A Guide: Organize Your Own Wedding Rehearsal in Indianapolis

There is plenty to drive yourself crazy with when it comes to wedding planning. The abundance of details is enough to make any bride and groom take the first flight to a deserted island to tie the knot. The wedding rehearsal is one of those details that tends to take a backseat. Then it dawns on you, “OMG, we have no plan and our wedding is next week!”

Regardless if you’re in a pinch for time or money. There is no reason you can’t organize this yourself with a little helpful direction. This guide will help you put the rehearsal events in their place. Then you can continue to concentrate on your main event.

Designated Coordinator

Wedding Officiant

Every successful event has a point-person, and in this case, that shouldn’t be the bride or groom. A Designated person should handle the coordination of your rehearsal. Which should also be the individual who will handle this task on the day of your ceremony. This means this person shouldn’t be “in” the wedding.

If you are not able to hire a professional Officiant to fill this role, (which I highly recommend) this is the perfect opportunity to offer a special person an official role in your event.  Perhaps a person that didn’t make the wedding party list? Not only will they be happy to do it, you’ll make them feel super special by doing so. Choose the person who is kind but direct and has a way of getting people organized and focused.

Rehearsal Lineup

It’s natural to think in story format when doing a wedding rehearsal (a beginning, middle and end) but I’m going to suggest your start in the middle of the story.

The entrance and exit are more confusing. It’s better to start with everyone in the place at the altar. Or the place where they will be during the ceremony to begin the rehearsal. It’s more difficult to walk somewhere when you don’t know where you’re going.

Use this time to position people in their respective spots. Consider details like height and consider how this will look in your photographs. There is no right or wrong way to line up your wedding party! Do what feels natural for your ceremony and have discussed with your officiant. Try moving people around and placing them at different angles until you get the look you’re going for.

Talk Your Ceremony Through

While everyone is in place, talk through the main points of the ceremony. It’s not necessary to read it word for word or even say your vows, leave your ceremony fresh and new for the main event. This part of your rehearsal will give everyone a decent idea on what happens when. Practice with wedding party guests who have responsibilities in your ceremony. Such as rings, candles, flower hand offs and other tasks.

If your ring bearer is a young child, I recommend having the best man and maid of honor keep the actual rings to hand to you. The ring bearer can carry the pillow down the aisle, or even a sign instead… for example, something that reads “Here comes the Bride”.

Have any tables in place and practice any special union you have planned. Like the sand, candle, hand-fasting, etc… Don’t forget the lighter for the candles! I also would like to add, if you are outdoors doing the candle ceremony, it might be hard to keep the candles lit.

Consider doing a different union ceremony. Find ideas on all the different special elements you can add to your wedding ceremony scripts here.

Move Them Out

Wedding rehearsal tips

Now that you have the ceremony laid out, it’s time to work on walking out, or the “recessional”. Before everyone makes a mad dash at the same time, let’s go over how this should go down. The bride and groom were pronounced married. Turn around, look at all your loved ones and take a second to take everything in.

Once you are introduced by your Officiant, head out down the aisle with your happy dance or however you wish. I recommend that the rest of the bridal party should wait until the married couple are completely down the aisle to start their dismissal. Give the Bride and Groom that moment to themselves before following behind them.

Each pair of Bridesmaid and Groomsmen can then come together in the middle and head out down the aisle.

Keep spacing in mind when walking out. Use a “landmark” to help your wedding party determine when the next couple should follow. This can be a certain row of seats, a pillar in the church hall, or when all else fails… count to 15-30 depending on the space.
Your photographer will be forever grateful you’ve given them time to get the right photos without other bodies in the way.

Turn it Around

Now your party is at the back of the ceremony space awaiting to practice their walk in, or processional. Depending on everyone’s position, they might already be in order. It’s a good idea to stay in order once you are down the aisle since we will be practicing the “Procession” next. If not, let everyone reorganize themselves into the correct order with (the coordinators) direction. Your coordinator will be able to alert each wedding party member or couple when they will be entering.

It will be their job to figure out the best spacing for this part of the event. Again, leave plenty of room so your photographer has enough time to get great photos.

Pro tip- For the photographer’s sake… I always coordinate a spot for the bridal party to pause for a few seconds for their picture.

The Hand Off

The last element of your rehearsal should be the hand off between bride and escort. This is a meaningful and touching moment for many ceremonies. So, it will be good to spend a few extra minutes to get it right. Help the bride and escort time their walk given what kind of dress the bride is wearing.

As an Officiant, I always get with the DJ to let them know I will wait for the Procession song to fade off. Then I can speak to the person escorting the Bride and start the ceremony. Most experienced DJ’s know to do this. Pause between song transition from bridal party to Bride entrance…. This is the best time for the Officiant to ask the guests to rise for the Bride.

So, everyone is down the aisle, the escort approaches the altar with the Bride. I like to ask the escort and Bride to stop a few steps before arriving completely at the Altar. This way the Groom can step down, shake hands or hug the escort. Take the Bride by the hand and step up together to the Altar. It’s a nice detail but not necessary.

The bride will then hand off her bouquet to the Maid of Honor and begin the ceremony.

Rinse and Repeat

You made it! Now that everyone knows what they are doing and when. It’s time to practice the whole thing again to make sure everyone feels confident. Do a second run through to gage the flow of the ceremony and if it fails you can always do it a third time. This entire process shouldn’t take more than 30- minutes depending on the size of your wedding party.

Some Extra Tips:

● This is a guide and is as flexible depending on the unique ceremony you’re planning. I have seen some original and one of a kind ideas at weddings, so use this as your foundation guide for your rehearsal.

My LGBTQ friends, this can be adjusted to ensure everyone is comfortable and considered. Be sure to ask me how to do that if you’re confused or need more help.

● Make sure your officiant knows who is entering “before” the bride. So, they can make an announcement for guests to stand and receive the bride respectfully. This is in case your Officiant is not the person coordinating the rehearsal and does not know exactly who is in your bridal party. Most of the time the flower girl enters before the Bride, but not always do couples choose to include a flower girl.

● Stress can play a major role in how things go during a ceremony. In fact, did you know that stress can cause your hands to swell a bit? This can be troublesome during the ring exchange and cause the bride or groom to panic. Place the ring to the right finger and don’t worry if it won’t slide on completely. The bride can finish sliding the ring on her finger. Or Vice Versa… Rather than having a tug-a-war during the ceremony.

As Christina Bailey with Consumers Advocate says: “I’ve realized that one of the lessons this year has taught us so far is to be prepared. Meaning that we have to plan for when things don’t go as we envisioned but also if something unexpected happens. Having wedding insurance is one way to have a backup plan and overall have “peace of mind” that you can manage curveballs and not lose hundreds if not thousands of dollars along the way. Consumers advocate has spent time researching wedding insurance options so you dont have to spend hours shopping around and see what is the best fit for your celebration.”

You made it!!

Congratulations!! By practicing with this guide, your Wedding Day is bound to run smoother by 90%. The rehearsal events don’t have to take long with a little planning and organizing. As a bride or groom, your biggest decision is finding the right person for the job.

Rehearsal guide

Most Venues have a site coordinator that will help with this. The best person to help would be your Wedding Officiant. If you would like help in officiating your wedding, be sure to reach out to me. The Presiding Officiant at Indy Get Married.

Contact Lesley to Officiant and Coordinate your Rehearsal