On the day before the wedding, you’ll have a lot of things to do: Deliver welcome bags, greet out-of-town guests, maybe even a manicure-pedicure appointment with your bridesmaids. If the schedule is jam-packed that day, do you really need to have a wedding rehearsal?
There’s no rule that says you must have a wedding rehearsal. If your wedding is small, with few or no wedding attendants, and does not include any wedding traditions, customs, or special readings, then you can probably get away with not having a formal rehearsal.
However, if your wedding is more formal and larger in scope—and especially if you have children participating in the ceremony—then we do recommend setting aside about 30 to 45 minutes the day before the wedding to go over the ceremony proceedings with everyone. For the processional to run smoothly, everyone involved needs to know in advance where and when to gather, in what order to line up, when to enter and with what musical selection, and where to sit or stand.
Without some clear direction, this part of the ceremony alone can be chaotic. A good rehearsal coordinator will also go over small-but-still-important details, such as what the groomsmen should do with their hands. At the same time, they stand alongside the groom (hands in their pockets? clasped together?) as well as the height at which the bride and bridesmaids should carry their bouquets to look good in photos. All of these details are very important to ensure a flawless ceremony on the wedding day.
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Why is a Wedding Rehearsal Helpful?
It might not be for the reasons you might think. I don’t think a wedding rehearsal is about delivering a perfect production on the day itself, as that would take away a certain amount of the magic. Some of the best and most heartwarming wedding ceremony moments are when little unplanned and funny things have happened.
The greatest benefit of a wedding rehearsal is to relieve the bridal party of as many nerves as possible. It can be a big help for the key players to know exactly how they need to proceed down the aisle, where they need to sit, when to stand and where they might read from. Bearing in mind that a lot of bridal parties wouldn’t have seen the wedding venue before, this can be reassuring and make the morning and last-minute preparations much smoother, less anxious and more enjoyable.
Who Should Attend a Wedding Rehearsal?
There is no hard and fast rule who should be at the rehearsal, and it does depend on who’s doing what during your ceremony.
As a minimum, these people should attend a wedding rehearsal…
- Whoever is giving the bride away (if applicable)
- Whoever is holding the wedding rings (usually the best man)
- At least one bridesmaid (your chief bridesmaid if you have one), but ideally all of them so they can plan their entrance and exit
It can be helpful if readers are able to attend too so they can view where they are reading from. You may also want to consider the ushers (or at least one of them), so you can brief them on how you want the seating to work and any reserved places.
When is a Wedding Rehearsal Available?
I should point out that rehearsals are not always offered. Civil ceremonies conducted by a local registrar don’t usually offer rehearsals as part of their service, probably because they conduct so many ceremonies they just can’t factor in the time. They are however usually excellent at arriving early enough to brief those present (usually the groom and his groomsmen), and they are very good at making it clear during the service what everyone needs to do.
Still, in those circumstances, I have had many brides and their maids who would like a rehearsal, so sometimes we arrange an informal run-through of locations and places the night before in the ceremony location. That’s something that I, as the wedding planner, head up.
Church wedding ceremonies tend to be more complex, and rehearsals are more the norm and are highly useful. They often happen the night or two nights before, maximum. You’ll also find that most independent celebrants offering non-legal but symbolic ceremonies will conduct a rehearsal too. There are often lots of unique and personal parts to the ceremony that need a run through to make them their very best.
In any event, with or without a formal wedding rehearsal, it’s good to be clear on things like where you want guests to sit, how you want the bridal party to proceed down the aisle (in what order), and if you want a formal order at the end of the ceremony as guests leave. The ceremony officiant will lead most other things, but there is no harm in giving your ‘team’ a written briefing on these points in the week or so before your wedding if a rehearsal is not taking place.
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Reasons Not to Have a Wedding Rehearsal
- You’re having an outdoor or very simple ceremony. Most outdoor wedding ceremonies aren’t complicated and are shorter than traditional church weddings. You’ll need to know the order you are walking down the aisle, where to stand during the ceremony and when to walk back out. Your officiant, wedding planner or the on-site coordinator will be able to guide you on your wedding day easily. You can instruct the guys where you want their hands (by their sides, in pockets, crossed in front) and tell the girls not to hide behind their bouquets. Just like that, everyone is prepared, and no wedding rehearsal necessary.
- Your venue is booked the day you want to hold a rehearsal. This is going to be the case at almost any wedding venue unless you’re having a Friday wedding. You can always work around this by doing the rehearsal a few days before or the morning of your wedding. Again your wedding planner or on-site coordinator will be able to run through the necessary details with you. You can even get them to run through them separately if you don’t want to see each other before the ceremony.
- You would rather spend time with your out of town guests. Just because you don’t have a rehearsal doesn’t mean you can’t still have dinner ?. Plus, you’ll be running around getting everything ready for the next day! Dropping off welcome gifts, getting to your mani/pedi appointment and checking into your hotel. If you don’t need a rehearsal, take it off of your to-do list!
Reasons to Have a Wedding Rehearsal
- Your venue requires a rehearsal. This will most likely be the case if you are having a church wedding. Some ceremonies have a lot of “moving parts”, and in this case, you’ll want to know what to expect and when. Plus, you’ll want all of your readers, special music and bridal party to know what is expected of them.
- You have a lot of kids involved. If you’ve chosen to have, kids, be a part of your ceremony, having a rehearsal could be helpful for them. They may not have been to a wedding before, and even if they have, they probably haven’t been in one. A practice run can help them know what’s expected and get them familiar with your officiant and bridal party.
- You want to have one! If you love tradition and having a rehearsal is important to you, have one. If it gives you peace of mind, do it. It is, after all, your wedding day.
When people think of wedding rehearsals they usually think of the movies; the romantic comedies that show everyone out to dinner the night before the wedding, all dressed up, and another expense in the likely already exhausted wedding budget. Still, it definitely doesn’t have to be anything like that!
There are a number of things to think about when making the decision:
Who is at your bridal party?
Are there children in your bridal party? Are you confident that they will be able to walk down the aisle for the first time on the wedding day? Have your bridesmaids or groomsmen been in or to a wedding before?
A rehearsal will ensure that everyone knows what to do and where they need to be on the day.
Also, think about the logistics of getting everyone together. If your bridal party are flying in from interstate or they are working, will it be possible to get them all together?
Some people like to have their rehearsal a month before the wedding, others the day before the wedding. Do what works for you!
How familiar are you with the ceremony space?
If you are unsure where the aisle will be set up, of the surface, you will be walking on, or where the sun will be at that time of the day familiarising yourself at the rehearsal will ensure things go smoothly and put your mind at ease.
It is also another excuse to visit the special place that you have chosen to be married!
To learn more check out our post on Honeymoon Destination Ideas.
How formal or informal would you like your rehearsal to be?
You can decide to have your bridal party and families attend a full rehearsal at the venue, so they all know their role for the day, or you may decide that you would just like to have a ‘walk through’ in your lounge room.
Also, think about whether you would like to have your photographer, function coordinator or musicians involved. As professionals, your suppliers will coordinate on your wedding day to ensure everything flows seamlessly, and everything is prepared for when the bride is ready to come down the aisle.
and the most important one……
How do you feel about it???
If you are worried about where to stand, how to walk, how the timing of the music will work, how to speak into the microphone or generally just don’t know what to expect then a rehearsal can ease these worries to ensure that on the day you are (a little less) nervous. You can be present and enjoy your ceremony!
Rehearsals can also help to manage Dad! Usually, when Dad walks the bride down the aisle, he has no idea what to do when he gets to the end. Unless you take charge, Dad will probably stand around for much longer than he should, blocking your guest’s view and preventing your photographer from getting great shots. A rehearsal can give Dad the guidance to know where to walk when to stand, when to move and what to say. Having said that, I have still marched many a forgetful Dad back down the aisle to his waiting daughter, rehearsal or not!
If you are very nervous about the whole day, a rehearsal may help to calm your nerves and put things in perspective. BUT please don’t rehearse your vows. Don’t spoil them. I never, ever let my couples practise their vows at the rehearsal. Those are words to be practised in private and spoken on the day, in that special moment you have been waiting for.
Rehearsals are all about mechanics. It’s “you do this, and I’ll do that”. Walk here, stand there, don’t forget to look at each other. A rehearsal won’t stop something random from happening on the day – especially when kiddies are involved. In reality, all you need to do is make it down the aisle. From the moment you do that, you should be able to trust your celebrant to guide you through everything.
A few things to remember about rehearsals:
- Not every member of the family needs to be there. I have conducted rehearsals for 30 people, while 25 of those just stood around waiting – bored.
- Groomsmen never listen to rehearsal or not – a good celebrant will whip them into shape (and confiscate iPhones, sunglasses and drinks) on the spot, on the day – and long before the bride arrives.
- Decide early if you want a rehearsal. Asking your celebrant for a 4 pm Saturday rehearsal, at a few day’s notice means that it probably won’t happen. I can almost guarantee you that they will be marrying someone else at that time!
- If some of the bridal party can’t make it, don’t panic. You can also talk them through what needs to be done. You can have a rehearsal at home – or just get the girls together at the spot to practise the walk.
- No bridal party? No need for a rehearsal. Promise.
- There’s a lot to be said for letting the moment take care of itself. Enjoy the moment, and soak up the joy on the day. It’s the best advice I can give you. A rehearsal cannot give you any guidance more valuable.
How Important is the Wedding Rehearsal Anyway?
The answer is very important! The most important part of a wedding celebration is the ceremony itself. As such, it is very important to get the ceremony right. The key to flawless weddings lies in the details, and a lot of the details get ironed out at a well-planned wedding rehearsal.
When planning, some couples question the value of having wedding rehearsals. They wonder why wedding rehearsals are important, and whether or not a person should add extra stress to his or her schedules by planning another evening in the name of a rehearsal. Trust us, and it’s worth it. The rehearsal is an excellent opportunity to lessen your stress levels on your big day. A wedding rehearsal is essential to the confidence and success of the bridal party, wedding coordinator and officiant!
Choosing to have a rehearsal before the big day could be one of the best decisions you make in planning your wedding. This is an invaluable opportunity to work out the details of the type of wedding ceremony you have chosen, as well as give all the participants a chance to become familiar with the roles they will play on the big day. They will have an opportunity to work out their nerves and be familiar with exactly when and where to walk, along with where to sit or stand.
The rehearsal dinner is also a good time for the wedding party, close friends and relatives to come together. The bride and the groom have more time on their hands during the rehearsal to spend time and talk to those that mean so much to them during this time. Take this time to thank everyone for taking part in your special day.
Whether you decide to have a rehearsal or not, it is the job of your wedding suppliers to talk you through it all and answer any questions along the way!
This is not something you do every day, and every wedding is different, so don’t hesitate to speak up, ask the questions and tap into the knowledge and experience of the wedding professionals that you have chosen for your big day. That is what they are there for!!!
Rehearsals can be a fun addition, or they can be another thing on your to-do list. Since no one answer fits all when it comes to weddings, I hope that these suggestions will help you in making the decision best suited for you.