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Advice for Officiants: All About Wedding Ceremony Rehearsals

Published Wednesday, Sep. 7th, 2022

 A simple guide to wedding rehearsals:


Q&A with wedding officiant Sherri Crawford on what to expect from your first rehearsal ceremony. 



Listen now: 

AMM Audio Articles · Advice for Officiants: All About Wedding Ceremony Rehearsals




A lot of first-time wedding officiants ask us, “Should the wedding officiant be at the wedding rehearsal? Are rehearsals even necessary? Isn’t using a written script enough?”
Our answer is… Rehearsals give new officiants the best chance of success!
A rehearsal is one of the simplest things that a couple and their wedding officiant can do together to keep the wedding day stress-free. This is true even when a friend or relative is asked to officiate a simple wedding ceremony for someone they know well. 
Rehearsals give everyone involved in the ceremony an opportunity to practice where to stand, what to say, how long things will take, and what to expect on the wedding day. It's a low-stakes ‘practice run’ before the actual event. 


All in all, rehearsals are straightforward, fun, and leave everyone feeling much more prepared. 
Depending on the type and location of the wedding, a venue manager, wedding planner, event coordinator, and wedding officiant might all be present at a ceremony rehearsal. Usually, a coordinator or wedding planner will run the rehearsal, and the wedding officiant will make sure that the couple and all guests participating in the ceremony understand the order of the ceremony, and where they will stand or move. 
By now we’ve probably convinced you about the importance of a ceremony rehearsal (they’re important!), but you might still be wondering what actually happens at one, if you should charge a fee, and what you need to do to prepare.
To help answer these questions and more, AMM reached out to experienced wedding officiant, AMM Minister Sherri Crawford, who’s participated in hundreds of successful rehearsals over the years.
Here’s what she told us! 

FAQs about the Wedding Ceremony Rehearsal 


Advice for first-time officiants from Officiant Sherri Crawford



1. How long does a rehearsal usually take?


SC: This can depend on a variety of factors, but I typically allot an hour for a rehearsal. 


The actual practicing of the wedding ceremony, however, typically takes less time – think 20-30 minutes for most weddings. But having extra time built into your rehearsal gives you wiggle room… for introductions among the wedding party, to account for possible late arrivals, and other things of that nature.




2. How much of the ceremony do you run through during the rehearsal? 


SC: Generally, the rehearsal starts with practicing the processional, and getting the wedding party familiar with their lineup, walking pace, where to stand, and the like. 


With the actual ceremony script, you just want to hit the highlights and go over the outline. This way, the couple and the wedding party are aware of the order of the ceremony and you can keep the words for the wedding under wraps.


Also, be sure to touch base with the wedding party member that’s in charge of the rings. Go over whether they’ll hand the rings directly to the couple, or to the officiant. Then they’ll be more comfortable when it’s time to present the rings. 


Other special requests or cues should be practiced, too, for example signaling the couple to move to a unity ceremony table. From there, guest readings can be practiced, along with the recessional.  


Related: Wedding Officiant Training – The Parts of a Wedding Ceremony




Close up photo of a wedding officiant conducting a ceremony, as the bride places a ring on her partner's finger

During the wedding rehearsal, touch base with the guest who will be in charge of holding the rings and discuss who they'll hand the rings to for the ring exchange. This will help them feel more comfortable when it's time to present the rings during the ceremony. 




3. What do you wear to a rehearsal? 


SC: I usually wear a business casual style dress to rehearsals, or one that’s a little airier or more casual (if the rehearsal is located outdoors, during warmer weather). 


So on that note, consider the climate of the location and opt for attire that’s fitting of the occasion. As for shoes, my rule of thumb is to go with a pair that’s comfortable to stand in and walk in.



4. What are a few items that you would never attend a rehearsal without?


SC: Things I wouldn’t attend a rehearsal without are my ceremony script or outline, and a pen! This way I can note any last-minute changes or other ceremony details as we run through key points of the ceremony. 


And it goes without saying, my cell phone – with the ringer on ‘silent,’ of course! [This] is in case it’s needed to look up info for, or snap photos of, anything related to the wedding at hand.




5. Should a wedding officiant charge an extra fee to lead or attend a rehearsal? 


SC: Yes. Wedding officiants should charge for their time, the same as any other professional service. 


There’s work involved on the officiant’s end to prepare for the rehearsal, in addition to their time at the rehearsal itself. Whether offered as an add-on service or included in a ceremony package, you can be flexible in how you book them on your schedule. 




Chairs set up for a wedding ceremony on a beach, near the water, with white petals decorating the aisle

Rehearing at a wedding venue gives you the chance to check out the space and make last minute adjustments to where each person will stand and move. You'll also be able to check out the terrain, such as grass, sand, or slippery tile floors -- and plan what clothing and shoes to wear accordingly!



6. What do you LOVE about leading or attending a ceremony rehearsal?


SC: What I love about attending rehearsals is the opportunity to really connect with the couple and some of their closest community. Especially when working with destination wedding couples, which I do regularly in my home-base area.


In those instances, the rehearsal is often the first time the officiant gets to meet destination wedding couples in person – so it creates a greater sense of familiarity with the person who’s leading their love into its next chapter. 


Rehearsals can also be fun – and they’re a great way to break the ice, so to speak, when you have wedding party members who are meeting for the first time, etc. 


By the end of a successful rehearsal, nerves are calmed and everyone involved in the ceremony is prepared for the wedding day.


Related: Wedding Ceremony Stage Fright: Tips for officiants (and couples)



7. What is the biggest mistake an officiant can make regarding a ceremony rehearsal?


SC: Not being prepared. When you’re prepared, you can lead a rehearsal assuredly, and knock it out of the park. You’ll instill confidence not only in yourself but also in the couple that’s trusting you, on one of the most meaningful days of their lives. 





Officiant Sherri Crawford is a professional wedding officiant, event emcee, and entertainment and lifestyle writer, based along the North Carolina coast. Sherri began officiating weddings in 2018 and is an ordained member of the Universal Brotherhood Movement, and American Marriage Ministries. A former rock radio personality and news radio announcer, her personable and professional style has made her a favorite choice among regional and destination wedding couples.


She specializes in creating inclusive custom wedding ceremonies of all sizes and styles, as well as vow renewals, commitment ceremonies, and celebrations of life and encourages couples to, “celebrate your love your way.” She owns and operates Officiant Sherri, serving North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond.



Browse free Wedding Ceremony Scripts written by Officiant Sherri.



AMM Minister Officiant Sherri Crawford, headshot

Officiant Sherri, courtesty of the officiant




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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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