How long should a wedding ceremony be in your opinion?

by DIY wedding planner on February 6, 2013

We are doing a very DIY wedding and are going to have a family member officiate the wedding. We are trying to figure out how to structure the ceremony and I’m hoping you guys will have some advice!

We want to keep it short and sweet, but not so short that people feel like they sit down and its over already. What do you think is a good length of time to aim for?

We have one reading that we’d like to include that’s pretty short, about 200 words. How many readings do you think should be included in a wedding? Do you think we should have separate people do the readings, or have the officiant do them?

I’m really shy and don’t like public speaking. We were planning on just doing the “i do” part, without all of the “I bride, take thee groom…” etc. Is that to weird??

Also, what do people normally do as far as times listed on the invitation? Do you put the time that the ceremony will actually start, i.e. when the processional music starts? Or do you put an earlier time to make sure that everyone is seated a decent amount of time before hand? Our venue rental is set to begin at 4pm (we have several hours of set-up time before hand) Should we put the time on the invite as 4pm and then begin the ceremony at 4:15?


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Poodie February 6, 2013 at 5:50 am

15-20 minutes is appropriate. As for your readings, just choose one or two that are meaningful to you. Don’t try to fill up time. I enjoy when a pastor does a reading (though I’m not religious), but you should ask who you two would like. As for your invitations, write the time the ceremony starts. People know to arrive before that. Otherwise, people will arrive too early, and be kept waiting. That would be rude.


Living the Dream February 6, 2013 at 6:21 am

I don’t think I’ve been to a single wedding that actually started on time, including my own. There’s always a little hiccup that makes it a little late. So make sure the invites say what time the ceremony is supposed to start. They’ll get annoyed if you leave them waiting, especially if you told them to be early and you ended up being late.


Mary February 6, 2013 at 6:58 am

30 minutes


Grin February 6, 2013 at 7:13 am

About 15 minutes


dourdan February 6, 2013 at 7:55 am

30 minutes or less


Ashley D February 6, 2013 at 8:13 am

15-20 minutes.

Like, don’t get me wrong here, I love weddings. I love the idea of two people being in love and wanting to spend the rest of their lives together.

But I once went to a wedding where I had to sit through FOUR readings. FOUR. All read by people with no public speaking experience so there was lots of stumbling over words which made things even longer, and ugh, it was just so frustratingly long, especially since it was on a hot beach. So please, keep the readings to a minimum. One short reading is just fine.

Your vows can include whatever you want.

As far as invites go, most people know to turn up before the actual time on the invite. Every wedding I have been to, people managed to turn up and be seated by the time on the invite.


cjsmummy February 6, 2013 at 9:08 am

From watching the wedding shows,I have figured out that around 20 minutes is enough – shorter than that and people say “It didn’t feel like a wedding” and any longer and people complain that they “feel like hostages”.I haven’t actually thought about readings but I suppose how many depends on how long you want the whole thing to run for.You could ask your officiant to do it but I’ve seen far more people asked by the bride and groom.Give it to someone special like a sibling of a good friend.No,although there are 2 sentences you have to say for the ceremony to be valid (the ones that you know of no legal reason why you can’t marry and that you are choosing to do so of your own free will).Many couples write their own vows these days.As for start time,I always though you put the time that you wanted everyone to be there for with a 5 minute leeway


CrazyChick February 6, 2013 at 10:08 am

I’ve been to weddings that seemed to drag on forever, and I wouldn’t suggest that, but you want it to have some length and substance. I’d probably keep it between 15-20 minutes. I’d say one reading, done by the person of your choosing, maybe a song, vows and ring exchange, and if you wish, a few words from the officiant about their take on marriage or something.

I think it would be acceptable to have the officiant read out the vows (Do you, Karen, take John to be your lawfully wedded husband blah blah blah) and you just say “I do” at the end.

The time listed on the invite should be the time you plan to start the ceremony. Assuming your guests have been to a wedding before, or they’ve seen one on tv or in movies, they already know that it’s completely unacceptable to come walking in late, after the processional begins. I’ve been to a LOT of weddings, and most of the guests are seated about ten minutes early. Check with your venue and make sure your guests can be seated before 4:00 for your 4:00 ceremony. If not, you may want to have the time on the invites be a little later.


krissylyn February 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

1.) Most weddings are 20 minutes or slightly less. I’ve never done a wedding that was only 15 minutes.
2.) One reading is plenty. They are mostly useless time fillers, unless the officiant does the reading and then works it into his message to you.
3.) You put the start time of the wedding on your invitation. You never start a wedding late, nor do you mislead people about what time a wedding is to start (i.e., invite them for a 3:30 wedding, knowing it won’t start until 4:00). This leads to guests wondering WTF is going on and who has backed out. Adult guests know that if a wedding is to start 4:00, they should be there on time.
4.) I don’t care how shy you are – The point of getting married in public is to share your wedding vows with your husband. Furthermore, legally, you must say the vows so that the officiant knows that you are there on your own free will and can legally marry you. Legally and practically you must say the vows. Now, you may speak to the officiant to see just how short you can make those vows by editing them out, but really, why on earth would you? Isn’t that the whole point of the wedding? To take the vows?


sheloves_dablues February 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

20-30 minutes max.

If the cermony is booked to begin at 4, your invites should say 4. If your guest have any brains they will know that they have to arrive prior to 4 to be seated and ready for the ceremony that starts at 4…


Cat Lover February 6, 2013 at 10:57 am

If your venue won’t let anyone in until 4, then you can’t put the time of the wedding at 4! You need to allow time for people to arrive a little early and be seated. So set the time at 4:15 or 4:30. You do not want your guests to have to stand there waiting for the doors to be opened!


Party all night long February 6, 2013 at 11:30 am

If you want to be traditional and formal, I suggest at least 30 minutes.


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