How Long Is a Church Ceremony? (And How to Schedule It)

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I’ve been to many church ceremonies and we had one ourselves in a Catholic church. Although church weddings are getting less common, you may choose to have one if it’s important to your faith or your family. Just because you’re sticking with tradition doesn’t mean you can’t customize your ceremony a bit to suit your style and needs. For many couples (and guests!) they are wondering how long the ceremony even is and how it will fit into the timeline of your wedding day.

A Catholic Church ceremony is about an hour long. Christian Church ceremonies are also an hour long. They contain all of the elements of a usual Sunday mass and communion plus some specific elements to the rite of marriage.

You can make some changes to your ceremony that may impact the length, change the mood, and make it a more personal experience. Read on for more tips on how to customize your ceremony and make it unique to your wedding.

How Does The Ceremony Fit Into Your Wedding Day

A common timing issue with Catholic and other Christian church weddings is how early the ceremony is compared to your cocktail hour and dinner. The time of your ceremony depends on the church and their availability.

I’ve seen many churches who schedule weddings at 2 pm, 3 pm or even earlier in the day. If your ceremony is at 2 pm or earlier and lasts an hour but your cocktail hour doesn’t start until 4 or 5 pm, you may have a gap in your wedding timeline for guests. Often a gap of an hour or so isn’t a problem. Especially if they have to travel to the reception. That gives them time to make their way over in a relaxed way. Or it gives you time to transport them with a shuttle.

What Should You Do About a Gap Between Your Ceremony and Reception?

If you have a long gap between the ceremony and reception, you can try to make it easier for guests in a few ways:

Add a stop along the way

If you’re providing transportation from the ceremony to the reception, add a stop at a bar or restaurant or heck even a food truck and pay for guests to have a small nibble in between events. It’s sure to be a memorable addition to the itinerary.

Provide guests with a list of things to do

In the ceremony program tuck a map or list of things to do nearby. You can find artists on Etsy to make these for you that are customized with your favorite spots.

Tell guests In advance

If neither of those are an option and the gap is more than an hour, make sure you let guests know on your wedding invite or wedding website so they can make arrangements to go back to their hotel or get lunch in between.

Tips to Shorten The Ceremony

If an hour is sounding like a long time to have your guests wait before the party gets started or you don’t have a long time between the ceremony and the reception, here are some ways you can shorten things up a bit:

  • You can often opt to just have a Rite of Marriage as your ceremony, skipping mass and communion, and that will be 30-45 minutes long. Ask your point person at the church where you’re getting married if this is an option for you as it will vary from Parish to Parish what they allow.
  • Choose shorter readings – for a full list of the reading options, see this list on
  • Ask fewer people to walk down the aisle during the processional
  • If you have the option of choosing your priest or pastor for the ceremony, choose one who usually delivers brief homilies
  • Keep the music short and sweet – choose an entrance song, communion song and recessional song that isn’t going to drag on for several verses. Make sure to check with your church what kind of songs they will allow. Some will allow modern songs that fit your wedding theme while others may want you to stick to religious or classical music.

Things To Add to The Ceremony

If you’re looking to stretch out the time a little bit or just can’t wait for your marriage to be official and want it to last as long as possible, here are some things you can add to your ceremony to make it longer:

  • Give your priest details about you as a couple – if you don’t personally know your officiant, give them tons of details of how you met, what you like to do together, what your plans are for the future so the homily can be full of personalized information.
  • Choose longer readings
  • Add people to your processional
  • Add a receiving line – instead of disappearing after the ceremony, wait at the back of the church and say hello to each one as they exit. This is a nice way to make sure you get a least a few minutes with each guest at the wedding.
  • Add a grand exit – give your guests bubbles or biodegradable confetti, if your church allows, and have them celebrate your first big moment as a married couple.
  • Pick longer music – your entrance, communion, and recessional music are chosen by you so pick ones with a few extra verses. Some churches will allow modern choices but others want you to stick with religious or classical music so make sure you ask in advance what is allowed.
  • Don’t arrive late – many churches have packed schedules and they can’t accommodate your wedding if you’re late. So don’t try this strategy thinking you’ll be able to delay the start of the wedding and push back the timeline. You might find yourself bumped from your slot if there’s another event.


With these tips, your church wedding is sure to seamlessly fit into your wedding day timeline and be in keeping with your traditions. A church wedding ceremony is your first commitment to your faith as a couple and a wonderful traditional element to add to your wedding day. Whether you’re looking to extend it beyond an hour or keep it short and sweet, these tips should help you customize your ceremony.

Now onto the wedding dinner…we have an article on how long wedding dinners are here.

If you’re looking for more tips to make your wedding day just right, join our exclusive Facebook group, Bold on a Budget Weddings. Our community is full of free resources like a wedding budget sheet that automatically adjusts each element according to your budget.


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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