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Sunday

How long is a wedding ceremony?

This is a frequent question, and I answered on it Yahoo Answers yesterday, with a bit of humour, I hope! Here's the basic answer, with the timings. You can use this info for an elopement, as well as a basic barebones wedding ceremony.

(and here is another post on 'when is a ceremony TOO short')

A basic civil ceremony is 7 minutes in City Hall, 13-18 minutes with an officiant, because it's the bridesmaids, music, prayers, mass, sermon, etc. which add the extra time to a wedding. I usually tell people they can have the "2 subway stop wedding" (8 minutes, if you're between 2 stops in New York), or the "3 stop" (15 minutes) or the "bus ride" (half an hour, cross-town traffic in NY). Anything longer, and people are starting to get hungry and fidget.

A basic ceremony consists of the following parts. (A legal ceremony can be held with 5 parts, the Statement of the names of the couple, the Intention, the Vows, the Signing and the Declaration).

THE GATHERING: (seating the guests, or gathering round on the beach/under a tree, etc.)
THE PROCESSION: (Bride and Groom and officiant walk to the front, 1 minute) OR the parents and the grandparents and the groom's party and the 15 bridesmaids and the junior bride and the junior bridesmaid and the 3 cute kids with the flower petals and FINALLY the bride walk into to music - this can take 15-20 minutes).
THE WELCOME, STATEMENT OF THE NAMES OF THE COUPLE WHO HAVE COME TO BE MARRIED: (1-3 minutes)
THE FAMILY BLESSING: (this used to be "who gives this woman to be married", but now it's usually a short request for the family to bless the wedding, mention of any absent family, lighting of candles or short moment of silence for anyone who has died). In an elopement or small private wedding, we might mention family or friends who are not present. (3 minutes, optional)
THE READINGS: (can be religious or poetry, or a piece of music. This is basically a break/transition and a good time to seat late guests) (2-4 minutes, optional)
THE INTENTION: "Is it your intention to take this person as your husband/wife"? (1 minute)
A SHORT STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE or the CHARGE TO THE COUPLE: ( 1-2 minutes). This is the part where the officiant states that this is not a barbecue, picnic, or engagement, but a marriage ceremony. Often includes a short reading.
VOWS: (1-2 minutes)
RING EXCHANGE/VOWS: (1-2 minutes). The ring exchange is optional.
BLESSING, 2nd READING, UNITY CANDLE, WINE BLESSING, SAND CEREMONY, etc. ; any one of several optional ceremonies to demonstrate the newly married state of the couple (optional 2-4 minutes))
PRONOUNCEMENT/DECLARATION: "In front of us all this couple have pledged their vows...and it is with the authority vested in me, that I declare they are man and wife." (30 seconds)
KISS: (length to be determined)
PRESENTATION: "I have the honor to present to you...) 15 seconds. Lots of clapping and excitement, (15 seconds).
RECESSIONAL: (reverse order, everybody goes out, taking as long as you like, but faster than the processional)
Add the SIGNING OF THE LICENSE: which can be done before the wedding, during the wedding (4 minutes) or after.
DECLARATION: (follows the signing), in which case the PRESENTATION is shortened, and the 2nd half of the sentence -- "By the authority invested in me.. I have the honor to present.." is used at this time.
TOTAL time: 14-18 minutes.

You can see examples of short civil ceremonies on our website, of course.