Having a rehearsal is the best way to ensure everyone is on the same page, sharing your timeline as well as your vision for the big day. It has been my experience that most brides feel more comfortable having a quick, smooth rehearsal. Some ministers and wedding officiants do not attend the rehearsal. Be sure to ask if they charge extra for the rehearsal. I don’t. As a wedding officiant I want to be there provided I don’t have another wedding scheduled on your rehearsal day. If by chance I do I sometimes will have my wife help with the rehearsals as she too is ordained and has been by my side since day one.
Some couples make the mistake of checking everyone else’s schedule to set the rehearsal day and time, and then assume their wedding officiant will be there. Instead, you should check with the officiant first to find out when he/she is available, and then with everyone else. If you set the rehearsal without first checking with your officiant, and then find out your officiant has another commitment (such as a wedding) at the same time, you will be doing your rehearsal without him/her.
There are many people to coordinate besides the bride and groom, so it's the perfect opportunity for everyone involved to practice and become comfortable with the order of events for the wedding ceremony. Be sure to reserve the first row for the parents and grandparents of the bride and groom. If there are children involved, have adult supervision for them both at the rehearsal and wedding in case the children become confused as to where to be seated after they have tossed the flower petals and delivered the rings. Young children are usually more comfortable sitting rather than standing during the ceremony. At the very least, you and your wedding party need to know where to stand once every one has walked in. Without a walk through at the actual ceremony location, the processional may appear disorganized to your wedding guests. It will also help you to see the flow of entry to the ceremony and after the ceremony. The bridal party as well as the officiant will need to know where to go after the ceremony in order to sign the marriage license.
If everyone in the wedding party arrives at the wedding venue for the rehearsal on time, the rehearsal shouldn’t take more than 30 to 45 minutes at the most. The only people who really need to be there are the bridal party, the wedding consultant (if any), the wedding coordinator from the venue, ushers (if any) and the wedding officiant. Usually both parents are also invited. I recommend that you begin at the end. In other words, line everyone up as if they have just walked in and the wedding is ready to begin. This makes the rehearsal go quicker and lets everyone know where they are to stand, who they stand next to, etc. Some brides arrange the attendants by height to obtain a pleasant visual effect for the photos.
The next step is to have your wedding officiant go over the parts where the bride and groom may have to say something also if there is a unity service practice where the couple will stand for the unity service and what to expect as far as ques to what they will do. After they practice walking out, then line everyone up as if the wedding were ready to begin and have everyone in the wedding party walk in again and take their places.
Come to your rehearsal prepared and you'll have an easier time enjoying this once in a lifetime event. Also, if you decide to have an after-rehearsal dinner, you will have the opportunity to thank those closest to you for their help and involvement.
Rev C Hall