How long should our wedding ceremony be?
This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked (note to self: add to FAQ section of website!) – in fact, I was asked it only this morning, so I decided it probably merited a little blog post on the subject.
So cast your mind back to the last time you attended a wedding officiated by a registrar. It probably felt like the ceremony went on for AGES. At least half an hour, but probably more is what you might be thinking. But that’s often because, as a guest, you are seated early (maybe 10-15 minutes before the anticipated start time) and then factoring in everything might run a little late, and that the ceremony itself might not be the most exciting in the world (#justsayin’ from experience as a deputy registrar!) and then the signing of the register takes simply FOR-EVER (and even longer if every extended family member wants to be in a photo of the couple posed with pen in hand)…..
Now here's the newsflash folks - in reality, the actual ceremony part takes about 15 minutes. It can take under 10 minutes if everything is running bang on time, there are no readings and the signing of the register is completed without a million photographs. In my part of the world that’s a 15 minute ceremony for £582*.
*price based on a Saturday 2021 ceremony in an approved venue with a registrar - choose a Bank Holiday, and it will cost £902. Yikes.
With a celebrant ceremony, as a regular reader, you know that it can take whatever you form you want. And that doesn’t just apply to the content, the location, the time of the day – it includes the duration. You want a 10 minute ceremony? You got it. You want a ceremony that lasts for over an hour? No worries. It is YOUR call.
But, more often than not, a celebrant-led wedding ceremony will take around 25 to 30 minutes. That’s half an hour of personalised, bespoke, unique ceremony written just for you. (Talk about amazing value for money!!) And, while the duration of your ceremony should very much be dictated by what YOU want to include in it, maybe bear in mind that 25 to 30 minutes is just about right for most people’s attention spans – plus EVERYONE is going to be excited to get on with the celebrations!
A 30 minute celebrant-led ceremony actually goes super-quickly – mainly because it’s usually fun, and fresh, and fabulous! But there are elements you may wish to consider which will influence the length of it – grand entrance or no entrance? Love story lowdown or the bare essentials? Lots of readings or minimal readings? Guest participation or keeping it simple? Symbolic rituals or… well, you get the idea I am sure.
Making a decision about the length of your ceremony before considering the content is a bit like asking how long is a piece of a string – and like a piece of string, the only sure thing is that it will have a beginning, a middle and an end. Your celebrant will guide you to find the content that suits you best, which might result in a ceremony that is 15 minutes or 50 minutes. There is no right or wrong, only to say that 25 to 30 minutes is the average.
A few pointers to bear in mind while thinking about the timing of your ceremony: - The actual start time of your ceremony should be guided by how you want the rest of your day to flow. Most of my ceremonies start at around 2pm or 3pm; logistically this allows the bridal party lots of time to get ready and makes things easier for guests who are travelling from afar, with plenty of scope after the ceremony for photos, drinks, canapes, maybe a sit down meal, before the evening celebrations commence. But equally I’ve had ceremonies start at 11am (sometimes better when lots of children are attending a ceremony) or 5pm (for those who have wanted to move straight into the evening celebrations). - If you are having your ceremony in one place and your reception in another – it sounds obvious, but allow time for everyone to move between the two and factor this in to the flow of your day. Moving a large group of people takes longer than you think, accounting for travel, parking and the boys wandering off to the pub en route (as happened at one of my friends weddings!) - Some venues will charge less if you don’t want the venue all day and all evening (the staffing bill can be a lot lower), so that might be worth thinking about if you are on a budget. Hopefully that gives you a few pointers as to how long your wedding ceremony might be. Chat to your celebrant and they will guide you through the process – and if you need my help, you know what to do :-)