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Most wedding coordinators will include running the ceremony rehearsal in their packages. In these cases, they help you organize your family and bridal party, practice the processional and recessional, and do a quick read-through of the ceremony. If your coordinator does not take on this task, or if you don’t have a coordinator, you can do it yourself!
Coordinating your own rehearsal can be a big budget saver! While it is my practice to always attend rehearsals at no charge, I do have a fee for coordinating a rehearsal. Many officiants charge several hundred dollars just to attend a rehearsal, and even then explicitly state that they will not run the rehearsal once there. You can see how putting some time, effort, and planning into your rehearsal ahead of time can be worth the extra savings. (On the other hand, you may be a bride with a to-do list a mile long and would rather pay someone to coordinate. That is why that option is there!)
I will link to some great resources at the bottom of this post, but here are a few REHEARSAL RULES OF THUMB:
- Begin with introductions. While everyone knows the bride or groom, not everyone will know each other! Take a few minutes to introduce everyone and how they know the couple.
- Make announcements. You have everyone together in one place – this is the perfect time to share last minute information about the wedding day (where and when to arrive, when photographs will be taken, etc…)
- Start with placement at the front. Show everyone how you would like them lined up, and what angle to stand (facing the bride and groom, but angled towards the guests). Ladies, remember to hold your flowers low! Gentlemen stand with left hand over right.
- Practice the recessional. It seems counter-intuitive, but since you have everyone at the front, go ahead and practice how you will recess. Also important is where everyone goes after you recess. Avoid a confusing jumble at the end of the aisle. Will you have a receiving line? If yes, practice where everyone should line up, and in what order.
- Practice the processional. Remind your bridal party to pace themselves and avoid racing up the aisle. It is helpful to have a landmark for when the next person should go (i.e. the fifth pew, the curve in the path, etc…) if you don’t have someone at the back to cue them, or music cues to follow.
- Run through the ceremony. Once everyone is back at the front, go through the “action items” of your ceremony. These can include the giving away, dress fluffing, passing of flowers, readings, any repeat-after-me or question/answer portions, the ring exchange, and the kiss. Basically, anything that requires someone other than the officiant to DO or SAY something. (Note: When I ATTEND a rehearsal, this is the part where I take over)
- Go through the whole thing start to finish one time.
- You’re done!
Some additional tips:
- Ensure all essential parties are present. This of course includes your bridal party and anyone playing a role in the wedding. If there are children or a musician involved, having them participate in the rehearsal is a must!
- Do the prep work beforehand. Know the order of the bridesmaids and groomsmen, how they will pair up, what music (if any) you will use, how you want the music timed out, where you want parents and grandparents to sit, who will usher who, etc, etc… If you are trying to figure all of that out during the rehearsal, it can turn into a bit of a mess. On the other hand if you have this all planned out (and written down!) you will have a quick and easy rehearsal! (Note: When I COORDINATE a rehearsal, I ask you a few questions in advance, then I take care of this part)
- If there are any special ceremony elements like a sand ceremony, ring warming, unity candle, etc… you should have those props available at the rehearsal so you can practice.
- Stress the importance of being ON TIME. I know this is hard and a bit out of your control, but an efficient rehearsal really shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. When people arrive late, or the prep work isn’t done, that can easily stretch to an hour or more. That really becomes a problem if you have a rehearsal dinner scheduled for after!
Other great resources: