Bride and groom with sunset in background

How Long Does a Wedding Ceremony & Reception Last?

If you are in the midst of preparing and planning all of the ins and outs of your wedding, you may be questioning how long each part of the event may take. From the ceremony to the reception, what’s the appropriate length of time for it to all last?

Our Opinion

The Ceremony

On average, a wedding ceremony usually lasts around 30 minutes. Shorter events may start and stop around 20 minutes while others may last up to an hour or more. This all depends on what your vision may be and what is essential for this moment to feel right and special to the two of you.

Be mindful of your guests and, even more so, your bridal party. No one wants to stand in uncomfortable heels or buttoned up in a suit out in the sun for sixty minutes or more.

Cocktail Hour

Well, this one is kind of obvious, don’t you think? Cocktail hours should never last more than the proclaimed hour and if you can go less – do it! Take just enough time out of the celebration to snag some must-have shots of the newlyweds and your bridal party.

In the meantime, make sure your playlist is packed with great background tunes for your guests to enjoy while they snack and sip.

The Reception

pink flower centerpieces at wedding reception

We did a little digging and quickly found that the average time for a wedding reception floats around 4-5 hours. And we concur. This gives an ample amount of time for every small event to take place – from the introduction of the newly wedding couple to the garter toss – as well as lots of time to bust a move on the dance floor.

It’s important to talk to your venue beforehand so you can plan all of this festivity out accordingly. Some venues make you pay by the hour, give you a timeframe that goes along with your package, or you can add on extra “bonus” hours if you feel as though you have a guest list that wants to party just a bit longer.

Other Expert Answers

“How long each event lasts depends on your party—is it a simple cocktail wedding reception or a seated dinner? For reference, the average wedding reception with full meal lasts for about four hours.”- The Knot

“I think the magic number for a ceremony and reception is 6 hours total. That would be an hour (ideally 30 minutes or less) for the ceremony, an hour for cocktails immediately following the ceremony, then 4 hours for dinner/dancing.” – Women Getting Married

“As a rule of thumb, wedding ceremonies typically last 30 minutes to an hour—although short and sweet wedding programs are okay, too—and most wedding receptions typically last four to five hours.” – Brides

More Helpful Information