So you have to run a rehearsal without me... here are some tips I would suggest you answer at rehearsal. My biggest tip is to put someone in charge who is not the bride or groom. You communicate your wishes and let them be the organizer.
My second biggest tip is to read each of the sections below and actually begin to make some decisions prior to the rehearsal so that things go smoothly.
Microphones: if one is being used, it is handled by the marriage commissioner. When we get to repeat after me, I hold the microphone for you and do not switch back and forth. The mic stays with you even when I'm saying the next part for you. The guests need to hear you. If you write your own vows, you can hold the mic if that is your preference.
Finally, the layout below can be added to or altered depending on the couple's wishes. I present this generic layout which works for most weddings? ***Legally required language in number 3 and 5 for a marriage registered in Alberta. Similarly, for much of the ceremony, I will refer to you very casually by your first name. Legal names are required or used in a couple of places.
1. Processional: Important note: there is no "right or wrong" with processionals. I've done so many variations. What works for the bride and groom is really the best way! It is probably still traditional for the bride to arrive last. Entrance of wedding party? Bride? Are you having music for your entrance. It might be nice to practice with that. How is the groom arriving? With family? Alone? Standing up front with MC? Is the bride having a parent or two accompanying her? What will the bride/groom do when they arrive at the front? Will they hug it out? Will groom step forward to take bride's hand?
1a. The wedding party: normally, the groom and his attendants are on the right of the audience, the bride's attendants on the left of the audience. As a marriage commissioner, I'm usually dead centre between the bride and groom and slightly behind. Similarly, traditionally, the groom's family is on the right and the bride's family on the left. This is not anything more than tradition and can be altered. For example, sometimes when spacing is tight, it's nice for the families to reverse seating so they can see the face of their son or daughter throughout the ceremony. If you're practicing entrances, be sure the first groomsman and bridesmaid leave enough room for everyone. The couple take up very little room once we get to the ceremony. Once you are all up front on your first walk through, you can decide how much space is needed.
2. Introduction: getting things started: This is all the marriage commissioner's job. Welcome guests, general comments about marriage, some talk about the couple about to become legally married. You can certainly give me details prior to the wedding that you would like included here.
2a.(Readings: other participants) a favourite poem, Biblical passage, a family tradition? Where will this take place? Is the speaker using a mic? if the activity involves a table... Is the table for the signing of the registration large enough? Are we moving this table? If so, who moves it?
3. Declaration: legally required. This is done as a REPEAT AFTER ME. "I do solemnly declare that I do not know of any lawful impediment why I, __(legal name)____, may not be joined in matrimony to __(legal name)___." This replaces the old, "Is there anyone here who knows a reason why this marriage can not go forward."
4. "I Do's" questions: These are not legal vows, but simply promises by both the bride and groom. Questions asked followed by a simple "I do". “promise to give love of your person, patience of understanding (I do)
5. Marriage Vows: At this point, the bride and groom will be directed to join hands. If the bride is carrying flowers, she will pass those to a bridesmaid. (pass them/pivot to your right so that you are not turning your back to the audience). Please remember that this moment is about the bride and groom. If the marriage commissioner is speaking, please look at each other. I will not be offended that you seem to be leaving me out of the equation. I'm like the radio in your car. You listen but your eyes are elsewhere.
This is usually a Repeat after me moment unless the bride and groom write their own vows.
legally required: "I call upon those persons present to witness that I, ___(legal name)___, do take you __(legal name)___ to be my lawfully wedded husband/wife/spouse" ... "to have and to hold from this day forward" Couples may write their own vows to go here or they can choose from a variety of vows available on another webpage.
6. Ring Exchange: Where will the rings be? Are they with a child? Has a groomsman taken over? (most often the best man has them because guys come with pockets) My cue to the person with the rings is to ask, "May I have the rings please?" Repeat after me: “I give you this ring that you may wear it” Couples may write their own ring language to go here or they can choose from a variety of ring commitment choices available on another webpage. Note: rings do not come with a legal requirement in Alberta.
6a.Other celebratory activity—wine box, rose ceremony, sand ceremony. lovelocks, handfasting: there are a wide variety of ceremonies which some couples choose to have in the ceremony. They could come earlier in the ceremony, but this spot works for most ceremonies. Where will this take place? Is the table for the signing of the registration large enough? Are we moving this table?
7. Declaration “you have joined hands to accept one another, consented in marriage and declared your intent... authority vested in me… pronounce you legally married” ... you may seal your commitment with a kiss. I step out of the way for that kiss so your photographer captures just the two of you.
8. Signing of marriage docs: Where will this table be? How will the bride and groom walk to this spot? At the wedding, I announce this and then step towards the table? Usually, I have the bride seated with the groom standing slightly behind and to one side. He can then lean in and sign without sitting. Sometimes all of this is done with a higher type of lectern and seating is not an issue. Remember to sign, hold the pen in place and look up. Photographers love this shot. When will the two witnesses join us at this table? If they are at the front, I recommend that the male witness offer his arm to the female witness and walks her across. Your marriage license becomes your registration of marriage and must be signed by the couple, their two witnesses, and the marriage commissioner.
The bride and groom can move to the centre front while the witnesses and I sign.
9. My wishes to the couple: a few short sentences for the two of you. I do not necessarily stand with you, but may do this from the side. I will introduce you as a couple. Please join me in congratulating _____ and _____ on their marriage. This can be a very formal-- Mr. and Mrs. _____ to a more informal first names introduction.
10. Recessional: How will you depart? Do you require any announcements after the ceremony for wedding guests as you exit? Will you have a greeting line? Are you off for photographs? Are there reminders of times for other celebratory activities? These announcements can come before the recessional or I often do them as the last members of the wedding party are part way down the aisle.