Ceremony Length: A Guide

When it comes to your ceremony there are no hard and fast rules about how long it should take, and what is normal for a ceremony length.  Less than fifteen minutes and your guests might feel a little short changed.  Longer than 40 minutes and they might start to ‘zone out’.  Typically weddings last 20-30 minutes.  However, I believe that the right answer is that the ceremony should be long enough to be right for you.

When you are planning the length of ceremony, there are few things you might want to consider:

  • Are there cultural elements that you would like to incorporate?  How much time do they require to be culturally appropriate?
  • Are there any rituals or customs that you would like to observe?
  • How many (if any) readings would you like to have?
  • Who else do you want to actively participate in the ceremony and what will his, her or their roles be?
  • Are children, elderly or unwell guests coming?  Little people can get ‘fidgety’ when they are required to stand or sit still for prolonged periods of time, and standing can be hard for elder guests or those with an illness
  • Will guests have to stand? In the hot sun?
  • What do you both want?  How can you bring these elements together?

Don’t forget that it’s also important to consider how long your guests will have to wait once the ceremony has finished and prior to the reception starting, if you are having one.

If you are in a position to, think about providing an activity for your guests if they will have a lot of time to kill.  Finger foods are always a good idea, especially if the bar has been opened. This will allow your guests time to mix, mingle and have fun while they wait for the reception to begin.