Almost always I hold a rehearsal the day before the ceremony. Some couples ask why they need one but they are always really pleased that they have.
What do we cover off at a rehearsal? The first thing is to check out the venue. Sometimes a couple will have only been to the venue once before, when they made the decision to have their wedding there. It might not be exactly as they remembered it, it might be a different time of year with a few different considerations (will it be damp underfoot, for example?) or the light at the particular time of day might be a little different. The photographer might therefore wish to come to the rehearsal too, particularly if the details of what and where the photos will be of during and after the ceremony.
Most importantly, however, is the need to ensure everyone will be confident about where they walk and stand, what they have to do and in what order and ensuring the right music will be played at the right time. If it is outdoors, it is about being clear where the seating should be and the width of the aisle.
Whether couples have attended many weddings or their own is their first, everyone always ends up really valuing the short time they have put into a rehearsal. I like them to be nice and relaxed; I'm looking for my couples to leave totally confident that all will be perfect on the day. The ceremony should be something they don't need to worry about.
The beginning of the year is always a busy time for weddings. This year we've rehearsed lots of things relating to sound and music, particularly at outdoor venues. We've decided the time it will take for the bridal party to come up the aisle and how many songs are therefore necessary. We've accommodated a magnificent String Quartet into a tiny historic church. A few weeks ago we planned how to place a bridal party of 14 so that they all got the perfect view of the ceremony. A particularly moving moment came when planning a contingency if our Dad wasn't able to walk down the aisle and needed a wheelchair - he did walk with aplomb on the day!! Candle ceremonies are also require thinking through. They can be tricky outside in even a slight breeze and inside the tiny historic church I mentioned earlier, we had to plan the positioning of the candles on the tiny altar so we didn't have the flames set the brides veil on fire! I've also taken home tablecloths and starched them, provided my own family antique cloths, a posy of flowers for a table and often the table and chair themselves.
The sound system is also really important to discuss. I have my own which allow for multiple microphones so that I have mine attached to my dress and we have another one for readers or if the couple wish to use one for their vows. So even though I'm confident in using my system, I still like to test out how the sound will carry and where it is best positioned. We also consider placement in terms of any equipment for live music - interference from multiple systems isn't good!
So when we get to the day itself, despite nerves (which almost every bride and groom have!), there isn't a need to worry about the ceremony details. I arrive early and set up so that it is all ready long before the first guest arrives. Sometimes I might tweak the seating to get it perfect (even wipe it if it is damp!) , anchor things down in the wind, set up the table for signature if that isn't provided at the venue and ensure the sound system is perfect. By the time the wedding guests start to arrive, everything is perfect.
Finally, above all, it is a lovely time for the full bridal party to come together before the day itself. Sometimes that might not all know each other, practically if some of the bridal party come from different parts of the country or overseas.