Wedding Ceremony Rehearsals – A What to Expect Guide

Whether your rehearsal is for a wedding ceremony, a gay wedding rehearsal, a vow renewal rehearsal or commitment ceremony rehearsal, the process is identical. As a wedding officiant serving greater Jacksonville, FL, I’ve seen all manner of wedding ceremony rehearsals at the venues I perform at and over time developed my own little system.

wedding ceremony rehearsal

Groom signs the registry book at his wedding ceremony rehearsal

Definitions:

Dais – where everyone in the bridal party stands while we do the ceremony (in churches they refer to this area as the altar)
Processional – the bridal party promenade up to the dais
Recessional – the bridal party exiting the dais after the event

The Rehearsal:

It’s easier to understand how to perform the processional and recessional if you better understand the ultimate destination (the dais)  which is why I start all rehearsals with getting everyone placed where they will stand at the dais.We cover a number of items at the dais first before setting up the getting there and leaving part.

While at the dais, we’ll talk about spacing, various duties of the attendants to the bride and groom, “what happens when…” discussions and I’ll take you through the parts and pieces of your ceremony. Some of the things I cover are below:

  • Passing rings: The bride or groom makes a cup with their hand and the appointed ring passer person (that’s a technical term:)  places it in the cup. If the ring falls, no one moves. The person giving the ring to the bride or groom retrieves the ring and we proceed.
  • Taking vows: The whole time I’m asking the question which results in the answer “I do,” I will be looking down at my paper. You know it’s time to answer when I look up at you. By giving you this visual cue, we avoid premature answers inevitably followed by awkward laughter.
  • Giving the bride away: Whether it’s dad, or brother Jim or your BFF, the bridal escort brings her almost BUT NOT ALL THE WAY up to me at the dais. I say opening remarks. I ask who brings this woman. The escort gives answer, kisses bride, groom walks out to meet them, shakes escorts hand, escort WALKS IN FRONT AND AROUND BRIDE to sit down (avoids tripping over the dress) then the groom escorts the bride the last few feet to me. Maid of honor straightens dress then we begin.
  • End of ceremony cues: We set a visual cue to use here which I communicate to the DJ and photographer the day of the wedding so we achieve a nice polished finish.
  • Placement and spacing: We’ll create visual marks to use so everyone knows exactly where they will be standing. We also cover spacing, ie., everyone should stand equidistant to the person in front of them (about half a body space) EXCEPT maid of honor who needs to leave extra space to accommodate bride’s dress and pivoting activities. It is very important to work with the folks on the groom’s side as women are born with an innate sense of perfect placement while the men tend to look like they are waiting in line to buy beer.

Once we finish the body of the ceremony, we’ll set up the recessional and then actually exit the dais according to the plan we just set up.

After this, we talk about the processional and determine in what order the bridal party is going to promenade to the dais. After the discussion, I let you work on getting everyone lined up per the plan we set while I prep any flower girls and ring bearers using age appropriate language and instructions. Once I’m done instructing them, I place them in the processional line you have set up.

Now the fun starts. We will execute the rehearsal just as if it’s the wedding. This will allow us to get the spacing and pacing correct. Iron out any glitches, and generally just get everyone comfortable with the process. If the execution goes smoothly then we’re done. If it’s not polished enough, we make the adjustments needed and then run through the whole shebang a second time.

It normally only takes once although larger bridal parties or ceremonies with lots of moving parts may take 2-3 run throughs before the bride is comfortable with the performance.

Things to think about for the rehearsal:

  • If you are keen on using a specific song(s) in your promenade BRING THE SONG(S) WITH YOU so we can practice to it otherwise we won’t know if it’s too short for the entire procession to get from point A to point B.
  • Rehearsals for wedding ceremonies, please remember to bring your photo IDs and the marriage license (gay marriages eliminate this step.) Depending on time, I will do the little paperwork I have before or after the rehearsal and get it out of the way.

These are only some of the high points covered in wedding ceremony rehearsals I run but should give you an idea of my approach. The important thing to remember is this, if you have a perfect wedding, that’s great. You’ll remember you had a perfect wedding. If something goes wrong, don’t lament. Twenty-five years later you’ll say, “and remember, the flower girl got halfway down the aisle and threw her basket down and ran away….”  Better stories result from not perfect weddings. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Just let it happen. No matter what…..it’s gonna be perfect. I promise!!!

That Wedding Lady – www.weddingofficiantjacksonvillefl.com – 904-583-6688 – Jacksonville, FL/St. Augustine, FL/Amelia Island, FL