As you plan your wedding ceremony, you’ll be thinking about writing your vows, organizing your processional and having a memorable first kiss. Plus you’ll need to consider your ring exchange, declaration statements, officiant speech, marriage licence and more. But how long does that all take? How long is a wedding ceremony?

As wedding officiants with over a decade of experience, we’d like to think we’re pretty good at crafting ceremonies that are memorable, meaningful and well timed. So below we’re sharing our tips on the ideal wedding ceremony length, plus why you want to make sure your ceremony isn’t too long or short! 

On average, how long is a wedding ceremony?

The average wedding ceremony is about 20 minutes long. As professional wedding officiants, we recommend ceremonies last 10-30 minutes depending on the type of wedding you’re holding and any ceremony extras you might include.

To determine how long your wedding ceremony will be, you’ll want to look over your ceremony script with your wedding officiant. They will be able to tell you how long the ceremony will last and give you suggestions if the ceremony is running too long or too short.

Keep in mind that things like an elongated processional, multiple ceremony readers, unity traditions and any other additional elements can extend your ceremony length. That doesn’t mean you have to nix your unity candle or tell your wedding party to book it down the aisle; it just means you need to keep all of those things in mind when considering the total length of your wedding ceremony.

wedding party, bridal party with young hip & married
by Notting Hill Photography

Ceremony length by wedding type:

Intimate Elopement

Our Intimate Elopement is a a “gather and wed” style ceremony for small groups (0-20 guests) who want to get married in a casual environment. These ceremonies last 5-10 minutes and don’t include a processional, readings, etc. They’re perfect for couples who want a meaningful, but short, moment to celebrate their love.

Sweet & Simple Ceremony

Our Sweet & Simple package is perfect for full-size weddings where the couple wants a special moment but doesn’t need the ceremony to be customized to them. These ceremonies typically last 15-20 minutes and can include unity traditions and readings, but are usually focused on keeping things pretty simple.

Custom & Creative Ceremony

Our Custom & Creative package is our signature package where we write a script and design a ceremony completely personalized to you. This is the best way to tell your unique love story with unlimited edits and a rehearsal facilitated by your officiant. Because these ceremonies are so personal and often include special ceremony elements, they usually last 20-25 minutes.

However, because this ceremony is all about YOU, your officiant can write a ceremony with your ideal timing in mind.

ring exchange during helicopter elopement, how long is a wedding ceremony
by Emily Nicole Photos

Why you don’t want your ceremony to be too long

We’ve all sat through a boring presentation at work or lecture at school that dragged on and on until we could barely keep our eyes open. Don’t let that boring, long thing everyone wants to leave be your wedding ceremony!

You want to think about your guests’ comfort. If your ceremony starts creeping past the 45 minute mark, your guests are going to get restless. They may need to use the restroom, drink some water or get out of the elements if your wedding is outside.

And please, if your wedding ceremony is longer than 10 minutes, provide seating. No one should be asked to stand through a long ceremony!

Not only is a long ceremony tough on guests physically, but it also makes it harder for guests – and for you two – to connect to the meaningful commitment you’re making. If your vows happened 30 minutes ago and the ceremony is still going on, it’s only natural that you and your guests might forget about them.

If your ceremony is running long because of traditions that even you find boring, see if there are any elements you can nix or alter to shorten the run time. If it’s running long because of creative elements you’ve added, consider cutting some or moving them to another part of your wedding day.

young hip and married vancouver wedding ceremony, queer couple
by Kate Paterson Photography

And why you don’t want your ceremony to be too short

While no one wants to sit through a long ceremony, a too short ceremony isn’t a great idea either. We’ve had couples tell us, “We just want the shortest ceremony possible. We want to exchange rings, kiss and then get to the party!” And while we’re never ones to stand in the way of a good party, we encourage you to rethink a short ceremony.

When your ceremony is too short, it can be confusing to guests. They’ll think, “Wait, that’s it?” and wonder why you even bothered having a ceremony and inviting them to attend. Of course no one wants to sit through a boring ceremony, but most guests actually love attending a meaningful and appropriately long ceremony.

More importantly, when you rush through your wedding ceremony, you rush through the most pivotal moment of your wedding day. Sure, the reception is going to be tons of fun with great food and dancing. But your ceremony is what really matters.

Your ceremony is when you and your partner make your commitment to one another. It’s where you stand up in front of all of your friends and family and say, “I love this person and I want to spend my life with them.” That’s worth celebrating!

You deserve a real moment to recognize and celebrate your love, not a rushed ceremony you’re trying to get through as quickly as possible.

wedding ceremony with young hip and married
above & feature image by Erica Miller Photography

Planning the perfect ceremony length with your wedding officiant

Much like Goldilocks, the perfect wedding ceremony isn’t too long and isn’t too short, but just right! With an experienced wedding officiant by your side, you’ll be able to plan a wedding ceremony that not only is the perfect length but perfectly represents you two and your amazing love story.

Check out our ceremony packages and book your wedding ceremony today!