Rehearsals – to do or not to do?

Rehearsals – to do or not to do?


One thing that comes up regularly in my conversation with wedding couples is whether or not to have a rehearsal. Sometimes I am asked whether or not I recommend one. That really depends on the size and complexity of your ceremony. Ceremonies can run more smoothly after a rehearsal (no guarantees though!!).

If you are having an informal ceremony with only a few people who have to be in a particular place at a particular time then a rehearsal often isn’t necessary. As a Celebrant, what I tend to do in this case is provide the happy couple with an electronic copy of an order of ceremony which also sets out where key people need to be and what they need to do (e.g. bride and escort walk down the aisle with escort on her left arm. At the front the bride passes her flowers to the bridesmaid then escort shakes hand with the groom and kisses the bride and passes her right hand into the groom’s left hand). That tends to be sufficient for many weddings.

If you have a lot of people actually taking a part in the wedding ceremony e.g. bridesmaids, groomsmen, readers, musicians, dancers etc,, and especially if there are children taking part, a rehearsal can be very helpful. And some couples just feel that they would be more confident if we had physically run through things beforehand. A rehearsal is best done just a day or two before the big day. This means that there is more chance of people remembering what to do and that all of the key players will be around. I usually schedule about an hour for a rehearsal.


This fabulous family had a rehearsal which meant these gorgeous little girls knew what to do and when.



The first thing is to gather everyone together (sometimes rehearsals are like herding cats as people find other things to do, arrive late after work, take delivery of table decorations, put finishing touches to the seating plan etc.). Then it’s important to explain to everyone what will be happening from the initial entrance. Sometimes one of the couple will wait at the front but sometimes both members of the couple will enter the ceremony at the same time – either together or down two separate aisles.

We talk through whether bridesmaids will walk in before or after the bride. (In the past UK tradition has been for brides to enter first leaving bridesmaids to ensure that their wedding train is set out properly whereas in the USA bridesmaids have tended to enter first leaving the bride and her escort to come in after them).

We will then point out where all members of the wedding party will stand or sit during the ceremony. It is important when there are any young children involved for them to feel confident that they know what to do and that there is an assigned adult who will work with them or hold their hand. Bridal flowers need to be passed to someone for the duration of the ceremony – and passed back at the end! Rings need to be produced, readers need to appear, stand in the right place and speak loudly enough to be heard. Everyone needs to know in what order they are to leave the ceremony, if they are to wait for a photograph to be taken, where they will go next. Then we run through it!

I don’t go through the whole ceremony at the rehearsal. It is good for some things to be left until the day. For example I would only have the couple rehearse their vows if they really wanted to and if they were the only ones at the rehearsal. There are times when a reader has chosen a reading and the couple don’t know what it is until the day. I might get the reader to read out a paragraph from a book just to let them get a feel of the ceremony space but we certainly don’t want to spoil the day in any way.


These great guys didn’t have a rehearsal – just a final look around the venue and a private read through their vows. With only their photographer Spyros Paloukis there to see!


Where there are traditional elements to be included such as unity candle or unity sand ceremonies then anyone who is to be involved would walk through that so there should be no hitches on the day.
Whether or not you have a rehearsal is entirely up to you. Whatever you decide is just one more way of ensuring that you have YourDay, Your Way and that it is as enjoyable as possible.


For more about handfasting:


Handfasting Celebrant

Recipe for a Scrumptious Wedding Ceremony

Recipe for a Scrumptious Wedding Ceremony


“We don’t even know what things you have in a Wedding Ceremony! Where do we start?” This was the heartfelt cry of one couple who had contacted me to work with them to create a unique, personal, meaningful ceremony. They wanted something different but were tempted to go the easy route of just letting the Registrar take them through a short set piece which wouldn’t require any real input from them.

Most ceremonies in the UK, and the West generally, include some core ingredients. That doesn’t mean you have to include all of them or that you can’t add other things to the recipe. Some of these are explored elsewhere in The Blog and bring the spices to enhance the flavour even more. (Imagine Nigella Lawson, Delia Smith, Heston Blumenthal and the Hairy Bikers all being asked to prepare the same dish – I bet they wouldn’t be the same!)


So the core ingredients tend to be:

A welcome and opening remarks.

This can include a welcome to the guests, setting the scene for what is to come, an invitation to take part in a “community vow”, mention of “absent friends” and instructions in relation to phones and photographs, even where to find the loos! The welcome is usually done by the person conducting the ceremony.



Readings and Music.

Readings and music really help to give flavour to your ceremony. Do you want the atmosphere to be formal or relaxed? Would you like to include spiritual/religious elements such as hymns or prayers? Do you want your guests to join in singing? (All sorts of songs from “I vow to thee my country” to “Always look on the bright side of life” have been included in ceremonies that I have conducted). Would you love to include a traditional wedding march? A song by one of your favourite artists? Something romantic? Something quiet or something high energy? These are all things to consider.

Readings and poems too can really set the tone and the mood. Are you the world’s most romantic couple? Do you have a really down to earth sense of humour? Or are you the geekiest pair ever? Let that be expressed in the readings you choose. It’s a good way of involving friends and family members too. If you let them choose a reading as a surprise then it can be a real gift to you.



Usually this is where the person conducting the ceremony says a something about marriage in general or about your love story. If you are having a Church wedding the minister may set the marriage into a religious context through a sermon. It’s best to talk to the person conducting your ceremony to agree what form this might take.


This is when you make your promises to each other in front of your friends and family. In fact – vows really are the central ingredient of the dish. Whether it is a short traditional vow or one which you have written yourself. Often the “community” of your friends and family will make a vow too – to support you going forward.



Almost all of the weddings which I have conducted have included the exchange of rings. But occasionally couples have found some other symbol to exchange to demonstrate their love for one another.



The Kiss.

An opportunity for you to demonstrate your love for each other and for everyone to cheer.




Closing remarks or blessing.

The ceremony is drawn to a close, you are declared “The Happy Couple” – and you move among your guests to the next phase of the day.



As you are putting together the recipe for your wedding ceremony be sure to have considered where and when you will conduct the legal aspects of your marriage. (For a Celebrant led ceremony this is usually separately with the Registrar). Then be sure to use items from this list with those you have seen or heard about. Your Celebrant may suggest some or you may created your own. This way you will get a truly unique, personal, meaningful wedding ceremony.

If you are interested in a Handfasting read more here:

Handfasting Celebrant