Timing Your Wedding Ceremony — 5 Steps To The Right Length

Your wedding ceremony is the most important part of the big day. And its design and length are all up to you, the couple being married. But few people have given much thought to the length and specifics of their wedding ceremony. If you're among those who aren't sure what to do with your time at the altar, here are a few key elements that will determine the right length of time.

1. Mandatory Elements

Start your planning by including the obligatory elements of every ceremony of the type you want. This will include any legal wording as well as traditional lines ("til death do us part", for example) you've always pictured including. If you have a religious ceremony, there are often prescribed elements according to the customs of the faith. The amount of these necessary parts will determine how much time you have left.

2. Weather and Health

Next, consider practical considerations of you, your bridal party, and your guests. If the ceremony will be outdoors in the fall or winter, for instance, you may want to get everyone back inside before they get uncomfortably cold. Likewise, if your pregnant maid of honor will have trouble standing for a lengthy ceremony, keep it short. 

3. Your Venue

The arrangement you have with your venue operator also determines the length of all parts of the ceremony and reception. Evening weddings often have the longest amount of time to work with, but afternoon and mid-day weddings might be limited if other weddings are scheduled on the same day. Remember, too, that if your ceremony runs too long, you may have to shorten the reception time or leave out some element. 

4. Added Features

There may be some non-mandatory things that you've always dreamed of adding to your vows. You may want your grandmother to read a passage from the Bible or to pass around a blessing among the wedding guests. Prioritize any unnecessary features like these and time them out so you can decide what you have space for and what you might need to forgo.

5. The Officiant

A professional officiant may have their own way of handling a ceremony, so meet with them about what they include. Most officiants tailor their presentation to the bridal couple's interests, of course. But if you chose a particular person because of their delivery style, you want to give them the time they need to live up to your dreams. On the other hand, a friend who's an officiant for just one day may not want to speak for a half-hour.

As you consider these five features of the ceremony, the correct running time will begin to show itself. Then, you can plan your day with the confidence of knowing that you'll be able to have the wedding ceremony you want no matter what your interests are.