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How Long is a Wedding Ceremony? Wedding Ceremony Timeline

Planning the timing of your wedding day is essential to your wedding planning process. You’ll want everything to run smoothly and on time, from the bride’s walk down the aisle to the cake cutting to the after party. 

One question many couples find themselves asking is, “How long is a wedding ceremony, anyway?” When you’re planning your wedding day timeline, it’s important to know how long your wedding ceremony should last. 

Learn the average length of a wedding ceremony and talk to your venue or officiant to discuss how long your wedding ceremony will take! 

wedding vows

The average wedding ceremony only lasts about 30 minutes. This time can range depending on the length of each part of the ceremony, the readings you choose to include, and more. 

The length of a wedding ceremony is also dependent on whether you’re holding a religious ceremony or a secular wedding ceremony. Religious wedding ceremonies are usually still around 30 minutes, unless you choose to hold a full Catholic mass in conjunction with your nuptials. 

Most religious ceremonies include the standard elements of a wedding ceremony. They usually also include a few readings from your religious text of choice, a prayer or two, and possibly an extra song or two.

Secular wedding ceremonies have less of a standard schedule, so it’s easier to create a secular ceremony that fits your preferred timeline. 

Ultimately, the length of your wedding ceremony is up to you. You can choose how many songs, readings, and prayers to include, or you can jump right into your wedding vows and hurry off to the reception! 

Wedding Ceremony Timeline 

wedding ceremony

The standard wedding ceremony includes the following elements: 

Processional: The wedding party and parents of the couple process down the aisle, followed by the bride. Check out our list of wedding processional songs to plan the perfect song for your walk down the aisle!

Welcome: The officiant usually offers a few words of welcome to the guests and the bride and groom themselves. At a religious wedding ceremony, this may include a prayer.

Readings: Religious ceremonies include readings from religious texts like the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, or another piece of spiritual text.

At a secular ceremony, you could use other readings, like poetry, essays, or a speech given by a loved one. You can also choose to forego readings altogether if you want a shorter wedding ceremony. 

Vows: Couples can use the standard wedding ceremony vows or choose to write their own vows. When you write your own vows, they are typically only a few minutes long, but feel free to write longer ones if you prefer!

Pronouncement and Exchange of Rings: The officiant pronounces the happy couple as married and rings are exchanged, as well as a kiss to seal the deal! 

Recessional: Once the ceremony is complete, the wedding party and the newlyweds recess back down the aisle. Pick another favorite song to serve as your recessional song, or use some of the traditional church classics.

religious wedding ceremony

Each of these parts of the ceremony typically take between 5 and 10 minutes. You can choose to cut certain parts of the ceremony if you want it to be shorter. Or, you can add extra songs and readings or write longer vows if you want your ceremony to last longer. 

Talk to your wedding officiant to see if they have any expectations about your wedding ceremony. A religious officiant may not be pleased to cut the religious readings, so it’s good to discuss the wedding ceremony timeline with them before committing to an officiant. 

Other Factors to Consider for Your Wedding Ceremony Schedule

Keep in mind that your wedding ceremony timeline will affect the timing of the rest of your wedding as well. You should consider your entire wedding day timeline and schedule, from set up and getting ready through the ceremony and the reception. 

Vendors that are present at the ceremony and reception will need to be paid for their total time. For example, if you only have your photographer for 4 hours, your ceremony will take up some of that time. Keep timing in mind as it may affect vendors and their prices.

Consider how long your wedding reception will last when planning your ceremony timeline. If your ceremony and reception are taking place at the same venue, the ceremony can flow directly into your reception celebration, so you can plan for the entire wedding day schedule at once. 

If your ceremony takes place at a separate location from your reception, account for travel time. Both guests and members of the wedding party will need time to travel from one location to the next. 

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