Wedding ceremonies vary wildly in duration, ranging from 15 minutes to 3 hours, but the average ceremony lasts around half an hour. If the ceremony is religious or includes many readings, it's likely to be longer. A Catholic wedding, for example, takes about an hour, and a Hindu ceremony can span days.
In addition to the trading of vows, the giving of the rings and the message from the officiant, the wedding ceremony can contain many optional elements that stretch its length. It can incorporate religious elements such as communion, a prayer time, candle-lighting ceremonies or readings from the Bible. Personal or social elements can include special songs, dances or readings from poetry or literature. Cultural rituals, such as the Jewish tradition of stomping on a glass or the Japanese tradition of sharing a cup of sake, also lengthen the ceremony.
The officiant's message also varies in length. It can be short, merely introducing the couple and giving some marital advice. Some officiants like to discuss the couple's meeting, relational journey, engagement, personalities and future plans. A pastor or priest might even give a full sermon on the topic of marriage.
Weddings that include many optional elements, whether they are creative or religious, last longer than streamlined ceremonies that stick to the basics. Plus, some social, cultural and religious elements are longer than others. An engaged couple can follow a standard format, or they can design a wedding ceremony that reflects some of their personal interests and values (and takes more time).