1. Rehearsals generally start out a little backward. Normally a rehearsal will start with everyone standing at the altar so the bridal party knows the order they will stand in during the ceremony and know who their partner will be for the recessional. It is a good idea to place a small piece of tape in the place each person will stand to keep things even.
2. Next everyone practices walking out. The bride and groom will go first and it is customary to let them go the whole way down the aisle before the maid of honor and best man start down the aisle. It is important for each couple to wait until the couples in front of them are at least half way down the aisle before starting so the photographer has enough time to get each bridal couple. If the couples come down right behind each other the photographer will only get a clear shot of the couple in front. The ushers or groomsmen will need to remember to walk back in to escort out the mothers and then the grandparents. The bride’s mom is escorted out first then the groom’s mother and the fathers walk behind. Occasionally the fathers will escort the mothers out instead of the ushers.
3. If you’re having a receiving line then everyone will line up in the back in the order they will stand. Some receiving lines only include the couple while others have the couple and their parents. If there is enough room you can also include the bridal party. If you don’t want a receiving line you’ll need to hide somewhere out of sight of the guests or you’ll have one whether you want one or not.
4. Now it’s time to practice the processional. The bridesmaids will line up at the back of the church while the groomsmen go behind the altar with the minister. Before any of the bridal party walk in the grandparents and mothers will be escorted in by ushers. First the grandparents, grooms side first then the brides. Then the mothers are escorted in, grooms mother first and then the bride’s mother. If there is a unity candle this is when the mothers will go up and light the two side candles. It is important at this time to assign who will be walking the mothers or on the wedding day there will be confusion. Next it’s time for the minister, groom and groomsmen to walk in. None of the bridesmaids should walk in until all of the groomsmen have walked in and are settled into place. It is common for the first bridesmaid to get nervous and start too early. By the time the photographer is done shooting the men and turns around to get the first bridesmaid, she is already up the aisle and the photographer can’t capture her. So wait until the men are completely in place. Next the bridesmaids will come in and they should space themselves so one is at least half way up the aisle before the next one starts. This gives the photographer time to catch each girl. They also need to remember to walk slowly and should practice it that way the night of the rehearsal or they will walk too fast on the wedding day. The flower girl and ring bearer will come in just before the bride. Once they are completely up the aisle and in place then it’s time for the bride and her father. When you come down the aisle don’t look at the photographer, you should be looking at your groom. You did go through a lot of trouble not to see each other before the ceremony so you should be looking at each other and nowhere else.
5. You’re finally at the altar. It’s time for your dad to give you away. Make sure he gives you a kiss or a hug before he leaves. So many fathers just walk away and that’s a lost opportunity for a wonderful shot. If the minister will allow it you should face each other so that everyone in the crowd and your photographer can see you and not your backs. You may want to practice putting your rings on each other so you do it in a way that it can be seen. When you say your vows look at each other. So many couples look at the minister. Remember, you’re not marrying the minister, look at each other. It is also wonderful if you hold hands and be affectionate with each other during the ceremony. These are some of the best images from the ceremony. If at all possible try to arrange it that you go around the table that the unity candle is located on so your family (and photographer) can see your faces as you light it together. Most couples walk up and completely block it with their backs.
6. The first kiss. It should be something wonderful, rememberable, and should last longer than one second. You may be shy but for this one time let your passion out for each other. You won’t regret it when you see the gorgeous images.
7. Now it’s time to go out again which you’ve already practiced so this time it should be a snap. You should repeat everything at least one more time to make sure everyone understands their job.
8. —Note: the people last out of the recessional are the first people down the aisle of the processional—except for a few adjustments. Don’t put someone at the end that is too young or shy to be the first person out.
9. Every rehearsal I attend someone always shows up late. It is a good idea to tell everyone a half hour earlier than the actual rehearsal time. If only one person is missing, you should go ahead and start practicing. They will be able to get their part the second time around.