Wedding Rehearsals Part 2: Who, When, and Where?

Who should conduct the rehearsal?One person and one person only. Oh wait, you were asking who, not how many.

It really doesn’t matter who conducts the rehearsal. A good officiant should also be a competent wedding coordinator who can conduct an efficient rehearsal that complies with your expectations and helps alleviate your stress level regarding the big event. If your wedding is being held at a venue providing event coordination as part of your contract, take advantage of it and use their services. If you are hiring an independent wedding coordinator or event planner, that person would certainly be qualified to conduct your rehearsal in lieu of your officiant. But only one person should take the primary role of communicating your vision. Two competing rehearsal coordinators is not pretty!

If you are on a budget, anyone you trust to listen to you, will understand your preferences and is able to project his or her voice, can do a perfectly adequate job of conducting your rehearsal. You can even do it yourself.

There is something to be said for experience and professionalism though. Tricks and tips abound for a smooth wedding ceremony that your officiant, a wedding planner, or an event coordinator will know that you or your friend may not. Rehearsals can be very much like herding cats. The authority of a stranger can be very helpful indeed to bring everyone in line.

I enjoy conducting rehearsals. It gives me another opportunity to interact with the bride and groom prior to the wedding, affords me a chance to meet the family, allows more time to reassure nervous couples thereby alleviating some of their anxiety, and I get to give my “photography” and “cell phone” speeches to the wedding party, It is also one of the few times in my life I can tell people what to do and they actually do it. However, I do charge extra for the time and expense so I am completely sympathetic if a bride and groom have their wedding planner, event coordinator, a friend, or even themselves run the show.

My place is pretty much a given — up front between the bride and groom. I also arrive early to check in with everyone, so I am comfortable with my role and position during the wedding whether I am at a rehearsal or not.

Who should attend the rehearsal?

If at all possible, I encourage my couples to only include the people who will be involved in the processional and recessional or have some sort of role during the ceremony such as readers. Spouses, friends, and other family members can get in the way. Have their loved ones meet them at the dinner, or other celebration if you are having one, once the rehearsal is over.

Where and when should we have the rehearsal?Best case scenario: Exactly 24 hours prior to your wedding at the exact location the wedding will be held.

Real life: Not always possible.

If you want to have the best idea of what the logistics will entail and what the light will be like, than schedule your rehearsal the day before at the wedding site at the exact time your ceremony is scheduled to begin. This is not always possible however, so do not fret that this is a hard and fast requirement. Far from it. You can rehearse a month before in your living room if you want. You can sketch it out in PowerPoint and email it to your wedding party.

I have had a number of Wednesday or Thursday rehearsals for Saturday and Sunday weddings simply because the venue was already booked with other events the day before the wedding. I have had a rehearsal in a community center for a wedding at a country club and a rehearsal in a public park for a wedding in a civic center. Because there is an obvious focal point at the end of the aisle, most people head for their officiant and stand up front with him or her, so the actual location of the rehearsal is really not all that crucial.  So the answer to this question is–wherever and whenever you want.

Rehearsals are far less formal than weddings so people tend to show up whenever they feel like getting around to it. I expect weddings to start 5-15 minutes late, but sadly have resigned myself to rehearsals starting 20-30 minutes late or more! I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone slink off with a cell phone to call a restaurant or function hall to let them know the wedding party will be late for their reservation for the rehearsal dinner. Do try to impress upon your wedding party that timeliness is as important for the rehearsal as it is for the wedding itself.


Photo Attributes: My husband, Jamie Fuller, took these photos at the rehearsal of Andy and Kristine Yawn at the Radisson Melbourne Oceanfront.