Melissa and Haven had a limited budget to dedicate to hiring an officiant for their Traverse City wedding ceremony. They chose not to have a wedding rehearsal even though they had quite a few attendants and additions to their ceremony. Her parents were spending $3,000 on the golf course venue, and another $15,000 on the 100 person reception and decorations. Traditionally the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. However, Haven’s parents were lucky. Because there was no rehearsal, there was no rehearsal dinner to pay for!

So the question is whether to rehearse or not rehearse. When a couple like Melissa and Haven insist they don’t need a rehearsal, I will joke, “Just tell me where to stand and I’ll be fine.” I can provide a detailed order of service, which lists the various components of the ceremony. It’s like the game plan a football coach might have. I am also willing to talk them through the various parts of the ceremony during the wedding planning meeting: the procession, my welcome to the congregation, presenting of the couple to one another, what Dad or her presenter will say, stand, shake, etc. They are informed where the readings and prayers are, if any are wanted. I prepare them which way to stand for the wedding address, and how to turn towards each other for the vows and rings exchange. I always encourage them to practice the “kiss” A LOT. (This always brings smiles to their faces, and I love to make my couples smile.) At the wedding planning meeting, we’ll even play out the parts to help them get more familiar with the process.

Six or seven months before the wedding, the ceremony’s pace and pivots seem easy to follow. And I always tell them, “Don’t worry. I’ll be there to guide you through every part.”

I say this because I don’t want anyone to feel incompetent or pressured to engage me for a wedding rehearsal, especially if they believe they are strapped for money.  My couples need to know I believe they can do it on their own and save a buck or two…or 250. After all, everyone has been to a wedding, and probably been IN a wedding as an attendant in the past. So what’s the big deal?

Productive Pressure

But the reality is, I should pressure them. Because six or seven months AFTER we have met to plan the ceremony, standing before 30 davis rehearsalto 200 people in half an hour for the real thing can be nerve wracking. Their minds are on overload, their attention on what they might be getting themselves into. The spaciousness of their love should be what they are focusing on, not when to kiss Dad goodbye.

Some couples have called me in a panic the night before the wedding hoping I can walk them through everything again over the phone. As much as I want to be available to help and calm their worries, I cannot guarantee I can be of much help. If my time is not pre-scheduled, I may or may not be able to coach them the day before their wedding when a wedding rehearsal would normally take place. I would love to be able to be in two places at once, but I can’t.

What happens nine times out of ten with non-rehearsing couples is I DO end up guiding them and their wedding party through almost every step of the ceremony as it happens. The trick is to direct as discretely as possible because now we are in front of everyone.  A bride may back up instead of move to the side for the Sand Ceremony, and then she is embarrassed. The maid of honor might forget to take the bride’s bouquet so the bride can hold her groom’s hand when he reaches for hers. Then this most important witness of the ceremony can get flustered which makes it harder (not impossible) to create a sacred moment. Attendants may move too far away from the couple, or one half of the wedding party stands in a half circle, the other in a rectangle. The best man or matron of honor who has the wedding rings might fumble to get them when I ask for them, which if we’d had a wedding rehearsal, they would know what to do.  None of these things are earth shattering, but they can interrupt the flow of this most important event that is taking place.

Equally disconcerting is if you change something the night before the wedding and forget to tell me your Aunt Nellie is reading from the Prophet instead of your best friend Mike. When the minister, in this case, me, introduces the wrong person, then I look incompetent, and that’s not a pretty sight.  How about the time I wasn’t told the couple didn’t want to acknowledge the passing of the groom’s grandmother because hallelujah she had a completely unexpected recovery from her ailment and she’s now sitting in the front row. With so much going on during the final week and days before your ceremony, it’s easy to forget. Having a wedding rehearsal works these kinks out.

Nervousness Can Get the Best of the Best

Melissa’s father dropped her off at the altar and sat down rather than wait for the question, “Who brings Melissa to be wed to Haven?” During the vows, Haven kept looking at me instead of at Melissa as he said, “I promise to honor and encourage you as an individual through all the changes of our lives.” Do you think a rehearsal could have smoothed out these little details?

So here’s my first tip for northern Michigan wedding couples:  No one wants to look like they don’t know what they are doing. Maybe you are the type of person who is very easy going and it doesn’t matter what stops and starts there are in the ceremony. And a rehearsal is no guarantee everything will flow perfectly, but the chances it will be pretty darn good are much greater. After all, we can be too obsessed with being perfect, and I am certainly not one geared to absolute perfection. But I recommend adding to your budget the price of a rehearsal so you feel as comfortable as possible with the logistics of a ceremony, and we are all as prepared as possible.

Let your wedding day be full of the once in a lifetime moments you have dreamed of. Help us all be able to focus on the commitment you are making to the love you share. Don’t let yourself get disturbed by where your junior bridesmaid is standing or that your newly pronounced spouse is coming in for a Rhett Butler kiss and you’d planned on a Hollywood peck on the cheek.

To rehearse or not to rehearse? For your sake, I say, rehearse.