Get Sh*t Done: (Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Rehearsals


And how to know if you need one!

Get Sh*t Done: (Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Rehearsals | A Practical Wedding

Get Sh*t Done: (Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Rehearsals | A Practical Weddingby Elizabeth F. Clayton

While it gets lost easily in the noise of the WIC, the truth is that the wedding is the ceremony, and the reception is the party that happens after the wedding. In a similar way, the rehearsal dinner has become a big deal in the American Wedding Machine, and the rehearsal itself is often an afterthought. But I have witnessed time and time again how much smoother ceremonies run when they’ve been rehearsed.

Now, there are obviously going to be times when you may not need a rehearsal. If the ceremony involves just you, your partner, and the officiant; you have a straightforward entrance and aisle; and music that doesn’t need super specific cues, you can probably skip it. Quaker ceremonies also generally don’t need rehearsals, and my guess is there are other religious traditions out there with ceremonies simple enough to not need rehearsing.

However, the typical American wedding ceremony is at least slightly more complicated, and this is where the rehearsal comes in. You probably need to rehearse your ceremony if you have people who are:

  1. Walking down an aisle
  2. Standing or sitting somewhere specific when they get there
  3. Possibly moving mid-ceremony
  4. Other people who may be standing somewhere specific half way through
  5. Walking back up the aisle at the end

None of this is necessarily particularly complicated, but doing a run-through of it before it happens in front of a crowd will make it seem natural and help avoid some common pitfalls.

Now, what doesn’t happen at a rehearsal is a full read-through of the entire ceremony. If you want to do this, you certainly should do it with your partner, your officiant, and anyone else who’s speaking (and, regardless, you should all practice your parts out loud individually). But you shouldn’t read through every word of the ceremony at the rehearsal where you have a decent-sized audience of people who are going to hear it all again the next day (efficiency and protecting the emotional impact of actually hearing the ceremony and your vows out loud are the reasons for that). So what exactly are rehearsals for? Choreography and blocking.

When I say choreography, I don’t mean dance. What I mean is “a bunch of people have to move from one place to another smoothly,” which mainly comes into play doing the processional (entrance) and recessional (exit), or, as a client of mine called them “the cessionals.” The aisle walk is probably pretty (literally) straightforward for most people, but the things you need to cover when rehearsing it are:

  • Order of Procession: I’ve discovered many people don’t think about this before the rehearsal. So—do you want both partners to process, or one to start at the front? Should your officiant process? If neither of you are being escorted by your parents, should they process on their own? If you have a wedding party, what order do you want them to go in? There’s no wrong answer to any of these, but you have to make a decision.
  • Pace of the Walk: Please, please, don’t do “left, together, right, together.” It looks…silly. A nice, normal, walk—in time to the music—is perfect, and something everyone should be able to do without thinking about too hard.
  • Spacing Between People: If you only have four sets of people processing, you may want to space them out so that you can get more of your processional music in there. If you have eighteen people processing, you’re probably going to have to put them fairly close together if you want them all to get to the front before the song ends. Plan accordingly.
  • Order of Recession: Often this is slightly different. The couple recess together first, followed by wedding party, often in pairs, and the officiant. Parents, who are generally sitting on the aisle in the front row, often recess next, followed by the rest of the guests.

Now, let’s move on to blocking: where people are positioned (and repositioned) during the ceremony itself. Some things to think about:

  • Where Parents Sit: I always have parents sit on the first row aisle, which is standard, but—here’s my non-standard trick—on the opposite side of the aisle from their child. If they’re on the same side, they’re looking at the back of your head the whole time, if they’re on the opposite side, they’ll be able to see your face.
  • Wedding Party: You ideally want them to be close to the couple, but not too close, and evenly and symmetrically spaced. Wedding party members on the left should have the same distance between them as those on the right, and be in the same general shape: straight line, diagonal line, curved line, whatever makes sense in your ceremony space.
  • Couple: At rehearsals, I do a lot of yelling, “Pretend that you like each other!” from the back, because people have a natural inclination to stand with enough space between them that their officiant has plenty of space. Nope. I suggest holding hands if it feels natural to you, or just standing close enough to each other that you can easily look into each other’s eyes. Related: remember to look at each other, especially during vows, and not your officiant!
  • Readers/Readings: Blocking for these people is going to be dependent on your microphone situation (how many you have, if any). If you have two mics (one for the officiant and one for the readers) then the readers should be in front and to the side (I usually put them stage left) of the couple. If there’s only one mic, I usually suggest both members of the couple move to one side (for ease, toward the person who has a dress with a train on it, if applicable) and swivel slightly to face the reader. It is definitely appropriate for the couple to look at the reader while the reading is happening!
  • Officiant: Should be standing behind the couple, centered, but should make sure to take a big step to the side for the first kiss, so as to avoid any awkward first-kiss photobombing.

This all, of course, comes with the caveat that everything should make sense when done at your particular ceremony site! Which brings us to my last important piece—as long as your ceremony site and setup are relatively straightforward, you can definitely rehearse off-site. I’ve done rehearsals in hotel rooms, backyards, hotel conference rooms, and, once, a parking lot. Anywhere you have enough space to create a faux-aisle and line up everyone who’s going to be at the front at the same time, you’re good. If you have a particularly unusual ceremony site, aisle arrangement, or entrance, it may make more sense to make the effort to rehearse at the actual site, but even then don’t panic if your venue isn’t available at a time that works for your wedding party. Most grownups can figure out how to adjust things to another site, especially if it’s only one day later.

And, a final note: I generally schedule an hour for rehearsals. Fifteen minutes to gather and explain things to people, thirty minutes for the first run through, and about ten minutes for the second run through, because at that point everyone gets it and you’re just proving it to them by having them practice.

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Elizabeth Clayton

Elizabeth has been planning weddings since 2006, and has done so full time under the Lowe House Events banner since 2011. She considers herself incredibly lucky to get to work on events full time—it just doesn’t get much better than going to a party most weekends because it’s your job.

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  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    Also: Make sure you the officiant leaves the rehearsal knowing what time the ceremony is supposed to start the next day.

    Seriously. Don’t assume like I did :)

    • Copper

      make sure EVERYONE involved knows what time to arrive the next day: officiant, wedding party, parents, music…

  • M.

    Thanks for this! We just booked the dinner portion of the rehearsal dinner this week (pizza & sangria WHAT) and are planning to rehearse out front of our venue on the lawn. Great idea to do a quick mini second run through just to cement things.

  • Sarah NCtoPA

    Quaker ceremonies definitely do need rehearsing!! (especially one one family is not Quaker). Someone has to bring the certificate for the couple to sign and then someone has to read the certificate–which is all done mid-ceremony. We also had two family members oversee all guests signing the certificate on the way out of the meetinghouse.

    • Emmy

      We had a Quaker ceremony and didn’t do a rehearsal. We just kind of ran through it with the key people right before the ceremony. “So right after we say our vows, you’re going to come up and read the certificate. K?” It worked fine.

    • Elizabeth @ Lowe House

      I mean, you can rehearse that part if you want! but it’s definitely not necessary. I’ve done about five Quaker weddings, although none in a meetinghouse, and have only done a rehearsal for two of them (both times where there were people involved with the wedding who were on the nervous side – I’m always way more than happy to do a rehearsal/whatever clients want if its going to make them less anxious on their wedding day!) and they’ve all gone off really smoothly.
      So, standing by that statement!
      (and it’s worth noting that the Quaker ceremony is one of my favorite types of ceremonies.)

      • Sarah NCtoPA

        Well, I am not discounting the fact that we have a few Type-A family members (groom and me included!) and would have felt nervous without a rehearsal. I imagine it would have been OK without, but knowing most guests had never been to a Quaker service was a bit nerve-wracking. As is the process of getting married–your Friday posts are really helpful Elizabeth.

  • Jennifer

    My wedding is totally going to need a rehearsal – I think the only person who has ever even seen an Episcopalian ceremony before is our priest! The rest of us have no idea what we’re doing, so I’m sure we’ll have a long rehearsal. But we’re having a low-key bbq and beer rehearsal dinner in the parish hall afterward, so hopefully that makes up for it :)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      We were in a pretty similar boat, and our rehearsal, for a complete Anglican marriage and Mass, took under an hour. It helped that the groomsmen, even though they were Jewish, had been in lots of weddings, and that I, my husband, my parents, and my bridesmaids knew the Priest well.

  • SoAnon

    We’re having a Catholic ceremony. Is it OK for just the best man and woman to stand up there and rest of wedding party to sit up front? Background – I come from the land of no wedding parties – just a cultural difference. My partner has been best man many times and it was very important for them to have one.

    So I gathered a SMALL group of friends, and asked them to be in the wedding and figured we could just keep things simple and fun. But I cringe at the thought of us (two adults age 30) having our buddies stand at the altar, and recess in pairs, etc. It feels too – sweet 16? Will it be awkward / disrespectful to just have best woman up there and everyone else sit down? I don’t want to make them feel not special.

    • Dom

      Well, a usual Catholic ceremony is about 45 minutes from start to finish with all the speeches and prayers and can go longer depending on how many rituals you add in. I’ve only been to one where the whole party stood at the front. Generally, I see the wedding party (including best man and maid of honor) sitting down in the front row, and the bride and groom also getting a seat placed in front of the alter. Maybe if everyone is sitting it will feel less weird?

    • stealinghoney

      That is totally fine. At my sister’s Catholic wedding, that is what we did. Bridesmaids/groomsmen sat down (in the first row I think) and MOH and Best Man stood up front. We had little kneelers so that we could participate in the kneeling bits properly.

    • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      I was just in a Catholic wedding this summer! The way my friends had it (I’m not sure if this is standard for ceremonies with a full mass, or just the way they wanted it) was that there were four chairs set up in front of the altar. The bride and groom sat side by side, with the matron of honor seated at the bride’s left and the best man seated at the groom’s right. The rest of us in the wedding party processed in and sat in the first pew on either side, depending on if we were bridesmaids/men or groomsmaids/men. The parents and immediate family sat in the second pew. Everyone stood and sat multiple times during mass, communion, etc. I don’t think they could have made it through if they had stood the whole time! At the end, we all just processed out in roughly reverse order, filing out of the pews two by two and walking naturally. We’re all age 30-35, so totally feel you on your concerns, but it ended up totally not awkward (but then, the recessional music was a pipe organ arrangement of “I Am The Doctor,” so … too awesome for awkwardness?).

    • GCDC

      Most Catholic weddings I’ve been to (including my own) had the bridal party seated. Also, the priest will have some opinion in this – we just showed up the day of the rehearsal without any idea on this sort of thing (where do we kneel when necessary? who sits where and when?) and the priest guided us through all of that, which was incredibly helpful. There were things I didn’t even know I didn’t know when thinking about the ceremony, which I suppose is the point of the rehearsal.

    • Lindsey d.

      The Catholic mass wedding I was a bridesmaid in did a combo of wedding party standing in front and seated. We processed in and stood in a row beside the couple for the initial welcome and prayer, then sat in the first row for the Mass. Then we stood up next to the bride and groom again for the vows, kiss and recessional. Total standing time was maybe 10 minutes versus 40 minutes of sitting.

    • SamanthaNichole

      At our wedding we had the bridal party including maids of honor and best man sit in the second row (behind parents). During the vows we had our best man and maids of honor come up and stand with us. Our priest suggested having best man and maids of honor sit up front with us but our church was so small that we wouldn’t have been able to sit in the front middle which I wanted. We sat in the front center of the aisle. I think you just have to do what feels right to you! And definitely for a Catholic wedding they will need a place to sit/ stand/ kneel, even you two and the best man and maid of honor.

    • SoAnon

      Thank you everyone for sharing! I feel better about this already!

  • http://texancountess.wordpress.com KendraD

    I’ve been a bit nervous about the rehearsal portion for our ceremony because the venue only allows rehearsals on Thursday night or Friday before noon. I’m not sure how many of our wedding party will be able to come into town that early. I know that our site has a somewhat unique layout, but I won’t really know how to navigate until the weekend of the wedding when I actually get to see it in person for the first time. I love the tip for rehearsing off site though, we can definitely make that work.

    • Nora

      I’m in the same boat with our venue in terms of Thursday rehearsal for a Saturday wedding. It’s also a hard-to-navigate layout, so I’m just crossing my fingers that everyone who is actually part of the ceremony can make it. It helps that we’re not having a wedding party, so there are fewer people that actually need to be there.

      Is there any way you can sneak in to see it in person before the wedding weekend, just to get a mental map of the layout? That might help make the off site rehearsal a bit easier. I did a reconnaissance mission and mapped ours out and that has really helped us to visualize how all of the moving parts will fit together.

  • Dom

    I have no idea how our processional is going to go yet. We are having it at a theatre, so there are two aisles with all the seats in the middle and the stage at the front.

    The main issue is, how in the world are we going to walk down one of the aisles and still make sure everyone gets that “special” first look – my future MIL is the one who is really pressing for it. But she can either sit at the side of the aisle and see the first look then not be front and center for the ceremony, or she can sit front and center and miss the walk.

    Has anyone ever had their ceremony theatre style? What did you decide to do?

    • rowany

      We came from opposite sides at the front (so like the front ‘wings’ of a theater I guess) rather than the back aisle. We couldn’t keep our eyes off each other and everyone got a good look of us as we got closer and closer together.

  • Vita Trefusis

    So we didn’t rehearse. we had some minor issues particularly as both parents were walking us each down the aisle. Turns out the aisle was not wide enough for groom + parents, but they just went with the flow and the groom walked with his mom and dad just behind. Probably could have been avoided with a bit of rehearsing but we really couldn’t be bothered and it doesn’t bother us much now!

  • Laura C

    So helpful, thanks! I want an e-book of Elizabeth’s posts to carry around with me for when I have logistical questions.

    I suspect we’ll end up rehearsing at our venue if it’s available, but this gives me ammo to say we can save the fee for that and just do it in the yard where we’re having the rehearsal dinner.

  • Brenda

    I would also discuss how you and the officiant are going to stand during the ceremony. I assumed we would stand facing the officiant (backs to the guests) because that’s what I’ve seen in movies and church weddings, but if you’re not having a church wedding, it can be flexible.

    We ended up standing slightly diagonal to each other, facing the guests, slightly off-center, with the officiant on the other side, also slightly diagonal to both us and the guests. It was really lovely to be able to look out and make eye contact with all of our guests, and not have to turn my head too much to look at my husband.

    • Lindsey d.

      Yes! For as long as I can remember, my dad has been adamant that he hates that he sees the couple’s backs and the officiants’ faces during the vows. So we are planning to make his wish come true. We haven’t blocked it out yet, but I think we start traditionally (couple facing altar/officiant facing guests), and then turn around with the officiants (we have two) walking down the steps and facing us, while we face our guests. One of our officiants is 6’4″, so I hope he doesn’t block people. We’ll figure that part out in the rehearsal….

      • Sheila

        Absolutely possible. We had a Catholic wedding and for the vows, the priest stood in front of us with his back to the congregation so we were facing out. He also stood down a few steps so he wasn’t blocking us. We were facing each other but could also see out to the guests.

        • SamanthaNichole

          Yes, this is what our priest did too. Very nice.

  • Katelyn

    When I was a bridesmaid for my cousin’s wedding, it didn’t matter that we rehearsed the “pace of the walk”. It was 100 degrees and humid and we all practically sprinted down the aisle to speed the ceremony along.

  • Amy March

    Um what? You don’t want me to do left-together right-together? But Father of the Bride is my life script! I fully expect to visit planners wearing a daytime pink suit with my mother and there’s no way I’m serving veau.

    • Rachel

      Last weekend I had the most overwhelming urge to watch Father of the Bride! I need to get that on DVD stat.

      • Laura C

        You know what’s really interesting? Watch the Steve Martin version and the 1950 original one after the other. It’s fun to see what they changed and what they didn’t — I actually used clips from them in a sociology of the family class I taught a few years ago, for comparison.

        • Margaret

          I’ve actually done that! But I watched them scene by scene (i.e. The opening sequence in the 1950 version and then the opening sequence of the Steve Martin version). I’m a total nerd.

    • AmandaS

      On a similar tangent, I was shopping for hostess gifts for my shower and was desperate to find a copy of Steel Magnolias for my aunt. We always joke about bleeding armadillo cake. And I think, maybe, I’m hoping, that we’ll have some for my shower this weekend.

      We will be having blue velvet cupcakes at the wedding. Which is sort of the same :)

      • Pippa

        Oh, yes. So awesome. Plus, of course, the obligatory wedding colours discussion: blush and bashful all the way!

  • rowany

    Just had our wedding a few weeks ago. We wrote our own ceremony and had our friends officiate so it was doubly (maybe triply since it was an asymmetrical outdoor space) important to have a rehearsal. If you do have your friends officiate, make sure that they have a clear plan for the rehearsal.

    Tips on the rehearsal that worked really well:
    Do the recession FIRST – it’s the easiest and quickest for everyone to figure out their order. We then ran through blocking out the ceremony, what angle people would stand and how close together, and where people would walk to since our parents and each of our wedding party was involved in giving us something. Like Liz said, we skipped most of the ceremony, only going over key cues for people to watch out for. We then practiced exchanging rings, with the key advice from the officiant not to try to force the ring all the way; just leave it on the knuckle and worry about it later. We finally went through the procession, which was the most complicated, so we ran through that twice, again going over verbal and musical cues. That way it was fresh in people’s minds for the actual ceremony.

    Since it was an outdoor ceremony, we just used rocks to block out where people would stand or walk to, and nobody thought it was out of place! You could maybe use flower petals or something in concordance with your decorations as well.

  • Rachel

    So…silly question but…who runs the rehearsal? The last two weddings I was in were Catholic, so the priest had the whole routine down. He told us the pace, where to stand, etc. For ours, we’re having a secular ceremony that we’re writing ourselves and our venue won’t allow for a traditional processional from the back. (There is a door on each side of the judge’s desk at the front of the room, so we and our bridal parties will enter from there.) I think Eric and I will just need to plan the timing out ahead of time and then

    Also is it weird to just have our instrumental entrance song get sort of cut off (or like…get turned down low) wherever it is when we’ve all made it to our spots? Should we decide where we’d like it to end and just sort of get to our positions and hold until it hits that spot? I feel like trying to time that perfectly is the stuff of nightmares.

    • M.

      At the only rehearsal I’ve been to, the maid of honor had the binder and ran the rehearsal. Worked well! That’s what we plan to do.

    • Sheila

      Re: cutting off the entrance song – will it be recorded or do you have live musicians? My husband is our church music director and he has played at over a hundred weddings. By now he is an expert at figuring out how much music he needs and he can just wind things down in a way that sounds natural. So I imagine if you have similarly experienced musicians, they could do the same thing. If you have recorded music, it’s still probably better to have someone just turn the volume down (a little slowly but not super-drawn out) when you’re all ready. A little awkwardness when everyone hears the music just stop is better than the awkwardness of everyone watching you just stand up there waiting for the last 45 seconds of the song, IMO.

      • Rachel

        We’re actually going to use recorded music! I agree that turning it down slowly makes a lot of sense.

        • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

          Totally agree, turn it down slowly. I have Audacity so I had already edited down our processional music from its original form to a shorter excerpt that I thought would time out perfectly, but our nerves led us both to basically sprint into place. My little brother manning the ipod luckily just faded it out and our friend who officiated told everyone to be seated when the volume was pretty far down. The ensuing shuffling covered the actual cutoff of the music nicely.

    • rowany

      We had our officiants run the rehearsal; we both collected tips from the internet into one google doc and fit them to the ceremony outline. As Meg said below, definitely have someone else run it.
      As for music, we just made sure it was much longer than the walk would take and had a friend assigned to handle music. The sound system we rented had a mixer and he just faded music in//out when the time was right. I wouldn’t worry about timing the walk just right. As someone told me before the wedding, it’s ok, you’re the bride people will be happy to wait for you.

    • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

      I ran our rehearsal, because I’d written everything. It was just the easiest way for me, because it was the first time everyone (including the officiant) had been to the venue. Granted, if our day of coordinator had been able to be there the day before too, she’d have done it.

      Basically I talked everybody through the ceremony once, so people could understand placements, and most importantly – how to pass our rings around and get them back. Then we did a test run through and I gave the binder to the officiant. Done!

    • SarahG

      I’ve seen people do a bunch of different things. One friend just cut it off cold, which was a little like *record scratch* but also got everyone’s attention, which was good; I have heard other people do a “fade out” kind of thing where the volume just goes gradually down; with live musicians I think the courteous thing is to wait for them to finish. If it’s less than 30 seconds left of recorded music, I say enjoy the music and don’t worry about it :) You picked it so it’s probably a song you like, right? Plus, the ceremony is what people are there for anyway (well, what I’m there for) so even if it’s super loud and then weirdly silent, just choose to find it humorous if you can and it’ll be great :)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      NOT a silly question, a very important question.

      Some officiants will insist on running the rehearsal. Ours had stories of shutting down and shutting up bossy wedding planners. (He’s grateful for the assistance of reasonable wedding planners.) If your wedding follows a script provided by your house of worship and you have an officiant affiliated with that house of worship, you should expect the officiant to run the rehearsal (or someone else affiliated with the house of worship if the officiant can’t attend the rehearsal).

      I don’t know about other situations.

  • meg

    ALSO: put someone else in charge, other than you. I tried to run my own rehearsal, and it was a disaster. There are a lot of cultural reasons (apparently even the most feminist of people can fall into the trap of “bride telling people what to do = bridezilla.”) But in short, it’s stress I didn’t need. I was more than capable of doing it, I was not capable of dealing with people’s crap while I did it.

    Someone. Else. In. Charge. Just ask a friend, if you don’t have a planner.

    The end, xo, Meg.

    • TeaforTwo

      “I was more than capable of doing it, I was not capable of dealing with people’s crap while I did it.”

      This is the most feminist thing I have read all day.

      • meg

        <3 <3

      • Emilie

        Put this on a mug!

    • http://www.devabydefinition.com deva

      Yes! This! A recently-married friend ended up helping to run our rehearsal and it was SO helpful.

      the only thing we DID do was a quick run-through of the ceremony but not the whole thing. It was our officiant’s first wedding and we all wanted to do a quick run-through to finalise phrasing. It really helped the next day and I still got really emotional at my vows.

    • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

      HA. I just wrote the complete opposite comment from this right above yours. To each their own!

      • http://www.alivingspace.com Julia | alivingspace

        Yeah, I ran my own rehearsal at my wedding this summer, and it worked really well for me! We had an outdoor ceremony with an unusual aisle situation, and I hadn’t quite figured out exactly how I wanted everything, so I needed to see it all and just tell people what to do. Luckily everyone was great and just followed along without any weirdness. Plus, I’m kindof a bossypants, and giving up control is way too much for me! Ok, I will admit that later that night I practically had a panic attack freaking out that I would have to do everything the next day for the wedding… but I honestly think having the rehearsal go just as I wanted made me feel a little better about everything happening right the next day, and everything did work out perfectly and people stepped up.

      • Aubry

        Yes, I will be running my own for sure. But, I run a dance studio and have put on 2-4 shows plus got my groups through competiton for 13 years. I’m good at telling people what to do, and if anyone wants to call me names they are welcome to.

        • Aubry

          Sorry, 2-4 shows per year I meant to say. And those shows require several hundred people to be where they are supposed to for several hours. And this place where they belong changes every few minutes. So, getting 6 people to stand in the right place once wont be hard!

  • Raine

    I love the advice about seating parents on opposite side from their child. Genius! So simple. So logical. And yet, we are all programmed to sit directly behind our “side”.

    • TeaforTwo

      I will say this, though: At both of my siblings’ weddings I was sitting behind them, and while I couldn’t see their faces, it was incredibly moving to see their partners’ faces light up while they made their vows to one another. One of the best parts of watching your loved ones get married is knowing that someone else loves them so much.

  • Darcy

    Be prepared for the first wave of “oh sh*t this is really happening” to hit during the rehearsal. I got all teary and emotional while we read through the ceremony at the rehearsal. The actually wedding I was too distracted by the hilarious muscle spasm in my sweetie’s check.

    Also, if your dress is poofy or has a long train think about the logistics of how to turn around and not having anyone walk directly behind you.

    • anontoo

      Totally true – I think both of our moms cried during the rehearsal, and I was seriously not prepared!

  • H

    Also. We had a really good Catholic priest run our rehearsal. It was magical. It calmed EVERYONE down (including my overwrought mother), and honestly, set the tone for the entire weekend. He started with making everyone sit down, and he went over his four rules, and it was great. Thus, I agree 1000% with Meg’s advice that you shouldn’t run your own rehearsal. Pass that shit off to someone else, and when somebody (inevitably) complains, you don’t have to deal with it. They do.

    • Karen

      I have to ask: what are his four rules?

  • Copper

    If you’re having an unusual or participatory ceremony, how much did you tell people about that beforehand?

    • MC

      Not sure how participatory your ceremony will be, I went to a wedding last year where the officiant led “community vows” which I think just involved everyone saying “We do” after she asked if we vow to support the couple, etc. Oh, and we all stood up and held hands during that part. Since it wasn’t too complicated and the officiant explained it very clearly, no one really needed to know about it ahead of time. My thoughts are that if the participatory part would take the officiant more than a couple of minutes to explain, or if you feel like that would detract from the flow of the ceremony, let everyone know ahead of time. Maybe in an e-mail a couple days before with the details.

      Would you mind sharing what participatory things you’re planning for the ceremony? I love the idea and love to hear how people involve their guests!

  • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

    If you are having kids in your ceremony, how much do you involve them in the rehearsal?

    We are planning on borrowing Kathleen and Jon’s “yay parade” idea, so there will be a number of kids involved. Nephews, nieces, and god children, between the ages of 2 and 7.

    http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/05/the-shed-at-glenwood-wedding-reception/

    I guess have the older kids on hand, and then mostly deal with the parents of the wee ones? It is mostly going to just be unleashing them at one end of the aisle/path, and then having them join their parents at the other.

  • ANDREA

    On the topic of walking and music:

    You’re totally right about a nice, normal walk. But please, if you have specific music, and especially if that music is going to change partway through (say, so the bride walks down to something else), and if your aisle isn’t hundreds of yards long, try to walk reaaaaaaalllly slow. I’ve played music at weddings where we got through about 1/2 a verse of Pachelbel’s Canon (which is to say, not the good part) before having to switch to another song. Sounds awkward, you won’t like it. Even if the music isn’t switching, just keep in mind that you won’t get through a whole song by walking at a normal human pace. Maybe a verse and a chorus at most.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      We spaced the bridesmaids and bride by verses. I may have walked in to “Mid toil and tribulation…” that or “Though with a scornful wonder…”

  • Cara

    Our rehearsal was a huge help, except for one thing. We didn’t have the alter thing set up for the rehearsal, which was basically 3 skinny logs to make a rectangular arbor thing. If you have anything like that, make sure you tell a) your officiant, and b) whoever is standing up there first that they NEED to be centered. All our photos look wonky because we started off a bit off center, and somehow kept moving and by the end we’re way closer to one side than the other – super annoying. So keep that in mind…

  • TeaforTwo

    I love this, in large part because I have no idea how long wedding things TAKE. I have booked a restaurant next door to the church for our wedding rehearsal, but I wasn’t sure what time to schedule things for. My big worry was that everyone would show up at the church, we would practice walking down the aisle, and 7 minutes later everyone would wonder what all the fuss had been about. So to schedule an hour instead of 7 minutes is a good piece of information to have.

  • Amy March

    One thing I’ve seen at a rehersal that was lovely was a note that the priest would be available to hear confession for the hour preceding the rehearsal for anyone who wanted.. I’m not Catholic so I just skipped that, but I thought it was a very nice idea.

  • http://www.amid Lisa

    Just a word from another perspective. We did not rehearse our second wedding, at all. 40 people seated, 2 people standing up for me and another 2 for my husband. The randomness and so now what happens of the ceremony was one of my favorite aspects.

    My brother-in-law, who isn’t a rabbi but should be, officiated. As he said, it isn’t a performance. He and my husband and I wound up standing there chatting (in low voices to be sure) during a ceremony music break, that was going too long, and then waving to Meg who was in the back (!!!!!<3) to ask her to signal to the musicians to pipe down.

    There's grace in the random too. Perhaps easier to effect in a second wedding, however.

  • Laura

    Another thing that’s nice about rehearsals — it gives you a chance to get over the weird, jittery feeling that comes with standing close to your partner and looking into his/her eyes. If you’re not used to sentimental moments in front of other people (hell, I think my parents had only seen me kiss my now-husband a couple of times before the ceremony), it can be awkward. Better to get that flood of emotional, awkward, what-do-I-do-with-my-hands feelings out of the way BEFORE your wedding day, when you’ll already be swimming on a sea of emotion.

  • Copper

    if you have them made up already, do you use your bouquets for the rehearsal? Or do you just hand something random off at the appropriate moment so that you know it’s accounted for?

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I heard of this tradition of making a “bouquet” from the bows on the gifts at your bridal shower, to use at your rehearsal. Totally silly and unnecessary, of course, but it serves a purpose, as fresh flowers keep fresh longer if they’re kept cold. Of course, almost anything could serve the same purpose of a bouquet stand-in.

      I had these fake bouquets for my rehearsal, but I think we forgot them. I’m not sure we rehearsed the bouquet hand-off. When it needed to happen was really clear in our ceremony. We couldn’t have rehearsed, because we couldn’t have known, how to manage my bouquet, which was really hard to hold with one hand because of its weight and shape. (It was delivered to the church an hour before the ceremony.)

      We did practice/discuss holding the bouquets at home sometime during the wedding weekend. (“Think pubes, not boobs.”)

  • Apples

    Bookmarking this for my wedding rehearsal next June. Brilliance.

  • Sarah S

    If your ceremony location wants to charge you an arm and a leg just to use it for an hour to rehearse, keep in mind that that’s not necessarily your only option. We had our rehearsal in a park. Not in a rented shelter in a park, just in a park. The sidewalk was the aisle. We actually got married in a small chapel, and yes, there are a couple stairs in the chapel that didn’t exist in the park, but it all worked out just fine! (And was totally free.)

  • K down under

    ohmygoodness, awkward first kiss photobombing… This perfectly describes the photo we have of our first kiss, but the look on our pastor’s face still makes me grin every time i think of it :p

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  • TeaforTwo

    I would add to this: as far as possible, make all of the decisions (where to stand, what order people will process, will it happen in pairs or not, etc.) in advance.

    Obviously depends on you and your crew, but between family, wedding party and spouses who were waiting around for the rehearsal dinner to start, there were 25 people at our wedding rehearsal. If you (or better: your officiant or DOC) can run the rehearsal and tell everyone exactly where to be and when and how to get there, your wedding party will accept it pretty easily, do as they’re told, and then everyone can go enjoy the rehearsal dinner.

    If, however, on the night before your wedding, you say “I’m not sure what the best way to XYZ” is, you have just opened yourself up to the opinions of 25 different people. Do not do this. These are not decisions that need to be made democratically, especially on the night before your wedding. Save yourself the stress!

  • Michele

    I have a question – is it reasonable to have your rehearsal the morning of an evening wedding? For various reasons, it’s not possible to do the rehearsal at the venue the day before, and since all the wedding party is from out of town, having it on Thursday would be inconvenient. It seems like it could work that morning, but I don’t know if that would be too stressful. The alternative would be to have the rehearsal somewhere other than the venue.

  • Vic Horsham

    I have a question on readings.

    In the past, I’ve generally only seen them at religious weddings, taking place while the couple and witnesses do the whole sign-the-legal-paperwork thing just out of sight, since watching that bit is boring. But… we’re having a non-legally-binding marriage ceremony (damn UK religious laws), so there won’t BE a paperwork signing bit. We’ll likely be visiting a registry office to have a legal marriage on paper the day before or something, with no frou-frou at all or anyone present except the people that need to be there for it to be legal.

    If anyone in our families asks to do a reading, when do you think would be a good time to fit them in? We’re probably going to be doing something like…

    everyone walks to ceremony spot and sits (not doing an aisle walk with everyone watching, NOOOOOOPE)
    couple and party place relevant offerings/items on altar and take up positions
    ceremony bit with vows, hand-binding, mead toast
    couple leaves, doing a broom jump, with party following
    guests go and have drinks while wedding party and parents do photos

    buffet dinner
    toasts
    cake cut
    PAAAAAARTY!

    We want family included as much as possible, so if anyone wants to do a reading we’ll want to include them, but I’m not really sure where we’d fit them in all that, that’d feel like a natural moment to have them happen. Where do people normally fit them, when the registry signing isn’t happening during the ceremony itself?

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