12 Steps to a Smooth and Efficient Wedding Rehearsal

by Danielle Pasternak on 05-11-2012 in Q & A

The wedding rehearsal is ultimately a practice of your wedding ceremony. Typically, it’s held the day (or two) before the wedding day followed by a rehearsal dinner in which the bridal party, their dates, and immediate family is invited. Essentially, you want your rehearsal to be quick (an hour or less in most cases) and efficient, because – let’s face it – there’s dinner and drinks in the near future!

image by Amanda Grace Images

So, here are 7 things to do BEFORE YOUR REHEARSAL to ensure a smooth and efficient wedding rehearsal:

01. Hire a wedding coordinator. Ok, I know, this one is selfish of me, BUT hiring a great wedding coordinator will help walk you through the following steps and ultimately make the entire thing a LOT easier. I always tell my couples, having a coordinator at the rehearsal eliminates the bride and groom from looking “bossy” or “zilla-ish”. The coordinator helps direct the bridal party, the bride and groom get to enjoy every minute and no one gets hurt.

02. Pair up your bridal party. Once you’ve chosen who you’d like to have in your bridal party, you’ll want to start thinking about who will walk with whom. If your sides are uneven (more bridesmaids than groomsmen, or vice versa), then two can always be paired with one. If it doesn’t matter who is paired together, then pair your troops by height. If possible, make sure the gent is at least the same height or taller than the chick he is escorting. This will make both sides happy, trust me. If anyone has had a relationship in the past and are no longer in the relationship, avoid pairing them together.

03. Decide how the bridal party will enter. Depending on your religious affiliation, your bridal party can enter several different ways. Be sure to check with your officiant prior to making any set-in-stone decisions to see if there are any “rules” or tips they recommend. Typically, there are two ways the bridal party can enter: Bridesmaids and groomsmen come in together with the exception of the Best Man who remains at the altar with the Groom, OR all the gents at the altar and the ladies come in on their own. Personally, I like the second option better, mostly because the groomsmen can sometimes get rowdy when waiting to start and I like for them to away from the bride at that point – but that’s just me

04. Once you decide who’s with who and how they’re coming in, you want to decide on the order. You will want to decide on an order for entering in the processional. This will naturally be reversed in the recessional (after the “you may now kiss the bride!”). You can decide this order using height order, order of importance, closest in relation, favorites – whatever works for you, but I suggest keeping your reasoning to yourself. Typically, your bridesmaids will enter once the grandparents and parents have been seated. Followed by the flower girl (if applicable) and the Maid/Matron of Honor. Then it’s time for the bride to enter. Some will choose to have the flower girl enter directly before the bride – again, this is up to you.

05. Choose who you would like to escort you down the aisle. And by choose, I mean ask with gratitude. This is a very special role and should be treated as such. If you are choosing your dad, don’t just assume he’ll do it. Ask him if he would like to and see his face light up – it will be worth it

06. Send your readers what they are reading. If you are having anyone read any type of passage, poem, song lyric, etc… send exactly what you’d like them to read prior to the rehearsal. This will give them time to practice and become comfortable with what they’re saying. I also recommend sending a copy to your coordinator, just in case. If you do not have a coordinator (WHAT?!?!), be sure to make a copy in a large, easy-to-read font to have on-hand at the rehearsal and the day of, in case it is forgotten by the reader themselves.

07. Discuss the order of events with your officiant. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Before your rehearsal, be sure to sit down with your officiant and discuss what elements you’d like to include in your ceremony and what you don’t. Be sure to ask what your options are and remember to stay true to who you are as a couple.

08. Decide if you will have (or can have) a receiving line following the ceremony. A receiving line is an opportunity for guests to congratulate your new marriage and for you to thank them for coming. If you choose to do a receiving line, decide who will be a part of it (typically Bride, Groom, Parents, Maid of Honor and Best Man) and make them aware at the rehearsal. Note that a typical receiving line for approximately 150 guests will take about 45 minutes (or more) so be sure to figure that into your timeline. If you do not have a receiving line, it is incredibly important to reach out to each guest at the cocktail hour and/or reception and thank them sincerely for attending your wedding. Do not leave that role up to your parents. The guests came to support and see you.

image by Amanda Grace Images

And 5 ways to make sure things go well (and quickly) during the rehearsal:

01. Start by lining up the bridal party as they would be during the ceremony. Typically the bride stands on the left facing the altar, groom on the right. The bridesmaids and groomsmen stand on the respective sides facing the guests.

02. Practice the recessional. This is how the bridal party will leave AFTER the ceremony. It’s easier to start here than the processional (how they’ll enter) – trust me. The recessional starts with the Bride and Groom, followed by the Maid/Matron of Honor and Best Man. The remaining bridal party pairs up and follows up the aisle starting with the ones closest to the middle. The bridesmaid and groomsman that are farthest out are the last of the bridal party to exit which is the cue for the parents to begin their exit. Parents of the Bride should exit first followed by the Parents of the Groom. The remaining guests will leave by the aisle they’re in.

03. Practice the processional. Once the bridal party has left during the recessional, regroup and line up for the processional. Since they’re already familiar with where they are going, it should go smoothly. If you have a short aisle, have the next walker wait until the person before them is all the way to the front row of seating. If it is a longer aisle, have them begin around the middle. A slow pace is always preferred for photos, but I always advise to walk to the beat of the music as it will feel the most natural for the walker and the guests.

04. Briefly run through the order of events of the ceremony. Depending on the religious affiliation, there will be different things you do in your ceremony. Briefly run through the events and ask any relevant questions you may have because the next time you do it will be the real deal.

05. Discuss where the bridal party will go after the recessional. Whether you are doing a receiving line or not, make sure to explain to the bridal party and immediate family where to go after the ceremony recessional. If they need to stay for pictures, discuss a meeting spot to all meet at so everyone is on the same page. If you will be exiting the venue with bubbles, flags, or any other items, explain it to your bridal party so they can help lead the guests in what to do.

image by Amanda Grace Images

And a super important note: DON’T FORGET the wedding license for the rehearsal!


Submitted By our good friend Danielle Pasternak


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