As a Wedding, Naming and Funeral Celebrant, I’ve been entrusted with hundreds of beautiful and memorable occasions for clients, ensuring they are memorable, for all the RIGHT reasons - and a rehearsal is key to this - particularly with weddings!
Whether the wedding is a complex and grand affair in a country house, a relaxed wedfest on a farm, overseen by a planner or co-ordinator in dedicated wedding venue, or a simple laid-back celebration in a private back garden or village halls, I’ve come to realise just how crucial a wedding rehearsal really is. It really helps to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible on the BIG day. So when a couple asks, ‘Is a rehearsal REALLY necessary?’, my answer is always the same . . . ‘Yes it ABSOLUTELY is - and you won’t regret it - you’ll be pleased you did!’ and here are just some of the reasons why . . .
It’s a great opportunity to touch base again, with your officiant or celebrant - an opportunity to get together in person once more, before the actual day and in the very place where you’ll be on your wedding day. You may have met them once or twice before (twice is most often the case for my clients), during the lead up to your wedding, but it may have been a few months prior, and perhaps, you’re beginning to forget what s/he looks like! Also, you may be involving some close friends or family members in your ceremony, who may have only met each other briefly before, or perhaps a long time ago (or maybe never!) - it’s the perfect opportunity then, to reacquaint people or introduce them for the first time - and get them chatting and connecting before the big day arrives. Sometimes people get together for a drink or a meal after the rehearsal - a lovely way of extending the celebrations overall!
2. TO REASSURE
The most significant benefit of a rehearsal, I think, is to allay any fears and calm any pre-wedding nerves or worries, that are inevitably associated with the most important day of your life! With your celebrant there in person, you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you might have, discuss any last minute changes and/or work out any little problems that may have cropped up. Your celebrant will be there to metaphorically ‘hold your hand’, to advise and guide you through the ceremony, offering suggestions and solutions. Then the night before your wedding day, you will go to bed knowing exactly what to expect - where you’ll stand, how you’ll move around, when you’ll be invited to sit, face one another, hold hands, what you’ll need to say, etc. Other than the overall feeling of excitement and anticipation that might keep you awake on your wedding eve, there shouldn’t be any worries about the ceremony itself!
During your rehearsal you’ll be given the chance to go over things as many times as you wish (within reason!). A key part of the ceremony which often concerns people is, the entrance, understandably. No one relishes the thought of tripping up steps, treading on the feet of the person who might be accompanying them, or perhaps getting a dress caught on furniture as they walk up the aisle! So the entrance is always practised, ideally with the music that has been chosen for this part of the ceremony. I always check timing with my couples - the point at which the first person will set off and how people will arrive in the ceremony space; what they will do, where they will go next and the order and positioning of all who will be processing at the start. Other logistics are often rehearsed, such as the movement and position of the people tasked with sharing readings, etc. The layout of furniture and seating is also checked and decided, to make sure there is sufficient space for everyone to move around freely.
4. TO REINFORCE
The rehearsal provides the couple with the chance to say out loud, the words that they will speak, when they make their promises and vows to each other and when they exchange their rings. I always ask for a private moment with the couple, to run through this part of the ceremony, just the three of us (keeping these special words to ourselves until the wedding day) at the rehearsal. You’d be surprised just how many couples come to their rehearsal, having never said their vows out loud (not even on their own, let alone to each other). Quite often, the rehearsal is the very first occasion during which these words have ever been uttered and this can bring about some (often unexpected) emotion. I’ve been witness to so many couples feeling quite overcome, becoming tearful during the rehearsal, and this regularly takes people by surprise. Having said the vow and ring words out loud prior to the big day, can help with emotions on the wedding day itself - or at least it can provide a taste of how they might feel when the words are said for real! Having begun to consider how emotional you might (or might not!) be, during the rehearsal, you can be a little better prepared for how you might react on the day. My opinion is that emotions should be set free; a wedding day is of course, an emotionally charged occasion, so just embrace how you feel. If there’s crying, they’ll be happy tears - let them flow - just remember to have a tissue handy!
5. TO KEEP IT REAL AND RELAXED
A rehearsal is all about making things feel as realistic as we can - a genuine taster of how things will be on the big day. If at all possible I advise couples to have their rehearsal on the day before their wedding day. Sometimes this isn’t possible of course, particularly if they’ve booked a designated wedding venue and there are ceremonies booked in, during the day preceding. If the day before, is not available, then sometime during the week leading up to the wedding also works fine. Better to do that, than have no rehearsal at all. The great thing about having it as close as possible to your wedding day, is that it provides a much better chance of having everything set up as it will be for real - the furniture, seating, lighting, music facilities, etc. Creating the scene, so that it feels realistic, is really helpful in preparing a couple well. And if those playing a part in the ceremony can’t make the run through, then a rehearsal with just those who can, is absolutely fine (even if it’s just the couple themselves and me - again, that is far better than not having one at all). I’ve done plenty of rehearsals where it’s been just the three of us and then I’ve arrived at the venue early, on the ceremony day, to run through everything with those who were missing from the rehearsal.
I honestly haven’t done a rehearsal yet, where the couple haven’t said to me afterwards, “We’re so pleased we had a rehearsal!” It really does REASSURE everyone, and not just the couple - guests who are involved as well, and additionally, it gives a couple a very valid excuse to extend their celebrations and the time spent with their nearest and dearest! A rehearsal is always lots of fun too - there’s laughter and that lovely feeling of giddy excitement. I always enjoy the rehearsal, often almost as much as the ceremony itself.
REHEARSALS & RUN-THROUGHS ROCK!
Photos courtesy of Firefly Photographic www.fireflyphotographic.com