How to Have a Stress-Free Rehearsal
All photographs by Lansing wedding photographer Heather K. Please, no downloading or editing without permission.
Being a wedding photographer is AWESOME. I’m there to share your special day, celebrating with you one of the most important things in life: love. I get to be the person who gets to give immortality to all those amazing, funny, crazy, emotional moments!
But, I’ve seen the flip side, too.
See, I know how difficult planning a wedding can get. As a past bride, I’ve gone through those stressful “trimming the guest list” nights, those nerve wracking budget planning discussions…
So as a wedding photographer, I want to make sure that you can spend more time enjoying your planning process and wedding day with the love of your life! (may I suggest a congratulatory Mai Tai, as perfectly demonstrated above?) I’m here to use my experience to help you have an amazing wedding experience.
So, why don’t we start at the beginning. Let’s de-stress your rehearsal!
Why worry about the rehearsal?
Isn’t it as simple as marching down the aisle a couple of times, and then heading off to eat pizza and relax before the wedding?
Perhaps you have noticed that the closer you get to the wedding day, the more you feel like you’re drowning in opinions, questions, and issues you never thought of or cared about. (“Oh, did you get a card box? It’s really important to have a card box. If you don’t get the right card box, the whole wedding will be RUINED…” “Are you inviting cousin Louise? You know you have to, she’ll never forgive you…”)
Yup- we’ve all been through that.
So, you muddle through, delegating and deflecting like a pro. And just when you think “Ah! The wedding is tomorrow! Everything is all set! I don’t have to deal with any more decisions!“, the rehearsal is upon you.
Suddenly, the question monster once again rears it’s ugly head! “Wouldn’t it be better to have her walk with him, since he’s taller?” “Maybe we should have everyone walk alone.” “Alone, no way- that looks silly!” As your head spins with the questions (possibly even this one: “Why can’t these people leave me alone?”), you try your best to herd cats as everyone gets more hungry and grumpy. It’s not a pretty sight.
But I have two bits of good news for you:
You are getting married. No matter what kind of stress you have had to deal with, this fact overshadows all. The person that you love loves you back, and you are (very soon!) going to promise your lives to each other. Awesome!! (This comes with the added plus of having a huge party with friends and family and looking epic in some wedding photographs!)
The rehearsal CAN be easy. All you need is a tiny bit of pre-planning. I want to empower you to take control of your rehearsal!
So let’s get to it!
How to rock a stress-free rehearsal:
It all comes down to this: a quick and easy rehearsal comes from making the big decisions before the rehearsal, when you and your Other have the chance to calmly and comfortably discuss them.
So, about a month before your wedding (when most of the big things like the timeline for the day are set), cozy up on the couch with your other half and discuss the following questions. As you do, be sure to have on hand my handy Rehearsal Guide and Worksheet to fill in your answers!
Will you include the parents or other non-bridal party guests in the ceremony?
Some couples choose to have an usher or the groom walk each mother or the grandparents down. Others have all the parents seat themselves. If you have a tactile part of the ceremony, having the mothers or other family members carry the objects to the altar can be a great way to have them involved. (My husband and I decided to have my young siblings walk the ceremony Bible up the aisle, to be placed at our seats before they were seated in the audience) If you have a unity candle, decide who will do the initial lighting, etc.
What special seating needs to be arranged?
Most couples have close family that they prefer to have seated in the first few rows. Find out from the venue how many seats will be available to work with, and map out who will be specially seated in those rows. Don’t forget to plan to accommodate wheelchair bound guests by saving an area where these valued guests can sit and also be near their family comfortably.
Who will walk down with whom?
Age and height can have a bearing on how each pair looks. You might also want to think about who will get along with who the best- stick a bridesmaid with the groomsman that she on-and-off dated through college, and you may be faced with scowls down the aisle. If you have a married or dating couple in your bridal party, they would likely appreciate walking down together. If you have an uneven number of bridal party members, you may want to consider having some double-up (two bridesmaids with one groomsman). If you have a small bridal party, choose if they will be walking in pairs vs. alone. Some couples prefer the simplicity of having the bridal party start at the ceremony spot, rather than “walking down” at all.
In what order will everyone walk down?
Traditionally, the maid of honor will walk down just before the bride. Other than that, you must decide on the order. Often, the biggest factor in this decision is: where will you want everyone to end up?
Will the bridal party sit or stand? Where?
With some venues, this may be formally directed by the officiant. If not, draw a crude map of the layout, and consider the best way to stand to be visible to all. Will the whole bridal party fit comfortably? If there is to be any movement during the ceremony (IE, lighting a unity candle), are you allowing for space to do so? Will you have girls on one side, guys on the other, or a mix of pairs? Will children (such asthe ring bearer, flower girl, or junior bridesmaid/groomsman) stand with the bridal party, or sit with their family?
Who, if anyone, will walk the bride down the aisle?
For some, this is a fairly obvious and easy decision to make. But sometimes, this may be a sensitive question, and it is often better one decided by the bride and groom in private. Tradition says that the bride’s father walks her down. For many dads, this is a very important moment to them- out of respect for this, you may want to bow to tradition. But there are lots of other options! I have seen brides be walked down by both father and mother, by a close relative/family friend, by birth dad (halfway) and step dad (half way), and some brides walk alone. Make the decision that makes you feel happy and content.
Who, if anyone, will “give the bride away”?
Your officiant will most likely ask you if you want included some form of the question: “Who gives this woman to be married?”. The bride’s father traditionally responds “I do” or “her mother and I do”. Some couples prefer not to include this portion, or to change the wording (such as “Who here promise to support the couple in their newly formed family?”). It’s completely up to you.
Where/how will the bride and groom stand/sit?
While some officiants will suggest that the couple face him/her directly throughout the ceremony, please bear in mind that this will mean your guests (and photographer) will only see your backs during the ceremony. If you prefer your guests to be able to see the emotion on your faces (and be able to have it preserved in photographs), it is usually best to face each other, while still in a position to see the officiant comfortably. This also means that you will be able to experience the ceremony while looking into the eyes of your other! However, if you prefer a more traditional ceremony, you will likely want to face the officiant at least up to the ring exchange.
Look at your layout, and mentally run through the ceremony. Can you comfortably see the officiant, your significant other, and your guests? Will the arrangement you’re planning allow for the hand-off of rings or other ceremony rituals?
How will the recessional be done? Where will everyone go?
Most of the time, the recessional is simply the processional in reverse. Will that be the case for your ceremony? Since you will most likely need to hide out with the bridal party until the guests leave the venue, where will you have the bridal party go to wait?
Yay, you’re done! Look at you, being all organized and on top of things. You have your rehearsal decisions made, and you are all set to have a stress-free rehearsal!!
Now that you’re done filling in these answers on your handy Rehearsal Guide and worksheet, e-mail a copy to your photographer and officiant- especially if they will not be present at the actual rehearsal. They may have additional advice or corrections for you to consider before the rehearsal date. Once it is finalized, you may also consider sending a copy to your bridal party/family, so that they can be aware of the general plan.
Extra Credit! Quick Rehearsal Day Tips:
* Be sure to firmly communicate the arrival time of the rehearsal to everyone. You may want to give an earlier time to habitual late-comers.
* If there is anything that needs to exchange hands before the wedding (if the marriage certificate is to be given to the officiant, for example), don’t forget to bring it!
* Have bouquet stand ins to practice holding- whether they are a real object or even imaginary, practicing holding them during the rehearsal will help you make sure it will all go smooth. (for example, brides, where will your bouquet go while you are trading rings?) A mock veil may also be a good idea if you plan to have the groom lift it at the ceremony.
* From the giving-the-bride-away handshake to the handing off of the rings, make sure to practice the little details. You’re going to be a bit nervous up there on the actual day, so the more you practice now, the less chance of a fumble.
* Make sure that your officiant can say your names correctly. …Seriously, make sure.
* If at all possible, have any musicians hired for the wedding also attend the rehearsal so that the musical timing can be settled. If you are bringing music, get it ready now, don’t wait!
* Be flexible. The professionals you have selected for your wedding day may also have valuable advice to add. Your officiant may notice a change in arrangement that helps the flow. Your photographer may suggest an adjustment to better take advantage of gorgeous natural light. The point is, if you come prepared, you can more easily go with the flow!
* Remind each person walking down the aisle to keep their head up (no looking at the floor) and to have a pleasant expression.
* To allow the photographer to get a well-composed shot, don’t be in a rush for The Kiss. Hold on for a moment… not that you’ll have a problem with that, right?
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