Cameron Ingalls, Inc.
The objective of the wedding rehearsal is to get familiar with the overall ceremony procedures, have each individual learn any special roles assigned to them, and to identify and work out any kinks in the ceremony plan. Without a proper rehearsal, your ceremony could unfold without a hitch, but the odds are extremely low. As with a theatrical production, practice is the key to a seamless performance.
The Players. Who should be at the rehearsal? At a minimum, everyone in the wedding party, the Officiant, and the parents. If you plan special readings or songs during the ceremony, then these folks should be present. Having your photographer at the rehearsal will likely yield better photos during your ceremony. Your professional or amateur coordinator should be present, directing the rehearsal. As we discussed earlier, if you do not hire a professional coordinator, be sure to have one very good (and organized) friend in charge directing your wedding day. You will likely have many people helping decorate etc, but you will need one person who holds the answers and directs the others.
The Plan. Prior to the rehearsal, it is a very good idea to create a simple written sequence for the ceremony. Include approximate start and end times for each major element of the ceremony. And definitely include all music choices in writing so everyone can remember their cue. If the songs are unfamiliar, it would be a good idea to bring a boom box with CDs of the songs. We have seen many ceremonies get out of sync based on song confusion. Make copies of this written plan for everyone and distribute it at the rehearsal. Give additional copies to your coordinator to bring for distribution and use on the actual wedding day.
The Positions. Begin your rehearsal at the altar with you and the Groom in the center and your Officiant behind you. How will you stand? Facing the Groom or back to the audience? We prefer Bride and Groom facing each other holding hands, which produces better photos and allows the audience to better hear your voices. But the choice is yours. Your attendants are lined up behind you (facing you) and the same goes for the groomsmen. Bridesmaids are holding bouquets, but what are the groomsmen doing with their hands? We prefer hands together behind their backs. The choice is yours, just be sure that they all hold themselves in a similar manner. Do you plan to use a wireless microphone? If so, identify who will bring it and have it at the rehearsal if possible. Where will the flower girl and ring bearer stand? Be sure to have their parents seated close to the front on the aisle for any needed rescue.
The Ceremony. Once your coordinator is satisfied with the positions, let the Officiant lead everyone through the ceremony. If you are lighting a unity candle, practice walking to it with your Groom. Do you have a match? Where is your train for the walk there and back? To which side should the Officiant move to avoid stepping on your train? Can your maid of honor straighten your train when you are back in place while holding both your and her bouquets in one hand? If you are having guests present readings, practice that. How will they approach the altar and where will they stand? If you are having any special songs played or sung during the ceremony, play them at their proper place in the ceremony. Where will the singer stand? Once you are at the end of the ceremony, then what? Will your Officiant introduce you to the audience or will you simply exit? How will you be introduced? Will there be a dove or butterfly release? If so, when and where? Will the Officiant give the guests guidance in what to do next? For example, adjourn to the reception area for refreshments while photographs are taken or meet at the off-site reception location? In the rehearsal, many details will come up that you simply cannot anticipate!
The Recessional. The Bride and Groom generally lead the wedding party out of the ceremony area. Although on one occasion we have seen the flower girl lead the exit, tossing flowers as she went! If directed to do so by your photographer, pause at the appropriate spots for a quick photo. Decide with your coordinator how far down the aisle each couple walks before the next couple leaves the altar (you don’t want to all bunch up together). A well spaced exit can be breathtaking! After the wedding party exits, then the family rows exit followed by a general exit. Now what? Be sure the wedding party knows what they are expected to do next. Generally they will gather with you and your family for a photo session. Afterwards, they will be introduced with you in the grand entrance (or in a receiving line), take their seats at the head table, and remain there through the meal portion of the reception.
The Processional. Now practice the entrance, or processional. Play the appropriate music while seating the parents. Once the Bride’s mother is seated, the Officiant, Groom, best man, and groomsmen enter and take their places at the altar. The wedding party then enters to the appropriate music in the reverse order that they exited. Decide on the appropriate bridesmaids spacing and practice their entry with the appropriate music. Is the song too short? Too long? Were the flower girl and ring bearer able to make it all the way up the aisle? If they won’t do it at the rehearsal then they won’t do it at the actual ceremony. Once all are in place at the altar, your music begins and you make your entrance. Once at the altar, practice the hand-off from father to Groom. Generally, your father kisses your cheek, shakes your Groom’s hand, places your hand into the Groom’s, then takes his seat.
Repeat this sequence until you feel comfortable.