How Long is a Wedding Ceremony?

Story Amour
Written by Story Amour · Posted in Advice » Timelines Last Updated April 1, 2023 · minute read

Let’s be honest, the biggest part of your wedding day is the wedding ceremony. In most cases, it’s the legal binding of two people in marriage. It’s the time in which you declare your love will go on for eternity. It’s the time you kiss for the first time… Ok perhaps that might have happened already… In all seriousness, we absolutely love the ceremony part of your day, so romantic and full of emotion and joy. It’s a truly genuine and heartwarming moment between yourselves as a couple. Everything you have done together so far, has come down to this moment. No pressure!

bride smiles at groom during wedding ceremony

How Long is a Wedding Ceremony?

With that in mind, it’s important to understand how long a wedding ceremony is, specifically what’s included, the general outline and average length of each individual aspect. 

Over the course of this article, we explain everything you need to know about wedding ceremonies and how long yours is likely to last. We will breakdown and explore what is typically included, allowing you to make a decision on what aspects are most important for you to include. 

What is a wedding ceremony?

We always think that the best place to start is to explain exactly what we mean when we use the term “wedding ceremony”.

The American Marriage Ministry defines a wedding ceremony as “the ritual by which two people get married” [1], and for the purpose of this article, that’s exactly the definition we are going to follow. We understand that wedding ceremonies come in all shapes and sizes, varying with culture, religion, traditions and general beliefs, dislikes and likes. Heck, you can even get married without actually having a wedding. No matter what type of ceremony you are having, you still need to know how long to budget in terms of time.

Typically included in a wedding ceremony

No matter your religion or beliefs, generally a wedding ceremony will include several crucial elements. While the precise names of these elements may change depending on your choices, or even the importance within your chosen beliefs, it’s likely they will still form part of your ceremony celebration. 


“Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the arrival of the Bride.” A truly epic moment from every wedding ceremony. The procession traditionally includes the announcement and entrance of the wedding party and all the key people from the wedding. This can include the bride and groom, bridesmaids, parents etc. 

No matter how much importance you put on this particular element, it’s likely to take at least a few minutes. As with everything, it’s very dependent on how many people are involved. Announcing just the bride? 2 minutes should be fine. Announcing the full wedding party including 37 aunts, uncles and long lost cousins? An hour should do it…

Average length: 2-10 minutes (depending on number of announcements)

The Welcome

Most traditional wedding ceremonies will be led by a wedding officiant. Typically this comes in the form of a priest, rabbi or generally a person with the legal capacity to confirm your marriage. 

At the start of the ceremony, the officiant will likely welcome yourselves and your guests to the marriage. It’s common to make a few jokes, but also considerately explain the importance of marriage and, as a result, the marriage ceremony. It’s also quite common for them to explain the order of events. 

Average length: 5-10 minutes


Everyone loves a good reading when it comes to wedding ceremonies. Whether it’s something unique to your wedding written by a close friend, a religious reading from the bible or maybe a witty anecdote shared by your uncle. We highly recommend a member of your wedding party doing a reading, it’s a great way to break up the formalities and will live long in the memory as you relive the moment in years to come. 

Readings are a great way to pad out your ceremony, but also flexible enough that you can remove, to shorten the length, should you need. 

The Story Amour team always recommends 2 readings, but don’t be afraid to go as little as one, as big day four or just skip altogether.

Average length: 10-20 minutes (highly dependent on number of readings)

Your Wedding Vows

Yeh, your vows are kind of a big deal. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t adjust your vows to suit the length of ceremony you require. 

Many more formal or religious ceremonies will require very specific aspects to be followed, however, if you have more of a civil ceremony, you can easily customize. Provided you include the lawful elements, the sky is once again the limit. Just remember to exchange the wedding rings and you will be all good. 

Average length: 10-20 minutes (can be customized)

The First Kiss

“You may now kiss the bride”, “Woooo”. Pretty epic, let’s be honest. Be sure to include this in your ceremony no matter what. It’s both a truly joyous moment, but also results in amazing photos. Just be sure to hire an awesome wedding photographer and sit back patiently as you wait for your photos to be delivered.

Average length: 30 seconds (depending on passion levels)

couple has their first kiss during the wedding ceremony

The First Kiss

Unity Ceremony

We don’t want to just label this a religious ceremony element, but to be quite honest, it’s where it can be most commonly found. Think, lighting of candles, dancing around a sacred fire, or, perhaps most famously, smashing the glass. Yes, that’s a unity ceremony. 

Average length: Unknown (dependent on religious beliefs)

Final Blessings

The penultimate moment of the ceremony, just before you walk off into the sunset together. Usually the officiant will say a few final words, wishing the couple luck in the marriage together. If they haven’t already, they will also announce you as the new Mr & Mrs and more than likely offer some words of wisdom for your future lives together. 

Average length: 5-10 minutes

The Recessional

The big finale, the moment you walk together hand in hand as a newly married couple. Your life will never be the same. Let the good times roll. Ok, a little dramatic maybe but still this is a massive moment from your wedding ceremony. It doesn’t matter how long it lasts. Heck, milk it if you want. This is all about the two of you. Just watch out for the confetti!

Average length: 1-2 minutes 

couple leaves wedding ceremony on newlyweds

The Recession

How long is the average wedding ceremony?

Now you know what’s included, it’s time to understand how long a wedding ceremony is. Well, the average wedding ceremony lasts around 30 minutes however it’s not uncommon to last as long as 1 hour. Provided you don’t go too much shorter or stretch it out way over 1 hour, you can’t go far wrong.

We will be honest, wedding ceremony lengths are very flexible and very dependent, not just on what’s included, but also the length of what’s included. Having one reading for 5 minutes is of course going to have a smaller impact than a wedding ceremony that has a 20 minute reading. About a 15 minute impact to be exact… Math skills right there. 

Below we have put together typical elements, similar to above, with the timings calculated.

  • Entrance/Procession – 2 minutes
  • Welcome Speech – 5 minutes
  • Readings – 10 minutes
  • Vows – 10 minutes
  • First Kiss – 30 seconds
  • Unity Ceremony – 10 minutes for estimate
  • Final Blessings – 5 minutes
  • Exit – 2 minutes 
  • Total = 45 minutes roughly 

How long is a church ceremony?

Church ceremonies are still one of the most popular types of ceremony. They tend to last quite a bit longer than a civil ceremony. While a church ceremony can be tailored, you are probably looking at upwards of 45 minutes from start to finish. To be safe it’s best to allocate at least one hour. 

It goes without saying, the exact length depends on your religion. Catholic weddings may take longer than Christian ceremonies for example. Always talk to your ceremony officiant before the wedding to ensure you are allocating enough time. The last thing you want is to have to skip the canapes and bubbly all because you didn’t leave enough time for those precious nuptials.

Related Reading: How Long is a Catholic Wedding?

How long is a non-religious ceremony?

This is a little bit of a tricky one to answer, mainly because the variance in length of a non-religious ceremony can be enormous. If we are strictly talking about your standard civil ceremony, 25-45 minutes should be plenty of time.

The exact length will depend on variable aspects such as how many readings and how long, whether or not you’ve done your own vows and generally how long the officiant is taking with their speeches. With non-religious ceremonies being so flexible, it’s hard to determine the exact length.

Story Amour team tip: If you are having multiple readings and/or vows; try reading them out and timing how long it takes. While this won’t give you an exact time, it will give you a ballpark figure to work off. 

family of couple watch wedding ceremony

Non-Religious Wedding Ceremony

FAQs about wedding ceremony times

While pinning the exact ceremony length down is not the easiest, if you stick to a rough estimate of 30 minutes to 1 hour, you should be able to plan your wedding day accordingly. That being said, we’ve put together a list of the most commonly asked questions from our former couples. This should act as a fantastic guide to navigating those somewhat difficult ceremony questions.

Is a 10-15 minute ceremony too short?

To keep the answer short. Yes, 10-15 minutes is likely too short. We probably took part in over 2000 wedding ceremonies and I believe the shortest we witnessed was about 20 minutes. It’s not so much that you can’t squeeze everything into 10-15 minutes, it’s more that it just doesn’t leave enough wriggle room. Even little parts like the person who is doing the reading, spending a little longer to get back to their seat, can push over that 10-15 minute limit. 

20 minutes would be the absolute minimum. This would likely include just the bare essentials: Entrance, Welcome, Vows and Exit.

How long should a wedding officiant speech be?

In our opinion, if you are having a civil ceremony, your officiant should spend no longer than 10 minutes with their welcome speech. Remember, this day is your day, not their day. Don’t be shy in asking your officiant to trim down their speech length in order for you to include parts that will mean more. If you ask 100 brides, it’s like that 95% of those brides would say they preferred a reading from a close family member or friend, rather than the speech from the officiant. 

Remember, if you are having a religious ceremony, it’s likely that the officiant will have to include certain religious texts and speeches as part of the ceremony. While it is sometimes possible to trim these down, you are best discussing this with your officiant or a member of the clergy at your church/venue. 

What time should the wedding ceremony start?

Choosing the ceremony start time is a decision that needs to be made by looking at the  day as a whole. There are several considerations you need to make in order to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Before any decisions are taken, make sure to check with your wedding officiant/wedding ceremony venue just in case they have a very specific timeline which you need to follow. Provided they are flexible, the following areas should be considered.

Factors to consider for ceremony start time

  • Time of year – If you are getting married in winter you should aim to hold the wedding ceremony earlier due to the limited amount of light throughout the day. This should ensure you aren’t losing light for the important festivities later in the day.
  • Type of wedding – Linking to the above, if you are having an outdoor wedding in a marquee, you are going to want to have as much as the wedding in the light. However, if you are in a more formal venue, light may be less of an issue.
  • Distance your guests are traveling – If you are having a large number of guests traveling a fair distance to reach your celebration, you shouldn’t hold your ceremony too early. You should allow enough room to make sure everyone can make it in time.
  • Banquet/Wedding Breakfast Start Time – Similar to your wedding ceremony officiants, your wedding venue liaison may have a strict schedule that you have to follow for your wedding breakfast and later festivities. 
  • Personal Preferences – Are you an early bird or a night owl? It’s your wedding day meaning you should choose a ceremony start time that suits you. Don’t think you will be able to wrestle yourself out of bed for 12pm? Choose a 3pm start time. Just remember to liaise with wedding planners beforehand.
  • Your Wedding Vendors – As with pretty much every decision you will need to make on your wedding day, we always recommend consulting with your wedding vendors first. If you’ve booked a photographer that specializes in dreamy midday sun group shots, shoot early. However, if you’ve booked a super cool night time flash photographer, feel free to hold the ceremony later.
  • Elderly Guests – The final aspect to consider is the age of your guests. If you have either ceremony members of the wedding party that are a little bit on the older side, we suggest getting the ceremony done as early as possible. The last thing you want is Grandma Jane snoring away as you say your wedding vows. 

Start Time Suggestion

We tend to be morning people in the office. With that in mind you are always going to see us suggesting you start everything a little bit earlier than you maybe are thinking. Personally, we believe that a morning ceremony around 11.30am is always the way to go as it reduces the opportunity for stress later in the day. The more time you have your wedding reception, the more flexible you can be when it comes to photos, games, food etc.

To summarize, there is no specific start time for your wedding ceremony. Just consider your guests, vendors and personal preferences. 

What are the most commonly skipped parts of the ceremony?

Perhaps you are planning a little bit of a shorter wedding ceremony, but are unsure how to slim it all down and speed things up? No problem, below we have put together a list of the more commonly skipped elements. Remember if you are having a particularly religious ceremony, you may be unable to leave them out.

Religious Traditions

If you aren’t getting married in a church or in a religious institute, the first element to be removed should be religious. While a civil ceremony has usually gone out of its way to remove the religious aspects (we’ve been told to even remove candles before), if you are having a more customized service of your own making, we recommend starting by removing any religious aspects. 

Unity Ceremony

Get rid! None of that lovey dovey stuff. Get the knot tied and let’s get to the bar! We joke, we joke. Or do we…

A unity ceremony can be truly romantic, but provided you aren’t having a jewish wedding, where it is practically law to smash the glass, you can remove it from your event and still enjoy a beautiful experience.


We get it. Everyone loves a heartfelt reading delivered by the Michael Buffer of your wedding guests (I don’t think that reference works… oh well), but having an excessive amount of readings can really impact the overall length of your ceremony. A quick tip from us would be to choose the reading beforehand, and ask your nominated party member to read from it. This way you can work out how much time it will take them to deliver their oscar worthy performance. 

Welcome Speeches

Say “Hello”, get the rings out and say “I do”. All you really need if you ask us. But in all seriousness, spending large amounts of time welcoming the guests can really draw out the ceremony. This is something you will have to discuss with your officiant as they will likely be the one responsible for any welcome speeches. 

Related Reading: How to Get Married Without a Wedding

Tips for the perfect wedding ceremony length

Realistically, the wedding ceremony is the most important part of your wedding day. You will likely be too drunk to remember much of what happens after. Bearing that in mind, it’s imperative you get your ceremony absolutely spot on. That includes how long it lasts. 

Below we have put together a few tips and ideas for ensuring you bring your wedding ceremony planning “A” game. 

Hire a wedding coordinator

If you’ve ever read one of our articles, it’s likely you have heard us banging on about how important wedding planners and wedding coordinators are. If not, let’s explain why! 

One of the responsibilities of a wedding coordinator will be to hurry up any slow moving wedding guests and members of the wedding party. They will be on top of the entire situation, knowing exactly when you will have to get your makeup done and ushering the groomsmen away from the bar and into position.

Knowing you have hired a dedicated “bossy person” will ensure your ceremony goes off without a hitch. No need to worry about delays and overruns with them in control. 

Write your own vows

If there was one tip we could give every bride and groom, it would be to write your own vows. Regardless of whether you are doing it to control the length of your ceremony, they will be a truly special and unique twist to your day. Just say what’s in your heart and you will ensure a moment that will live long in the memory. 

All that being said, writing your vows gives you control over one element of your ceremony. If you feel they are too long, shorten them down. Prefer your own vows than a reading from a poem, go for it. They are a great aspect that can positively impact both the length of the ceremony and uniqueness of your celebration. 

Timeline management

Work closely with your wedding coordinator to manage the timeline of your events. Knowing exactly what you plan to include, and the estimated length of each, will allow your ceremony to run smoothly. Moreover, your wedding planner will be able to advise if you’ve allocated enough time for each element. 

Communicate With The Important People

Ensuring you communicate with your wedding officiant, there shouldn’t be too many surprises when it comes to planning the length. If you are having a religious ceremony, they will likely detail what you must include in your ceremony and what they are ok with skipping. Moreover, your wedding planner may also be able to stay on top of the different officiants and get a better picture of what they plan to include. Provided you are upfront and clear with your planner, they can always speak directly to the officiant. Let them know exactly what you wish to include and skip. 

Don’t Overdo It

While you may feel it’s necessary to rattle on for 15 minutes saying thank you to every one of your guests, it’s probably just going to be a little boring for everyone else. The same can be said for every other part of your ceremony. You probably don’t need 10 poems, maybe just one will do. Be concise with everything you do. Most guests will probably enjoy a quick fire 30 minute ceremony over a long drawn out 2 hour one. 

Practice Makes Perfect

No need to get dressed into your wedding gown and dress your dog up in his wedding suit, but spending a little time to rehearse the various elements will give an insight into how everything lasts and of course, how it all flows together. 

The Big Picture

It’s important to consider the ceremony as part of the overall wedding day. If you run over by 10 minutes having your hair styled, that more than likely means you are 10 minutes late to your ceremony and so on. Remember, you can easily force down another couple of tequila shots in that 10 minutes. Delaying in the morning might mean you miss out before final orders! Priorities!

In all seriousness, try to look at the bigger picture of the day. Don’t just think of it as 2 hours for the ceremony, look outside and see how the length of your ceremony can impact the other aspects of your day. 

Choose the parts that are most important to you and make sure you spend the most time doing these. 

Related Reading: Our Guide To The Average Wedding Reception Length

Put the Ushers to Work

If you are planning on having several groomsmen/ushers, you can give each of them jobs throughout the day. One of the roles of an usher is to quite literally “usher” people into position before the start of the ceremony. It might seem trivial, but it’s surprising how much more smoothly everything runs when a well briefed usher is hard at work ensuring everyone is in the right place. 


Hopefully you are now very knowledgeable on exactly how long a wedding ceremony is. If somehow you’ve missed it, between 30 minutes to 1 hour should be enough time to ensure you create an unforgettable ceremony experience. 

In order to achieve wedding ceremony perfection, you need to communicate clearly with your wedding planner, and of course, your wedding officiant. They will have a greater understanding of the legal requirements of the ceremony, and the length of those individual elements. Your wedding planner is also likely experienced in understanding which moments are likely to run over. As a result, should allow you to plan perfectly in accordance with the rest of your wedding celebration. 

While the exact length of the ceremony is very flexible and varies greatly on the type of ceremony you are participating in. Provided you enjoy the moments, and feel every second, it’s likely you are going to be happy by the end of your experience. 

Final thoughts… Your wedding ceremony can be as long as you want it to be (within reason). If you want to spend 15 minutes declaring your undying love for each other, through a series of beautifully written wedding poems, rather than just saying “Yes I Do”, then that’s up to you. It’s your ceremony, and your wedding. We hope you enjoy every moment!


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