What is a wedding ceremony “rehearsal?” It’s when you get everyone together who is involved in the wedding for a walk-through of the ceremony. This should include all the Bridesmaids, Groomsmen, Flower Girls, Ring Bearers, and of course the Bride and Groom! It is optional to have the readers, musicians and/or soloists, parents and grandparents there.
You’ll notice that I put the word “rehearsal” in quotes. That’s because a rehearsal is really not a rehearsal! It is only a “walk-through” of what will happen during the ceremony. It is not like a Broadway play or Hollywood movie, where everyone has to practice all their singing, dancing, acting, and stunt parts together. If you have readers or musicians, they do not need to take up everyone’s time by practicing at the rehearsal. You certainly don’t want the wedding officiant practicing his entire message! And the Bride and Groom should also practice their vows on their own. It’s better to keep the vows a “secret” from others so that they will be a pleasant surprise to everyone at the ceremony.
Is a wedding ceremony “rehearsal” necessary? If you have a large bridal party of many Bridesmaids & Groomsmen, etc., you may need a rehearsal sometime before the wedding. Most rehearsals take about 30 minutes or less. It should not take longer than the actual ceremony. In a lot of cases, you can do the wedding rehearsal yourself, just by following the order of service in the bulletin you will hand out to your wedding guests. It’s usually quite simple. All your bridal party needs to know is when to walk in, where to stand (or sit), and when to walk out. In summary, a wedding rehearsal is never a true rehearsal — it’s just a “walk-through.” Its purpose is to show people where they fit in so they will hopefully feel a little less stress about their roles in the actual ceremony. Although I usually do a rehearsal for a wedding, I have done many weddings without any rehearsal at all, even with a large bridal party. Everything went fine because we all followed the written order of service chosen by the couple.
Please keep in mind that planning a rehearsal for a Friday evening or sometime Saturday may not be a good idea. That’s because probably 99% of all weddings take place from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening. Your ceremony location and/or wedding officiant may have more than one event planned for the weekend you are getting married. It may not be possible to have your rehearsal and wedding ceremony during that “prime time.” Instead, I recommend having your rehearsal sometime Wednesday or Thursday evening, Friday during the day, or possibly Saturday or Sunday mornings. That way you can be reasonably sure that you will have both the ceremony location and your wedding officiant available for your rehearsal.
Also, many couples make the mistake of checking everyone else’s schedule to set the rehearsal, and then assume their wedding officiant will make it. Instead, you should check with the officiant first to find out when he 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. But you may have a wedding planner or consultant who can walk you through the steps.
I have a floor plan that you may find helpful for lining up your bridal party, and a PowerPoint slide show that walks you through the Processional step-by-step. And for the Recessional, usually everyone walks out in the reverse order that they came in, except the Bride and Groom, who are the first to leave together.