Quickie Question: How Long is Too Long? How Short is Too Short?

When it comes to planning wedding ceremonies, many couples struggle with a Goldilocks kind of question: is it too long, too short, or just right?

Obviously culture and religion play a strong role in finding the right answer. A full Catholic Mass or Orthodox Christian ceremony can take hours. A Hindu wedding where all the traditions are observed lasts for days. A civil ceremony can last less than a minute, if the participants are properly motivated.

I well remember leaving the church with Mr. Twistie after a Catholic wedding ceremony that lasted more than two hours. As we headed to the reception, he leaned over and whispered to me “You’re the only person I would ever do this for.” Long religious ceremonies? Not his thing. Not really mine, either, but the bride was a dear friend, so I was more than willing to sit through it all for her.

On the other hand, there was another wedding I attended where the bride and groom had barely processed to the altar when they were done and turned back around. I swear I blinked and missed everything but the kiss.

When planning my own wedding, I kept both of these weddings in mind. Mr. Twistie and I both have a background in performance, but we’re more interested in a party than giving a show. Neither of us is religious, so we didn’t have any requirements to fulfill beyond the bare bones legal ones. Still, we did want to do something long enough to make it worth everyone’s time to get dressed up and drive all that way. Guests do tend to expect some level of pomp and ceremony if they’re coughing up a place setting and the time and effort to show up. And I know how cheated I felt at the couple that got to the altar, said ‘sure thing’, kissed and headed off to the reception with no further ado.

So we aimed to keep things in the ten to twenty minute range for the ceremony proper. I think once there was a reading and a song and the statement of intent and vows and rings and all… yeah, it came out somewhere around twelve minutes or so. We probably could have added another reading or something, but I have to admit we were eager to get off the stage and on to the party.

What about you? Was there a time frame you tried to keep within? Are you worried about restless guests or underwhelmed ones? Keeping it short so your nerves won’t give out halfway through? Stretching it out to make it last? What’s your ideal length for a wedding ceremony?

2 Responses to “Quickie Question: How Long is Too Long? How Short is Too Short?”

  1. Carol says:

    Ours was long enough to cover all the necessaries spelled out by the Lutheran church – three readings, a short pastoral message, vows&promises. We extended it to include two solos by a dear friend and a piece by Mr. Carol’s clarinet-playing goddaughter and my organist friend. (All the musicians are/were professionals, so it wasn’t something people had to “sit through”.) And it meant the world to us to include them. So the ceremony was probably 25 minutes long.

    I’ve had extremes on short and long, though. My son’s high school coach had a 2-1/2 hour ceremony. My high school friend got married on a day when the high was over 100 and the church was not air-conditioned. That one was about 6 minutes long, thankfully!

  2. Short and sweet is great – BUT we have photographed weddings that have gone for 3 minutes !

    Its kind crazy. Like the guests didnt really need to sit down. It was walk in walk out..

    I think a wedding should at least go for as long as an ad break on TV! Or am i getting old??