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    The Real Reasons Why Wedding Rehearsals Are Important


    Howard Stieremann (2)As the old joke goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” Rehearsals are important for weddings too, but probably not for the reasons that you might think.

    I have come to understand that the main benefit of wedding rehearsals is that they are often the first time the wedding party meets each other. It is a relatively low key time for family members and friends who don’t know one another to meet and greet.

    Rehearsals are actually not that critical for the practicing aspect, since adults who are participating in a wedding ceremony can generally adapt even if there wasn’t a rehearsal. As for kids who may be involved, they can freeze up even if they have rehearsed dozens of times! The wedding site full of people dressed up and with jitters in the air can throw kids off, and that can happen after successful rehearsals have taken place in an empty venue.

    I have read that 60 to 70% of all weddings do not include a rehearsal. If you do have one, know that it will take longer than the real ceremony since you will repeat everything at least twice. I start the bridal party as they will stand during the ceremony, practice the recessional (walking out) and then the processional (walking in) so everyone knows where they should be from the outset. This allows participants to aim for a target.

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    Next, I have the bridal party do a complete second run through. The second practice will help people remember what is happening when.

    Practicing also helps people understand who is walking down the aisle with whom, who is standing where, and who is sitting where.

    It is standard for one or more attendants to miss the rehearsal. I have those standing on either side of the missing person leave space, and ask them to give the missing person their cues, etc.

    A rehearsal is sometimes when a couple first considers who will be included in the procession. Will both partners walk down the aisle, will one be situated up front with the officiant, or will the officiant process first to signal the beginning of the ceremony? For most people, walking down an aisle while others are watching, as well as a photographer snapping pictures, creates a nerve-wracking scenario. To compensate, I remind participants to maintain a natural walking pace, suggesting they walk a tad slower because the natural tendency is to rush down the aisle.

    Yes, there are benefits to having a rehearsal. However, the biggest is that it becomes another opportunity to gather on the big weekend.

    The rehearsal is also an ideal time to give your officiant the license and final payment (if any), and to assign someone to be responsible for ceremonial objects after the wedding. These can include a wine goblet, glass (or lightbulb) that was stomped on, unity candle, ring bearer’s pillow, etc.

    With preparation, your wedding party will understand the flow of the ceremony. Even more importantly, the preparation will allow you to realize you are ready for your wedding, allowing you to relax, breathe and be more present during your special day.

    Howard M. Steiermann is an Ordained Ritual Facilitator based in San Francisco. For more information, please visit