It’s really important to have a detailed schedule with specific timings on your wedding day, so you know what’s what!
When thinking about the plan for the day you’ll want to know how long a wedding ceremony typically lasts so you leave ample time for the whole day and evening.
Today there are many different types of ceremonies available to you, and you’ll find that pastors, celebrants, and officiants often have different styles for the ceremony that will affect the duration.
The best advice we can give is to talk to the person who is doing your ceremony and ask them directly, they will have their own way of working and will be the best person to guide you on this.
If you have not decided what type of ceremony you are having yet then here is a handy guide to the different types of ceremonies and how long each may last…
What’s the Typical Ceremony Duration?
You’ll find that most wedding ceremonies typically last around the 20-30 minute mark.
However, the exact length of your wedding ceremony depends on whether you are having a religious ceremony or not. It will also depend on how many different elements you choose to include such as readings, vows, symbolic actions, etc.
Whilst some people view the ceremony as one of the more “boring parts” of a wedding day, we think that the ceremony is truly the heart of any wedding.
A really heartfelt and upbeat wedding ceremony will express the love you share and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Religious Wedding Ceremonies
Religious ceremonies typically run longer than non-religious weddings, and can often be more formal.
Jewish weddings that include multiple readings or rituals can easily last up to 45 minutes. Catholic weddings are in a similar time frame.
Methodist, Baptist, and other Protestant weddings that include periods of prayer and blessings last 30 minutes at least.
But wait for it; a Hindu wedding typically lasts for three days! We’re serious! Several different rituals happen over these three days, with the ceremony normally occurring on the last day and lasting up to two hours.
In short, an experienced religious wedding officiant will be able to estimate the duration of your ceremony, based on the elements you choose to include.
Non-Religious Wedding Ceremonies
For a non-religious (or secular) ceremony you have much more control over every element of proceedings, including the duration.
The only real requirement is that each of you agrees to marry the other and that your officiant pronounces you as a married couple; the rest can be shaped around your individual wishes.
You can choose the number of readings and poems you include, and you can decide whether or not to write your own vows.
Writing personal vows is a really lovely way to express the intimacy and unique bond that you share. If you choose to include these, then the ceremony is likely going to take a little longer but will be a beautiful and memorable highlight!
Some celebrants will write and deliver an in-depth story of your relationship, expressing how your lives became intertwined, how you became engaged, etc. This is a lovely way to make your ceremony really personal and remind your guests of the journey you have been on together to get to your wedding day.
What’s Included in a Typical Ceremony?
Of course, the breakdown of a ceremony will depend on your family traditions, your religious leanings (or lack thereof), and whether you want to go for something really different. But in general, a typical wedding ceremony will include:
- An introduction to the day and marriage in general
- Readings from guest speakers
- A group hymn or song
- The couple’s story
- Exchange of rings
- Pronouncement of the couple
- Entrance and exit music
How Many Readings Should We Have?
A typical ceremony has two or three readings included within it. The more readings you choose, the longer your ceremony will become.
It’s really lovely to be asked to perform a reading at a wedding so think about who will do the best job and who it will mean the most to.
How Can We Make Our Ceremony More Fun?
There are lots of ways to make your ceremony stand out, particularly if you are having a non-religious service.
For the readings, you can really think outside the box. There are literally thousands of wedding readings on the internet, but why not choose something different?
These could be lines from your favorite film, book, or poem. Or you might ask your reader to write something personal.
You could even print out song lyrics and surprise your guests with an upbeat group song – (this is a really good idea if you have a particularly musical group of guests!)
- Other symbolic actions to think about might involve:
- A toast of your favorite drink (if your venue allows this.)
- The lighting of candles
- The passing of flowers,
- Words of support from your parents.
At Greek weddings, the couple smashes plates after their vows to ward off evil spirits, while some couples decided to “Jump the Broom” to seal their union (the broom symbolizes different things in different cultures.)
A pagan ritual that is often adapted for modern ceremonies is Hand-fasting – this is basically a symbolic action where the celebrant ties the hands of the couple with two pieces of meaningful material.
A few words are said and the hands are then pulled away from each other to form a knot. This knot represents the two families being bound together. Did you know that this is where the phrase ‘tying the knot’ originates?!
Other Factors to Consider for Your Wedding Ceremony Schedule
Remember that your wedding ceremony timeline will affect the timing of the rest of your wedding day, so leave enough time for someone (often the bride) to be fashionably late!
You really don’t want to hurry the ceremony, so you will need to leave enough time for all your wedding guests to be seated and comfortable – this can take longer than you think if people haven’t seen each other for a while!
The bridal party entrance only happens once, and it’s really important not to rush this part. Bridesmaids and ushers should be advised to take it slowly.
If the bride is entering separately from her groom then this should not be rushed; it’s a moment to savor forever, so enjoy a slow walk down that aisle and remember to look up!
The most important thing of all to remember is to ENJOY your wedding ceremony. Take your time. Try to put your nerves to one side and actually listen to the amazing words that are being said. Feel the love in the room!
This ceremony is only going to happen once, and no matter how long it is, you want to remember it forever.