One of the questions I get asked regularly is – do I need to do a ceremony rehearsal?
The short answer is, nah mate.
Now, you’re probably thinking – of course you would say that Bec, you just don't want to do one and are being a total GRINCH.
But if you’re on the fence, haven’t considered it, or already know you don’t want to – here are my two cents on the matter.
Plenty of people will tell you NEED to do a rehearsal. But plenty of people have opinions on all aspects of your wedding (i.e. you NEED to invite your second cousin three times removed, Jason, who you haven't seen since Easter 2002).
But, as someone who has been to (and orchestrated) their fair share of wedding ceremonies, I can tell you in all honesty, rehearsals are not all they're cracked up to be. This is why I no longer include them in my celebrant services.
Here are the benefits to not holding a formal ceremony rehearsal:
1) You save time (and if you're planning a wedding, you're probably a bit time poor).
2) You save money! (not paying the celebrant to be there).
3) You don't have to organise it with the venue (which may or may not be possible).
4) You don't have to get all of your wedding party in the one place, at the one time.
5) You don't have to make your wedding party take time off work etc.
6) You won't need to fill in the people who are not there.
7) You don't need to worry about everyone remembering what to do.
8) You won't need to worry about things not going EXACTLY the way they did at the rehearsal (i.e. wet weather contingency).
9) You won't create added stress and unrealistic expectations of perfection.
10) You won't take away from the once in a lifetime experience of your wedding day.
Now, in saying that, this doesn't mean you have to give zero direction and let your wedding party run loose on the day.
Without further hesitation, I offer you the following alternatives to holding a full blown wedding ceremony rehearsal:
1) Provide all persons involved in your ceremony with a written run sheet
I provide all my couples with a comprehensive, step-by-step, fully-scheduled runsheet of how the ceremony will pan out on the day. This can include; what order the wedding party will be entering; what songs will be played and when; and when people will be called up for readings or presenting the rings.
You can provide this run sheet to anyone who may be involved in the ceremony – wedding party members, photographers, musicians – share it around and everyone will be on the same page without the need for a rehearsal! You can save walking down the aisle for the big day!
2) Hold a full rehearsal without the celebrant
Save yourself some dough and hold your rehearsal with those who are helping you out for free (i.e. not the celebrant or photographer or florist or DJ).
The rehearsal is mostly useful for determining the order and timing of a wedding party entrance, where people will stand, when music is played – etc. etc. – the logistics.
For this purpose, you can have someone (or even like, a box) stand in the place of the celebrant. (I actually like the idea of not going through the actual marriage ceremony and leave that as a special experience on the day, but that’s a personal preference).
If you would like to go through the entire ceremony, your celebrant should be able to provide you with a ceremony run sheet (see more about this below), or, full script.
If some people are missing – ring in a few other friends to take their place.
Every man and his dog has a smartphone, whip it out and FILM THE REHEARSAL to: 1) send to the people who could not be present 2) provide a reminder to those who struggle following instruction 3) send to the celebrant, photographer DJ and whoever else you want!
Or, you can simply write the order of things down, take some photos or draw a diagram.
3) Hold a rehearsal at your home
As much as your wedding party probably love you, they may be thinking – omg do we have to do a four hour round trip to do a ten minute rehearsal!!??
There is nothing stopping you from staging the above, but at your home! (or other mutual location – like your mum’s because she makes great sanga’s and always has fruit cup cordial).
So invite your friends and family around, your wedding party, crack out the Mersey Valley and make a DIY grazing table (what dreams are made of). You can hold your rehearsal - again, filming, photographing or otherwise recording - the order of things.
4) Have a sneaky practice the morning of your wedding.
If you’re staying at or near your wedding venue, you may like to gather everyone and swing by the ceremony site for a quick practice the morning of.
That way your wedding party will have their instructions fresh in their head!
5) Have a designated person to organize the wedding party
You might have a work friend who loves a spreadsheet, or an aunt who really needs a job so she isn’t going around planting big red lipstick kiss marks on all of your guests.
You can assign someone the role of “ceremony coordinator”, who is aware of the order of your wedding party and your ceremony. They can ensure everyone knows their order and place (and will probably love every moment of it).
This is a particularly useful method if you have young children in your wedding party. Sometimes the little ones are not so good at following prior instruction and might need a little reminder just before they head down the aisle.
And I’m always there to make sure they get to the right spot!
6) Totally YOLO it. It will all work out perfectly.
The YOLO approach is a lot more common than you think. (yes, I did just use the term YOLO... yolo!).
For example, if you have two bridesmaids, you can just say, yo, Jennifer, you go first. REHEARSAL COMPLETE!!!
I also do plenty of weddings where there is no wedding party, so you really just need to work out between yourselves what the plan is.
As a celebrant, I’m also a mini event manager on your big day. It’s my job to ensure that – if someone is standing in the wrong sport, I quietly shuffle them along. I remind father’s to shake groom’s hands. I usher couples into the middle of the aisle and get them to hold hands. I nod to your cousin with the AUX cord to fade the music out. I’ve even helped a 3 year old to stop crying mid-ceremony. I’m an octopus, spreading my tentacles all over your ceremony…. Ok, that doesn’t sound nice, but you get it.
Everything. Will. Go. Smoothly.
Or it won’t. I’ve seen a page boy dragged along by a barking dog (they say never work with children or animals) – but I will ALWAYS remember that wedding fondly and so will all the guests.
Take home message:
In the 30 weddings I have done so far (at the time of writing this), I have done ONE rehearsal for a home wedding of a couple who lived near me. They admitted afterwards that they probably could have done it without me there.
Each of those 30 weddings has been beautiful – and I regularly get the feedback “That was the best wedding I have ever seen!” (Don’t believe me? Go check out my reviews ;) )
29 weddings without celebrant-led rehearsals. 29 Happily married couples.
I am all about fun, happy, relaxed and stress free wedding ceremonies that are tailored to match your vibe.
If not having a rehearsal with your celebrant is a deal breaker – I’m not the celebrant for you – and I will happily refer you on to one of my wonderful industry colleagues!