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The Marriage / Wedding
Ceremony Rehearsal

You can't get formations like this unless you have an on-site Rehearsal ­
Photo: courtesy of Butleigh Wooton Receptions of Kew - Photo:Andrew Kopp

To marrying couples:

This is advice written for celebrants and couples. But everyone concerned should read it carefully. The On-site Rehearsal is one very good reason why you should not go on price but on value for money.

Rehearsals usually take much longer than the wedding. One has to stop and get things right. So the celebrant has to travel to the site, take an hour or so, sometimes longer, to make sure your wedding is prepared properly, and then travel home. People are relaxed about the rehearsal so they often arrive late. It is usually in out-of-hours time.

The rehearsal is very good reason why a quality celebrant must charge more money. And makes the crude question ­ "How much do you charge for a wedding?" ­ the very wrong first question to ask. But the point is that hiring a true professional means you get value for money. Finally, the on-site rehearsal is one very good touchstone for sorting out the true professional celebrant from the others.

To Celebrants:

When a couple ask me who are the most important people to have at a Rehearsal I always reply - "The Readers".

Readers can make or break the impact of a marriage ceremony.
They invariably go far too fast. Ceremonial mode is a paced mode and, in this context, it is very hard to slow people down. (Nervousness usually causes this fast pace).

Reader at Stephens weddingIt does not seem to matter whether the reader is a lecturer in english, a teacher of drama, or a talk back radio host. (When you think about it these people talk pretty fast.) With very few exceptions, they gabble / babble readings. Whereas in a Rehearsal I usually only say the first couple of lines of each section, and get the couple to do the same, when it comes to the readers, I ask them to practise their reading in full (and instruct them where to stand vis-a-vis the microphone - very important!).

I would say that in nine cases out of ten I have to ask them to slow down, and tactfully explain that the guests need the time to absorb and appreciate the sentiments contained in the reading.
There are two ways to help readers slow down
1. Ask them to pause at the commas, colons, full stops / periods, and at the end of verses.(Show them)
2. Ask them simply to slow the words as they come out of the mouth! I also advise bonding by personalising the reading with a brief introduction. --
"Mary and John (i.e. say their names!), this reading is called "Love" , by Rod McKuen, and I will speak these words as you would say them to each other. . . . . . . "

Before the wedding starts - and when you have rigged up the PA system. I invite each reader to come up and make sure that their mouth is at the correct distance from the microphone (microphones vary!). Remind them again diplomatically that they are likely to go too fast and it may be a good idea to go into a corner somewhere and have another practice. When the Readers get it right (I have had up to eight readers) the world sings!

For the rest, I leave to my colleague, Kim Kirkley of New York, who sent me this with permission to share it with you ­ couples and celebrants.

Dally Messenger III

from Kim Kirkley DipMC New York -1 718.753.1993

Kim Kirkley College Graduate of New York(One of the first USA Diploma Graduates
of the International College of Celebrancy)

About the Wedding Rehearsal:

Every member of the Wedding Party (bride and groom, Celebrant, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers, broom bearers, readers, musicians and any other participants) should meet at the site and "run through" the ceremony. If the site is unavailable, please simulate the conditions as closely as you can.

This is entirely your ceremony, therefore, you should determine beforehand exactly which, if any, traditions you would like to follow, the way you want your attendants to line up, the manner in which you would like them to enter and exit, where you would like them to stand, walk or sit.

Please impress upon all participants how important it is for them to attend the rehearsal and be on-time. If every one cooperates, there is no reason for a rehearsal to last longer than one hour. Please make sure I (the celebrant) meet all participants. If you are choosing an outdoor venue, consider whether moving indoors would alter any plans. You should always have an alternative venue.

Absences: If you know that someone cannot attend the rehearsal, appoint a stand-in who will participate in the rehearsal and explain the duties to the participant before the ceremony.

Wedding Coordinator: If you have decided not to hire a wedding coordinator, consider asking a favorite friend or relative, who is not a member of the wedding party, to assist you by coordinating the wedding and the rehearsal. On your wedding day, you do not want to be the only person who knows exactly how the wedding should flow. Having a coordinator will give you a chance to fully enjoy your wedding ceremony.

Wedding Rehearsal with CelebrantBring Props: Please have on hand the actual or dummy props (Unity Candles, bouquets, rings, etc.) so that everyone can practice their actions.

Children: It is especially important that any children who will participate in the ceremony attend the rehearsal. Please take care to speak with the children in a gentle and thoughtful manner and have props (i.e. a dummy flower basket with petals, a broom, a pillow, etc.) that will allow them to practice their actions. This may be the first time they  "perform" in front of a group, let us make sure that it is fun and easy for them. 

Scheduling Weddings: are highly emotional times for everyone and may bring up emotions that are difficult to handle. Please schedule your rehearsal so that there is a built in allowance for your participants to be a few minutes late or many minutes late depending on your guests! You know your family and friends -- If they are "never on-time," it is unlikely that they will be on-time for such an emotional occasion. 

Take Care of Yourself: Do get enough sleep and eat healthy meals as your rehearsal and wedding approach. You will need to maintain your strength and perspective. Take time to visualize your rehearsal and wedding ceremony, so that you will be able to address any complications and calm yourself. No matter what happens, do your best to remain flexible, calm, and pleasant. Your spouse, attendants and guests want to celebrate with you -- Being able to do so, is much more important than everything running exactly as you planned. Remember to enjoy these moments! They will never come again.

Kim Kirkley

Further Note on Rehearsals - for Celebrants.

Remi Barclay Boseeau MessengerRemi Barclay Bosseau DipMC, then a New Jersey celebrant, in a Rehearsal for a wedding

Further Note on Rehearsals - for celebrants.

The Rehearsal is an important part of the Rite of Passage we know as Marriage. These "sub-rites" sometimes start with events years before (engagement, kitchen teas, etc). The Rehearsal is an easy going and relaxed event and is usually jocular in atmosphere. Nevertheless, bonding and awareness takes place on a deep level among the various members of the wedding party. Just the same, it is an event which has to have some level of organisation.

I've now been to many rehearsals and have some thoughts to pass on !

Every rehearsal to which I have been, there has been a period of aimlessness where no one seems to know what to do or how to start. The celebrant needs to take the initiative.

When you are ready to start, my strong advice to is to organise the wedding party into the formation they will be in during the ceremony. If everyone is not there, start anyway - as long as you have a bride and groom. Do this quickly before people wander off. You can brief latecomers later.

Rehearsal of Bridesmaid at weddingExplain quickly that the Processional is best rehearsed after they have practised the formation of the wedding party - "so that you know into which exact spot you will be going".

When going through the ceremony read the first two lines of each section so that the wedding party gets a feel for the structure. If you say "then we have the Monitum, then we have the Asking etc" it is not concrete enough for them to take in. I would also practise the first two lines/phrases of the vows and the rings with the bride and groom.

If the bride or groom wants to try something different tell them that is fine but let us have one run through first - unless it is simple and doesn't stop your flow. All the actions and movements must be practised in full.

The readers, of course, must practise their reading in full so you can slow them down and get them close to the microphone etc.

Recessional: When you finish the ceremony, practise the Recessional - they are all in the right place to do so! The difficult part here is to hesitate before the recessional starts. The music must start. The celebrant must ask all to stand. It is then best for the bride and groom to be interrupted by parents to be congratulated - parents are always allowed to do this! By then the recessional music is under way and the bride and groom, followed by best man and Maid of Honor, followed by other attendants in pairs, proceed. Either publicly or privately the celebrant should encourage the guests to recess out after the wedding party to congratulate the bride and groom after the recessional.

(At the Wedding: If the photographer tries to whisk them away too quickly - protest that it only takes a few minutes for congratulations and tell them it is a wonderful opportunity to get some candid natural shots.)

Processional: After all else has been practised, go through the processional. There are many variations - the most common is as follows. The Groom and attendants should be in place. The procession is usually led by the Flower girls/page boys or the bridesmaid of lowest rank. Pace must be right (slow) and spaces appropriate (5 yards/metres? between each attendant) then follows (10 Yards/metres at least) the Bride and Father (or whoever).

It is very important that the music is allowed to create an atmosphere before the first bridesmaid begins. I would suggest one minute. For Pachelbel's Canon in D - three minutes. It is not usual to change the music for the entrance of the bride.

Wedding rehearsal in New JerseyFees: At the Rehearsal collect the balance of your fee. It does not work to collect it at the wedding. If they don't have it, ask which attendant will have it (usually the best man). Go over to him at the Rehearsal and tell him. "I am to collect my fee from you tomorrow. I'd like to do that when you arrive, so that I do not have to interupt you after the ceremony."

Eyes: Emphasise and emphasise again to the bride and groom and the attendants, that they must look at you or the readers, and at each other (B and G) only during the vows and rings. Emphasise that during and the Asking they look at the Celebrant. I've seen three couples recently (not my weddings!) start looking at each other during the Asking - (one couple kept looking at each other during the whole ceremony!) The celebrant is asking each of them a question. If they are not looking at the celebrant it looks really inappropriate.

Time: There has to be much more talk on time. The groom and attendants should be there 30 minutes before the ceremony. For this reason it is mistake to have groomsmen as ushers - it is a separate function altogether. Ushers are still doing their job sometimes after the ceremony has started.

At the actual wedding: Ten minutes before the ceremony is due to start groom and attendants should be standing in a relaxed way near their positions in the ceremony. It is 10 times easier to organise the guests if the groom and his men are in place. It gives you and them a focus. The bride should be on time or, by agreement, five or ten minutes late. No later! One way I achieve this is by explaining in detail how uncomfortable the guests become if they are standing or sitting for long periods, and how such waiting takes away the edge off enjoying the ceremony.

Remi Barclay Messenger


© Dally Messenger III and individual authors - 2001-2020