Most weddings follow the same basic outline, but can be varied to suit the needs and wishes of the parties involved, the space you are working with and the time you want to spend on the ceremony.

Here is a rough outline for a traditional 5-part Ceremony, that I give to all my couples to help them get a feel for what to expect.

3.) VOWS

Things I need to know as the officiant.

  • Are you walking down the aisle to your groom?
  • If so, who is walking you, are you having an ‘who gives this woman’ in your ceremony?
  • Do you want the officiant to walk down the aisle, or to be waiting at the altar?
  • What are the groom’s duties en route to the altar?
  • Are the ushers/groomsmen/groom having to seat anyone? Mothers?
  • Where will your flower girl/ring bearer go once they reach the altar?
  • Are there to be readings, poems, presentations, if so by whom, to whom and when?
  • Does the officiant know your plans?

About the Rehearsal:
Everyone should make an effort to be at the rehearsal. It gives you an idea of what the actual space will allow you to do. For instance if your dress has a train that is several feet long, the spacing needs to be adjusted so that no-one stands on it. If the bridesmaids have big gown skirting, there needs to be enough space at the altar that allows them to stand without crushing each other. If you have standing room for 6 at the altar, don’t plan on 12 in the wedding party!

If you know that someone cannot attend the rehearsal, appoint a stand-in who will participate in the rehearsal and get them to take notes and pass them on to the person taking part in the ceremony. That way, you don’t have that one lost person on the big day.

Wedding Coordinator:
If you have decided not to hire a wedding coordinator, nominate a member of your family who is NOT in the processional to stand with the bridal party and cue them to move down the aisle at the appropriate times. It’s a good idea to include this person in the rehearsals also.

Bring Props:
Bring things with you like fake bouquets, the candles [positioning to not set your hair alight is a good thing] That way you can see what it feels like to try and hold flowers, your dress, the rings, your loved one’s hand and light a candle and speak vows all at the same time.

It’s much less scary if a child is kept informed of when, how and why. That way they know what they are supposed to do, they can get it wrong the first time and there should be no last minute nerves.

Every single rehearsal includes a person that is late. Bank on it, and if you know who it is likely to be, tell them to arrive 15 minutes earlier than the actual time.

Take Care of Yourself:
Eat, sleep, drink plenty of water, don’t have vast amounts of alcohol the day before. The pictures will show you being tired and stressed, so we need you relaxed.

General Pre-Rehearsal Instructions:
Make sure everyone knows everyone else.
Introduce the bridal party to the Officiant.
Go through everything at least once or twice.
Provide snacks and drinks if the rehearsal is an hour or more inclusive of travel time. [little bottles of water and snack packs work well]
Bring matches.

Mistakes that can be avoided.       


  • Bridesmaids being too far away. They need to stand roughly 2 feet from the bride. At one wedding outdoors the bridesmaids were about 6 feet away and weren’t in any of the pictures. This means as the officiant, I had to pause in the ceremony and ask them to move closer. The first one up, sets the spacing, make sure she knows where to stand.
  • Don’t have the rings in boxes, and don’t throw the empty box at the officiant’s feet!
  • Don’t stand with your backs to your guests, at least be facing your intended so that they can hear and see you. Light candles from behind the table, not from in front, again so that they can see and hear you.
  • Think of it as a show of a lifetime and you are the stars, they are there to SEE you.
  • Let the bridal party have copies of the processional music so that they can listen to it and get a feel for the pacing.
  • Don’t have the groom and officiant up front too soon. If it’s a long walk for the bride, get someone to cue the groom to walk to his place when she is at an optimum point in her journey so that he doesn’t have to endure the ‘standing up alone in front of all the guests who are trying to see if he is nervous’ scenario.
  • If the venue are taking care of things like the unity candles and suchlike being in place and/or lit, ready for use etc., have a member of your team go round and check that everything is a go before the bridal party start down to aisle. Many times things are overlooked at the altar in the heat of the preparations for the processional.
  • Don’t have the men all standing with their hands in front of them. Their hands naturally fall in what a professional photographer informed me is ‘the fig leaf’ position. They will be seen from the side, and a straight arm or hand in pocket looks better in the pictures.

Do you need ME at the rehearsal?
Probably not. Here’s a great link to to look at before your decide.


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