Wedding 101: How Long Is A Wedding Ceremony?

Lesley Turner_Wedding Hashers Guest Author

Lesley Turner

Published: Sep 16, 2021

Last Updated: Aug 14, 2023

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Are you planning a wedding and wondering, “How long is a wedding ceremony?” It’s super important to understand that on your wedding day, everything is about timing.

It’s like a well-choreographed dance that needs organization and cues to keep things seamless. So, knowing how much time should be spent on your ceremony is vital to success.

Here’s what you need to know.  

So, How Long Is A Wedding Ceremony?

The actual wedding ceremony, where you exchange rings and vows, is probably one of the shortest parts of your wedding day.

Experts say that a traditional wedding ceremony typically lasts between 20 – 30 minutes. This gives you time to cover the basics such as words of welcome, some readings, your vows, exchanging of the rings, the final pronouncement, and of course…the kiss!

There can be differences in the length of the wedding ceremony based on your religion or if you’re doing a secular ceremony.

For example, most standard religious ceremonies last 30 minutes, but if you’re Catholic and you want to include a full mass, you can expect it may last 45 – 90 minutes.

Here’s an idea of what you can expect from some of the different religions.

  • Catholic Wedding – 30 -90 minutes
  • Christian Wedding – 20 – 30 minutes
  • Judaism Wedding – 25 – 45 minutes
  • Muslim Wedding – approximately 20 minutes
  • Hindu Wedding – 1.5 – 2 hours
catholic wedding photo

How Long Is A Wedding Ceremony? Things You Need To Know

The ceremony is the most important part of the wedding because it’s the part required by law to make the marriage official. Who you get to officiate the wedding is important so make sure you find someone that you connect with.

The wedding ceremony is an intimate, personal, and sometimes spiritual experience, so, you’ll want your officiant to be on the same level. And don’t worry, the costs for an officiant or celebrant are pretty minimal so, it won’t impact your wedding budget too much. 

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What Is The Timeline Of A Standard Wedding Ceremony?

A wedding ceremony does follow a very standard timeline, no matter if it’s religious or secular. 

Of course, you do have some control over how your ceremony unfolds and what is included or not included. Some couples want more readings, and others want to get to the “I Do’s” as quickly as possible.

Here’s an idea of the traditional wedding ceremony timeline

  1. Ushers seat the guests (optional)
  2. Grandparents are seated (optional- Groom escorts) 
  3. The Mother of the Groom is seated (optional- Groom escorts) 
  4. Mother of the Bride is seated (optional- Groom escorts) 
  5. Officiant and Groom enter 
  6. Processional music begins 
  7. The Bridal Party enters 
  8. Ring Bearer & Flower Girl enters 
  9. Music changes for the Bride to make her entrance 
  10. Officiant asks the guests to rise and welcome the Bride
  11. The Bride is escorted down the aisle 
  12. Bridal music ends
  13. Bride meets the Groom at the altar 
  14. Officiant asks the guests to be seated 
  15. Officiant welcomes guests 
  16. Prayer (optional) 
  17. Officiant shares couple’s love story (optional) 
  18. 1st reading or commentary on marriage 
  19. Couple shares personal or traditional vows (optional) 
  20. Ring Blessing 
  21. Exchanging of the rings 
  22. Unity Ceremony (optional to include sand, unity candle, wine box, etc.) 
  23. Officiant’s final words and blessing 
  24. Pronouncement of Marriage 
  25. Introduction of the newly married couple to the guests 
  26. Recessional music begins 
  27. Couple Exits 
  28. Bridal Party Exits 

Whew! It sounds like a lot to accomplish in 20 – 30 minutes, but it’s easy to do because each part doesn’t take long.  

wedding ceremony exit

Wedding Ceremony Tips

Your wedding ceremony should encompass your love story and personality. A great way to make sure that it fits you is to meet with the officiant before the big day. This will allow you to tell them what’s important to you and what is not so that they can curate a wedding ceremony that’s perfect for you. Here are a few wedding ceremony tips:

Meet With The Officiant

Hiring an officiant for your wedding ceremony shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should meet with, or at least speak with, several to make sure you find one that matches your style and beliefs. Doing this will ensure that your wedding ceremony flows with ease and is unforgettable. 

Keep It Short 

If you’re looking for ways to shorten the ceremony, it’s best to chat with your officiant to see what can be cut out. There are specific requirements based on government guidelines to make marriages official, so you want to make sure you don’t eliminate something important.

Seating Of Guests

Part of the time that’s allotted to the ceremony also includes when the guests are seated for the ceremony. So, remember to keep this in mind when planning your wedding day timeline. 

The Processional

Another important factor to consider is the length of time for each of the bridal party members to make their way down the aisle and back. This is often referred to as the wedding processional. If you have a large wedding party, you may need to add some time to the equation. 

wedding processional photo


Another important aspect that impacts how long is a wedding ceremony is if you write your own vows or say the traditional ones. 

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How Long Is A Wedding Ceremony: Frequently Asked Questions 

How Long Does A Wedding Reception Last?

This is when all the fun and excitement happens, and while many wish it could last all night, the truth is a wedding reception typically lasts 4 -5 hours. Depending on the venue you book and, of course, your budget, your wedding reception could be longer or shorter. 

How Long Is A Wedding Ceremony In A Church?

Generally speaking, weddings that take place in a church aren’t much different from ceremonies outside of a church. Unless, of course, you want to include a full mass. 

What Is The Best Time Of Day To Have A Wedding Ceremony?

Well, this is an interesting question.

And, of course, many experts may tell you there is a perfect answer. But the truth is, the best time of day to have a wedding ceremony depends on you! Maybe you’re a night owl that doesn’t want an early ceremony, or you’re an early riser that wants to end the festivities and get to wedded-bliss early.

Only you know what’s right for you. 

best time for wedding ceremony

Tying the knot is a major milestone in anyone’s life and knowing how the festivities unfold is crucial to having a stress-free and unforgettable event.

How long a wedding ceremony is only one step in the wedding planning process.

Check out our other blogs for more wedding inspiration and tips.


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