Running a Wedding Rehearsal
Every member of the Wedding Party (bride and groom, Celebrant, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers, broom bearers, readers, musicians and any other participants) should meet at the site and “run through” the ceremony. If the site is unavailable, please simulate the conditions as closely as you can. I will be glad to research any traditions or cultures you choose. This is entirely your ceremony: Therefore, you should determine beforehand exactly which, if any, traditions you would like to follow, the way you want your attendants to line up, the manner in which you would like them to enter and exit, where you would like them to stand, walk or sit. Please impress upon all participants how important it is for them to attend the rehearsal and be on-time. If every one cooperates, there is no reason for a rehearsal to last longer than one hour. Please make sure I meet all participants. If you are choosing an outdoor venue, consider whether moving indoors would alter any plans.
If you know that someone cannot attend the rehearsal, appoint a stand-in who will participate in the rehearsal and explain the duties to the participant before the ceremony.
If you have decided not to hire a wedding coordinator, consider asking a favorite friend or relative, who is not a member of the wedding party, to assist you by coordinating the wedding and the rehearsal. On your wedding day, you do not want to be the only person who knows exactly how the wedding should flow. Having a coordinator will give you a chance to fully enjoy your wedding ceremony.
Please have on hand the actual or dummy props (Unity Candles, bouquets, rings, etc.) so that everyone can practice their actions.
It is especially important that any children who will participate in the ceremony attend the rehearsal. Please take care to speak with the children in a gentle and thoughtful manner and have props (i.e. a dummy flower basket with petals, a broom, a pillow, etc.) that will allow them to practice their actions. This may be the first time they “perform” in front of a group, let us make sure that it is fun and easy for them.
Weddings are highly emotional times for everyone and may bring up emotions that are difficult to handle. Please schedule your rehearsal so that there is a built in allowance for your participants to be a few minutes late or many minutes late depending on your guests! You know your family and friends — If they are “never on-time,” it is unlikely that they will be on-time for such an emotional occasion.
Take Care of Yourself
Do get enough sleep and eat healthy meals as your rehearsal and wedding approach. You will need to maintain your strength and perspective. Take time to visualize your rehearsal and wedding ceremony, so that you will be able to address any complications and calm yourself. No matter what happens, do your best to remain flexible, calm, and pleasant. Your spouse, attendants and guests want to celebrate with you. Being able to do so, is much more important than everything running exactly as you planned. Remember to enjoy these moments! They will never come again.
General Pre-Rehearsal Instructions
- Introductions of people as necessary.
- Tell everyone when to arrive for wedding and where they should go.
- Men meet with officiant.
- Women meet at the Bride’s room.
- Discuss when pictures will be taken.
- Advise that in case of mistakes, we will go ahead with wedding. Fake rings if necessary.
- No gum, please. Everyone relax and enjoy it. Be natural.
- Men hold their left hand over their right.
- Go through once verbally.
- Go through once quickly.
- Go through as though it were real. (Don’t say the whole ceremony.)
Step One — Everyone in Place
Line up the wedding party where they will be standing for the wedding ceremony.
- Groom and his attendants on Officiant’s left
- Bride and her attendants on Officiant’s right
- The Bride and Groom face each other
- The Ring Bearer in front of the Groom’s attendants
- Flower Girl(s) in front of the Bride’s attendants
Because the early Anglo Saxon groom so often had to defend his bride from would-be kidnappers, she stood to his left, leaving his sword-arm free. The “best” warrior in the tribe stood by the groom and was responsible for helping defend the bride, thus the placement for the modern day best man.
Step Two — Practice the Recessional
After Officiant has declared the couple “husband and wife”, they kiss and are announced as Mr. and Mrs. Smith
- Couple exits
- Flower girl and ring bearer follow.
- Attendants from each side meet in the center and walk out as couples.
- Bride’s parents
- Groom’s parents
- Bride’s grandparents
- Groom’s grandparents
- Or, each side of front row as an entire row, not person by person, since people are eager to congratulate the couple.
Step Three — Seating the Guests
The ushers seat the family and honored guests at the announced time of the wedding. The front row is reserved for these special people. At the rehearsal you can practice escorting in these special guests. Remind the special people to wait in the back for their escort. Introducing them to their escort (usher) is all that’s needed.
Suggested order for special guests
- Grandparents of the groom
- Grandparents of the bride
- Parents of the groom
- Mother of the bride
Ushers are instructed as to whether they are to seat guests generally, or as “friends of the bride or friends of the groom” and whether or not they are to walk guests all the way to their seats, or motion them to empty seats.
In ancient days, fathers would offer daughters as peace offerings to warring tribes. Because of the hostility, the families were placed on opposite sides of the church so the ceremony could go on without bloodshed. The ceremony united the two warring factions into on family, and danger of war was resolved.
Step Four — Processional
Now the bridal party goes to the places from where they will enter on the wedding day. Groom and his attendants go to the side (stage left, Officiant’s left side). The Bride and her attendants go to the back of the hall.
Wedding party enters and takes places where they were in Step One.
- Groom and his attendants walk in from the groom’s side, led by Officiant.
OR Ushers escort the Bridesmaids
- Bride’s attendants walking slowly, last outside bridesmaid first (processional music begins)
- Maid of Honor walking slowly
- Ring bearer Suggestion: Use fake rings for the Ring Bearer. This avoids problems with dropping the rings or with the Ring Bearer refusing to relinquish the rings.
- Flower girl (sometimes accompanied by Ring Bearer)
- Music changes as the Bride prepares to enter
- Officiant motions the guests to rise
- Bride enters with escort on her left
- As the Bride approaches the front, the Groom may take several steps toward her and her escort and offer her his arm. The Groom is on the Bride’s right. The two of them then approach the Officiant, leaving the escort standing next to the row in which he will be seated — usually on the Bride’s side.
If the escort is to answer some question posed by the Officiant, he should remain standing until that question is asked, answer the question and be seated. The usual options for his reply are “I do” or “Her Mother and I do” or “On behalf of her family, I do.”
If the escort is not to answer a question from the Officiant, he should be seated as soon as the Bride and Groom are standing before the Officiant.
Step Five — Ceremony
- Officiant may ask “Who brings her here on this happy day of her life?” or “Who brings this woman to marry this man?” The person or persons escorting the bride usually say: “I do”, “We do”, or “On behalf of all who love her, I do”.
- Bride’s escort takes seat in first row
- Officiant performs the ceremony
The rings should be either on the Ring bearer’s pillow or in the custody of the Best Man and Maid/Matron of Honor. If carried by the two “best people,” the Best Man should carry the Bride’s ring on his little finger, and the Maid of Honor should carry the Groom’s ring on her index finger or thumb. Don’t let the Best Man put the ring in any pocket. Don’t have either one of them carry the ring in a bag or box. Pockets, bags & boxes increase the chances for dropping and/or losing the ring. Of every 10 rings misplaced or lost at wedding time, 8 have been lost by the Maid of Honor. She has a big ring you have asked her to put on her relatively small finger.
For Maid of Honor and Best Man, have them put the ring on a finger, and then curl their fingers. Then the ring isn’t going anywhere.
If rings are on the Ring bearer’s pillow, the Best Man will remove them and give them to the Officiant one at a time with the Bride’s ring first; or deliver both at the same time, at the option of the Officiant.
The Bride and Groom face the Officiant for the initial portion of the ceremony, then face each other and join both hands for the vows and rings. If the Bride has not already given her flowers to her Maid/Matron of Honor, do it now before joining hands.
You will have worked out with the Officiant what you are to say during the wedding ceremony. Hopefully the Officiant will review this with you before the wedding starts. At the point of the Vows, you may simply respond to a question, or you may have decided to do a “repeat-after-me” statement with prompts from the Officiant.
After the exchange of rings, Bride and Groom then face each other for the kiss. The Bride then gets her flowers back from her Maid/Matron of Honor, and you both turn to face the guests. Before the Recessional music starts, however, the Officiant may formally present to the two of you to your guests if you have arranged for him or her to do this. Then the recessional music begins.
Step Six — Practice Recessional again
The traditional church wedding features two bridal marches, by two different classical composers. The bride walks down the aisle to the majestic, moderately paced music of the “Bridal Chorus” from Richard Wagner’s 1848 opera “Lohengrin. The newlyweds exit to the more jubilant, upbeat strains of the “Wedding March” (From Felix Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”)
The custom dates back to the royal marriage, in 1858, of Victoria, princess of Great Britain, and Empress of Germany, to Prince Frederick William of Prussia. Victoria, eldest daughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, selected the music herself. A patron of the arts, she valued the works of Mendelssohn and practically venerated those of Wagner. Given the British penchant for copying the monarchy, soon brides throughout the Isles, nobility and commoners alike, were marching to Victoria’s drummer, establishing a Western wedding tradition.