Organize and Conduct a Civil Wedding Rehearsal

Edited by Diana Lariviere, Eng

Organize and Conduct a Civil Wedding Rehearsal

Civil marriages often raise concerns about the wedding rehearsal, but it is not as daunting a task as it might first appear. A successful rehearsal is simply a matter of ensuring that even the seemingly least significant details are identified, recorded and practiced.

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  1. 1
    Identify the person who will conduct the rehearsal
    For religious weddings, the religious officiant usually lives in, or very near, the wedding location thereby making that person readily available; however, civil weddings occur in sometimes obscure locations and/or are performed by court judges or by persons licensed by the province/territory/state (such as, Marriage Commissioners). These civil officiants might not be available on the date and/or at the time of your rehearsal. Sometimes the distance to the rehearsal location and the extra time the rehearsal consumes might not be cost-efficient to entice the civil officiant to attend. If the civil officiant is unable or unwilling to attend, choose a friend or family member with a commanding presence to direct the rehearsal. It's not rocket science. The rehearsal simply requires someone who can take and maintain control of the process.
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  2. 2
    Be clear on the location of the rehearsal
    Civil weddings are performed just about anywhere -- the registry office, someone's home or garden, a bar, a brewery, the beach, a vineyard et al. Sometimes the venue location is not readily available for the rehearsal; therefore, while it might seem obvious, everyone involved in the rehearsal must not only be clear on the date and time. They must also be clear on the exact location. Be sure to provide everyone with the civic address and/or very precise directions. Providing obvious landmarks is also useful - especially in the country.
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  3. 3
    Take time to clearly plan and understand the flow of your ceremony - including
    1. Do you want your ceremony to be completely "unplugged" - that is, no cell phones, i-pads, cameras? Or, do you simply wish to give priority to the official photographer?
    2. Will music be playing before the ceremony begins, while guests are taking their seats?
    3. What music will be played at the beginning of the ceremony and anywhere during the ceremony?
    4. Will guests be directed to, or escorted to, their seats?
    5. Do any of your guests require assistance to reach their seats - such as guests who use walkers, wheelchairs, etc?
    6. If small children are participating in your ceremony, who will be responsible for them while the ceremony is underway? Or afterward?
    7. What are the roles and the names of each person involved at the beginning, during and at the end of the ceremony? For example, is anyone - or perhaps several people - delivering a reading?
    8. Are your wedding attendants entering together? Separately? And in what sequence?
    9. What movement will ensue during the ceremony - such as, moving to the registry table, conducting a "unity ceremony", gifting children, inviting people forward to deliver readings?
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  4. 4
    Prepare a list of all your wedding attendants in the order in which they will appear
    1. Generally speaking, the FILO concept applies (first in / last out) ... for example, the first bridesmaid in, would be the last to leave. That bridesmaid would therefore be the bridesmaid at the end of the attendant line. That bridesmaid's position would also correspond to the position of the groomsman on the opposite side.
    2. Sample Processional - This is not cast in stone. Your particular wedding might involve fewer people or additional people. Take note that practicing the processional is key to the wedding appearing to flow smoothly on your special day.  
      1. Groom waits with Officiant and Best Man
      2. Cue is given for music to begin
      3. Flower bearer enters
      4. Bridesmaids and Groomsmen enter together  
        1. Bridesmaids are on Groomsmen's LEFT
      5. At "front", groomsmen and bridesmaids split  
        1. Groomsmen to THEIR right; bridesmaids to THEIR left
        2. Form a V, using the Officiant as the centre mark
      6. Maid / Man of Honour enters
      7. Bride enters on arm of escort (father, mother, other)  
        1. Bride has bouquet in LEFT hand
        2. Bride's RIGHT arm is threaded through escort's LEFT arm
        3. They wait for a moment or two (photo op)
      8. As Bride nears the "front", Groom steps forward  
        1. Hugs / handshakes
        2. Bride places her RIGHT hand into Groom's LEFT hand
      9. Escort(s) goes(go) to seat
      10. Bride and Groom step forward in front of Officiant and face each other
      11. Maid / Man of Honour steps casually to Bride's LEFT and takes bouquet  
        1. Places bouquet on signing table (or, holds bouquet until signing occurs)
      12. Music stops
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  5. 5
    In all likelihood, the entry procession will have to be practiced more than once to make sure that everyone is clear on when to appear, when to pause, how fast to walk and where to stand
    To ensure good timing, it is a good idea to practice the processional with the music that will be used on the day of the ceremony.
    • If the music is longer than required for everyone in the processional to enter, it can be "faded out"; but...
    • If the music is not long enough for everyone in the processional to enter, you might have to ask people in the processional to walk a bit faster or choose music that will replay or make another music selection to better suit the pace.
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  6. 6
    Now, you are ready to practice the ceremony itself
    It is recommended that the person conducting the rehearsal verbally state only "what" is going to happen rather than to actually speak the text. After all, there should be some surprises on the actual day of the wedding! For example:
    1. Welcome
    2. In Memoriam
    3. Reading by (name of person). This should involve having the person come forward and ensuring that the person knows where to stand to deliver the reading.
    4. Exchange of Rings  
      1. Who will have the rings on the day of the wedding?
      2. Will the rings be in a container that allows easy retrieval?
      3. Where will the person (or persons) with the rings stand?
    5. Unity Ceremony  
      1. What items are involved in this sub-ceremony?
      2. Are all of the required items available and well placed?
      3. Is each person involved in the unity ceremony clearly visible to the guests? AND, especially to the photographer?
      4. Do the steps involved in the unity ceremony seem to work? If not, adjust.
    6. Signing of the Registry - including how to move to and from the signing table.
    7. Blessing or Wedding Wish
    8. Declaration of Marriage
    9. The Kiss!
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  7. 7
    1. The couple turn toward their guests and prepare to walk up the aisle
    2. Bouquet is returned
    3. Couple exit, leaving some time between the couple and attendants so that photos will be solely of the couple
    4. Sequence of exit for the wedding party.
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Although the number of attendants and the content of each ceremony will vary, these steps should help to ensure a smooth rehearsal - with or without the marriage officiant being present.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


Article Info

Categories : Marriage

Recent edits by: Diana Lariviere

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