One thing that can substantially raise the fee charged by your wedding Officiant is the need to have him or her conduct your rehearsal. This is a justifiable expense – the Officiant may have passed up another wedding to conduct your rehearsal – but it’s also an expense that the bride and groom don’t always need to incur. It’s actually pretty easy to run your own rehearsal without your Officiant in attendance.

At Forever, Together, as Seattle wedding officiants we’re more than happy to conduct rehearsal for you on a separate day…if you decide you need one.  However, for a small wedding, or a very simple ceremony, rehearsal can be D.I.Y., leaving you with more “scratch” to spend on your honeymoon in Vegas!

This may seem a daunting task, especially if you don’t think of yourself as the “managerial” type, but there are some simple steps you can do to make it easier. First of all, we’ll assume that you have worked with your Officiant and have at least a draft of your ceremony (if you don’t, then you should!). Armed with your wedding script, follow the steps below and you’ll have a run-through that moves along smoothly…and gets everyone to the rehearsal dinner in around 30 minutes!

If you are having your ceremony at the same site as your reception, then the venue might even provide a coordinator. These folks are invaluable–they know their venue best and how to make everything flow. Count on them–they might even run the rehearsal for you at no extra charge if you give them the script!

If there’s no coordinator, it’s better to turn the rehearsal over to a friend or relative who is, frankly, a little bossy (mother of the bride is a great choice!). Choose someone who is assertive enough to get everyone to pay attention, but not so overbearing as to put off your wedding party members.

1. Start in the middle

Line up your entire wedding party exactly where they will stand during the ceremony (when the music stops). As the audience sees you, men should be on the right, women on the left. Next to the groom should be the best man, next to the bride will be the maid of honor. Bridesmaids stand to the left of the maid of honor with groomsmen to the right of the best man. Wedding party members should angle their bodies slightly so that they are always facing the bride and groom.

Those on the outside should step forward, if possible, so that the wedding party forms a “V,” with the bride and groom in the middle. Have someone who is not in the wedding watch from the back of the room to make sure everyone is centered and evenly spaced. If you want to be really precise and your venue allows it, you can even place tape on the floor to mark everyone’s spot.

2. Go through the ceremony by section headings only.

It’s not necessary to read the entire ceremony. Your Officiant will be doing it, anyway, so just run through the various elements by their headings.

Determine who will have the rings and how they will be presented to the Officiant, establish the parts of the ceremony when the bride and groom face the Officiant, face each other, or turn toward their guests, if there are ceremony “props,” such as roses you will present to your parents, make sure you know where they will be during the ceremony.

If you’re really nervous about reciting your vows in public, you may want to practice at rehearsal. If you have readers or singers, they might want to work on their piece as well.

3. Practice the recessional first

I admit this sounds illogical, but in fact it makes perfect sense. After the kiss, the bride will get her bouquet from the maid of honor and bride and groom will face their guests. This is traditionally when the Officiant will introduce you as “Mr. and Mrs.” for the first time. The recessional music strikes up and off you go! Best man and maid of honor should wait until the bride and groom are at the back of the room and then the best man can extend his right arm to the maid of honor and they will walk out together.

Subsequent couples should stay put until it is their turn to leave. Personally, we don’t recommend you do the “inching into the center” shuffle. It looks more professional if everyone just waits their turn. Select an agreed-upon distance whereby each couple will exit (for example: when the couple in front gets to the fifth row of chairs, then the next couple goes, etc.). In this manner, each couple will leave in uniform fashion, without bunching up. After the last couple exits, the parents and any people sitting in the front row should immediately follow.

4. Practice the processional last

Now that everyone knows where to stand when they are up in the front, the processional should be a piece of cake. By now, you will have determined who will be in the processional and in what order, so simply line people up accordingly. (Hopefully, it’s on your script!). Then, start walking.

As you did for the recessional, pick a spot at which each couple or person will begin walking (e.g. when the first bridesmaid gets to the front row, the second should begin walking, and when the second gal gets to that same spot, the third gal will go, etc.). That way no one bunches up like Keystone Cops!

The bride and her escort (if there is one) should not enter until the entire wedding party is at the front. Generally, the bride will have a separate piece of music than the rest of the wedding party, so that’s a good clue as to when to start walking. Also, the Officiant will have everyone stand for the bride, so that’s when it’s time to make the grand entrance.

5. The “Hand Off”

This part can be tricky, and if you don’t practice it, it may look awkward. As the bride comes down the aisle, she will be on her father’s left arm. When it’s time for him to be seated, bride should kiss him good-bye. He will then walk behind the bride to his seat (watch out for her train, Dad!).

Bride should hand her flowers to her maid of honor with her left hand. Groom should extend his left hand to the bride, who will take it with her right hand. He will then “draw her in” to face the Officiant. Try it–it’s very fluid once you practice it. At this time, the maid of honor can hand both sets of flowers to the next bridesmaid in line and fix the bride’s train, if needed.

When both parents escort the bride, decide which parent the bride will kiss first. Mom should turn around and walk to her seat (her seat is the aisle seat in the front row on the bride’s side) and Dad will proceed to his seat as outlined above.

6. Tying it all together

Walk through the recessional and processional one more time and you’re done. And don’t get stressed if your groomsmen are clowning around and only half paying attention or your maid of honor is upset because she can’t be escorted by her husband. Everyone always seems to step up when it’s for real!