You have a venue selected, your dress picked out, the caterer bringing yummy food, Bridal Party all ready to party and the works. You are good to go! Right?
Well technically, yeah, but you also are missing one key aspect to all of this:
So much time and effort goes into planning the Wedding, but so often the rehearsal is a sad, lonely and forgotten time. Just kidding, we all know it is fun, it but it can definitely be stressful!
We totally recommend hiring a day of coordinator and he/she will likely have an add-on to include the rehearsal. Get it!! It is so worth it and that way you can really just relax and enjoy everything without the stress of putting everyone in their place and doing everything.
Another perk of hiring one is just in case things get well, a little heated, between in-laws and traditional ways to do things. Your day of coordinator will step in and make the decisions you want made and be “the bad guy” so you won’t have to be.
Now, we totally understand that not everyone can hire one. Maybe you have stretched your budget as far as it goes and cannot add on anyone else. Or maybe you waited too late, tonight is your rehearsal and you just found us via a quick google search on how to run a wedding rehearsal.
Don’t worry, we are going to help you make this an easy, eventful and fun time to kick off the wedding festivities! We are also including a little help with throwing a little rehearsal dinner. First we are going to share a little bit about what must happen at a rehearsal…
Typically, a rehearsal is held the night before the wedding, but if there is another day in that week prior that works better for everyone, do that! Sometimes it is better not to stay out late and have all that excitement the night before the big day!
At a small rehearsal: the Bride & Groom, Bridal Party, and immediate family
Extras: At a small wedding, invite the whole guest list and at a large wedding, invite out of town guests
Have a plan for your rehearsal so you can be efficient and things are done exactly as you want them. To start off, make sure everyone knows where to stand and where to walk through.
Stand everyone up at the front of the aisle exactly as they will stand at the wedding. Remember, guys to the right and girls to the left. Now have the couples walk out. The speed and time they walk out are up to you, but typically, walking out, when one couple is halfway down the aisle, the next one begins to walk down (unless it is a very small wedding, then allow the couples to walk all the way down before the next one).
The only couple that ALWAYS walks all the way down on their own is the bride and groom of course. After they have walked down, then the bridal party can begin!
Now that they all know where to stand and how to walk out, line them up to walk in. If you have the music you are going to use on the wedding day, even better. Line couples up and let them begin. Remember that the couple that stands furthest from the bride and groom go in first. You work from the furthest ends to the middle.
Once everyone is in, practice the handoff of the bride. Whoever is walking her down will have to shake the groom’s hand, lift the veil and give her away. The officiant should help you walk through this efficiently.
Once you do that, practice walking out once again. And there you have it! If by any chance you feel you need to practice again, do so until everyone feels comfortable (or your venue kicks you out!).
Before everyone leaves, make sure to hand out the wedding day’s timeline. A day of coordinator can help you get that set up (for some great coordinators, check out our vendor’s guide!). Run through the timeline and make sure everyone is on the same page. Answer any questions and make sure everyone is set.
Parents also like to be kept in the loop, and they are great assets on your wedding day so give them a timeline as well and include them in the wedding day info. The more people who know what is going on, the better.
And of course, having a coordinator to ensure everything stays on schedule helps a lot!
Now on to the dinner!
There really is no right or wrong way to do a rehearsal dinner. Some people go all out to a fancy location, other people like more of a pizza night at home or just fast good and go Dutch. There really is no set way and you can be as creative as you want with this aspect.
The idea is a low key event that will be relaxing, fun and allow everyone to come together and celebrate. Some of the bridal party may not know each other: let this be the time they start to chit chat and get to know one another. After all, they are all going to be the key people celebrating with you on your big day!
Some great ideas for a rehearsal dinner would be:
-Reserved room at a favorite restaurant. It can be as elegant or casual as you would like it to be. Let someone else take care of everything. If the groom’s family is not planning to pay for it, split it between families maybe or just go Dutch.
-At home BBQ. Do this in the afternoon or evening on a nice day outdoors. Invite as many people as you want to the dinner and have fun playing games and catching up.
-PIZZA! Delivered straight to your door, this is the best way to do minimal work and have great fun! Buy some paper plates, plastic cups and eliminate doing dishes, too! This is a great way to celebrate and everyone loves pizza!
-Morning Brunch. If you are doing an early morning rehearsal (or late night and just prefer to go to bed and do the “dinner” in the morning), choose a nice breakfast spot. Usually, you can reserve a small restaurant for a minimal cost or just reserve a table in advance so they are ready for you. If someone wants to host at home, just have everyone bring a dish and enjoy!
At the dinner, there are a few things that are traditionally done.
- The Bride & Groom hand out gifts.
Bridal Party: You can give them jewelry or ties to wear on the wedding day, or maybe robes to get ready in, or a nice watch valet for the guys. There are so many options and it is a great way to show your bridal party you are appreciative.
Parents: If they have been involved and you would like to do so, it is a nice touch to give a gift to both of your parents since they have helped you get here and loved you!
Officiant: If your officiant is a family friend or guest at the wedding, it would also be a nice touch to give him/her a gift. A pen is a nice gift that they would appreciate!
Decide who will be giving the toasts beforehand or have an “open mic” type of event. You can have parents, Best Man/Maid of Honor, or any other guest speak.
The bride and groom may also want to toast each other! And of course, take some time to thank your guests, loved ones, friends and family for being there.
- Have a Slideshow.
Not required, but a really nice touch if you can do it. If the venue permits, prepare a video of your life growing up and then after you met up until this point and play it for your guests. For a more personal touch, try and include as many wedding party/family members as possible!
- Flowers for the tables.
No need to do this either, but it is nice to decorate if you are going to be at a restaurant that has very little to no decoration. You can either order flower arrangements to be sent and have the restaurant staff set them up, or you can go out, buy your own flowers, and take them a few hours before the event to set up. It does not have to be hard or expensive.
- Get some place cards set up.
Is it not possible for Aunt Sue to sit next to Aunt Sally? Save the family drama for some other time and use place cards to keep them apart. Don’t let this get you down- every family has it’s own drama. Just do whatever makes you feel comfortable and will keep this night focused on the couple and upcoming wedding, not anyone else!
A few tips for making it to the dinner:
- Send our the final guest count within the time frame requested by the restaurant. If you do not, you might find yourself in a mess later with too few seats as they will not accommodate. If you give them a higher number than what actually shows up, they have every right to charge you for that number instead of what actually showed up. Save yourself the hassle by doing things on time.
- Pay on time! If you need to prepay, get that done a couple of days before so you are not worried about that on the day of. If someone else is paying for you, graciously thank them and direct them to the person who they need to work out the payment details with.
- Have the gifts set up beforehand. Don’t be at Target buying your bridesmaid’s gifts 3 hours before the event. Get them purchased beforehand, wrapped nicely with their names on each of them and in a big plastic box in a place ready to go for that day.
- Draw up a seating plan and add names for place cards. If your restaurant is going to set up, show them how you want everything set and then what place cards go on which table. It will be a lot more peaceful than doing that yourself as your guests arrive!
- Mail invitations with time. Although not necessary, if you do plan to use invites, be sure to send them out at least a month in advance (more for out of town guests) to give them time to ask for the day off from work, and prepare to be there.
Rehearsals and the dinners (or brunches) that follow are some of the most exciting times of wedding planning and the celebration process. Everyone wants to get involved, be there and help.
Don’t get overwhelmed when well-meaning guests try and help you run the rehearsal. If you did not hire a wedding coordinator to be with you that night, know what you want and stick with it.
You may have people pressuring you to do things differently (walk down the aisle this way, don’t let the groom watch you, parents sit here or there), but remember it is YOUR day. When you know what you want, be firm and do just that. Don’t let anyone get you down because of it.
We are so excited to be sharing this with you and cannot wait to hear more about your rehearsals! What did you do? Where did you eat? Did you hire a coordinator?
So many questions! Answer them below and feel free to share any tips you have with other couples here!
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