How to Rehearse Your Wedding Ceremony
Rehearsals aren’t always mandatory for weddings. It’s true, you don’t need one to have the other turn out amazing. People like your wedding planner and your officiant, they do not need to rehearse a ceremony, though they can be present. The reason you rehearse is so that you, your fiancé, your parents, your readers, musicians and wedding party know where to stand, how to enter, when to exit and what to hold. This is how you rehearse for your wedding ceremony.
HOW LONG IS A CEREMONY REHEARSAL?
First off your rehearsal should not take hours. Designate one person: your planner, your officiant or a really bossy but highly respected friend or family member (someone people will listen to) to lead the rehearsal. If you are opting for your Fab! officiant to lead you rehearsal make sure you pick that wedding ceremony package, as rehearsals are not included in the basic package.
WHO SHOULD COME TO THE REHEARSAL?
It’s best to have anyone playing a part in your ceremony at your rehearsal. People like anyone being escorted down the aisle, your wedding party including any flower girl or ring bearers, readers etc. Ushers can be present, if they are escorting important family members during the processional.
WHAT DO WE DO DURING REHEARSAL?
While there will be a lot of jovial nervousness and laughter, your rehearsal should accomplish a few key tasks. At the end of an hour the following should have been communicated and committed to memory:
- When to line up for the ceremony, where and in what order
- What song to walk down to, how quickly and when
- Where to stand, sit, genuflect etc.
- What to read, when and into which microphone
- When to exit and to what song, and where to go afterwards
This includes you and your fiancé. You will want to know when you are walking down the aisle, when to hand off your bouquet, retrieve it, when to hold hands or look at the congregation, what to say and when to say it. Working with your Fab! officiant you’ll iron out all of these details so that the rehearsal becomes a time for communicating all of that information.
HOW DO WE REHEARSE OUR CEREMONY?
Most trained professionals will tell you to start in the middle. Start with everyone who is going to stand at the altar, standing at the altar. From the guests’ perspective it might look like this:
Bridesmaid Bridesmaid Maid of Honor Bride Officiant Groom Best man Groomsman Groomsman
WHO SITS WHERE?
Remind parents and ushers (if present) of your seating preferences. Like if you want guests who know the bride to sit only on the bride’ side, or if you don’t care where anyone sits, or if there isn’t a bride and you want your guests to sit all inclusively.
HOW DO WE STAND?
Position your wedding party evenly spaced, so that they all can see you and so that the audience can see them. Anyone holding a bouquet should hold it at belly button level, anyone with a boutonniere should place left hand over right and ensure they have empty pockets.
The happy couple to be will face one another, could (should) hold hands whenever possible. This means that if one of them has a bouquet, that bouquet should be passed off to the person standing closest to them.
It’s helpful, especially for the couple, if the officiant can run through the high points of the ceremony. Perhaps it might sound like this,
“Once the couple reaches the front I will say a welcome, I’ll ask everyone to sit and then talk about marriage. I’ll invite cousin Karen forward for a reading, she will use the wireless microphone that I will hand her. After the reading you will say your ‘I dos’, you will exchange the rings and the ‘vows’. Best man Henry will have the rings, correct? After the rings there will be a hymnal and then, Betty, you should grab your bouquet from your Maid of Honor. Then I will pronounce you husband and wife, you’ll kiss and recess down the aisle to ‘Here Comes the Sun’.”
Likely your wedding persons will have questions about all of those things, so leave time (and patience) to answer them.
Next you will practice the recessional, or walking down the aisle at the end of the ceremony. It is common to either have you wedding party walk in pairs or individually. Let them know what you’d like now. Also tell them what pace you’d like.
BEST PRACTICE: Once the newly married couple reaches the end of the aisle, have your wedding party start recessing. Once the first pair reaches 1/4 of the way down the aisle (usually 4 rows) have the next pair start walking, once the second pair reaches the 4th row, have the next pair start walking and so forth.
Announce how you’d like your first two rows of parents, grandparents and other important family members to be dismissed. Will the dismiss themselves? Will the officiant lead them out? Will ushers stand at each row and dismiss? Will you and your new spouse come back and dismiss each row?
Also let everyone know what happens after the ceremony. Will you be having a receiving line? Do you need the ushers to dismiss everyone and pick up programs left behind?
Once everyone walks down the aisle, tell them to stay in the same order, but turn around. This is how they will line up before the ceremony begins. Remember reverse order so no one has to walk over each other. That means your Maid of Honor and Best Man are last, with your flower girl and ring bearer behind them, and if you are walking in traditionally, the bride and her dad very last.
Ask the other important family members to line up in front of the wedding party. Usually this includes parents and grandparents and whomever is escorting them. If the groom is escorting his mother, he will traditionally stay at the front after doing so, if not he may escort his fiancé or walk down the aisle with the officiant at the start of the processional.
Brides don’t be afraid to walk with both parents down the aisle! This is an adorable way to make sure that both of your parents feel included.
Now that you are lined up everyone needs to know when to go. Ordinarily prelude music will be playing while you start lining up. This music is for guests being seated. Processional music can be broken into three (or more) songs. One song to cue the start of the ceremony and for the seating of important family members. One song for the wedding party, including ring bearer and flower girl. One song for the bride and whomever is escorting her.
Of course you could go with one song on a loop (live music), or two songs (combine the important family members and wedding party). Just be sure to rehearse how long each of these processionals take. If you have live ceremony music your musicians are more flexible wit the song lengths, but if you have prerecorded music you could end up walking down in silence if you don’t practice this part.
NOTE: You will need someone or something to cue the musicians or DJ for song changes, don’t forget to communicate this or assign someone to cue.
IMPORTANT: Tradition has the congregation standing before the bride processes, be sure to wait for this before you start sauntering down the aisle. Also don’t forget to greet and embrace your parents once they give you away!
Once you practice walking in, practice walking out one last time. Then answer any questions that pop up and you’re done! If this all sounded complicated and confusing, please, do not rehearse alone! Hire a Fab! officiant and kick off your wedding weekend on the right foot. The fun, organized, easy foot.
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Photo by Lynne Halterman