How to Direct a Wedding

Four Parts:Meeting With the CouplePlanning the CeremonyPlanning the ReceptionDirecting the Day of the Wedding

Directing a wedding involves considerable planning and creativity, helping to make a couple's special day that much easier. Many couples will have lots of specific ideas about how to structure their wedding, but some may not and will appreciate having you to facilitate things. Good wedding directors listen to the couple, make creative decisions in planning the ceremony and the reception, and help to make the day of the wedding go as smoothly as possible.

Part 1
Meeting With the Couple

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    Define your role with the couple. Some wedding directors plan the entire wedding, from start to finish, while others come in on the day of the wedding and run the show. Let the couple take on whatever responsibilities they'd like to be a part of, and take responsibility for the rest of the planning yourself.
    • It's important to offer your guidance and to freely share your opinions, but remember that the decisions are ultimately up to the couple. If you think it's a terrible idea to try to combine a hog roast with a winter wedding, you may explain what you think will be challenging about it, but accept the couple's decision.
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    Schedule regular consultations with the couple. If you're going to be planning a wedding from start to finish with a couple, it's important to learn as much as you can about the couple getting married. You'll need to spend a bit of time with the couple to make sure that your decisions and plans for the service and the reception will please the couple.
    • At the very least, you'll meet privately three times with the couple, and stay in touch throughout the process. You should meet once to get to know the couple, another to update them and present them with options, and a few weeks before the reception to go over the schedule and plans.
    • Meet informally at first, going out for coffee or dinner to learn as much about the couple as possible. Find out how they met, what ambitions they have for their marriage, and other personal details. This can help you make decisions.[1]
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    Bring suggestions. A good wedding planner should be knowledgeable about good reception halls, churches, caterers, and other services associated with getting a wedding together. If the couple asks if you have a good vegan caterer in mind, you should be able to come up with a list of five options very quickly. This is part of your job.
    • This should be the bulk of your job: doing the research. It's very important to get your name out there as a wedding planner and make contacts in the catering and the wedding business.
    • As you try out different places, take lots of pictures and secure samples if possible, so the couple will be able to make an informed decision. Leave your card at each business.
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    Write up a tentative plan together. Once you've got some idea of what might work for the couple's wedding, present them with a variety of options before you move forward. For food, decoration, possible venues, music, and other options, you want to provide the couple with a list of about 3-5 options to choose from.
    • In some cases, couples will have lots of opinions, while other couples will be happier to let you do the load of the work and make the decisions for them. Not everyone will be the same.
    • Come up with a few "complete packages." Maybe a particular caterer, a particular color scheme and flower arrangement, and a particular band you think might go well together for this couple. Go ahead and group the different options into packages the couple can choose from, to make it easier.
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    Schedule and organize other events the couple requests. Your job will be defined in part by the couple whose wedding you're directing. If you need to schedule and organize a pre-rehearsal cocktail party, or a post-dinner reception somewhere, you need to find out and schedule these things for the couple, or decide together what additional events, other than the ceremony, will be scheduled. All of the following are common wedding events:
    • Rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
    • Pre or post-rehearsal cocktails
    • Photography session
    • Pre-wedding brunch
    • Tour of wedding facility
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    Stay in touch. Couples can start to get antsy as the day approaches, and you might be inundated with phone calls, or you might never hear from the couple until a few days for the wedding. Every couple will be different. Either way, it's a good idea to stay in touch with the couple and let them know how things are progressing.[2]
    • Eventually, you'll get to the point of no return, at which you won't be able to make changes anymore. At this point, make sure the couple knows that it's too late to have a change of heart about the type of food that will be prepared, or whatever the case may be.

Part 2
Planning the Ceremony

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    Scout appropriate locations. Wedding ceremonies generally take place either outdoors, in pastoral settings, or indoors in a church of the bride and groom's choosing. Couples may have very specific locations in mind, or may only have a very general idea of a type of location, making your input critical.
    • Indoor weddings need to be matched to the religion and specific denomination of the couple. You wouldn't want to book a protestant couple to be wed at a Catholic church, or the service would be somewhat surprising. In some cases, couples may want to be wed at other types of indoor venues, like a historical-register home, a local dining hall, or other aesthetically beautiful historical property.
    • Outdoor weddings can take place at a variety of locations, including beaches, on private wooded properties, apple orchards, wineries, or even in State or National Parks. Talk to the couple about their ideal outdoor setting and come up with a variety of local options. Ideally, the property will also offer an indoor venue for the reception.
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    Secure an officiant. Couples may have an idea of who they would like to perform the wedding, or they may not. Depending on where the wedding will be booked, you might have easy access to an officiant for the wedding in the minister at the specific church, or you may need to find one.
    • Generally, the officiant will be chosen by the couple. If they have no leads, you might inquire about their religious background and call local churches to request a consultation with the couple, to select potential officiants.
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    Suggest music options. Most wedding services involve some kind of music, and song selection and variety of performance can be an important way of adding pageantry and whimsy to the proceedings. It can be hard to know where to start for first-time couples, so it's important to have a good list of suggestions in terms of song and performance selection.
    • String quartets and solo instrumentalists are probably the most common live-performance options for weddings, and many performers advertise their wedding performance services commercially. Recorded music is also a good and cheap option.
    • Generally, a service will consist of prelude music, which is played during the procession, and then music played during the bride's arrival, which is generally "Bridal Chorus" by Wagner (commonly known as "Here comes the bride").[3] Other common wedding music includes instrumental versions of the following songs:
      • Arlen & Harburg's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
      • Handel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba"
      • Mendelssohn's "Wedding March"
      • Pachelbel's "Canon in D"
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    Suggest florists and arrangements. Most weddings will have seasonal flowers that are professionally arranged by a local florist. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the florists in the area, as well as scout their wedding packages and pricing options to provide to the couple for selection.
    • Discuss color schemes for the bridal party's attire with the couple, to help them decide on complementary color schemes for the floral arrangements.
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    Suggest photographers. Wedding photographers aren't difficult to find, but it's a good idea to research all the available options and be able to provide a pricing guide for the couple to choose between. The quality of the photographers, the reliability of the photographer, and the professionalism are all important.
    • Spend some time with representatives of each studio on the phone to get a sense of who does the best business, and recommend that photographer to the couple.
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    Visit the wedding location prior to the wedding. It's important for the director to be familiar with the set-up of the location or locations that will be involved the day of the wedding. You need to make sure the caterers know where to be and when to be there, when the building opens up for business, and how much seating to prepare for.
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    Coordinate the rehearsal. The rehearsal is when the bridal party does a quick run-through of the ceremony, mostly focusing on the processional. This can be a nerve-calmer for the couple, but it's most important for you in nailing the timing of everything and making sure that the wedding will get off without a hitch. It's your job to organize everyone with the officiant, coordinating the music and other scheduling concerns of the ceremony, if necessary.
    • Practice the timing of sending party members down the aisle and ensure that each member knows exactly where to stand.
    • Provide everyone with your cell phone number the day of the wedding to answer any last-minute problems that come up. Be available.

Part 3
Planning the Reception

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    Scout and suggest appropriate locations. Wedding receptions often take place in adjacent properties to the ceremony, sometimes within the same building, or they may take place at a residence, or other type of larger venue, depending on the size of the wedding that you're directing.[4] Generally speaking, receptions will be held indoors, in large-sized banquet halls, and will feature catering and dancing, so you'll need to find ideal locations for holding such an event. Research local:
    • Banquet halls
    • Union halls
    • Churches with large fellowship halls
    • Historical properties on the registry
    • Wineries
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    Suggest specific caterers and meal options. Most receptions will consist of a meal, some informal comments, desert, and dancing. Once the dancing starts, your job is mostly done, so the meal is the last big thing you've really got to make sure gets off without a hitch. Talk to the couple about their ideal wedding meal and discuss the possible options for presenting it.
    • Research local caterers and provide meal plans and pricing options for the couple. try to provide a variety of upscale and more affordable selections. Simple chicken dishes might be fine for some couples, while others will want more elaborate fare.
    • Many receptions are organized buffett style, allowing guests to serve themselves, while others prefer a more formal dining option, with waiters. This will mean more coordination for you, but a more formal experience for the reception.
    • You'll also likely need to research local bakeries and wedding cake makers for the cake, if necessary. It's a good idea to go over sizing, flavor, and design options for the wedding cake.
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    Secure tent or awning and seating if necessary. If the reception is to be outdoors, it's usually common to use circus-style tents from a local vendor, which can be set up about 24-hours ahead of time on the property where the reception will take place. It will be your job to find covering and seating sufficient enough for the entire party and guest list.
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    Suggest music options. Generally, receptions are presided over by live bands or DJs who specialize in playing music for after-dinner partying. Not every couple will have a strong opinion about the entertainment, so it's a good idea to research local wedding DJs with a tasteful repertoire of tunes who are experienced at entertaining an all-ages crowd of wedding guests.
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    Make the necessary arrangements. Once you've got the couple's go-ahead, start scheduling everything. Call the caterer, the florist, and the other wedding hires and make sure everything's in order for the event.
    • It's usually a good idea to keep the notes for each wedding that you plan in a separate three-ring binder so you can keep everything straight. You don't want the florist from one wedding showing up to the chapel of another.

Part 4
Directing the Day of the Wedding

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    Meet with the bride and groom a few weeks before the wedding. Find out how many bridal party members are attending, and how many members of the groom's party will be attending. Create a master guest list, or ask for one to be provided. Discuss seating arrangements with the bride and groom, and consider your options for additional seating, if required.
    • If you're not planing the wedding itself, but will be directing the day-of-wedding operations, you need to learn as much as possible about what's already been planned, as well as the bride and groom's desires for their special day.
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    Create a master schedule for the wedding day. Discuss the timeline with the bride and groom once it is complete and adjust the timeline during rehearsal, if necessary. When does everyone need to line up? When will the wedding start? Approximately how long will it take? These are questions you will need to be in charge of the day of the wedding.[5]
    • Set times for the bridal party to arrive at the wedding and coordinate the schedule for photo sessions with the photographer.
    • To keep things as stress free as possible, you usually don't want to be mixing caterers, florists, photographers, and guests all at the same time. Try to space out the time you'll need to organize each thing separately.
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    Distribute schedules to members of the wedding party. It's your job to make sure everyone knows where they'll need to be and when they'll need to be there, not just the bride or the groom's. You should be the face of the operation, the person who everyone will come to with questions, so be proactive at the rehearsal and the day of the wedding.
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    Be the first to get there and the last to leave. It's your job to oversee everything on the day of the wedding, from the arrival of the caterers and the band, to the setting out of chairs, to the floral arrangements, to the wedding processional.
    • Delegate tasks as needed. You can't do everything yourself and it's likely that you'll need some help getting everyone on the same page.
    • One often-forgotten but critical aspect of wedding direction is coordinating parking. If the wedding takes place in two different locations, you'll need to make sure there's enough parking at both, and that everyone knows where and where not to park their car.
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    Coordinate catering. It will be your job to contact and schedule the caterers and other service workers for the wedding about a week before the wedding, and to help them out with anything they need the day of. Be available to handle practical concerns as they arise with the catering crew.
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    Keep things moving. Different weddings will have a variety of different events happening during the reception, and it can be difficult to fit it all in. You want to be gentle, but firm, in getting the bridal party to move forward with the scheduled plans, to make sure everyone can get out of the rented space on time.
    • Try to schedule things with a 30 minute swing window, because you don't want to have to rule over the party with an iron fist. It's supposed to be a party, and people will want to chat and celebrate with the couple.
    • If something can't fit into the schedule, leave it up to the couple whether or not they want to abandon it.


  • Wear a dressy, but comfortable, outfit on the wedding day that will still enable you to run errands.
  • Keep a three-ring binder or notebook of all notes you take about the wedding details.


  • Keep in mind that the wedding still belongs to the bride and groom. Do not make any major decisions without consulting them first.
  • Even if a mishap happens, it is the wedding director’s job not to panic. Smooth things out in the best way possible without adding stress to the bride.

Article Info

Categories: Ceremony & Reception