26 Good Reasons to Schedule a Wedding Rehearsal

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (30/11/2021)
Categories:  |  Wedding Ceremony |  Wedding Planning   |
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Floral circle with the word #almostmarried
                    in itThere are many good reasons to schedule a rehearsal in the lead-up to your wedding, regardless of how big or small your wedding is, where the ceremony is held, and how many people will be in your wedding party. Nonetheless, if you Google "wedding rehearsal" you will find numerous opinions ranging from rehearsals are a must through to rehearsals are totally unnecessary, together with a wide range of suggestions about who should run the rehearsal, and who should be involved.

Generally speaking, information and opinion about wedding rehearsals focuses on the practical reasons for having a rehearsal and either glosses over or completely ignores many other equally important reasons.

What happens at a wedding rehearsal

A wedding rehearsal is not a dress rehearsal for the wedding. No-one is going to wear their wedding dress for the rehearsal! It is also not a full run-through of the ceremony. If it were to be that, by the end of the rehearsal you would be legally married, assuming of course, that you will have at least two adults present as witnesses.

What does happen in an onsite full-cast rehearsal is that your celebrant will talk through the ceremony and then you'll do a walk through of the ceremony. So you will practice the walk-in, walk-out and where everyone stands is rehearsed (not in that order), the rest of the ceremony choreography is rehearsed, and, most importantly, the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to marriage is signed by the couple and the celebrant. This is a legal requirement and must be made and signed before the ceremony can take place.

The talk through gives everyone a heads up as to the order of the ceremony, what follows what, and sharing the stage directions - who does what and when, and in what order.

In the walk through, people are learning their cues and practicing the parts where they move. In the process your celebrant can check their walking speed and make sure they’re standing symmetrically.

The practical reasons to schedule a wedding rehearsal

Scheduling an onsite rehearsal allows you and your celebrant to
  1. Time the processional (walk in) and recessional (walk out) to ensure they are coordinated with the music chosen
  2. Have everyone familiarise themselves with where they have to stand, and how to make sure both sides of the wedding party are symmetrically arranged
  3. Practice any part of the ceremony where someone has to move, hand something to someone else, including the presentation and exchange of the rings, or participate in a ritual
  4. Allow readers to practice their readings
  5. Ensure that everyone in the wedding party knows where and how to stand
  6. Practice moving to the signing table for the signing
  7. Sign the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage
In addition to the actual ceremony, an onsite rehearsal allows you to
  1. Check whether ceremony space has been configured as planned
  2. Check that the planned layout works as expected and be able to make changes if necessary
  3. Check parking and access to the site
  4. Check the acoustics and best positioning for any sound amplification equipment
  5. Check availability of power and position of power points
  6. Check light, shade, position of the sun at the time of the ceremony
  7. Carry out a general safety check

Where the rehearsal has to be held offsite, all of the above can be done as long as someone present is familiar with the actual ceremony site and can approximate the layout in some way or other.

Where a less formal rehearsal has been scheduled for just the marrying couple, largely to sign the Declarations of No Legal Impediment to Marriage, I talk through of the ceremony, as in we do this, and then we do that, plus we practice where and how you stand to say your vows, and we rehearse the exchange of rings and any rituals.

The emotional reasons to schedule a wedding rehearsal

In addition to the practical reasons for having a wedding rehearsal, there are a number of emotional reasons
  1. Going from talk-through to walk-through (and rinse and repeat) means everyone goes from being unsure of what to do, to learning what they have to do, to repeating to ensure that on the day their muscle memory kicks in, to gaining the confidence that, on the day, they are going to shine.
  2. Rehearsing where you will stand, and what you need to do when exchanging your vows and your rings, will allow you to relax and be in those moments as they happen on the day
  3. A rehearsal will deepen your confidence in your celebrant
  4. A rehearsal allows your wedding party to meet your celebrant and feel comfortable with them
  5. Being relaxed and confident will allow you to fully experience your wedding and be in each and every moment
  6. Rehearsing the entrance, exit, and where to stand will allow your wedding party to be relaxed and confident

The relationship-strengthening reasons to schedule a wedding rehearsal

  1. As the last formal function before you wedding, your rehearsal makes the fact that you are getting married, real
  2. It reinforces your growing of your internalisation of your commitment to one another as a couple and your perception of the two of you as a team as well as a couple
  3. It enhances the bond between each of you and the people you have chosen to support you as part of your wedding party
  4. It creates and enhances bonds between members of your wedding party, some of whom may not have met until the rehearsal
  5. It creates and enhance bonds between your parents, who may not have met until the rehearsal
  6. It enhances the bond between you and your celebrant

Who should run your wedding rehearsal

For me, there is only one answer to this question. Your celebrant. But not everyone agrees with me. In the US, for example, a significant proportion of officiants and clergy claim that rehearsals are an unnecessary drain on their time and can quite competently be run by the wedding coordinator. While such a stance makes perfect sense in an environment where weddings are all done the same say, in the context of a unique, bespoke ceremony not having the person who conceived and developed the ceremony also run the rehearsal can result in confusion, changes made on the run that compromise the intention of the ceremony, and an overall negative impact. It is beneficial if the person who runs the rehearsal understands all the reasoning behind the decisions made about each element of the ceremony.

Where, for some good reason, your celebrant is unable to run your rehearsal, they should supply a detailed rehearsal guide that can be used by the person you choose to be the substitute. And the person you choose must be willing to run the rehearsal as planned to ensure that, on the day, the ceremony will unfold as planned.
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