Rehearsal Planning Guide
While we encourage our couples to have a professional planner or day of coordinator, we realize not everyone makes that choice. If you do not have a professional on your wedding team, find a friend who can manage your wedding ceremony and help organize all your wedding party. It is our recommendation that the person you chose for this role, if not a professional, be someone who is respected and assertive. They need a take charge attitude. They need to an organized person who can follow your wishes yet knows what should be happening at any given time. They are the person others should go to with questions or problems-NOT you on your wedding day. Make sure all your vendors have the name and phone number of the person in charge (again, not either one of you!)
This is not something you can do on your wedding day. We prepared this rehearsal planning guide to assist you and your friend in having a successful rehearsal.
Your rehearsal serves several purposes and is an important part of your wedding. When you know exactly what is going to happen on your wedding day, you can relax and enjoy the experience. When your attendants know what is expected of them during the ceremony, they can relax and know that they are doing all they can to make your day a wonderful and memorable experience for everyone. If children are a part of your wedding party it is helpful when they are comfortable with what is going on around them and can practice being in the right place at the right time. Rehearsals are the place to ask questions and become familiar with what will happen at the wedding.
The following information is a general outline of what to expect and how things traditionally flow. If you have unusual circumstances, please let us know in advance and we can work them out before hand and remove the stress of trying to figure it out at the last minute. Remember that no matter what happens this is your wedding and you will remember it with great joy and love. No matter how much stress you feel, remember to breathe deeply and inhale all the joy and love surrounding you.
It is important for the couple to know that they have the final say in all decisions regarding their ceremony. The following description is what is historically expected at a wedding ceremony. However, if you want it done differently, it is your wedding and you can have it your way! Let’s talk and plan it to be exactly what you dream it to be. If we work together in advance of the rehearsal, we can reduce the stress of having others telling you what to do and we can also reduce the time necessary at the rehearsal. You will know it is exactly the wedding of your dreams.
This guide first addresses how historically the processional and recessional and ceremony are set up. For simplicity sake, in portions of the instructions we do use the traditional terms Bride and Groom, while the rest of the instructions are gender neutral. There are variations listed at the end for couples who want to have a completely unique one of a kind ceremony. We encourage all our couples to decide for themselves how they want their ceremony to flow. Each couple is unique and should have the wedding they want-regardless of how it might seem by family and friends.
Okay, the rehearsal begins:
We begin by gathering the wedding party and asking each person to stand where they will be during the ceremony. Each person should stand facing the couple. The Matron or Maid of Honor and the Best Man stand closest to the officiant. If there are children involved they stand in front of the adult (flower girl with Maid/Matron of Honor and ring bearer in front of Best Man). The couple stands in front of the officiant facing each other, this allows the guests to see the joy and happiness on your faces as you enter into this commitment. (Some folks find it helpful to put small marks/pieces of tape where each person is expected to stand)
Once the wedding party is standing in place we will walk through the various elements of the ceremony. If there are unique or special elements we may practice how they will be performed. Children will be given the opportunity to actually practice their roles.
The next step is the recessional. We will practice how we all leave once the ceremony concludes. After practicing the recessional, we will then practice how we get to our places. The processional is practiced. Once everyone has taken their place, we will walk through the ceremony once again and practice the recessional one more time. If necessary, we will go through this process again to be sure everyone is comfortable with the expectations for them.
Now, let’s review the order in which people enter into the ceremony. If there are going to be honored guests, Grandparents, Mothers, etc., they will be seated once the other guests are seated. Be sure you have decided in advance who will be escorting whom-this reduces the confusion at the rehearsal. The order of seating is Grandparents-Groom’s then Brides, Mothers-Groom’s then Bride’s. The Bride’s mother is the last person seated before the actual ceremony begins. If the Groom is seating his mother, he remains at the front.
After Honored Guests are seated, the Officiant is the first member of the Bridal party to enter. The officiant is followed by the Groom, if he is not already at the front. The Honor Attendant follows the Groom. Then their attendants enter. Once the Groom’s attendants are in place the Brides attendants enter. The Honor Attendant comes in after all the Bride’s attendants are in place. The children enter immediately prior to the Bride’s entrance. (They can come in single file or as a couple) They take their place in front of the respective adult. After all attendants are in place, the Bride will enter. If she is accompanied by her parent or other loved one, they are on her right. Just before they reach the officiant they will answer the question of who escorts this woman and supports this couple in marriage, (if used in the ceremony) gives her a kiss, shakes the Groom’s hand, and takes their seat. The ceremony then begins.
At the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the recessional will be in nearly reverse order of the processional. The Wedding Couple is presented to the guests and they recess They are followed by the child attendants. The Honor Attendants then leave. Attendants can leave in single file or as couples-depending on the wishes of the Wedding Couple. The parents and grandparent recess in exact reverse order of their entry. The mothers are escorted out by the same people who seated them unless the Groom seated his mother. In that case another relative or her partner will escort her. Once the Wedding Party is away, the officiant asks the guests to attend the cocktail hour while the Wedding Party does pictures. and signs the legal documents.
The more details worked out in advance, the more we know of your wishes and plans, the smoother the rehearsal will go. With this knowledge in hand we can support your decisions and “have your back”. If it will be helpful, share this document with your attendants and family members so they also know what to expect at the rehearsal. In order for us to make the rehearsal go as smoothly as possible, we have attached a questionnaire and a diagram we would like for you to complete and return to us if we are running your rehearsal.
Also, remember rehearsal is scheduled for 1 hour on our calendar. We will begin the rehearsal as soon as we arrive. If someone is running late, we will bring them up to speed once they arrive. You can finish discussions around decorations, time to arrive etc after we finish rehearsing the ceremony.
Seating variation: Often the parents and family members sit right behind their son or daughter. This is the traditional placement. We have learned that if we have the families trade sides, they can better see the face of their son or daughter while saying their vows. The family can see the love flowing and better experience the joy of the ceremony.
Entry into the Ceremony Area: Some couples chose to enter the ceremony together. Often this is the choice of couples who have been together for a long time. Some couples want each family to escort them to the ceremony area and wait until both parties are present to ask the question of who presents them for marriage. This represents the support of each family for the marriage. Other couples want each to enter alone, to represent that they are coming to this marriage of their own free will.
We encourage all of our couples to make any adaptations they desire to their wedding ceremony to make it uniquely theirs. Break the mold—don’t conform, if you don’t want to! Let us know what you want and we can help make it happen.