The last couple I married was relaxed and actually enjoyed the wedding ceremony. Traditionally, most couples are nervous. I’ve had some grooms so nervous that they forgot when it was time to kiss the bride. And I’ll never forget the bride who was so wrought up that she sobbed all the way down the aisle. What makes the difference? Is it possible to help each bride and groom that a minister marries enjoy their ceremony and look back on it as one of the most pleasant experiences of their lives? Except for a few chronically nervous people, I believe that the wedding rehearsal is the key to a smooth wedding.

The pastor must set the example. If the rehearsal is another inconvenient night out, the couple will sense his annoyance. If it is a hassle for him, it will be the same for the couple. If it is a joke to the minister, it will be insignificant to the bride and groom. The pastor should display several characteristics: happiness, respect, organization, authority, seriousness, and above all, a deep Christian love. If the pastor is happy himself, the rehearsal will be a joyful time for everyone. A little lightness will go a long way to help the young couple relax. But what if the pastor is ill-at-ease? Perhaps he does not know the couple or thinks that they are not suited for one another. That problem can be solved if the pastor has a strict premarital counseling policy. I ask a couple to spend six one-hour sessions in premarital counseling. I will not give my final consent to marry the couple until the third or fourth session. My experience has been that when this is done, couples with problems will at least have a foundation for solving them. Many problems a couple faces can be detected by premarital surveys. Through premarital counseling, I have found that when the evening of the rehearsal comes, not only is the couple satisfied that they are ready to cope with all the changes in their lives, but also I am happy to have a part in this exciting event.

The pastor should also display respect for the couple, their parents, and all the wedding participants. When their job is well done, they deserve thanks. Harsh words should not be spoken to those having a hard time remembering what to do.

This is especially true if children are involved. Talking with them, or holding their hands while showing them what to do can show respect and love. It will help remove their fear and shyness to know they have a friend on the platform.

Respect is also shown in the preparation the pastor has done for the rehearsal. Proper preparation will make a smooth rehearsal. The pastor must be in charge of the rehearsal, even if there is a wedding hostess. The pastor will have spent considerable time discussing the ceremony with the couple; he knows their minds and desires. He should also have a schedule for the rehearsal. I have found a three-step rehearsal to be most effective.

First step: Start on time. Ask all the participants to sit down. After prayer, I give each person a name tag. I often don’t know several of the bridal party, and this helps me to know them and to get their assignments straight. I explain the procedure of the rehearsal, and then say that the wedding belongs to the bride and groom and that they have told me what they want. Then I explain that since we have already decided on what is to happen, only major suggestions should be discussed. This keeps in-laws from repeatedly interrupting the proceedings. With the participants still seated, I then go through the entire ceremony, giving each person detailed instructions.

Second step: the rehearsal. Everyone, including parents, go through the motions. I don’t repeat the prayers and vows though it is wise to go over the vows with the couple privately. I make notes of minor needed adjustments. There are few pauses in the walk-through part of the rehearsal. If the talk-through was thorough, the walk-through will be smooth.

Third step: Have everyone sit down again. I review the noted adjustments and answer any questions. Then I express my commitment to the bride and groom for their wedding day, which is the most important part of the rehearsal. It is their day, and I am to minister to them or for them in any way possible. A wedding cannot be just another service where I get my $25 and leave.

I want the bride and groom to know that God is interested in their marriage, and that I, as God’s representative, stand ready to serve them on that day. I also ask the wedding participants to make the same commitment. When we have assured the bride and groom of this, they may leave the rehearsal not ragged, but refreshed by the support they enjoy for this special day.—PETER TORRY, pastor, Faith Missionary Church, Pomona, California.

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