Herding cats: wedding rehearsal tips and advice

Wedding rehearsal tips via @offbeatbride
By Kathleen Murtagh – Remixed CC BY 2.0

Picture this: It's almost time for your wedding rehearsal, and you're ready to start figuring out how the ceremony is going to go down. Maybe you're lucky enough to have a wedding planner helping, or maybe you're the point person who will be wrangling the cats. Either way, here are some of our wedding rehearsal tips for making sure your rehearsal is useful and as stress-free as possible.

Be on time. Stress that everyone else be on time, too

This is good advice for every facet of planning, but when you only have a window of time to rehearse, punctuality counts. It's almost inevitable, but hopefully there won't be too many of your crew who need a second run-down because they were late.

Let everyone know how to move and where to be

Think about spacing between couples/walkers (not The Walking Dead kind), the speed at which you want them to shamble — I mean walk — and of course, the order of the procession. Make sure someone knows the answer to all of these questions.

Make sure you know where you want all your speshy special people to sit, too: parents, wedding party, memorial seats, readers, musicians and singers, your officiant, etc.

Decide how you and your partner want to enter the ceremony, too. Are you walking in together, entering from two sides at the same time, going a little more traditional and walking down with parents? Work it out beforehand so you're ready.

Write down all your decisions ahead of time

If you want all your wedding party members to hold their lanterns/flowers/Sonic Screwdrivers, etc. at hip-level, write that down. If you want everyone to boogey down to "Time Warp" down the aisle, write that down. Then you'll have it all ready to relay to your crew when the time comes. Tip: save it all on your phone, too, in case you forget the paper on which you wrote it down.

Designate someone to wrangle your people

Corral your ring bears, flower grandmas, ring dogs, and flower friends. Make sure those folks who have a specific job know their role. If they are a child or an animal, charge an adult to help them do it (or do it for them if they run away, start panicking, or poop on the lawn. I'm talking to you, adult male flower girl!)

Decide if you want a receiving line

Communicate what will happen AFTER the ceremony. Sometimes this info nugget gets missed, and the wedding party disperses.

Rehearse your shoes

Consider wearing your wedding shoes to the rehearsal to make sure they're still the ones you want to wear. If they end up being uncomfortable quickly, you can toss a second pair into your bag for the reception. Hell, toss a second pair in regardless.

Listen to your planner

If you have a wedding planner, day-of coordinator, or just someone in charge of cat herding, give them your focus during the rehearsal. They've likely planned this part out well, and everyone will probably follow your lead when listening for instructions.

Allocate enough time for it all

You can generally smoosh all of the rehearsing into an hour if you're efficient: fifteen minutes to gather and explain everything, and forty minutes for a couple of run-throughs. Then plan a few minutes to explain everything to everyone who was late.

A Nervous Groom
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, this rehearsal is going to go well." Photo by Steve JurvetsonCC BY 2.0

What other wedding rehearsal tips are you using to keep your rehearsal stress-free?

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  1. Great tips! Timely, too; I'm about to send out an email with rehearsal deets to the relevant people. It didn't even occur to me to give everyone a post-ceremony plan–whoops!

  2. Schedule supper for after the rehearsal – not before (I thought this was common sense but my friend was in a wedding last weekend where they had supper at 5pm and the rehearsal at 6pm at a location that was at least 15 minutes away).

    Telling people the time and location of the rehearsal is important. At one wedding my husband was in we found out about the details a week ahead of time because we kept bugging the bride and groom for the details. A groomsman coming from out of country found out the day before (it was on the Thursday and he expected the Friday so he was arriving on the Thursday night – luckily he was able to change his plans and arrive earlier). Another groomsman was never told the details from the bride or groom and found out from my husband.

    It's ok to change decisions that you previously made at the rehearsal, especially if things aren't working out. Originally I had planned that my step-mum would walk down the aisle alone, but after running through things it was decided that my sister's fiancé would walk her down the aisle. I was at another rehearsal where the bride insisted that the juniors bridesmaids stand in a spot that would result in them blocking the view of the guests.

    Don't forget the practice the recessional (if that is important to you). We did not practice the recessional. We knew what we were doing and the people involved in that (the photographer and the bagpiper) weren't at the rehearsal anyways. Well our families did not know if they should exit out the centre aisle and up the stairs behind us (note: we did not have a wedding party) or if they should go out the side exits and meet us when we came down the stairs in the lobby. They decided to go out the side exits which was fine and probably made the most sense (since if you exit up the stairs you have to just walk down the stairs again to get out).

    1 agrees
  3. All good advice, yes, yes, but now I kiiiiiiinda want to seat people so I can use toy cats as placecards.

    3 agree
  4. Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

    I live in the Philippines and June and July is the season of wedding here and your article has the perfect timing. Contrary to what other people think, wedding rehearsal is needed to make everything run smoothly during the wedding day.

  5. Good advice! After learning the hard way from my recent wedding, I'd stress that if you want your ceremony photos/videos to look great, make sure everyone is conscious of their posture/expression and relative position, practice it, and remind them immediately before the procession.

    Problem details we encountered:

    keeping people from settling into resting bored-face

    holding bouquets low enough (mine turned out to be a monster without a proper way to hold it, so I kept trying to hold it up high enough to support the weight with something other than my wrists– but then it blocked my bodice and I looked like I was hiding behind it)

    all holding bouquets at roughly same height

    crinolines at same level of peeking-out from beneath dresses

    spacing of attendants onstage

    1 agrees
    • Your bouquet dilemma was exactly why I carried a basket at my wedding instead. My favorite part of my dress was as waist level, and I did not want to block it!

  6. If you're planning long dresses for bride or bridesmaids and your aisle has steps, make everyone rehearse in long skirts! For my brother's wedding, we didn't even consider the steps leading up to the altar, and each bridesmaid and the bride tripped on their way up the steps. Whoops! No injuries or ripped dresses, thankfully 🙂

    2 agree
  7. Wow how awesome are the named cat models in the photo at the top?! Slightly irrelevant, but they would make such cool place setting signs.

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