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Ceremony Rehearsal Made EasyWhile the rehearsal generally ends with food and fun with your family and friends, serious work must be completed to prepare for the ceremony before the party begins. Always conduct the rehearsal at the actual ceremony site even if your dinner plans are elsewhere.
Start by heading up to the alter and lining the wedding party up exactly where they will stand for the ceremony. If party members are missing have someone else stand in their place. The bride and groom stand directly in front of the officiant, generally with the bride to the right of the forward facing officiant and the groom to the left. Next to the bride stand the flower girl, then the maid of honor and then the bridesmaids; next match up the guys on the other side. Make adjustments to where they are standing to create an even looking design. Then point out markers or even put a small piece of tape on the floor so they can find that exact point again.
Rehearse the Recession first. Now that everyone knows where to stand you will exit with the bride and groom leaving first, followed by the flower girl and ring bearer, maid of honor and best man, then the rest of the wedding party. Keep everyone in line so you can come right back in.
Before the Processional immediate family members are seated. This may include parents, grandparents, siblings and close relatives. Be sure to introduce ushers to those persons during the rehearsal so they know who it is they are seating the next day. It’s not a bad idea to have them practice as well. Order of seating is generally groom’s grandparents, bride’s grandparents, groom’s parents and then bride’s mother. Traditionally the groom should be at the front of the church before the seating of the parents and grandparents begins.
Now you must decide, do you want all groomsmen at the front waiting, and only have the girls walk down the aisle? Or just the groom at the front and the rest of the wedding party walking as couples? If you want all the men set, they should enter with the groom and take their places behind him facing the audience to await the girls. Otherwise once the music begins, the last bridesmaid and groomsman enter first, and so on with the children going just before the bride. Have them maintain a 20 foot distance between each couple by measuring it out and giving them a visual queue so they know when to start down the aisle. Finally, instruct them to walk slowly!
Once the bride nears the front the groom may take several steps toward her and offer his arm to escort her the rest of the way. The groom will be to the bride’s right. The escort to the bride will then be seated, usually on the bride’s side. Once everyone is in place the officiant may quickly run through the order of the ceremony followed again by the recessional.
Here are a few more things to consider that may enhance your ceremony. Go against the norm and switch the guest sides so the bride’s friends and family are seated opposite her directly behind the groom and vice versa. This will allow everyone to see the face of his or her loved one throughout the ceremony instead of their backs. Think about having the children go sit with their parents right after the processional. This is especially useful for longer ceremonies where children can lose their focus and become unmanageable. Finally, just relax and enjoy being in the moment.
This article was also featured in the 2009 VOW Wedding Planner. To view a PDF of this article, go to the CEREMONY & RECEPTION section of VOW.