flowers and rings to put the articles in the same location each time.
First Kiss: A favorite rehearsal tradition is the first kiss-practicing. That exercise is a BONUS to the rehearsal!
Time Required: Most wedding rehearsals are surprisingly quick and over in a short period of time. The average time you should allow is about an hour and a half. However, you should allow an hour for the rehearsal walk through. That should be plenty of time. As soon as the couple is pronounced “wed” the attendants will begin the recessional from the venue. The recessional (or exit) is as important as the recessional (entry) for the ceremony.
Recessional: Guests typically stand in recognition of the bride and groom. Following the order of the wedding party detailed as an example;
- The newly married couple departs first
- The ring bearer and flower girl follow the bride and groom
- The best man and maid/matron of honor exit
- The remaining bridal party pairs up to exit – starting with the next in line
- Guests remain standing and ushers escort VIP guests out beginning with the mother of the bride and/or groom.
Staging After the Wedding: The rehearsal is also an appropriate time for the couple to decide what they will do after the recessional. The departing attendants may remain lined up at an appropriate staging area for a receiving line.
There are a couple of options. Quite often, the couple wants to spend a private moment together after the recessional to enjoy the significance of the event. In this case, the attendants may also take a moment to relax before the reception for a quick break.
Having a designated area for the attendants to gather in private is a great idea and one they will appreciate. It all depends on your timeline and location and how formal the event is.
Guests after recessional: Most often, in the weddings I have attended, the guests will be invited to partake in some
hors-d’oeuvre’s or refreshments while waiting to congratulate the couples nuptials.
Receiving line? It’s good to decide if a receiving line will be used or if the bride and groom will take this time to have a private moment. If they do decide on a receiving line then they will immediately get into place for the guests to congratulate them as they exit their seats.
It has been a tradition over the years for the receiving line to take place during the recessional. This practice is often reserved for the reception but the wedding party should practice the order and understand when and where the receiving line will be expected.
Take Note: These are suggestions for the bride to consider taking note of while at the rehearsal: provide a facility tour for the attendants locating dressing rooms, restrooms, exit doors, special considerations such as handicap ramps and elevators, boxes of tissues, the guest book, gift table, and the location of the reception.
Are Pets Involved?
If a favorite pet is a part of your wedding party include him/her in the rehearsal. Make sure the animal is comfortable in a crowd and can remain calm throughout the ceremony. You do not want to surprise him by dragging him down the aisle and expect him to behave in a strange environment. Also, make SURE someone is responsible for the control of the animal and the pet has a COMPLETE potty break BEFORE the ceremony begins.
Formal Wear: Practice wearing the wedding gown, bridesmaid dresses, and wedding apparel. Walk around in the shoes. Do not wait until you walk down the aisle to discover you can’t lift your leg up on the stage in that tight, mermaid gown or the maid of honor falls every two steps in her 5″ spiked Jimmy Choo shoes. Same thing goes for the groomsmen. The best man may be carrying a few too many six-packs on his belly to fit into his tuxedo by your wedding day!
It Happens: You will not be the first bride to faint, or groom to vomit on his shoes. Singers forget lines, Officiants fall off their stage, bridesmaids drop bouquets, best men lose rings, flower girls throw tantrums and ring bearers wet their pants. Weddings are real life events and considering all the moving parts unforeseen things will happen. Many a viral YouTube video has been created as a result of a wedding faux pas! It is all of the unusual surprises that make YOUR wedding YOUR own unique, special event!
Small Stuff – No Worries: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is normal for a bride and groom to fret about potential flaws to the perfection of their special event. But, so much worry and emphasis can be placed on the execution that the enjoyment of the day can be lost. Remember it is YOUR day. If it doesn’t go exactly as planned embrace the unexpected and go with it.
Please let me know if this rehearsal overview has helped you with your wedding planning and rehearsal and submit any helpful tips or ideas for other brides.