Rehearsal Management Guide
The first thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to organize your wedding. You can be as fun, quirky, or unique as you like. These tips are designed to give you a place to start and help you visualize your options. It is not a ceremony guide. Ceremony Creation and Personal Vows guides are available on other pages. These are just physical movements that should be considered and practiced before a formal wedding.
1) Choose a person who is not in the wedding party to be an organizer or stage manager. This can be friend, relative, wedding planner, or someone who works at the venue. They keep everyone lined up in the correct order and tell people when to start walking.
2) Who and what to bring to the rehearsal - Parents who are walking down aisle or being seated, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl, ring bearer (and a parent) best man, maid of honor, and anyone reading. It’s a good idea to practice any ritual you’re using, such as handfasting, sand ceremony, or candle lighting. Bring whatever you’re using with you., i.e., the cord, some sand and a practice container, candles and candle holders, etc. If the wedding site has a sound system, please ask them to have it ready.
If bridesmaids are wearing heels higher than they are used to, it’s a good idea to wear them during the rehearsal.
3) Put together a rough list of how you think you want your ceremony to proceed. Here is an order I frequently suggest for a full formal wedding with traditional numbers of parent, young ringbearers and flower girls, etc. It is very rare that a wedding exactly matches this plan.
- 1) Officiant enters and asks guests to silence their cell phones, and optionally asks them to not take pictures or videos.
- 2) First song starts.
- 3) Groom enters and walks to Officiant, standing to the right of the officiant as seen from the guest's point of view.
4) Groom's parents enter and take their seats. Note – space everyone out. There should only be one couple
moving down the aisle at a time. Walk slowly and deliberately.
Bride's mom is escorted to her seat by an usher, Groomsman or
- 6) First Groomsman and Bridesmaid enter and when they reach the ceremony space separate to the far right and far left of the ceremony space respectively.
- 7) Remaining pairs of Groomsmen and Bridesmaids enter in order of ascending height, and fill in from the outside of the Ceremony Space inward toward the Bride and Groom. Note – the arranging-attendants-by-height is completely optional, I just see it at super formal weddings.
- 8) Best Man and Maid of Honor enter and take their places.
- 9) First song stops, bridal processional song begins.
- 10) Ringbearer enters, takes rings to Best Man, then sits with a parent or guardian.
- 11) Flower girl enters and begins sprinkling, when she gets to the ceremony space she sits with parent or guardian.
- 12) Bride enters escorted by her father. They walk to the front of the seats and stop.
- 13) Processional music stops.
- Other options include Groom escorting Bride's mother, Groom and Officiant entering together; Groom, Officiant and Best Man entering together with the Maid of Honor walking in solo just before the ring bearer; Groomsmen entering together from the side then Bridesmaids entering individually; having the ring bearer and flower girl enter before the music change to the Bridal Song, etc.
- Presentation of the Bride
- 14) Officiant asks father "Who presents this woman" (options for this phrase available).
- 15) Bride and father hug.
- 16) Groom walks to father and shakes his hand.
- 17) Father sits.
- 18) Bride and Groom walk to officiant.
- The Presentation of the Bride is entirely optional. Some couples love the tradition while others think it is old fashioned.
- Ring Exchange
- 19) Officiant asks Who Brings the Rings.
- 20) Bride passes flowers to Maid of Honor.
- 21) Bride and Groom join left hands.
- 22) Best Man places appropriate rings in their right hands.
- 23) "With this ring I marry you." (Options for this phrase available)
- Other choices include having the Officiant or the Groom hold the rings; or having the Best Man and Maid of Honor each hold one ring (this can be tricky if the Maid of Honor is also holding the Bride's bouquet); having the ring bearer be part of the wedding party and bringing the rings if he is old enough. Never hand boxes to the Bride and Groom or the Officiant. They should always be handed just the rings.
- 24) Officiant says "I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may kiss the bride" (Options for this phrase available)
- 25) Make the first kiss a long one for good photographs
- 26) Officiant says "I present to the world Mr. and Mrs. . . ." (Options for this phrase available)
- 27) Cheering begins, Bride and Groom enjoy the moment.
- 28) Recessional music starts
- 29) Bride and Groom boogie down the aisle.
- 30) Best man and maid of honor wait for Bride and Groom to get past the aisle of seats then they leave. Join Bride and Groom for license signing.
- 31) Bridesmaids and Groomsmen leave in pairs with same spacing.
- 32) Parents leave, Bride's side last.
- 33) Music goes down.
- 34) Officiant makes final announcements and thanks guests for coming.
4) Start the rehearsal at the ceremony space. Get everyone lined up where they are going to stand during the ceremony. Work on staging--how everyone will stand, Groomsmen, left hand over right. Bridesmaids, holding flowers down by their belly buttons, not up. If there are obstacle that will block the audience's view of the couple, etc. And keep in mind that dresses typically take up more floor space than what the bride & her attendants will be wearing during the rehearsal.
5) Practice the recessional next. After all, you are already all lined up at the ceremony space. Have the ceremony space manager keeps them lined up in their correct order at the back of the room, so they know who to stand next to when you then practice the processional. Be sure the "Stage Manager" is watching during the recessional. This shows her the order in which the bridesmaids and groomsmen will enter during the processional.
6) Practice the processional with the "Stage Manger" lining up the participants and giving cues to the participants about who goes next and when they should start. Be sure to leave a little extra time between the Groom entering and the next people to enter.
7) If there are complex elements of the ceremony, advise the couple to rehearse these as well--not just the vows. I recall a sand ceremony was only mimed during the rehearsal, and the real thing went slower than anticipated during the wedding, because the mouth of the receiving vessel was so small. Ask the couple to practice with salt or something similar during the rehearsal. This also goes for handfasting cords, Unity Candles and the like.
8) Consider little things, like if the bride has a bouquet--she will almost certainly need her hands free during the ring exchange, so work out how & to whom she'll hand it off.
9) If the father (&/or mother) is presenting the bride, encourage the couple to think about how long he'll stand in front of the ceremony space before you ask who's presenting her. In some cases, especially if the presenter can't stand for long periods, you might consider having them sit down during the officiant address, and rise (if able) to answer the question.
10) If there are readings to be done by someone else, think about where the reader will stand in the ceremony space. Sometimes off to the side, sometimes where the officiant stands, sometimes in front of the couple. Microphone placement can change this. Often the officiant will be able to project their voice and everyone will be able to hear them, but many readers can get nervous and speak to quietly and quickly so may need a microphone, or an additional microphone depending on placement.
11) If there are props (sand, unity candle, handfasting cords, books for readings, etc), think about where they will be stored until needed. Consider a small table off to the side of the Ceremony Space.
12) If there are children/ young teens involved, keep in mind that they may have a tougher time performing as expected, so it's good if each one has someone to help if needed. I did one wedding where the groom's brothers were groomsmen--the elder was autistic, and he was accompanied by his brother down the aisle, instead of with a bridesmaid, as is typical. And that's okay--smoothness trumps "traditional" any day.
13) Make sure any PA equipment is functioning properly (hopefully the DJ will attend the rehearsal as well, Pastor Dave will bring his PA system to the rehearsal if the service "Amplification and Music for your Wedding" has been ordered). If you're going unwired, ask someone to sit in the back row during rehearsal to make sure everyone's speaking loud enough (& remember a crowded venue will be noisier than an empty one). Note – Pastor Dave does have an amplification set up with multiple microphones. This can be less expensive having a DJ set up an additional location if the Ceremony Space is separated from the Reception.
14) Everyone should know their cues. I've had more than one couple try to begin recessing after I introduced them to the audience, without giving the audience a chance to applause or waiting for the DJ to cue the recessional music.
15) If the couple are writing original vows & plan to recite them from memory, make sure to have copies on hand in case they forget. If they plan to read from paper or notecards (usually a better idea then trying to memorize), think about who will hold them and where they will be both before and after they are read. Managing the paper should definitely be practiced at the rehearsal)
16) Think about who will hand the rings off, and how it will work. Sometimes the ring-bearer has handed them to the couple, sometimes the BM has handed them to the couple, sometimes the BM has handed them to me to hand to the couple, sometimes, I've held them instead of the BM & passed them, etc. Work all that out in the rehearsal.
17) Try to do at least two complete run-throughs if possible. The more kinks that are worked out in rehearsal, the fewer they'll have on the big day.
18) Relax and enjoy yourself! The worst thing that will happen is that you will have a colorful story. At the end of the day you will still be married!
Here is a nice article on wedding processional order. A complete "Who's on First!"