Where to Do Your Wedding Rehearsal If Your Venue Is Unavailable

Don't worry, there are plenty of options.
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
The Knot Contributor
  • Jenn writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in planning advice and travel.
  • Jenn also writes for a myriad of other large-scale publications, including SELF, Women's Health, and more
  • Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Jenn worked as an on-staff editor at WhatToExpect.com, American Baby, Fit Pregnancy and FreshDirect.
Updated Apr 19, 2024

A big portion of the wedding-planning process revolves around a constant merry-go-round of decisions that you and your partner have to make—and sometimes unexpected challenges arise along the way. One such obstacle can occur when your chosen wedding venue is unavailable for your wedding rehearsal—an important practice session or run-through of the ceremony and related events that takes place shortly before the actual wedding day (often the day before). This is actually a pretty common occurrence, as your venue may be booked for another event the day before your wedding.

The wedding rehearsal is incredibly important—and timely. This is mainly due to the fact that often several of the key members of your wedding party may have traveled far to be there for the wedding, and may only have a day or so to spare to partake in the wedding rehearsal.

In this article:

Where Does a Wedding Rehearsal Traditionally Take Place?

The wedding rehearsal traditionally takes place in the exact spot where your ceremony is intended to take place, whether that's in a house of worship or your reception venue. "If you are getting married in a house of worship, they will often require you to host a rehearsal onsite to practice running through the ceremony in the same place it will be hosted in the coming days," says Rachel Ceaser, owner of Chicago-based full-service event planning and design firm Savoir Fête. "This requirement is in place to allow the people organizing and performing the ceremony to help the couple and wedding party know where to go and what to do when they arrive onsite for the ceremony, which is often a hectic part of a wedding day."

For ceremonies taking place at a venue or another location, Caesar points out that there is a lot more leeway as to where and when the rehearsal actually happens. "The couple has the freedom to host it at a time and location that makes the most sense for that weekend," she adds.

Does the Rehearsal Have to Be at the Venue?

Although it is ideal to hold the rehearsal at the actual venue, Sarah Chianese, owner, planner and executive chef at Mangia and Enjoy!, points out that it can take place at a different venue than the actual venue. "So long as the details involve any movement leading into the ceremony, the rehearsal can take place anywhere that the planner or coordinator can create a 'mock-up' of the space," she says. "A good planner or coordinator in charge of the wedding rehearsal will have clever ways of reproducing the designated areas where everyone involved enters from, in place throughout the various aspects of the ceremony, and where each participant is expected to go following the ceremony."

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What to Do if Venue Isn't Available for Rehearsal

While it may seem like a significant setback if your wedding venue is unable to host your wedding rehearsal, there are various alternative locations where you can still have a successful and meaningful rehearsal. Here are some creative suggestions that can ensure your rehearsal runs smoothly, even if your original venue is out of the picture.

Find a Separate Rehearsal Venue

You can use The Knot Vendor Marketplace to find a diverse array of alternative options for a rehearsal. With detailed vendor profiles, reviews and contact information readily available, The Knot simplifies the process of finding the ideal space to rehearse and prepare for your special day. For example, if you're hosting a rehearsal dinner, that venue may be a good option for your wedding rehearsal (space permitting).

See if You Can Visit Your Venue on an Off Day

Colton Simmons, owner of Colton Simmons Photography, recommends filming a walkthrough of the ceremony location while you narrate where different events may occur and where they will need to walk during the precession. "This video can be a vital resource for your family and friends to review during your rehearsal so they better understand what you are trying to explain," he says.

Check If a Morning Rehearsal Will Work

While the rehearsal usually takes place the afternoon or evening before the wedding, we're making the case for hosting it in the morning. So if your wedding is Saturday evening, the rehearsal would occur Friday morning. Your venue may be more available during that time, and you won't feel the time pressure of rushing to your rehearsal dinner afterwards. And, oh, a rehearsal brunch can be a fun twist on tradition.

Creating some simple printouts and diagrams can assist your crew in preparing visually for the wedding ceremony, notes Simmons. "This can help them visualize how the chairs and altar may be set up and where they are expected to be," he says. "Also, adding a bulleted list of the order of events and pairings of who will be walking with who helps ensure no stone is left unturned."

Consider Skipping the Rehearsal

If your ceremony is very simple and straightforward, Simmons suggests simply opting out of a rehearsal altogether. "For more intimate weddings where there isn't a wedding party, you can review the details with your partner and officiant privately beforehand and execute them on the day of," he says. "This will prepare you enough and not require you to actually be on-site to be prepared."

Where to Rehearse If Your Venue Is Unavailable

When faced with the unexpected challenge of an unavailable venue for your wedding rehearsal, here are some alternative locations to ensure a smooth and memorable prelude to your big day.

If the Ceremony Occurs in a Field…

It's important to rehearse it in a field of similar size so that the conditions are as close as possible to the actual ceremony site, notes Chianese. "The planner or person coordinating the ceremony the day of should literally map out the same size section to mock the actual ceremony site," she says. "This mock-up would include the distance the couple needs to walk from wherever they are coming from, the aisles where anyone is expected to proceed, where the guests are seated or where the standing area will be, and the actual placements of where everyone involved is designated to be in place during the ceremony."

If the Ceremony Is Slated to Occur Indoors…

Chianese suggests finding a suitable location with the same, or similar size, as close to the actual venue is ideal. "If it is a uniquely sized or shaped location, a good idea would be to head to a school gym or similar-sized great room where the planner or coordinator could map out all designated areas involved in the ceremony, as well as marked spots where each member involved will land in place during the exchanging of vows," she says.

If Your Officiant Isn't Available…

Often, the officiant or celebrant may not be available during the wedding rehearsal. In this case, Chianese recommends enlisting the help of a stand-in and having your officiant provide clear notes of instruction. "Traditionally, the role of the officiant or celebrant is fairly simple, so it may be apparent, yet it is still a good idea to have the person stand in so others are aware of all the details," she says. "With more unique experiences taking hold, the officiant or celebrant may play a more significant role in a uniquely interactive role, in which case it's best to invite that person to the rehearsal for the best bet towards a successful and smooth ceremony."

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