friends at wedding rehearsal dinner

What Happens at a Wedding Rehearsal?

You’ve been preparing for your wedding for a year. Your happy occasion is just days away, and your stress level is off the charts. You haven’t slept enough lately, and you’re close to breaking the bank or selling the farm. These don’t matter to you as getting married is perhaps the biggest fairy-tale event in your life, so you’re not leaving anything to chance. 

You and your wedding planner, if you hired one, go over your checklist. There’s a checkmark beside all items except one – Wedding Rehearsal.  

You ask yourself, “do I need a wedding rehearsal?” Nah, you tell yourself. Well, you’re right if you’re having a small and simple wedding. But if you’re having one of those large and elegant weddings, rich in pomp and splendor, better think twice before saying no. If you don’t rehearse your ceremony, you might embarrass yourself and your spouse-to-be. 

So Why Do You Need a Wedding Rehearsal?

What could go wrong during the ceremony? It might be better to skip rehearsal and do something more productive like…sleep. Besides, you believe that if you go with the flow, play it by ear and improvise if necessary. Everything will be fine at your wedding. 


NO! NOT right! A lot could go wrong! A misstep here and there can lead to more miscues that could ruin what should be Act One of your “lived happily ever after” full length feature presentation. And, thanks to your videographer and everyone who is recording the ceremony on their phones, you could end up on an episode of Embarrassing Wedding Moments Caught on Video.

Trust me, you do NOT want YouTube to know you like that.

You’ve been to many weddings- but only as a witness. You may even have played a part in a wedding before…but it’s not the same as getting married. Your wedding is your version of a happy ending and a send-off to a new chapter in your life. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime occasion (knock on wood), and there are no do-overs. You only get one chance to get it right. 

What Happens at the Wedding Rehearsal

It would be great if you can hold your rehearsal at your wedding venue. Every person who plays a part in the ceremony, flower girl and ring bearer included, should be there. It’s the perfect time for everyone in your wedding party to get acquainted if they haven’t met each other before. They’ll feel more comfortable and less awkward on your wedding day.  

The rehearsal is also your chance to make last-minute changes. What’s good on paper may not be accurate in real life. Likewise, a wedding party member might have suddenly canceled attendance due to an emergency or urgent matter. You must make adjustments if a replacement is not possible.   

The rehearsal will only take an hour at the most. Usually, it’s held a day or two days before the main event. If your wedding is on a Sunday, conduct your rehearsal two days before. The day in-between will allow you to relax and prepare for your wedding. 

Here’s another reason why you should hold rehearsals two days before your nuptials. You will wine and dine your wedding party members, plus family and guests after practice. At dinner, you can try, but there’s no guarantee you can limit the flow of alcohol. Members of your wedding party might drink more than they should and end up reeling from the effects of the ol’ Irish Flu the next day. 

Wedding Rehearsal Briefing

  • This will be a walkthrough of your wedding ceremony from the processional to the recessional. If you didn’t hire a wedding planner, assign somebody to conduct the briefing. It’s not a discussion, so be sure to select an assertive, take-charge kind of person. 
  • You’re having a traditional church wedding, and not everyone might be familiar with your religion’s rites. The briefing is a perfect opportunity to give them an overview of your religion’s traditions.
  • The briefing is also the time to give your readers their material if you haven’t sent this in advance. If you’re getting married in a church, ask them to read with a microphone. Your readers will get a better feel of their surroundings and become more comfortable with the acoustics of their voice echoing inside the church.  

Note: Your wedding officiant could attend or even conduct the briefing itself. He/she can discuss the vital elements of your wedding ceremony. If you’re getting married at a place of worship, your priest or pastor can help you determine what you can and cannot do during the ceremony. 

The Wedding Processional

So, who walks first? It depends on your family’s or religion’s traditions. It is essential, however, to assign someone, like your wedding planner, to prompt your wedding party members when it comes time for them to start walking.  

In the absence of a “prompter,” you or someone can remind your party members to start walking when the person or persons before them has reached a particularly marked row. You can also ask your photographers and videographers to help out. They’ll be glad to do this because it makes it much easier to take pictures and videos of your wedding party.     

Picture your processional as a full dress rehearsal for the final production- your wedding! When you practice the processional at your wedding rehearsal, do this with your chosen wedding song playing.

However, you should always take the nature of the chosen wedding venue into consideration before choosing a wedding song. If you’re getting married in a place of worship, your choices of music are limited. On the other hand, if it’s a secular wedding, choose a musical piece you and your future spouse see fit to express your love for each other. But if your grandparents are part of the processional, make sure it’s a song with a slow, meaningful beat.

There is usually a separate musical piece or song for the bride’s entrance. You can stick with traditional classics such as “Canon in D” by Pachelbel, followed by “Here Comes the Bride” by Wagner. Walking down the aisle is the bride’s moment to shine, whether she is alone or escorted. Choose a song or music that fits the moment well.

Sitting or Standing Positions

I recommend you begin your rehearsal by getting each of your party members standing or sitting at their designated spots during the actual ceremony. Practicing the entrance walk is more comfortable if they know where their end destination is.  

It helps if someone could place small signs behind seats, chairs, or pews where people should sit. You can designate seating for parents, grandparents, immediate family, groomsmen, bridesmaids, etc. 

Place signs with the words “Reserved for VIPs” because everyone at your wedding is a VIP, technically speaking. Be sure to assign at least two ushers to help guide people to their places as well

The Wedding Recessional

Suggest that it is better to practice the recessional first before the processional. The order in which you and your wedding party leaves is just the reverse of how you enter. During the actual recessional, the bride and the groom exit as newlyweds. Once everyone is at the rear of your venue, you can practice the processional again. 

Just saves time.

What Happens at the Wedding Rehearsal Dinner & Party

It’s dinner or party time after your wedding rehearsal! It’s up to you if you prefer a formal setting for the event. But, more people favor a relaxed and informal affair that doesn’t have the potential to outshine the wedding reception.

The wedding rehearsal dinner is the perfect opportunity for the bride and groom’s families to get to know each other better, if their contact prior to this occasion had been somewhat limited. If this is not the case, it gives them a great chance to socialize and further strengthen the existing bond of friendship!

Usually, the groom’s family pays for dinner. But nowadays, it is becoming a common trend for both the bride and the groom to share the cost. 

The Bride & Groom’s Responsibilities at the Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

During the rehearsal dinner, the groom’s responsibilities include meeting and greeting guests. However, both the bride and groom should make it a priority to personally thank everyone for their presence, especially those from out of town.

The future couple can also spend more time with their future in-laws. There might not be another family gathering of this size again happening for a while. It’s also an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends you haven’t seen for months or years because with a few exceptions, you will most likely be far too busy at your wedding to linger with them.

Should You Invite Spouses of your Wedding Party Members?

Of course, and don’t forget to invite the grandparents too. They may not be part of your wedding party, but they’re still family. If you include children in your wedding party, ask them and their parents to join you for dinner. Be sure to have food and drink appropriate for kids.  

So, who proposes the first toast to the bride and groom at your rehearsal dinner? Toasts are always part of any wedding rehearsal dinner. If the groom’s family hosts the rehearsal dinner, the parents make the first toast, followed by the bride’s parents. After them, there is no strict order to follow on who makes the next round of toasts. Nor is there a limit on the number of toasts.  

Are you now convinced a wedding rehearsal is the way to go? Nobody will accuse you of being a perfectionist if you conduct one. If all the events in your ceremony flow seamlessly, you’ll be thankful you did!