These days, weddings are often complicated affairs with many moving parts. Gone are the days that people just turned up at the church, went through a standard and familiar ceremony, and went on to the local hotel for the reception. Now we are expected to create a very memorable and unique experience, beautifully staged and flawless.
To achieve the standard of perfection that people have come to expect, we have to rehearse. And when you have a group of people together for a rehearsal, it’s only right that you should feed them. So the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner was born.
This can be one more event to worry and stress over, or it can be a happy time when kinks are ironed out, friends and relatives are welcomed from afar, and everyone sits down to a splendid meal. The secret is to have a wedding rehearsal checklist.
What Is a Wedding Rehearsal Checklist?
This is a checklist that enables you to figure out everything that needs to be accomplished on the day of your wedding rehearsal. Ideally, this checklist should be the responsibility of the best man or chief bridesmaid. Once the bride and groom have decided on the list, they should hand it over to someone responsible. If your senior attendants were chosen for their delightful yet goofy personalities rather than their brains, don’t be afraid to designate the responsibility for the running of the day to another responsible adult.
It doesn’t have to be anyone with a formal role in the wedding. Just choose someone good at marshaling a disparate bunch of people and getting them to pay attention. Perhaps that cousin who’s an elementary school principal? In some instances, you may choose your wedding planner to take on this task, but that is going to be an additional budget item. It isn’t really necessary. Provided the person you choose has a good briefing as to what you want on your wedding day, then all should go well.
That person who runs the rehearsal should also be the one who cues everybody on the day itself. That’s another reason why key members of the wedding party can’t take on this role very easily.
The Ultimate Wedding Rehearsal List
- The first thing that you should do is to ensure that the venue for your wedding and your reception is going to be available on rehearsal day. Rehearsal day should ideally be a few days before the big event, but sometimes this just doesn’t work out. If you have people coming from a long way away, they may not be able to attend a rehearsal that is not immediately before the wedding.
- Draw up the running order for your wedding along with notes of any special features. For example, don’t just say, “Music plays”, but “Music – entry of the Queen of Sheba to be played by the organist.”
- Begin the rehearsal with everyone standing where they will be for the start of the ceremony. That way, all the key people will know where they are aiming for.
- Groomsmen and bridesmaids stand alongside the bride and groom, respectively. It looks nice if the heights go from low to high, but that is optional. Both bridesmaids and groomsmen should stand slightly angled towards the wedding couple. Bridesmaids should hold their bouquets in front of them at waist height; groomsmen should have hands folded either in front or behind. It doesn’t matter which just so long as everyone is doing the same thing. If bouquets are very heavy or if the ceremony will be very long, it looks pretty if bridesmaids put their bouquets down at their feet, flowers towards the side where the congregation is seated. In this case, bridesmaids too should agree to have hands clasped or just to the side.
- Flower girls and page boys are ideally returned to their parents during the ceremony. If needed, this can be done by a bridesmaid and/or groomsman. An alternative, if they are old enough to stay still, is for them to be seated on the floor next to the bridesmaids and groomsmen. (If you can achieve this, it looks very cute!)
- Once everybody has established where they will be during the ceremony, it’s time for a read-through of the whole thing. Any special moments can be rehearsed at this point, for example, the lighting of candles.
- Next, the officiant should run through the ceremony, starting at the point when the bride reaches the altar. So at this point, the kiss from her father and the handing over of her bouquet to the chief bridesmaid or Maid of Honor can be rehearsed. Of course, the exchange of rings, lighting of candles, the kiss, and the presentation of the newlyweds are rehearsed during this section.
- Because everyone is in their places, next comes the recessional, or the walking out as it is sometimes known. The chief bridesmaid will give the bride her bouquet, and the bride and groom will begin the procession to the door. Next comes the best man and chief bridesmaid or Maid of Honor, then the bridesmaids and groomsmen, in pairs, of course, the bride and grooms’ parents, grandparents, other guests, and last of all will generally be the officiant.
- To allow for the professional photographs of each of the key couples, it’s a good idea to leave twenty feet or so between each pair. At a large wedding, this might not be very practical for all the guests, but certainly, you should aim to keep this kind of distance for the key members of the wedding party.
- Now that everyone knows where they are supposed to end up, it’s time to practice the processional. The officiant and the groom’s party will generally enter from a side entrance. The bride and her party will, of course, come down the center aisle. Here is a point where timing is important – you want the accompanying music to be neither too long nor, worse yet, too short. The person in charge of the rehearsal should have a stopwatch to time the procession so that the music can be adjusted if needs be.
- Allow plenty of space so that the ring bearer, flower girls, pages, bridesmaids, mother of the bride, and parents of the groom can get their share of the limelight. The bride comes last, usually accompanied by her father or another male relative. Everyone is going to want to look and coo at the bride, so take it slowly. Some brides like to look straight ahead; others prefer to look gracefully from right to left, smiling at the guests. This is entirely up to the bride; there is no set rule.
- The next thing to rehearse can be one of the most emotional moments of the day – when the father of the bride hands her to the altar to be married. The usual procedure is for the father (or another male relative) to kiss the bride and shake hands with the groom. It’s not uncommon for a female relative to give the bride away these days, or even someone not related. In any case, a kiss is highly appropriate and this emotional moment. The bride hands her bouquet to the chief bridesmaid, and the ceremony proper begins.
- Now rehearse everything again! Practice does make perfect.
- It’s common to have the rehearsal dinner on the evening of the rehearsal, but it can be held on another day if that is more convenient. This is a good opportunity for people who may not be well acquainted, such as the bride and groom’s parents, to get to know each other. Our suggestion is for a very informal dinner and, if there are a large number of people involved, a buffet might be preferable, as this gives the guests a chance to mingle and meet.
We’ve described the traditional formal of a Christian church wedding, but we know that there are many variations. For example, in some regions, the bridesmaids and groomsmen enter together. The bride may be escorted by both her parents, and the groom may be escorted by his parents. LGBTQ weddings are evolving their own traditions that may be completely different.
There is no right way to do a wedding outside of religious and legal requirements. It’s your day – make it a beautiful one. Don’t agonize too much about every little detail. If you’ve rehearsed, chances are everything will go without a hitch.
A wedding rehearsal is designed to ensure that everything goes smoothly for the actual ceremony. You can also rehearse the events of the reception, but honestly, this is not so crucial.
Everyone who will play a key part in the ceremony should attend the wedding rehearsal. It may be that older relatives will enjoy attending, but keep the numbers down if you can.
This rather depends on how formal you want to be, but it would be usual for the groom, the bride, and one or other parents of the bride and groom to speak. Just simple words of congratulations and thanks are all that are needed.
Again, this rather depends on family circumstances. If the bride’s parents are wealthy, then they may pay. These days, the bride and groom often pay for the whole wedding, with a little help from parents.