Maybe. Maybe not. There are no rules! The need for a wedding rehearsal depends on how large your wedding party will be.
If there is virtually no wedding party – just the bride and groom – you could probably skip the rehearsal. Or if it’s a casual outdoor ceremony in someone’s back yard with no wedding party a rehearsal may not be necessary. It has been my experience that most brides feel more comfortable having a quick, smooth rehearsal.
If the wedding party has more than two or three couples I recommend a wedding rehearsal especially if there are young children involved in the wedding – flower girls, ring bearers, etc. The only people required to be in attendance at a wedding rehearsal are those who will participate in the wedding: the bride and groom, their parents and the wedding party. It is always a good idea to familiarize everyone with what will happen at the wedding. A few of the questions of the wedding party will probably be: who do I walk in with, where do I stand, how fast do I walk, who am I with, what do I do?
Some ministers and wedding officiants do not attend the rehearsal. Be sure to ask if they charge extra for the rehearsal. I don’t. As a wedding officiant I want to be there provided I don’t have another wedding scheduled on your rehearsal day. (Friday and Saturday evenings are reserved for weddings.)
Some couples make the mistake of checking everyone else’s schedule to set the rehearsal day and time, and then assume their wedding officiant will be there. Instead, you should check with the officiant first to find out when he/she is available, and then with everyone else. If you set the rehearsal without first checking with your officiant, and then find out your officiant has another commitment (such as a wedding) at the same time, you will be doing your rehearsal without him/her.
HOT TIP: Some couples prefer to have the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner (usually paid for by the groom’s parents) two days before the wedding to allow a day of rest from the stress of having two busy days in a row. Wrap it up early enough for the bride to tend to any last minute details the next day like doing her nails or packing for her honeymoon, and to allow her the opportunity to wind down, relax, and rest well for the big day ahead. If most of the wedding party are coming in from other cities, this idea may not work. However, if only 1 or 2 of the bridesmaids or groomsmen cannot be there don’t be concerned. As you line people up at the rehearsal leave a space for each missing attendant. Ask those who are on either side of the missing attendant to clue him or her in on the day of the wedding.
For the rehearsal dinner, consider a potluck event or a buffet-style meal at someone’s home featuring inexpensive food that feeds many (pasta, tacos and stews are a few ideas). Some couples prefer to schedule the rehearsal dinner at a restaurant.
You will not need to “dress up” for the rehearsal although if the bride is planning on wearing a veil as she walks up the aisle she may want to wear one for the rehearsal so your groom (or the father) can practice moving it from over your face. Most brides do not wear a veil over their face “during” the wedding – it hides their face from the camera.
Be sure to reserve the first row for the parents and grandparents of the bride and groom. If there are children involved, have adult supervision for them both at the rehearsal and wedding in case the children become confused as to where to be seated after they have tossed the flower petals and delivered the rings. Young children are usually more comfortable sitting rather than standing during the ceremony.
Usually if the ring bearer is very young he will carry a pillow with fake rings. I recommend that the best man have the rings – not the best man “and” the maid of honor. The maid of honor will be holding her own bouquet and the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony and she also has no pockets. Have the best man put the rings on a finger, and then curl his fingers. That way the rings aren’t going anywhere. By the way, NEVER say to a young ring bearer, “Don’t drop the rings!” Instead, if he will be carrying the real rings say, “Hold on to the rings really tight!”
If everyone in the wedding party arrives at the wedding venue for the rehearsal on time, the rehearsal shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes at the most. The only people who really need to be there are the bride, groom, the maid or matron of honor and best man, flower girl, ring bearer, whoever is walking the bride, the wedding consultant (if any), the wedding coordinator from the venue, ushers (if any) and the wedding officiant. Usually both parents are also invited. Readers, musicians and/or soloists, DJs, bands, photographers, etc., usually are not required to come to the rehearsal.
Often there will be a rehearsal brunch or dinner following the rehearsal depending on the start time.
I recommend that you begin at the end. In other words, line everyone up as if they have just walked in and the wedding is ready to begin. This makes the rehearsal go quicker and lets everyone know where they are to stand, who they stand next to, etc. Some brides arrange the attendants by height to obtain a pleasant visual effect for the photos.
The next step is to have the wedding officiant hit the highlights of the ceremony – not read the entire ceremony but go over the parts where the bride and groom have to say something. After they practice walking out, then line everyone up as if the wedding were ready to begin and have everyone in the wedding party walk in again and take their places. It isn’t necessary to sing any songs at the rehearsal, but you may like to have a reader practice the reading.
In the Greater Phoenix area most of my weddings are at hotels, resorts, back yards – almost all are out doors. I rarely recommend a receiving line especially if it’s a wedding that is an hour to a hour and a half before sunset. Most couples like to go directly to photos after the wedding. In that case, after everyone has left the alter, I am the last to leave and I step forward and make this brief announcement:
“Ladies and gentlemen, the bride and groom request that you offer your congratulations so pictures of the wedding can stay on schedule. In the meantime, help yourselves to hor d’oeuvres and something cold to drink. Please allow the parents and grandparents to go before me. Let the celebration begin!”
Usually everyone on both first rows follow the bride and groom and the wedding party so as family members they can be the first to greet the bride and groom and the wedding party. This also keeps the wedding party and close family members together so they are ready to return to the wedding area to take more photos after the guests have cleared the area.
By the way, most brides and grooms do not prefer to have guests seated on the “brides” side or the “grooms” side. Why? In a recent wedding, the groom had more that 75% of the guests while the brides friends were mostly from out of town and some couldn’t be there – she had about 25% guests. We had the ushers fill the seats close to the front on both sides equally so the photos would look better.
HOT TIP: Here is another idea that is “contrary to tradition” but most parents like it. (Remember: Different is GOOD and the guests love it). As you are looking from the alter to the guests, have the parents of the bride seated on the “left” side and the parents of the groom seated on the “right” side so they won’t be looking at the back of their daughter and son’s heads during the ceremony. That way they will be able to see the expressions, emotions, etc., of the bride and groom as the wedding ceremony is being performed.
A quick word about how the bridal party walks. Step-touch-step-touch is old fashion and it out! A natural step is more relaxed and less taxing.
BONUS Articles: Who (of the bridal party) Walks Down the Aisle First?
The Rehearsal & the Rehearsal Dinner! It’s Fun Time!
Copyright © 2011 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s “romantic” Wedding Website. Larry James is an award winning, non-denominational wedding officiant and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! Every wedding ceremony is customized to your complete satisfaction. Call to check availability: 480-998-9411 or 800-725-9223. Pre-maritial relationship coaching is available and not required. You will find more than 470 pages of Wedding ideas, tips (90 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: http://www.celebrateintimateweddings.com. Something NEW about weddings is posted every 4th day on this Wedding BLOG. Check Larry’s availability.
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