The Wedding Rehearsal
Apart from the day itself, the rehearsal is the most important part of your wedding experience, even if your wedding party is small with only one or two bridesmaids and groomsmen. If your wedding party is very small, you might not need a ceremony coordinator at all, but it is still good for you to do a walk through. However, if there is any doubt, do more than too little. There is nothing worse than the wedding party not knowing what they are doing.
Rehearsing your wedding will help instill confidence in everyone involved and ensure a polished ceremony. And the most important part of the rehearsal is a wedding rehearsal coordinator. Take note that this individual might need to be someone other than your “day of” coordinator – many “day of” wedding coordinators do not attend the rehearsal. As well, you might not be able to rely on your officiant to run your rehearsal – sometimes the officiant is unavailable to attend or only prepared to go through the ceremony content and not organize the processional or recessional.
If you find yourself without a “day of” coordinator or wedding planner or an officiant to run your wedding rehearsal, recruit a friend or acquaintance who has detailed organizational skills to do so. You cannot run the rehearsal! No one in the wedding party can run the rehearsal, either. They will need to focus on their individual roles in the ceremony during the rehearsal.
The wedding rehearsal coordinator is there to ensure that your rehearsal runs smoothly, with each family member and wedding party member understanding the “who, what and when” of your ceremony. Among other things, they coordinate when each family member and wedding party member is to be escorted in, making sure each lady/bridesmaid is matched up with the right escort, ensuring everyone goes in the correct order, timing family member and wedding party entry to the correct music, and most important, making sure the bride is on the left side of the father or escort.
Here are some pointers for you to share with your wedding rehearsal coordinator so you will be better prepared:
Steps To The Wedding Rehearsal
- Start with the formation in the front (family can sit out for this part)
- Practice change over with bride, groom and father/escort
- Practice ceremony highlights (who’s holding the rings, special touches, family participating in the ceremony, etc.)
- Practice walk out (recessional)
- Walk in with family (processional) and practice any special touches with participating family (for example: unity special touches, traditional or cultural additions, etc)
- Walk out
- Repeat processional and recessional again if necessary
Wedding Rehearsal Start Time
Plan for everyone to arrive before your actual start time. It is critical that you make the most of your rehearsal time. Some venues allow only an hour, and you may need the full hour, plus your officiant may have another rehearsal or wedding after yours. Some officiants charge extra if the rehearsal runs past the hour mark. So, for example, if your rehearsal is going to start at 5 o’clock, then let everyone know that rehearsal is at 4:45. This 15-minute buffer can help make up for wedding party members arriving late due to traffic (which is often an issue, especially on Friday afternoons). Also, some family and friends might have come in from out of town and it is the first time they’re seeing each other, so give them time for the hugs, kisses and hello’s.
Wedding Rehearsal Road Map
To begin your rehearsal, gather everyone in the ceremony room. Your coordinator will seat everyone in the first two rows and explain how the wedding rehearsal will be run.
Here is a sample script: “Good evening, everyone. My name is xxxxx and I will be coordinating the wedding rehearsal (and the ceremony tomorrow). This is an exciting time, and I would like to let you know how we are going to do this today.
- We are going to start with the wedding party formation and where the bridesmaids, groomsmen, ring bearer and flower girl(s) will be standing in the ceremony. Family members can take a break for the first part. (Why the formation first? The wedding party needs to know where they are going to stand before they walk in.)
- Next, we will go through when the officiant would like the change over to occur with the father/escort, bride and groom. We will also go through any special touches or elements that occur during the ceremony. Example: unity cross, heart, candles, etc.
- Then we will we practice the recessional (walk out).
- After that, we will practice everything again, but this time with the family members being escorted to their seats.
- We will then repeat the whole procedure from processional to recessional, stopping only at points that need a little more practice. (Sometimes this step is not necessary, depending on the wedding party size and complexity of the ceremony.)
- Then we will determine if the family members are going to walk out and then return for photographs or remain behind for photographs (unless photographs will be taken before the ceremony).
Order Of Service
Below is a typical order of service to follow for a nondenominational ceremony. For a civil ceremony, the prayers are removed as well as any religious content. Couples also modify the order of service below with their officiant to suit their own needs.
Order of service
Seating of Groom’s Grandparents
Seating of Bride’s Grandparents
Seating of Groom’s Parents
Seating of Bride’s Mother
Officiant, Groom and Groomsmen enter
Bridesmaids Enter (reverse order)
Maid/Matron of Honor
Ring Bearer and Flower Girl Enter
Bride Enters with Escort
Giving Away of the Bride
(Some Officiants want “The Giving Away” to happen at the beginning of the ceremony.)
Exchanging of the Vows
Exchange of Rings Vows
Special Touch (Unity Cross, etc.)
Prayer & Blessing
Recessional Music Starts
Bride and Groom Exit
Flower Girl(s) and Ring Bearer(s) Exit
Bridesmaids and Groomsmen Exit
Bride’s Parents Exit
Groom’s Parents Exit
Bride’s Grandparents Exit
Groom’s Grandparents Exit
Announcement by Officiant
In our ceremony planning manual, there is a worksheet that helps the bride and groom predetermine where everyone will be seated. It is vitally important, especially if blended families are involved, to be prepared prior to the wedding rehearsal regarding where everyone is seated. Since this discussion could lead to awkward situations, you do not want to be working this out at the wedding rehearsal. Also, do not leave these decisions up to the coordinator or officiant. They can offer advice, but they are not familiar with your family like you are.