The importance of a wedding rehearsal


Having attended another wedding rehearsal yesterday for one of our couples who are getting married this month it got me thinking that a little blog on the subject could be helpful for couples when thinking about their own ceremonies.  Should you have a wedding rehearsal?  Well in our opinion – yes you should and you should use it as an opportunity to do several things before your wedding day:

Image credit – Practically Ever After
 – Get comfortable.  You won’t be walking down an aisle every day (one hopes!) so its not something that people are generally familiar with and having the opportunity to go over the entrance and the walk and who is where and who stands on which sides etc. is a great ice breaker so that you feel a little more comfortable about the day itself.  The emotion or nerves will usually get you on the day itself so its good to have had a little run through of this before the day.  Think about bridesmaids in front or behind the bride and where the position any little ones in the procession.  Personally I think it works best with bridesmaids to the front of the bride so that the bride makes her entrance last – make sure there is sufficient gap though between the bridesmaids and the bride so that the photographer can get a clear shot of the bride walking in.  The only time you may want to consider having 1 or 2 bridesmaids behind the bride is if her dress/train may need fixing as she walks down the aisle.  With the little ones it works well having them in front with older bridesmaids behind to nudge and guide them if they need it! 
 – Allow your bridal party to get familiar with what their duties are.  Your Vicar or Priest (or civil ceremony venue) will run through where all of your bridal party fit into the day itself and what is expected of them so they know a little more about where they should be and what they should be doing – if they turn up on the day without any rehearsal yes of course you and your day will survive but your wedding party will be a little “blind” on what they are meant to be doing! 
 – Allows you to try music (depending on your ceremony venue) and agree the volumes and test your processional and recessional songs to ensure that they are the right length and you know when during the song the bridesmaids and most importantly the bride should begin her walk down the aisle.  I don’t think that Kate Middleton would have attempted her wedding without having a little “go” at her mammoth walk down that stunning aisle and it should not be any different for any other bride! 
 – You will get a chance to read some of your vows to each other which should help to combat some nerves on the day and also to check your own volume for the ceremony – you do want everyone to be able to hear you! 
 – Get people who are conducting readings for you to come along and have a practice.  They may not be used to public speaking or may not be used to standing at the front of a Church and speaking into a microphone so again its a good chance for them to see what it will sound like and how to conduct their voices. 
 – Try to get all of your main bridal party at the rehearsal if possible – its not always possible because of distances to travel and work etc but if you can have the following people there: Bride and Groom (of course!) both sets of parents, person giving away the bride if different, best man (men), all the bridesmaids, all the ushers and anyone doing a reading or singing or any other kind of performance during the ceremony.  Even the little members of the bridal party ie flower girls and page boys as it will really make it clear to them what they will be doing on the day and most little ones will take it in and it will make them more excited and less nervous about it all too. 
 – Try to have your Order of Service printed and take at least one copy with you to the rehearsal so that the person conducting your ceremony can have a copy in advance and you can run through it with him/her at that time.  Make sure you then arrange to get the Orders of Service to the Church in good time for the wedding day itself so that your Ushers can distribute them on the day. 
 – If you have a wedding planner or have a wedding co-ordinator for your day then your co-ordinator should come along to your rehearsal too as it is a good opportunity for your bridal party to meet the planner/co-ordinator and for her/him to go through some plans for the day and then on the day your planner will be there to remind and prompt your bridal party with the duties they have so they don’t have to stress and worry about not remembering all they have to do!  Its so common as a planner to see Ushers and the bridal party get nervous and excited before the ceremony and forget where they are meant to be and when and all the little details they were asked to remember at the rehearsal!  Don’t worry – planners will be there taking notes and will point those things out where important on the day!  
 – You may be thinking that if you are having a civil ceremony that you have not been offered a rehearsal and we do find this a lot because Registrars do not traditionally offer a rehearsal service which is a real shame.  However, some civil ceremony venues will still offer a rehearsal without the Registrar being present and it gives you an opportunity to have a run through even though a civil ceremony is shorter and not so full or formalities.  Even still, its just as important to make yourselves familiar and comfortable so do ask your wedding venue for a civil ceremony if its possible.  We find that if your wedding is a Saturday then a Friday evening rehearsal works best as a lot of your guests if not local will have travelled to stay the night before the wedding – so maybe a 5pm or 6pm rehearsal and then the bride and groom can part and be traditional and spend the night apart as they should! 
 – If your civil ceremony venue does not offer a rehearsal then here’s a few tips for you.  You may not be told that the bride and groom will need to be seen separately by the Registrar before the ceremony to confirm identity, address etc.  Also, did you know that in this area the Registrar will usually ask the groom to pay, in cash for a copy of the marriage certificate before the ceremony.  The fee is normally £3.50 and why that cannot be paid in advance when you pay for your Notices of Marriage and the Registrar’s fees I don’t know but have some cash handy on the day!  When the bride arrives at the ceremony make sure that groom is well hidden as the Registrar will also wish to check identity with the bride before the ceremony begins so have somewhere where this can be conducted away from the guests and the groom. 
 – Its also a good opportunity to make sure that all the important people know where they are going for the wedding ceremony if they have not been there before!  If they come along to the rehearsal it gives them less opportunity to get lost on the day! 
 – It is a really good chance for your photographer and videographer to get familiar with the ceremony venue as well – particularly if they have not shot or filmed in that location before.  As a planner I will always ask the photographer and videographer to attend the rehearsal – its not always possible again because of distance and other prior commitments but I do always like them be present.  They get to check out the light and space and liaise with the person conducting the ceremony to see where they will be permitted to be during the ceremony.  Every Registrar and Vicar/Priest is different and will have different rules and likes and dislikes about where they will permit the videographer and photographer to stand during the ceremony and if they will permit film and photographs at all during the ceremony so its best to get that agreed before the day itself so that there is not so much of a rush on the day.  The Church may also ask your videographer for the special Licence they should provide to be able to video the service and again its best to do that before the day of the wedding itself.  Check with your photographer and videographer before you book if they will attend your rehearsal
 – If you are having a ceremony conducted by a civil celebrant such as Diana Saxby from Grace the Day   then Diana will always arrange a rehearsal for your ceremony wherever its possible to do so.  This is another great way to enhance  your wedding day so consider having the legal ceremony perhaps the day before which can literally be just the bride, groom and witnesses in jeans at the Register Office and then a beautiful and bespoke ceremony written just for you with a full rehearsal whenever you like before the day itself to make you feel entirely comfortable. 
Finally – if you are having your rehearsal perhaps the evening before the wedding day itself or maybe a few days before – what about doing things the American way and having a rehearsal dinner afterwards – what a lovely way to bring the families together prior to the wedding.  Arrange a nice meal for all of the close family and bridal party and have a chance to all get excited together.  

Posted in Wedding Hints and Tips

3 thoughts on “The importance of a wedding rehearsal

  1. Thanks for an interesting post with some excellent points, Melanie.
    I would just like to add that it would be so helpful to me, as a wedding photographer, if Registrars did offer rehearsals at the wedding venue.
    Generally, with a church ceremony, the minister responsible has a set way of doing things; the ‘choreography’ of the bridal party is well established and positioning for the photographers is straight forward.
    However, with different Registrars attending different venues that often have different set-ups from week to week there is no such consistency.
    Many times I have spoken to Registrars prior to a ceremony to ascertain where I need to be only to find that once the ceremony is under way (and often too late for the photographer to move) it turns out that the readers are actually going to be on the left, not the right or, as you highlight the bridesmaids walk up the aisle one metre in front of the bride making it impossible to get a clear photograph of the proud father walking his daughter to the ceremony.
    I don’t blame the registrars for this at all, they are civil servants and I guess a rehearsal is not within their remit (even within the Register Office). But it would really help all involved if were able to anticipate the various parts of the ceremony and thereby make sure we captured all the best moments.

  2. Thanks Lloyd – I completely agree with you that its so important to have a rehearsal for a civil ceremony and really try to encourage venues to do this as much as possible even if they are doing it without the Register but then someone needs to communicate this to the Registrars on the day as they are not present for the few venues that do offer a rehearsal. If there is one offered we are always present then we meet with the Registrars when they arrive to tell them what we have agreed as to where the Readers are standing and singers etc and position everyone out so that we are all communicating and it means that the ceremony is seamless and it gives the photographer/ videographer the best chance of success with their images / video. There are big advantages to be had with Civil Celebrants who (if you get a good one!) WILL do a rehearsal and be very much mindful of where people go and stand whereas a Registrar usually will not have the ability to do that in advance. Nice to hear your views Lloyd

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