A wedding rehearsal is a time-honored tradition. It allows all involved in the wedding party to run through the process a few times, so things run smoothly and participants are not as nervous. While most couples prefer to have a rehearsal, it's not mandatory.
Planing the Rehearsal
The rehearsal is a quick run-through of the wedding ceremony. It is generally held the evening before the wedding, although it could be another day or two prior, depending on the wedding weekend schedule. The couple, along with their officiant and wedding coordinator, plan the actual rehearsal.
The rehearsal location would ideally be the actual wedding ceremony location whether it's a church or park. However, sometimes other events are booked. In this case, consider hosting the rehearsal earlier in the day or week.
If it simply doesn't work to practice at your actual venue, find a location where everyone can congregate and replicate the layout of the actual venue. Use chairs and masking tape to help everyone find their places and know where seating, flowers, and altar decorations will be located.
People who have a part in the actual wedding ceremony, plus immediate family members, should attend the rehearsal. This includes:
Parents, grandparents, siblings, and special guests (so they know where they'll be seated)
Entire wedding party, including bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, and any children
Musicians (singers, pianists/organists, and special music)
Lighting/sound system personnel
If you hired a separate wedding coordinator, or if the venue provides one, he/she should also attend the rehearsal. Let everyone know about the rehearsal by calling or emailing them; you may also choose to include this information in the rehearsal dinner invitations, too.
What Happens During the Rehearsal
The main purpose of the rehearsal is to practice the actual ceremony itself. This ensures everything runs smoothly when it's time for the big event. In general, the rehearsal will last about 45 minutes to an hour. However, this may be shorter if the actual ceremony is brief or longer if there are more people or lots of ceremonial elements.
The rehearsal may be the first time people are meeting, like bridesmaids and groomsmen. Make proper introductions, and if the bridal party is large, consider using name tags to alleviate forgotten names and embarrassment due to nerves.
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Practice the Wedding Program
After everyone has been introduced, the wedding coordinator or officiant will conduct the practice. Usually this involves:
Seating of special guests, like parents and grandparents, by the groom or designated usher
Running through the order of service, with musicians and readers practicing their pieces at the appropriate times
Walking during the recessional to the music
The practice may be repeated several times in order to get timing down properly. The coordinator will often help cue the wedding party and any lighting or sound personnel while the officiant will run things once everyone is down the aisle. The coordinator or officiant will help cue the musicians, depending on where they are located within the ceremony venue.
Ensure a successful rehearsal by following these tips:
Make sure everyone knows the time and place; follow up a couple days in advance as a reminder.
If the bride and bridesmaids are wearing new shoes, especially shoes with high heels, they may want to bring them along for practice.
Faux bouquets, like a bow bouquet from a bridal shower, helps the bride (and bridesmaids) feel comfortable with how and where to hold the bouquets when standing and walking.
If a runner will be pulled down the aisle for the bride's service, this will be needed at the rehearsal. The groomsmen should know how to pull the runner along effortlessly, and the bride should practice walking on it in her heels.
If children are to be in the wedding, bring a basket for the flower girl and a pillow for the ring bearer. It's especially important for the youngest attendants to practice.
Follow With the Rehearsal Dinner
Typically, the wedding rehearsal is followed by the rehearsal dinner. Unlike the actual rehearsal itself, the dinner is often planned by the parents of the groom along with the couple. This allows everyone a change to get to know each other better and feel comfortable by the time the wedding day arrives.