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Running your first few wedding rehearsals can be a daunting task. Many wedding planners have commented that this is their least favorite part of the wedding planning process.
If the officiant or church coordinator will be at the ceremony rehearsal, communicate with him the week prior to determine who will be responsible for directing the rehearsal. Some church coordinators and officiants prefer to take charge which is helpful to know ahead of time.
You can also inquire with the ceremony musicians to see if they would like to attend the rehearsal.
Confirm with the couple that everyone has arrived then start by welcoming the guests to the rehearsal and introduce yourself. Explain your process for the rehearsal by talking briefly about the steps listed below.
Place the wedding party in their positions on the altar area (or under the chuppah, mandap, or other religious structure) so they know where to stand during the ceremony. These details should be included in your wedding day timelines that you created and finalized with the couple prior to the wedding.
After everyone knows their places for the ceremony, line up the wedding party, parents, wedding couple, and officiant in the correct order for the processional, then send everyone down the aisle. If the musicians are present, you can cue them at the appropriate times.
As the bride comes down the aisle, she will be on her father’s left arm if he is escorting her. When it’s time for her father to be seated, the bride will typically kiss him goodbye then shake the hand (or hug) the groom. The bride’s father will then walk behind the bride to his seat. At this point, the bride normally gives her bouquet to her maid of honor and the groom will extend his left hand to the bride.
After the processional is done and everyone is in place, you or the officiant will run through the basic wedding ceremony details. Be sure to determine who will have the rings on the wedding day. Typically the best man will have the rings unless the ring bearer is old enough to be responsible for the real rings.
After the kiss, the bride will get her bouquet from the maid of honor. At this time, the officiant will introduce the couple and the recessional music begins. The best man and maid of honor will wait until the bride and groom are at the back of the room, then the best man will extend his right arm to the maid of honor and they will walk out together. The rest of the bridal party will follow in the same manner.
It’s helpful to choose an agreed-upon distance where each couple will exit (for example: when the couple in front gets to the fifth row of chairs, then the next couple exits). This allows for a uniform bridal party recessional and gives the photographer and videographer time for photos. After the last wedding party couple recesses down the aisle, the parents and any people sitting in the front row should immediately follow.
Depending on the couple and the complexity of the ceremony, you may need to run through this process one time or up to four times until everyone feels comfortable. For Indian weddings, Jewish weddings, and other religions, the processional and recessional may be very different from the basics we share in this article. Your clients and the officiant can assist you with the actual logistics and details specific for each wedding.
After the rehearsal is finished, confirm that the wedding party knows where to meet on the wedding day and what time they need to arrive. You may also want to make an announcement about the rehearsal dinner if necessary.
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[…] day generally ends by 9pm, depending on the day of the week and whether I have meetings, wedding rehearsals, or events. I take Monday off of work every week for much-needed family time with my twins and […]
[…] hours – attending and managing the wedding rehearsal (including travel […]
What is the average fee to charge for directing a wedding-not a wedding planner fee?
Thanks for commenting Terri. I am not sure what you are asking. It would really depend on what the ceremony involves, where it is located, and what services you are providing.
[…] Be prepared and attend the ceremony rehearsal. This is usually the day prior to the wedding. Make sure you know how the bridal party will line up and walk down the aisle, who will escort the parents and when the music changes so that you can cue the musicians on the wedding day. I include all these details in my timeline (with first names of everyone involved) and also create a diagram so I can glance at the layout and easily direct the bridal party during the rehearsal. […]
This weekend, I ended up getting asked to coordinate my first wedding about 20 minutes before the rehearsal was supposed to start! I have experience with event coordination, but honestly had no idea what the role of a wedding coordinator was before stepping into that. Fortunately, I was able to figure it out (or just act confident when I didn’t know and people seemed satisfied) and and had some great help along the way and ended up discovering I enjoy and could definitely do wedding coordination in the future. I wish I had seen this post before that un-expected wedding, as it was so helpful!
Thanks for sharing your experience Joy!
These are the best tips ever for making a wedding all it can and should be!! So thank you so much! I’ve taken tons of notes to help my bride! Another thing to add…Sometimes the officiant needs to be told where to stand during portions of the wedding. I just viewed a wedding where it was horrible that the officiant ended up blocking the groom from the audience during the ring vows/exchange ;( It was very obvious that he was so uncomfortable…that will forever be in their pictures. They may not even remember his name, but he will be in all their pictures during one of the most important times of their ceremony…yikes! Please remember to tell the officiant where to stand during important things like vows, unity ceremonies, ring vows/exchange and any other special/custom moments in the ceremony. The officiant is to marry them never to be the center of attention. Poor guy and poor pictures. No one has a good one of that moment… Also, one other note that I didn’t read here was that it is important that all the bridal party keep their focus/eyes on the bride and groom at all times during the ceremony. It should be like the bride and groom is the metal and the bridal party is the magnet…LOL! Bridal parties with wandering minds, and therefore eyes, make people in the audience wonder what they are looking at and it will definitely distract from the ceremony….Bridal parties with their attention on the bride and groom will help redirect the attention of a “wandering” audience as well. We want everyone to “wonder” at the bride and groom not “wander” around the room! HA! Thanks for listening and thanks for these outstanding tips everyone!
Thanks for sharing your helpful tips Suzanne!
One more thing Debbie…I forgot to mention that the rehearsal director should warn all of the bridal party to stand with knees slightly bent during the ceremony to help with blood flow in the body. Many a “locked knee” bridesmaid or groomsman have fallen prey to the dreaded faint and crash debacle!! Don’t believe it…plenty of youtube videos to prove it. This warning can save the day 😉
Great addition Suzanne. Thanks for sharing!
I am an experienced event planner, but taking on my first wedding this weekend. Thank you so very much for all this detailed information! I found it to be so very helpful.
Good luck Melinda!
Good post (and yes, not the most enjoyable part to plan, everyone just wants to get to the dinner and drink)!
I always be sure to check with the Bride, if whether or not she’ll be wearing her veil over her face, to be sure we rehearse that too.
Great addition Christine. Thanks for commenting!
[…] Run the ceremony rehearsal the day prior to the wedding […]
Need to know the hourly rate to director of a rehearsal and wedding
Also how many hours for each one
And if they go over the set hours
How much after that
also if the check bounce how do I write that into a contract with the client to cover me
Hi Beverly, it sounds like you need a wedding planner contract which you can find here: https://plannerslounge.com/go/contract. If you would like one-on-one coaching, you can find that here: https://plannerslounge.com/event-planner-coaching-and-mentoring/.
Seating placement is also important. Decide before the rehearsal who will sit where.
This is especially important with divorced parents who do not want to sit together.
At the beginning of the rehearsal – asking parents and grandparents (if present) to find their seats helps.
If the ceremony is outside – chairs may not be present at the rehearsal, so you have to pretend.
Fun, fun, fun.
Many more things to decide BEFORE the rehearsal is who will escort the women who are grandmothers, mothers and other important people worthy of the processional. Ushers are not always present these days. Order of this part of the processional goes as follows:
Groom’s Paternal Grandparents, Groom’s Maternal Grandparents
Bride’s Paternal Grandparents, Bride’s Maternal Grandparents
Mother of the Groom with Usher with Father of the Groom Following, or just the Groom’s Parents
Mother of the Bride with Usher or Mother of the Bride with Father of the Bride who then walks back down to escort Bride.
Of course, this gets more complicated if there is divorce, step-parents, or death of a parent or grandparent.
Rule of thumb about Recessional is to go backwards from how they came in.
Groom and Groomsmen may come out of the front or down the aisle. All decided at the rehearsal.
NUMBER ONE PRIORITY is to get the Processional and Recessional list ironed out before the rehearsal and use a pencil to make changes during the rehearsal.
All helpful reminders. thank you for sharing!
This is excellent information and exactly how I run my rehearsals! I also go over the MOH adjusting the bride”s train if necessary right before the ceremony is to start. Also, if there are children involved in the ceremony, I usually have them stand at the front just before the ceremony is to start for photos, but then I make sure there is a reserved seat for them in the front row so that a parent can take the children to their seat so they are not standing during the entire ceremony – they tend to fidget and it is too much of a distraction during the wedding ceremony.
Kathy, thank you so much for your comment. Your experience and advice here is very helpful.
I have never heard of the counting style. 1 2 4 5 3 5 6 7…. Please give me more details of what you are counting, steps maybe?
Pam, I think she is referring to the order of steps that she uses to run the rehearsal (based on the numbers in this post).
Yes, I believe she is speaking of how many times she rehearses the order
A couple other things I think are important are for the guys to cross their hands (right over left), no hands in pockets. Also, the best man is responsible for the rings if at any point they are dropped. Too many grabbing for them can be a bad scene. Question for planners: Do you still have ushers escort the parents out after the recessional or do they walk out on their own. This tradition seems to have changed I’m finding.
Great tips Brenda! I agree that the tradition of ushers escorting parents after the recessional doesn’t really apply any longer.
Here’s a tip I found very helpful for outdoor wedding rehearsals:
If the wedding is outdoors in a grassy area, it helps for the bridesmaids to wear the shoes they plan to don on the wedding day so that they can practice walking on the grass in heels. Also, they should walk on the tips of their toes as opposed to their heels so that they don’t sink into the ground : )
Great tip. Thank you for sharing!
One thing I like to do is email the itinerary to the bridal party ahead of time(Like about a week or so). This way they have the layout and have some idea before the Rehearsal what to expect. During the intros at the Rehearsal I like to go over our roles. We are to make sure Bride & Groom are in the “Bubble”. Any issues/problems can be handled without them knowing it! Mine and my assistant’s name and contact info are on the itinerary as well!
Great advice Diana. Thank you for sharing!
I have my first wedding as a planner next week and found this to be EXTREMELY helpful. I’ll definitely be keeping all these tips in mind.
Good luck with your wedding Rene!
This was a great refresher. I tend to get so bogged down with the reception piece that I never really get to do the ceremony and end up having someone else do it. I too am a fan of the flowers at the belly button rule!
Thank you for taking time to comment!
I like telling the bridesmaids and groomsmen to walk, ‘one step slower than uncomfortable,’ and for the bridesmaids to carry their flowers, ‘at their bellybuttons not their boobs.’ It gets a laugh, but helps them remember to slooow down and for the latter, the ladies arms look longer and more elegant.
Great comment Jane. Thank you for sharing!
[…] you are on a budget, there are still ways for you to have a successful rehearsal dinner. While you cannot expect your guests to pay for their own dinner since they are committing to the […]
I also let the hostess and usher know their roles at the rehersal.
I also go over everything with the couple before the rehersal. That will help prevent someone else giving their “2 cents” I can’t stand that!!
Well said Lorna.Thank you for your comment.
I also do 1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 4, 5, 6. Regardless of how you do it, I think as long as you have a system, that’s all that matters.
One thing that I have found that helps is I always communicate with the wedding party ahead of time – that way they know my name and know I’ll be there on the day of the rehearsal and wedding. Sort of “warms them up” to expect me there.
Great tip Brit. Thank you for the comment!
Thanks for the info. I’m at the beginning stages of this whole crazy process and I know so little.
Love the refresher. One question I get over and over is where the flower girl and ring bearer go. I tend to send them to the end and walk out with the last couple. This allows them to sit down when they get bored without causing much disruption. What are your thoughts?
Thanks for the comment Mark. In my experience, the flower girl(s) and ring bearer(s) seem to do different things at every single wedding. Sometimes they can stand with the bridal party, sometimes they run, sometimes they immediately sit. Even when we decide at the rehearsal, the kiddos don’t always cooperate at the wedding (as I’m sure you’ve seen too).
Thank you for sharing this article, Debbie. It’s nice to see it in print once in awhile!
Thank you Lexi!
I think I tend to do it 1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 4, 5, 6…… It honestly depends on the officiant, the venue and if there is a venue coordinator. I usually take this time to cover little logistics such as bouquets being handed off, navigating steps, etc. Once the bridal party and families feel comfortable, I am happy. Of course, the larger the party, the longer it takes.
Thank you for sharing Elaine!
That’s the order I do it as well!
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