From the processional, exchange of rings, wedding exit and everything else in between‚Ķ we’ve put together the order of events to help you prepare for your wedding ceremony.

The general Order of Service

While the after party might be memorable for different reasons, most of your guests will have fond memories of your ceremony. After all, this is the only part of the wedding that can have them reaching for their hankies one minute and then crying with laughter the next – it is so full of love and joy!

But how long does a wedding ceremony last? What happens before you say: ‘I do’? We answer these questions and more below to help you to get to grips with how the order of your wedding service might look!

1. Processional

Once all your guests have taken to their seats, the processional – also known as the bride’s entrance Рwill begin.

As the guests stand, the bride will make her grand entrance and follow the bridesmaids and flower girls down the aisle. She is normally accompanied by her father, who will then ‘give her away’ when they reach the groom and his groomsmen at the altar.

If a same sex marriage, you may choose who walks down the aisle (whether that be one or both of you) or you can opt out of this tradition altogether.

The procession really is up to you but requires some thought ahead of the day and possibly even practice if there is a large wedding party to coordinate.

2. Welcome

The officiant/celebrant will start by welcoming the congregation to your wedding. Depending on whether your ceremony is religious or not, you may have options for the type of introduction.

3. Prayer/song/reading

Although not obligatory, many couples like to have an early song or reading before proceeding to the next part of the ceremony. Your celebrant may lead this, or you might invite one of your guests to up to the stand.

4. Marriage Ceremony

It is at this point that the bride and groom will exchange vows, but not before being reminded of the responsibilities that lie ahead of them as husband and wife. The officiant might also utter those infamous words – ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ – when addressing the congregation and asking for any objections to the impending marriage… as the bride and groom wait with bated breath!

When it comes to the vows, couples can choose between traditional, modern or simplified versions of declarations, contracted words and promises, but they also have the opportunity to write their own vows as agreed by the Registrar.

5. Exchange of Rings

Though only a tradition and not a legality at a wedding, many couples choose to exchange rings. The best man will often be responsible for looking after the rings, and these are placed one at a time on the other’s ring finger. Some couples choose to hold the ring on their partner’s finger whilst making more promises or dedications.

6. Declaration of Marriage

With almost all legal matters complete, you are one step closer to being made official!

The officiant will declare you husband and wife/husband and husband/wife and wife and let you seal the deal with a kiss.

7. Prayer/song/reading

This significant moment in the ceremony might call for a prayer or excerpt from the bible, or you can choose a personal reading or some sentimental music.

8. Signing of the Register

The final step to making your marriage official is signing the register.

This license must be signed not only by each of you, but by two witnesses. Many couples will ask their head bridesmaid and best man to be witnesses as they are already standing at the altar, but this could be any two individuals (which is why couples eloping still need to find two witnesses in order to legalise their wedding!).

A photographer will often be present during the service to capture these special moments.

9. End of Service

Your ceremony will no doubt end on a high, with your celebrant asking the congregation to join them in offering congratulations and well wishes for your future together.

10. Recessional

It’s time now to head back up the aisle, but this time as a married couple! You’ll often walk back to music and you will probably be overcome with relief and excitement at having just got officially got married! It might even be the first time you get to really register your friends and family in the crowd!

11. Exit

You might head to a chamber in the church or a function room in your venue whilst your guests leave the ceremony space then, if your venue allows it, you might exit the property and create your very own notorious confetti shot!

How can you plan for the wedding ceremony?


It may seem from the above like all weddings follow the exact same structure and therefore they must be very similar but, in truth, weddings are very personal.

You will of course be expected to take this legal process seriously and rehearse to a certain extent, but your officiant won’t hold it against you if you get stumble on your words on the day. To save you the embarrassment though, you might like to practice public speaking and, in particular your vows, in advance!

An official rehearsal involving all of the wedding party in the week before the wedding can also be very beneficial.

Attend the church

Finally, if you are having a church wedding, you will be expected to attend the church before the day of your wedding. You may be required to attend a few services held in the building in the run up to your big day to show your commitment before God, but this serves an extra purpose too as it allows you to feel comfortable in your venue and to get to know the space.

For example, without visiting the church more than once it might be hard to remember how long the aisle is (and how fast or slow the bride will have to walk down it!), how many pews you might want to decorate with flowers and the layout of the altar. Seeing the space regularly can really help you to picture how the day will (hopefully!) go.

How long is a wedding ceremony?

Surprisingly, all of this happens in around 20-30 minutes, but it can be longer if you opt for the extended vows and multiple songs or readings.

The moment will be over before you know it, so be sure to enjoy it as much as possible!