Anyone who has attended a wedding rehearsal can tell you, it can be a chaotic nightmare. Groomsmen and Bridesmaids can behave like elementary school children on a playground. Being silly and teasing each other, 3/4th of them are really not listening or paying attention, there are always one or two who want to add their "jr professional" opinion. Someone is always running late and if you don't have your act together, the Bridal Party will rule over you! This happens far too often.
At the beginning of my career, I didn't want to seem like the stereotypical planners who, for lack of a better word, are not very nice and appear to be super demanding. I wanted to be liked, be sweet, and well like I was one of their friends too.
When I was overly focused on wanting them to view me in a different light, and not be overbearing, our rehearsals would last 2-3 hours depending on when they all showed up. Of course, they wanted to stand around and visit after all they are close family and friends and some haven't seen each other in a while. It also became complicated when some wanted to give their input. It quickly became chaotic and frankly, many were a real nightmare.
After seeing my easygoing demeanor wasn't playing in my favor, I realized something had to change. After all, my time was valuable too. I had things I still needed to take care of. I didn't have the luxury of staying up all night and partying. I actually had to get up for work the next morning which included setting up their wedding. That's when I realized, these weren't my friends, I did care for them and we did develop a bond, but the truth is, this is my job. It is how I make my living and people are paying me to do what is best for the integrity of their wedding. That is when I began my development of running the perfect rehearsal. It did take a lot of trial and error until I figured it all out. Now, after successfully orchestrating thousands of rehearsals, I can't wait to share my secrets of the system. This is the foolproof plan that has me in and out in 30 minutes and everyone standing in line and ready to follow my direction.
Here are my top 4 secrets to running a smooth rehearsal:
Don't wait until the rehearsal to figure out where everyone will stand and how they will line up. Set an appointment with your couple ahead of time. I typically meet with them about this 14-30 days prior to the wedding. I send them out a Wedding Rehearsal Worksheet to help them create the ceremony that fits them best. (Found in your member's toolbox) Once they complete the worksheet and send it back to me, I set up our rehearsal planning appointment. Then we meet to fine-tune everything, I give them feedback if they need it, I make the finalization and send it over to them in an email to confirm it. Doing this gives them the added reassurance that I have it under control. Remember that they often don't know much about a rehearsal or the ceremony lineup and how it should be. Often they have limited experience with a rehearsal and they may only know what they have seen or experienced, been told by family and friends, or found on an internet search. If they have attended rehearsals, they most likely have been a mess as well.
When you arrive on-site with the written plan this also gives the bridal party confidence that you know what you are doing, that it is well thought out, and there is no need to give their opinion or feel they need to help figure things out.
When you tell the couple how the rehearsal will run, you are setting the expectation that you will be in control and the bridal party must follow your instructions. Inform them of your process for the night of the rehearsal. For my clients, I always let them know to inform their bridal party, I will start the rehearsal on time, it typically takes 30 minutes but I allow 1 hour for the rehearsal. If anyone is late, they will need to just jump in, if they missed something and have questions they can either ask the others in the bridal party or I will fill them in the next day before the ceremony. I also let them know that we prefer that the significant others that are not in the wedding either not come or wait outside of the rehearsal area. By telling them this, they know that for this portion of the night I need them all to focus and a reminder that this is part of my job to coordinate and run the rehearsal. (It's not the beginning of asocial hour)
Remember you are there to run the rehearsal not let the rehearsal run you. I typically try to arrive 15-30 minutes ahead of time. This gives me time to ask the coordinator at the venue any last-minute questions that may come up and confirm some details for the next day. This also helps to keep me well informed of any changes. I will also be able to answer some questions that the bridal party may have, like parking, places to put their purses or bags, etc.
As the bridal party arrives, I usually let them visit for about 15 minutes as we wait for others to arrive. Then I typically approach the bride or groom and ask if it looks like everyone is there. Whether or not they are all there, I inform them we will get started soon and ask them if they can get everyone's attention. I then introduce myself and let them know we will get started and it should only take about 20 minutes then they can all head out to an awesome rehearsal dinner. If people are running late, and they usually are, undoubtedly someone will want to come to their defense and mention that they are not there yet, shouldn't we wait? I normally respond in a casual way that we will just go ahead and get started and we can get them up to speed later.
Now, here is the big secret. This is how I keep them from acting like children and getting too out of hand. I start by telling all of them we will be doing the 1st part of the rehearsal separately. I will take the men 1st and have all the ladies wait in the back. I do this for a few reasons. I want them separated so they pay better attention and be able to focus instead of teasing each other a goofing around. I found when they are together, they are too busy joking around with each other and rarely pay attention to the directions, but when they are separated, they behave so much better.
I have also found that at the rehearsals the girls tend to want to act like "know it alls" in front of the guys and love to tell the guys what to do. When I take the guys 1st, it helps keep the girls from giving the guys a hard time, because the girls are left out of the loop and don't know what information I (the professional) told them and they don't want to contradict me and look foolish. So, they also keep calm and focus on my instructions.
I start out by having the guys line up the way they will be positioned at the alter. I take the time to space them out, we discuss where and when they should face the bride, officiant, or photographer. I have them look at a spot to use as a marker for the next day so they remember where they should stand. If this is your 1st time doing a rehearsal, the (Grooms' side is always on the left. When you have a same-sex couple, let them decide which side they each want.) Then I give them instructions for coming in, how they should be positioned or pace they should walk with their partner, and how they should leave, as well as where they go for the bridal party photos afterward.
Then I have the guys go to the back and do the same for the girls. Once I have gone over the details with the girls, I have everyone line up in the front together and go over the parent's roles. Where they sit and all their instructions. Once we do that, I go over the bride and groom's instructions. Then we run through the whole thing 1 time. This whole process does normally only takes 30 minutes.
We rarely have an officiant at the rehearsal, when we do, I ask them to not go over the entire ceremony only highlight the parts the couple will need to take an action. I like to say, let's leave a little element of surprise for the big day. That is partially true, but also it takes a lot of time to run through the whole ceremony and it can be pretty boring to the bridal party when they just want to head out to the party so if we do run through it they definitely start to act up.
Over the years I have really learned to enjoy the rehearsal. I have developed my own style in taking control of the rehearsal (because that is my job) and still joking around and having fun. Sometimes it can be a challenge when we walk that fine line of creating a bond when you are a wedding planner but still keeping the professionalism intact. We all create our own special ways of doing things that work for us and the clients we serve. There is no rule book anymore on how everything should be done, it is a blessing to walk down a path, clear the way, and point out a road to others that can make it easier for them and their future. I am happy that today I could share a little bit of how I was able to make my wedding rehearsals way less chaotic and much more enjoyable.
So, just like most of the other time-tested processes that I have developed, this too may seem unusual, but it has worked like a charm for me for years. I would love it if you would try adapting this system yourself and let me know if it worked for you. This blog and our membership program are designed to educate and equip planners and coordinators to have successful, healthier, and happier careers and we want to know what areas you may struggle in and where we can offer assistance. If you liked this post make sure you subscribe to get notifications on new posts. Check out our member's program and see how you can start creating the career you love.
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