Updated on: Jul 15, 2023
There are several ways in which you can have a wedding, and whichever way you decide will help you answer the question, "how long does a wedding ceremony last?" We’ll go through the normal wedding components and around how long each should last. We will also discuss some things that may influence your wedding start time so that you and your spouse-to-be have the smoothest wedding possible!
How Long Does a Wedding Ceremony Last? - Components of a Wedding
The length of a wedding ceremony depends on how many components you choose to include and how much time you put into each component of the ceremony. Most religious ceremonies follow a standard order, and therefore, those ceremonies tend to run longer (around an hour) than secular weddings. In secular weddings, the couple has the freedom to choose the components and the length of each one. Therefore, these ceremonies tend to run shorter than religious ceremonies (typically 30 minutes).
1. Seating of the guests
This part of the ceremony can either be a formal or informal part of your ceremony. Your guests can seat themselves or they can process in with musical accompaniment. Either way, this section of the wedding will not take up much time. If you prefer a formal procession of the guests, add in about 3-5 minutes, depending on the number of guests you have. Otherwise, your guests will be seated by the time your ceremony will begin, and you do not have to account for the time.
The parents of the bride and wedding party will process down the aisle with flowers, with the bride following behind them. Oftentimes, there is musical accompaniment during the processional. Many choose classic and romantic processional songs, but others choose to walk down the aisle to songs that may have more meaning in their relationship instead of the classic songs. This component of the wedding should last around 5 minutes, depending on how large the bridal party is.
There is usually a welcome offered to the guests by the officiant of the wedding. If it is a religious wedding, then the priest may say a prayer to begin the ceremony. This part of the wedding should not last longer than a few minutes.
In religious ceremonies, readings from religious texts are often read, such as texts from the Bible or the Torah. However, if it is a secular wedding, then the couple may choose to use other readings like poems by their favorite authors that either is significant in their relationship or convey the meaning of love. The readings are not required for secular weddings, however. This portion of the ceremony may last around 5-10 minutes, depending on the length of the reading.
In many religious weddings, Catholic weddings, for example, couples are not allowed to write their own vows for the wedding. With the standard vows in a religious wedding, the couple has no control over the time, so the vows should last around 10 minutes. However, with a secular ceremony, the couple can write their own vows. The time may vary, as a couple can quite literally say, “I love you” to each other for their vows or write a 10-page essay. However, the vows should last a few minutes.
6. Pronouncement and Ring Exchange
The couple is married, and the rings are exchanged. They also exchange a kiss to make it official! This portion should not take longer than 2 minutes.
The wedding ceremony is over! The newlyweds and the wedding party walk down the aisle with a song playing in the background. This component does not take long, as the happy couple’s excitement should lead them to almost race down the aisle.
How Long Does a Wedding Ceremony Last? - Influences on Start Time
It’s important to make sure that nothing conflicts with your wedding start time. If you know that something might conflict with the start time, you and your spouse should be prepared ahead of time.
8. The Weather
The weather is constantly changing. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, make sure you plan. Have a backup venue just in case the weather is not in your favor on your special day. Even if you have a backup plan intact, your start time may be affected by unexpected weather. Remember to plan to avoid super long delays!
9. Getting Ready
It’s your wedding day, and you want to look good (obviously!). You should account for the length of time getting ready will take you and your spouse. While a groom may take about five minutes to get ready, the bride will need around...maybe six hours to get ready. Accounting for this time will be crucial to start your wedding on time!
Many venues have restricted time periods in which weddings can occur. Make sure your expected start and end times fit within your venue’s requirements. You don’t want to be run out of the venue because you extended your stay!
11. Taking Pictures
Taking wedding pictures with your wedding party is a coveted part of the day. If you are having an afternoon wedding and would like sunset pictures, having the ceremony end no later than 1.5 hours before sunset is perfect. However, how beautiful the sunset is on that particular day will be up to Mother Nature herself. It is also up to the couple whether or not they think it’s best to take pictures before or after the wedding.
12. First Look
Are you and your partner doing a first look before the wedding begins? If so, take this into account because it should take about 5-10 minutes, depending on how much time you two wish to spend together. If you two wish to simply glance at each other, expect the First Look to take less than 5 minutes. If you two want to exchange your vows in private, which is common, then expect it to take upwards of 10 minutes.
How Long Does a Wedding Ceremony Last? - Bonus Tips
13. Shorter Ceremony for More Party Time
Plan a shorter ceremony if you and your spouse want to have a longer reception. If you want to get straight to the dancing and partying, tell your officiant to speed it up - the karaoke machine is calling your name! Also, if you are having the reception and ceremony in the same venue, then you may be limited on time; therefore, every minute counts - make it worth it! To make sure you are sticking to your budget, follow our financial plan and checklist we've made for weddings!
14. Time to Pick Up Presents
Allow yourself around a half hour to pick up presents after the reception. Although this task does not necessarily have to be done by the newlyweds, there will be lots of gifts that need to be brought home from the venue. There will likely be a clean-up crew at the venue, but the newlyweds’ presents will need to be picked up separately.
15. Take Notes on Wedding Lengths
Take note of how long weddings are that you attend, and see which length you like the best. For example, if you attend a wedding that is 4 hours long total and then a wedding that is 2 hours long total, compare the two and see which one you like more based on length. If you feel like there can be a nice in-between length, then make your wedding 3 hours! Feel it out!
While there may not be many components to a wedding ceremony, it is important to stay safe in these unprecedented times. A wedding should last around 30 minutes to an hour, but remember to stay safe while you’re partying it up! Have a good time, but make sure you’re not losing track of your social awareness (or social distancing) while doing so. Also, if you are looking for local vendors for your wedding check out the rest of our website!
Written by Sydney Pattison; Contributor: Jack Leduc