Why Everyone Hates Wedding Rehearsals
by Rev. Elizabeth Oakes
Just like my coordinator friend Amber Gustafson confesses in her Amber Events blog, I find wedding rehearsals to be my least favorite part of the wedding process. Other members of the bridal party and vendor staff often have their reservations about them too; though there may be a few people out there who think wedding rehearsals are the best thing since string cheese, most vendors and couples I’ve met are not overly fond of them. Here’s why:
Planners hate wedding rehearsals because: As Amber notes, the rehearsal is when most of the players in the wedding will meet the coordinator for the first time, and establishing authority and rapport is key. It can be hard to remember loads of names and faces and to focus the rehearsees’ attention on the task at hand (they usually just want to socialize.) The coordinator is often peppered with questions from every direction and must mightily multitask to keep everything flowing smoothly and get the job done. Yep, it’s stressful and tiring, and if the coordinator hasn’t made a good impression it doesn’t bode well for how he/she will be treated on the wedding day.
**Nightmare rehearsal scenario for a planner: Ill-informed and/or overly controlling family or bridal party members interfere with a rehearsal’s progress by demanding particular rituals, duties, or choreographic moves be performed according to their wishes instead of those of the bride and groom (who have discussed and decided those things with the coordinator already.) If one or more of these persons is aggressive, narcissistic, or manipulative–did you see “Rachel Getting Married”? it really is like that sometimes–keeping cool can be tough. And you’re going to have to deal with that person courteously the next day, too. Not fun.
Officiants hate wedding rehearsals because: If there isn’t a coordinator for the wedding, the officiant is usually the person who serves as coordinator pro tem and must direct the rehearsal themselves, therefore experiencing the same difficulties noted above. Some officiants won’t attend rehearsals at all because they don’t feel they need to (or because they can make more money booking that time for other events.) On the other hand, some officiants require their presence at the rehearsal so they can stage the ceremony a certain way.
**Nightmare rehearsal scenario for an officiant: A large bridal party that shows up plastered (or uses the rehearsal as the official starting point for a multi-day stint of being plastered) and realizing that, no matter how long one rehearses, everyone will be freaking out the next day just as the ceremony begins and insisting on a full recounting of the processional order and their movements. (Note from personal experience: with or without booze in the mix, this happens a lot.)
Brides hate wedding rehearsals because: Almost all of them have someplace they’d rather be, dealing with agenda items they consider more important. If it wasn’t for the fact that many brides are sold on the notion that getting married is a modeling job, they’d probably forgo the rehearsal entirely and concentrate on the milliions of last-minute crises that have arisen–fight with the florist, eleventh-hour guest cancellations, a fresh pimple, the possibility of bad weather, uneven spray tan, or sister pitching a jealous fit. A bride’s nerves are usually moderately frayed by the time the rehearsal rolls around, and she may get frustrated if she feels she won’t look pretty enough, or her friends in the bridal party aren’t taking the wedding seriously because they’re joking around during rehearsal. This is especially true if she’s planning the wedding herself, because she’s got a lot to do before morning and she doesn’t want to look like a tired old hag.
**Nightmare rehearsal scenario for a bride: Groom doesn’t show up for the rehearsal and sends a “Dear Jane” text message, like on reality TV.
Grooms hate wedding rehearsals because: Guys are not equally pressured to look fabulous and be a paragon of demure grace, so they aren’t usually too taxed during rehearsals. For this reason they might find rehearsals BORING–after all, they’re just standing there.
**Nightmare rehearsal scenario for a groom: Rehearsal thoughtlessly scheduled during an important game or Warcraft tournament, and no TV or wireless at the rehearsal venue.
Parents hate wedding rehearsals because: Like grooms, parents aren’t usually asked to do too much except during the processional, so they spend most of the rehearsal sitting in the front row contemplating their years of parenthood and (if they’re kicking in for wedding expenses) how they’re going to afford all this. Though parents try to be happy for their kids and put on a brave face through the wedding process, seeing their babies all grown up and getting married is bittersweet for most. The free time at the rehearsal gives them a looooot of room to ponder this signifier of getting older.
**Nightmare rehearsal scenario for parents: The former spouse shows up to the rehearsal with a hot younger squeeze in tow, with whom (one finds out during the rehearsal) one will be forced to share adjacent seating. Worse nightmare: Current spouse does the same thing.
Venues hate wedding rehearsals because: Unless they’re selling booze to the bridal party during the runthrough (and lots of it) they’re losing rental money for other events that could be in the space at that time, and because they have to pay a staff person to be in the building while the rehearsal’s going on.
**Nightmare rehearsal scenario for a venue: Bridal party member, while goofing off, irreparably damages the draperies/design elements, or falls off a riser and hurts themselves and sues. The bride gets upset and yells a lot, insists on a refund, and blogs bad things about the business.
So how do we make everyone love wedding rehearsals rather than saying, “Ugh, do I hafta?” Here are a few tips:
1. Prepare prepare prepare. Know the processional and staging order–don’t wait until the rehearsal to decide where people will stand; you’ll have too many cooks in the wedding fagioli and leave a huge opening for inside interference. Have your staging locked and loaded in writing before you arrive, and giving a copy to each participant isn’t a bad idea either (maybe they can consult their notes on the wedding day instead of pestering you right when the processional music begins playing.)
2. I’m not against name tags and you can get as cute as you want if it helps, e.g. “Marcia, Maid of Honor and BFF!!!! xoxoxox” or “Bride’s Dad Bob: Former Astronaut, Ask Me About Outdoor Grilling!“
3. If you know you have hardy partyers in the crowd who’ll be campaigning to start their drunken revels early, limit or exclude alcohol for as long as you have to prior to and during the rehearsal. Confiscate flasks with extreme prejudice.
4. I know this sounds awful, but it’s true: a lecture and/or scolding from the bride or one of the parents beforehand can make participants easier to handle (if somewhat sulky.) Positive incentives such as offering a late-night donut/pizza junket if the rehearsal runs less than twenty minutes can also be tried–let me know how that goes for you.
5. Explain to rehearsees up front that the rehearsal will be short and sweet if they pay attention and refrain from sidebar conversations. And a pizza/donut run later if they behave!
6. Resign yourself to the fact that you’ll have to tell a percentage of participants their moves again the next day. It’s not stupidity, usually just opening-night nerves and the desire to do everything right (though I wouldn’t rule out hangover if the pizza run was raucous.)
For the good of all soon-to-be-in-a-wedding humanity, I hope you’ll contribute your rehearsal stories and tips below. A little less hatred and a lot more productiveness (or at least fun) at your runthrough is a great way to kick off your wedding celebration–and speaking of kickoffs, remember to check the game roster before you schedule your rehearsal!
Until next time, a sweet and long life to you.