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Rehearsal and Ceremony Guide

by David Sugarbaker


It's not that hard. Except for the bride and groom, the most wedding attendants have to know is how to walk and stand. You can use this information to conduct a brief rehearsal with your wedding party, either at the site of the ceremony or at another location. None of this is what you have to do. You may want less formality. This information is simply to help keep things straight and assist you with a rehearsal if you feel you need one. It is good, but not necessary, to do the rehearsal at the wedding site. It may be more valuable if there are children in the wedding party. Sometimes the requirements of the site do not make a rehearsal feasible. A rehearsal can be done in someone's family room or living room.

Start your rehearsal by calling the entire wedding party together. Line them up in the order they will stand during the wedding ceremony. If you are missing members of the wedding party at the rehearsal, don't be overly concerned. Be sure as you line people up that you leave a space for each missing attendant. Ask those who are on either side of the missing attendant to clue him or her in on the day of the wedding. Those present will pay extra attention; those missing will get the word and you won't have to worry about it.

The attendants stand on either side of the Officiant, facing the Bride and Groom. Bride and Groom stand in front of Officiant. Ring bearers and/or Flower Girls stand in front of the adult attendants: if one Flower Girl, she stands in front of Maid/Matron of Honor; if two, in front of Maid of Honor and first Bridesmaid; etc. Ring bearer stands in front of Best Man.

Rehearse the Recessional First and Then the Processional

Once everyone knows where they are to stand during the ceremony, practice the Recessional. Bride and Groom leave first, followed by any children in the wedding party (first flower girls, then ring bearers) then, Maid/Matron of Honor and Best Man, followed by pairs of Bridesmaids and Groomsmen. The "outside" pair leave last. After the wedding party has "recessed," the immediate families should follow them: Bride's parents first, then Groom's parents, then Bride's grandparents, then Groom's grandparents. Rehearsing the Processional After practicing the Recessional, regroup to practice the Processional. By this time everyone knows where they are to stand, who they stand next to, etc. Before the Processional, immediate family members are seated (usually parents and grandparents).

If you are going to do formal seating, those family members to be especially ushered in at the last minute should remain in the "staging area" until everything and everyone is ready and all the other guests have been settled or seated. Assign specific ushers to escort specific family members. Introduce the usher/escorts to the family members each will be seating, to be sure the ushers know who each of them will be seating, and vice versa. The order of seating is usually Groom's grandparents Bride's grandparents Groom's parents and Bride's mother

The Officiant can then "cue" the Processional music by bringing in the Groom and his attendants. The Officiant will go in first. The men follow, in order, with the Groom either first or last in the lineup. They go to their places and stand as you have already rehearsed. Be sure the music people can see the men and Officiant at the site of the ceremony. When the men are in place, the Groom's attendants are facing the Groom and the guests. The Groom should have his back to the Officiant, watchg the aisle where the Bridesmaid(s) and Bride will enter. At this point the Processional music begins.

The Bride's party will need to be ready and listening for their "cue" when the Officiant and the Groom and his party go to their places. When the Bride's party hears the Processional music, they should begin the Processional. The last (outside) Bridesmaid enters first, followed by the other Bridesmaids, if any, at intervals of perhaps 20 feet; then the Maid of Honor. The Bride's party should notice the placement of the Groomsmen, and "mirror" them. Ring bearer(s) and Flower Girl(s) come in next, and go to their places. Then the Bride comes in with her escort on her left. The Bride should wait until the all other members of the wedding party are in their places before starting down the aisle. The Officiant will indicate guests should stand while the Bride enters. If you have arranged with the musicians to play a different processional piece for the Bride, wait for the music to change.

The Bride and the person offering the Bride in matrimony stand together until the Officiant asks “who gives this woman in marriage?” The usual options for his reply are "I do" or "Her Mother and I do" or "On behalf of her family, I do." After the response, the escort retires to their seat and the Groom may step toward the Bride and offer her his arm. The Groom is on the Bride's right. The two then approach the Officiant. Rehearsing the Ceremony During the ceremony, attendants stand there.

The rings should be either on the Ring bearer pillow, or in the custody of the Best Man and Maid/Matron of Honor. If carried by the two "best people," the Best Man should carry the Bride's ring on his little finger, and the Maid of Honor should carry the Groom's ring on her index finger or thumb. Don't let the Best Man put the ring in any pocket. Don't have either one of them carry the ring in a bag or box. Pockets, bags and boxes increase the chances for dropping and/or losing the ring. Of every ten rings misplaced or lost at wedding time, eight have been lost by the Maid of Honor. She has a big ring you have asked her to put on her relatively small finger. For Maid of Honor and Best Man, have them put the ring on a finger, and then curl their fingers. Then the ring isn't going anywhere. If rings are on the Ring bearer pillow, the Best Man will remove them and give them to the Officiant one at a time with the Bride's ring first; or deliver both at the same time, at the option of the Officiant.

The Bride and Groom face the Officiant for the initial portion of the ceremony, then face each other and join both hands for the vows and rings. If the Bride has not already given her flowers to her Maid/Matron of Honor, do it now before joining hands. You will have worked out with the Officiant what you are to say during the wedding ceremony. The Officiant will review this with you before the wedding starts. At the point of the Vows, you may simply respond to a question, or you may have decided to do a "repeat-after-me" statement with prompts from the Officiant. For the exchange of rings, stop holding both hands, and change to holding each other's left hand. Each will be asked to repeat after the Officiant as they place the ring on their partner's hand. After the exchange of rings, Bride and Groom continue to face the Officiant until the end of the ceremony. Then face each other for the kiss. The Bride then gets her flowers back from her Maid/Matron of Honor, and you both turn to face the guests.

Before the Recessional music starts, however, the Officiant may formally present the two of you to your guests if you have arranged for him or her to do this. Then the recessional music begins and the couple heads back up the aisle. The remainder of the bridal party follows in the reverse order they came down the aisle with the outside bridesmaid and the outside groomsman recessing arm and arm first.