Coordinating the ceremony rehearsal

A rehearsal can be your chance to iron out any last minute wrinkles before the ceremony proper. Rehearsals are usually held the day before the wedding, but can be held earlier if it suits the parties involved better. You should schedule around two hours for the rehearsal, and it should be held at the ceremony venue.

As the wedding planner, it is highly likely that it will be part of your job to direct the rehearsal, and to instruct all the parties involved along with the officiant. It’s a good idea to contact the officiant prior to the rehearsal to discuss your role in the ceremony and the level to which the officiant would like you to be involved.

If a religious ceremony is planned, the officiant will take a larger role in direction than for a civil ceremony or non-denominational ceremony, where the couple and you have been more involved in planning a unique ceremony together.

Who should attend

The best plan of action is to ensure that all parties involved with the ceremony are present at the rehearsal, including the bride and groom, the officiant, the father (and possibly mother) of the bride, all of the bridal attendants including the ring bearer and flower girl, ushers, musicians, and pretty much anyone who is performing a reading or prayer (if required).

Participants should be asked not to bring along spouses, children or friends and family, as this can be distracting.

Prior to commencing the rehearsal, it’s a good idea to:

  • Confirm who will be signing the marriage certificate as witnesses.
  • Lay out any ceremonial props (candles for the unity candle ceremony, beakers for the sand ceremony, etc).
  • Determine the best location for the guest book.
  • Handle any other last-minute details.

The rehearsal gives each member of the wedding party and others involved an opportunity to find out what their role is, and to practice it. It’s especially important for the bride and groom to practice, so that they feel comfortable with their parts and can relax and enjoy it on the wedding day. They should practice:

  • Walking down the aisle (for the bride).
  • passing the bouquet (for the bride).
  • determining where they will stand.
  • kneeling (if appropriate).
  • signing the marriage certificate.
  • exchanging vows.
  • exchanging rings.
  • any special exchanges or blessings.

After everyone has completed the rehearsal and practiced their parts, it’s a good idea to do a verbal run through of the ceremony and to repeat all of the instructions. Also, allow each participant to clarify what their duties are, and ask any questions if they are confused or do not understand. It can be helpful to create a wedding itinerary/checklist to give to all members of the bridal party.

Rehearsal dinner

Some people like to have a dinner or party following the rehearsal. This would normally include all people involved in the wedding ceremony (including the officiant) together with their partners, parents and siblings of the bride and groom, out-of-town guests, and possibly the reception MC and their partner. It’s traditional for the groom’s parents to host the rehearsal dinner; however, sometimes the bride and groom themselves or other family members get involved with planning and/or hosting it.

In the lesson materials is a sample wedding day itinerary (you want to be super organized here).

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