What to Expect at Your Ceremony Rehearsal

After coordinating 50+ ceremony rehearsals, you learn a thing or two about how to run them in the most efficient way. My goal when coordinating a rehearsal is to make things as clear as possible, and to be very thorough and anticipate questions before they're asked. I thought it would be helpful to put together a brief run-down of what to expect at your ceremony rehearsal for my current (and future) brides, and anyone else who wants to know what this whole rehearsal thing looks like. 

I will say, when I first started coordinating weddings over 5 years ago, I was terrified and SO nervous to run the rehearsals! These days I genuinely love them and it allows me to get to know the wedding party and family a bit more before the big day. All of my wedding planning packages include a ceremony rehearsal (which you also might hear me refer to as a run-through) that is typically the day before the wedding, but depending on the venue and any restrictions, it may fall on a different day. 

So, how long will this whole rehearsal thing take?

You should set aside one hour for the ceremony rehearsal, but depending on the size of your wedding party it can definitely be a bit shorter or longer. 30-60 minutes is usually a safe estimate, but I've had them as short as 20 minutes and as long as 1.5 hours. 

Who should be present for the rehearsal?

In a perfect world, we'd have all of the bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers, officiant, parents of the bride, parents of the groom, any guests being seated (grandparents, etc), along with the DJ or live musician. I definitely know that isn't always possible and some wedding party members might be getting in to town later, etc. In this case, I just use a family member as a "stand in" so we can still get spacing and everything correct.

I've done plenty of weddings without officiants or DJs/musicians present and it's really no big deal if it's not an option, they are experienced in their jobs and I will touch base with them early on in the wedding day to make sure we're all on the same page. 

 Photo by  Catalina Jean

Photo by Catalina Jean

What's the purpose of the rehearsal?

The purpose of the rehearsal is to make sure everyone in the wedding party (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl/ring bearer, immediate family, officiant, etc) knows exactly where to be, what order to walk in, and when. It's also a time to answer questions and make sure everyone is on the same page for the big day. 

Here is a quick run-down of how I coordinate the rehearsal:

  • Once everyone has arrived, I gather them together and introduce myself, and I like to go around and have everyone introduce themselves as well. I make sure everyone knows that I will be the point person for the day of the wedding - and that if there are any questions tomorrow (or whenever the wedding is), to please come to me and not the bride and groom.
  • Next, I get the bride and groom, officiant, bridesmaids, and groomsmen lined up at the ceremony arch/alter/arbor/what-have-you. I go over some notes with the wedding party at this point, including how to hold the bouquets, how groomsmen have their hands, how they angle their bodies, etc.
  • After that, it's time to run through the recessional (the music that the bride and groom exit down the aisle to). 
  • Lastly, I get everyone lined up for the processional (and since we started with everyone lined up at the front, everyone knows exactly where to go). If there are family members being seated, we run through that at this point as well.
  • Depending on how everyone is feeling and the size of the wedding party, I usually run through the recessional and processional 1-2 more times until everyone feels confident.
  • Before I leave, I check to see if anyone has any questions and just make sure everyone is feeling good about things. I also make sure to touch base about who will have the rings on the wedding day, who will have the marriage license, etc. 

Rehearsal + Ceremony Tips!

  • Try to schedule your ceremony rehearsal for the same time as your actual wedding ceremony! This way, you'll see exactly how the light will be and you'll know just what to expect the next day.
  • As mentioned, try to have your entire wedding party, special guests being seated, both sets of parents, officiant, and DJ/musician present, if possible
  • Sometimes it is not possible to do the rehearsal at the actual wedding venue -- and that's okay! I've done plenty of off-site rehearsals, and things still run just fine. Just try to find a park, backyard, or another convenient location for everyone to meet at. The most important thing is that everyone knows the order to walk in, who they're walking with, and so on.
  • If you want to have your officiant run through the ceremony during the rehearsal, he/she totally can, but you can also keep it a surprise for the big day!
  • It's always a good idea to remind the officiant at the rehearsal to try and step out of the way when it's time for the kiss, so that he/she isn't photo bombing all of the kiss photos.
  • Make sure to consider commute and possible run-over time when scheduling the rehearsal dinner -- you won't want to plan a 6:00 pm rehearsal and a 7:00 pm dinner. Shoot for 7:30 instead. 
  • As far as the ceremony goes - you don't have to do the "traditional" sides with bride on the left and groom on the right if you don't want to; I have SO many couples who switch this up for various reasons.
  • Traditionally, the bride's parents sit on the "bride's side," but it's actually a much better view for parents if they sit on the opposite side of their child! 

Alright, are you still with me? I hope this wasn't too much of an info overload! If you have any questions, comments, or even some tips I may have missed, please leave a comment below or email me directly at becky[at]eventcrush[dot]com! If we're currently working together, I'm super excited to coordinate your rehearsal and make sure things run smooth as butter!