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Conduct Your Own Wedding Rehearsal

By: Maureen Thomson

Marriage One thing that can substantially raise the fee charged by your wedding officiant is the need to have him or her present at your rehearsal. This is a justifiable expense, for oftentimes the officiant is giving up the chance to perform another wedding during the time that he or she is conducting your rehearsal. It is often an expense that the bride and groom don't need to incur however, for it's pretty easy to facilitate a rehearsal without having your officiant in attendance.

Running your own wedding rehearsal may seem a daunting task, especially if you don't think you are the "manager" type. However, there are some simple steps you can do to make it a breeze. First of all, it is assumed that you have worked with your officiant and have received a written script of your ceremony. (If you haven't, then you don't know what is going to be said on the most important day of your life, so I recommend you find another officiant fast!) So, armed with your trusty wedding script, follow the steps below and you'll have a practice session that runs smoothly (and get everyone to the rehearsal dinner in less than 45 minutes)!

If you are having your ceremony at the same site as your reception, then the site might provide you with a coordinator to run your rehearsal at no additional charge. These folks are invaluable-they know their venue and how things flow smoothly. Rely on them-they might even run the rehearsal for you if you give them the script.

It's better for you to turn the management of the rehearsal over to a friend or relative who is, quite frankly, just a tad bossy. Choose someone who is assertive enough to get folks to pay attention, but not so overbearing as to be off-putting to your wedding party members.

1. Start in the middle. Line up your entire wedding party exactly where they will stand during the ceremony. As the audience sees you, men should be on the right, women on the left. Next to the groom should be his best man and next to the bride will be her maid of honor. Bridesmaids will 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 facing toward 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 view the lineup from the back of the room to see if everyone is centered and evenly spaced. If you want to be really precise and your venue allows it, you can place tape on the floor to mark the place.

2. Go through the ceremony headings only. It's not necessary to read over the entire ceremony-save that excitement for the big day. Your officiant will take over for that part anyway, so just run through the various parts by heading. Things to watch for: determine who will have the rings and how they will be presented to the officiant, establish the parts in the ceremony when the bride and groom face the officiant, face each other, or turn toward 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 speaking in public, you may want to practice your vows at the rehearsal. If you have readers or singers, they might want to practice their piece as well.

3. Practice the recessional After the kiss, the bride will get her bouquet from the maid of honor and bride and groom will face their guests. Often at this time, the officiant will introduce you as Mr. & Mrs. for the first time, then the recessional music strikes up and off you go! Best man and maid of honor will wait until the bride and groom are at the back of the room and then the best man will 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 (in other words, don't do the "inching into the center" shuffle-just wait.) 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 is the trickiest part and if you don't practice it, it will look awkward, so pay attention. As the bride comes down the aisle, she will be on her father's left arm. When it's time for dad to be seated, bride should kiss dad good-bye. Dad will then walk behind the bride to his seat. (Don't step on that 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.

In the case where both parents escort the bride, decide at the rehearsal which parent the bride will kiss first (otherwise you look like a ping-pong ball as you hover indecisively). Mom should turn around and walk to her seat (she'll be seated in the front row on the bride's side) and Dad will proceed to his seat as outlined above.

6. The Summary. 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 pouting because she can't be escorted by her boyfriend. . Everyone always seems to come through on the big day!

Maureen Thomson is a Wedding Officiant and owner of Lyssabeth's Wedding Officiants, with offices in the Bay Area of California, as well as Denver, Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Visit her webssites at www.MemorableCeremoniesBA.com, www.RockyMountainWedding Officiants.com and www.MemorableCeremonies.com.
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