General Guidelines for Rehearsal Traditions

This week we’re going to talk a little about rehearsals. Later I will talk specifically about how I do a wedding rehearsal. Today’s blog is about the traditional guidelines for the procession, where everybody stands during the ceremony, and the recession. Much of this material I gathered years ago from someplace on the net so I don’t claim this is all original. I should credit someone but its been years since I gathered the info and I don’t remember where I got it.

Whether you have a rehearsal is really up to you. I certainly wouldn’t try to strong arm you into having a rehearsal if you don’t want one. If you have a very simple wedding, no bridesmaids or groomsmen….or your bridesmaids and groomsmen are very experienced at weddings and already know what to do, you can get by without a rehearsal.

My personal opinion is that a wedding is a significant event in your life and a rehearsal always makes a wedding go smoother.

What I am outlining is the general guidelines for traditional way of doing things. I want to state up front, and will reiterate throughout, this is your wedding and you can change any of the following to suit what you want and need on your special day.

Personally I love those folks who get creative at their weddings. Dancing down the procession aisle, masks et al. adds to what makes your wedding unique to you and fun for the guests.

Purpose of a Wedding Rehearsal and General Guidelines

A Rehearsal Answers Multiple Questions and Has Goals:

Everyone in the wedding party knows where the venue is and when they are expected to be there.
Everyone learns what their role in the service is, and gets to practice that role.

It answers the Rehearsal 4 Questions.

How and from where do the bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, ring bearer, flower girl and the rest of the wedding party and family enter the wedding site and get in front of the guests?
In what order do they arrive?
Where do they stand?
In what order do they leave?

It’s Your Wedding. We don’t have to follow the traditional ways of doing things!

1. How and from where does everyone enter and get in front of the guests?
The answer is dictated by your preferences and the physical attributes of the wedding site. Here are the possible options:

The Groom’s Entry
Grooms traditionally enters in one of five ways:

The groom is already out mingling with the guests and, at ceremony time, he simply stands at the pre-designated spot in front of the guests.

After the guests are all seated, the groom escorts his mother (sometimes also the bride’s mother) or both mothers to their seats, and then simply steps up his pre-designated spot in front of the guests. (This is the recommended entry option for the groom.)
After the bride and groom’s mothers are seated, the groom, the best man and minister enter from the side and take their positions.
The groom accompanies the minister down the center aisle.
The bride and groom enter together by walking down the central aisle.

The Bride’s Entry
Brides traditionally enter in one of three ways:

Traditionally, the bride is the last person to reach the pre-designated spot in front of the guests.
Most often, she walks down the central aisle, either by herself or accompanied by a friend or family member. Most often this is the father if he is available. It can be the father and the mother.
The bride and groom enter together by walking down the central aisle.
The bride and groom are already mingling with the guests and at the ceremony time they simply stand at the pre-designated spot in front of the guests. In more informal weddings the guests are invited to gather around.

Entry of the Bridesmaids and the Groomsmen
This is the simplest of all, if both are walking down the aisle. If you are male, you walk down the central aisle and go to the right. If you are female, you walk down the aisle and go to the left.

If you are female and are an attendant for the groom, walk down the aisle and go to the right.
If you are male and an attendant for the bride, walk down the aisle and go to the left.
Brides go down by themselves. Grooms enter from the side.

2. In what order do the members of the bridal party enter the wedding site?
The answer is, any way you want them to. Here is the traditional entry order:

Guests are seated
Mother of the groom is seated in the front row on the right.
Mother of the bride is seated in the front row on the left.
Best Man
Bridesmaids may enter separately or walk with Groomsmen.
Maid (matron) of honor.
Ring bearer
Flower Girl
Bride (with or without escort.)

3. Where does everybody stand?
Again the answer is anywhere you want them to. The traditional positions are:

Minister – Front facing the guests
Groom – to the right of minister facing the guests until bride arrives. Then he turns and is in profile to the guests, facing his bride.
Best Man – on right closest to groom
Groomsmen – The first groomsman to enter stands the furthest away. The last to enter stands closest to the Best Man.
Bridesmaids – The first bridesmaid t enter stands the furthest away from the Bride. The last to enter stands closest to the maid (matron) of honor.
Maid of Honor – on left closest to the Bride.
Ring Bearer – On right between Best Man and the closest groomsman (unless too young and fidgety, then have them go to someone in first row. This is usually best)
Flower Girl – On left between the maid of honor and the closest bridesmaid.(again I recommend that if the flower girl is very young it is best if they are seated)
Bride – On left – in profile to guests – facing her groom.
Bride’s escort – Usually takes a seat in the front row on left.

As I noted above, my personal feeling is that with rare exceptions the flower girl and the ring bearer should be seated once they have come down the aisle. During the ceremony you want everyone to be looking at the bride and groom… not the cute antics of the ring bearer and/or flower girl standing up front.

4. In What Order do the people leave? Again, any way you want.
Traditionally: Everyone walks out by going down the central aisle.

Bride and Groom Together
Ring Bearer and Flower Girl (Alternative is to have them walk out separately or if they are seated in the front row, the leave with those folks.)
Best Man and Maid (Matron) of Honor
Bridesmaids and Groomsmen (together or separately.)
Parents of the Bride
Parents of the Groom
The remaining guests

I hope this is helpful. Until next Wed News Day.

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