Wedding Terms Explained: Wedding Rehearsal vs. Rehearsal Dinner / by Laurie Cohen


I was in a meeting with a client getting married in December the other day and the topic of the rehearsal came up.  Our bride sheepishly mentioned that she feared her Officiant, a close family friend and a judge, wouldn’t be able to make it to the rehearsal because he would have to be in court.  She was very worried this would be a show stopper.

Without hesitation, I replied, “No Problem”.  At all.  Officiants do not attend the great majority of our rehearsals.  As this was not the first time I have had this conversation, I decided to write a little post about it. 

First, to all you recently engaged couples,  “congratulations!”   I know it is a fun adjustment getting familiar with your status as “fiancee” and starting to go down the exciting road of wedding planning ahead.  It can definitely feel overwhelming too.   There are so many big choices and little details. So many terms and so much lingo.  Sometimes we, as wedding planners get so focused on our pieces of the planning process, we may forget to clarify our terms.   I want to distinguish between [Wedding] Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner.

The Wedding Rehearsal or “Rehearsal” is a term you will hear a lot.  The rehearsal is a brief run through of what will happen from about 5 minutes before your wedding ceremony to 5 minutes after.  Your wedding rehearsal is conducted by your wedding planner or wedding coordinator and should accomplish a few main things:

1.  Serve as a logistical rehearsal for your wedding team.  We want to make sure we know where everyone will be going and how long it will take, so on wedding day we can direct things exactly as they should be.  Wedding planners like to direct rehearsals in a way that may seem a little backward initially. We will direct you and your wedding party first into ceremony positions (so you know where your destination is at the end of the aisle),  then through the recessional and then finally, we will practice the wedding processional. 

In most of our rehearsals we do not, actually practice the content of the ceremony.  In the great majority of cases, the ceremony content remains private until wedding day proper. There may be many discussions and reviews of ceremony content, but these will likely be between you and your officiant. 

2.  Another goal of the rehearsal is to increase the comfort level of the couple, the family and the wedding party.  Your wedding is a monumental event and each of your family and wedding party will want to be sure to do right by you.  Once they are able to see where they will be going and what they will be expected to do on wedding day, nerves usually subside.  The rehearsal also affords participants the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification before “go time.”

3.  Lastly, the rehearsal is the time to flush out any last minute changes. If the weather is suspect,  an older relative decides she isn't quite up for the long processional walk at your venue, or ifyou decide you’d prefer a slightly different order or arrangement, these adjustments and preparations can be made at the rehearsal. 


Your rehearsal will be scheduled in advance with your wedding venue or can be held off site as needed to coordinate between participants arrivals and venue availability.  You will hear your wedding planner talk about it ALL. THE. TIME.  Especially in the last few months of planning.  Your wedding planner or coordinator will direct your family and wedding party in the rehearsal. This is also a perfect time to talk about wedding day schedule, give your planner your marriage license (so you don’t have to remember it on wedding day) and hand off any final payments and gratuities.  It’s only about an hour, but the rehearsal isfilled with valuable information and is the final step in the wedding planning process leading up to the main event.  Once the rehearsal is complete, it is time to stop planning and ENJOY.  Bride’s always tell us how quickly their wedding day wentby.  Center yourself so you are able to savor all of it!  Now it is time to eat, drink and enjoy your friends and family at the rehearsal dinner.

 The Rehearsal Dinner is a really a separate event, and often not included in your wedding planning package unless specifically contracted. The Rehearsal Dinner is a dinner party, distinct from your wedding.  It is traditionally arranged by the groom’s family but we see all kinds of new trends emerging.  The rehearsal dinner may have a very different “vibe” than the wedding reception and usually is held at a different venue, with different vendors.  Your wedding planner, your photographer, etc., are usually not able to attend your rehearsal dinner as they are performing final preparations for your wedding day.  If you decide to hire your wedding planner to help with the rehearsal dinner, they may bring in a second team to accomplish everything. 

You will discover so much over the process of planning your wedding. Starting out can be really exciting and REALLY overwhelming.  If you have any questions about Arizona Wedding packages, venues, roles, or wedding terms, drop us a line and we will do our best to clarify.