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Category Archives: Wedding Ceremony

How Long does a Wedding Ceremony Last?

When people ask how long a wedding ceremony lasts they’re usually asking about the overall wedding timeline—which encompasses a lot more than the ceremony itself. To plan your wedding correctly you need to think of every step of the day, from the moment you start to get ready to the moment you and your partner drive off (in a car all painted up with the words ‘Just Married,’ of course)!

Here are the major steps you’ll find most wedding parties taking on most wedding days. While you may choose to shorten or lengthen any given step, you should at least be taking each one of them into account.

Getting Ready: 2 to 3 Hours

Both members of the couple, and every member of the wedding party, will need time to get ready. If you all have nail, make-up, and hair appointments you’ll need to block off time to get to the appointments, as well as time to get through the appointments.

You’ll also need to block off time to get dressed, and to handle any disasters like popped buttons or stuck zippers. Having an emergency wedding kit handy will really help here.

Leaving a lot of time to get ready can make for a more relaxed, happier wedding day. This time will set the mood and if everyone feels rushed and stressed out then you might well set a tone that creates problems later. If you can, you might even leave yourself a buffer of an additional half hour, just to make sure that nobody feels overwhelmed.

Portraits: 1 to 2 Hours

Each member of the couple generally gets a solo portrait done prior to the wedding ceremony. In addition, each member of the couple generally gets a photo shoot in with their wedding party, as well as with their maid/matron of honor or best person.

If you’ve chosen to take “first look” photographs then you’ll want to slot that photo shoot into this time.

Travel Time to Ceremony Venue

It is absolutely vital for you to accurately chart your travel time when creating your wedding timeline! If you’re going from a hair and make-up appointment to a changing room at your venue then you might already be there, of course, but there’s no getting around the fact that at some point, you and your wedding party are going to need to slip into a vehicle and get where you need to go.

Pull up the Google Map, note the normal travel time, and add thirty minutes to account for any unexpected weather or traffic that might pop up on your wedding day.

The Ceremony: 20 minutes to 2 Hours

Ceremony length can vary wildly depending on the venue, the officiant, and the type of ceremony you’re having. Some long religious ceremonies with a lot of traditions built into them can last for hours. Meanwhile, a courthouse wedding may be over and done in 20 minutes or less.

You should talk with your officiant about what to expect when you are planning your ceremony and reception times. Theoretically any professional officiant has run enough weddings to know how long your ceremony should take.

Receiving Line: 30 Minutes

Receiving lines are not necessarily required, but they are an easy way to thank every guest for coming to the wedding. You set one up to meet and greet each guest after they leave the ceremony venue.

The receiving line may also be held as soon as the couple reaches the reception venue.

Wedding hosts typically stand in the line. That tends to include the couple’s parents and the couples themselves.

At a small wedding, it’s okay to just have the couple visit every table sometime during the reception.

Family Photos & Cocktail Hour: 1 Hour

Once the ceremony is over guests will immediately start traveling to the reception venue. Your venue should be ready with cocktails and perhaps mild appetizers and snacks, depending on the hour.

Most of the guests will enjoy these refreshments while the couple takes family photographs, which can take about one hour. This may either happen at the ceremony venue or the reception venue.

Travel Time to Reception Venue

Again, you’re going to want to factor travel time into your schedule! You should do this long before the wedding day of course. It should factor in to when the reception time is scheduled to start.

Grand Entrance & First Dance: 15 Minutes

The reception kicks off formally when the couple makes their entrance and is announced as a married couple. The wedding partner enters, and then the couple enjoys their first dance.

Dance Floor Opens: 30 Minutes to 1 Hour

At this point the DJ or the live band generally invites the guests to hit the dance floor. This is a great time for guests to relax and enjoy themselves!

Dinner is Served: 1 to 2 Hours

Dinner can take awhile, especially if you’ve planned a buffet line or multiple courses. There are also a number of traditions that take place over the dinner hour such as the welcome toast and the wedding party speeches.

Dinner is also traditionally the time when certain reception games get played, such as the wedding shoe game.

Dinner generally comes to a close after the DJ announces the parent dances. Each member of the couple dances with the parent of their choice.

Cake Cutting Ceremony: 30 Minutes

You don’t just cut the cake and serve it. The symbolism of the first cut is all about taking your first steps together as a married couple.

Typically the couple makes the cut and then the catering staff serves the guests.

Don’t forget to consult with your baker or caterer before making the cut! Sinking your knife into the wrong spot can result in a cake that topples or collapses.

Party Continues: 1 to 4 Hours

There’s no real limit on how long a reception can continue after the cake is cut. If the party is rocking there’s no need to bring it to a close as soon as the last bite of cake gets eaten.

You’ll be guided by the venue rules, of course. In addition, nothing says you have to stay until the last guest leaves. Indeed, the couple is the first to leave, not the last. All you really have to plan is how long you’re going to want to stay at the party after the cake cutting ceremony.

Wedding Exit: 15 Minutes

Announce the exit by starting with the bouquet and garter toss. Give your guests sparklers to wave or rice to throw, then slip into your getaway car and head out happy!

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How to Prepare for Your First Marriage Counseling Session

Seeking help from a couple’s counselor? This is a scary step for any couple.

Yet it could be the step that saves your relationship and which keeps you out of divorce court.

If you start counseling early enough you may not even get to the point where you have to “save” your relationship. You may only have to strengthen it. Indeed, many therapists wish couples would reach out to them before they’re in active crisis.

If you’ve chosen your therapist and have set the date of your first session, here are the next steps you should take to ensure your session is as productive as possible. 

Be Invested in the Process

Couple’s therapy is rarely successful unless both members of the couple are invested in the process. You should at least be willing to take your experiences here as an opportunity for learning and growth.

Going to couple’s therapy is not the mark of a failed relationship. It’s not an expression of weakness. In fact, choosing to go and ask for help learning the skills that it takes to have a successful relationship is a marker of loving strength.

Being invested in the process means you’re going to be open and honest as you answer the therapist’s questions. You’re going to abide by the ground rules the therapist sets. If you are assigned exercises or given tools to use then you’re going to use them. Making a commitment to do all of these things, in advance, is the only way that your couple’s counseling sessions will have a chance at helping you meet your goals.

When you choose to go to therapy you are choosing to make investments of both time, money, and vulnerability in the success of your relationship. This is a powerful thing.

Is your partner a little less invested in the process than you are? Don’t get mad. Just express your sincere appreciation to your partner that they are willing to go with you. Even that tiny bit of gratitude could lighten their mood and make them happier about coming to the table.

Remember, it won’t be your job to get your partner to talk. That’s all on your therapist.

Discuss Goals

Ideally, you and your spouse will have shared goals for couples counseling. Yet it’s not unusual for individuals to have different goals.

“You could be going into counseling hopeful the relationship is worth fighting for, while your partner is not so sure. This could make your initial goals a bit different from each other. It doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed.” Biltmore Psychology and Counseling

Common goals for couples counseling include:

  • Learning to communicate better.
  • Learning to make conflict productive instead of problematic.
  • Learning how to identify needs and get them met.
  • Learning how to be candid with one another.
  • Learning how to heal from certain marriage betrayals, like adultery or financial infidelity.
  • Find out what it takes to make each member of the couple feel safe in the relationship.
  • Come to a better understanding of where each member of the couple is coming from.
  • Replace destructive habits with constructive ones.
  • Conquer sexual problems or frustrations.
  • To prevent further damage to the relationship.
  • Rekindle the romance.

It may help to write down your goals and hopes for counseling so that you may share them with your counselor and with your spouse.

Know What to Expect at the First Session

Few matters will get resolved at the first session.

Instead, the therapist will spend the session asking some questions that will lay the groundwork for future appointments.

You may be asked to talk about how you met and what drew you to your partner. You may also be asked to talk about the state of your relationship today, and to give the therapist some idea of what you’re hoping to accomplish with them.

The therapist may also ask about your past, including other relationships you’ve had in the past, as well as your relationships with your family.

Answer openly, honestly, and to the best of your ability. This will help the therapist get a full and complete picture of issues that might be impacting your relationship.

A good, professional therapist will not “pick sides.” They will try to remain as unbiased as possible so they can guide each conversation successfully.

Be Ready to Focus on Your Own Changes, Not Just Your Partner’s

Ultimately, you cannot control the degree to which your partner embraces the therapeutic process. You also don’t want to make therapy one more thing for you and your partner to fight over.

You can make the suggested changes yourself. Often, when one member of the couple begins to change the other member of the couple begins to make their own changes in response. Often it only takes one person’s commitment to healthy habits to prompt the other to respond in a healthier way.

For example, if you stop making accusatory, “you always” style statements in conflict, then your partner will in turn spend much less time defending themselves in your next argument. This could make the overall argument more productive and easier to navigate.

Get Committed to the Process

It can 12 to 18 months of therapy before you and your partner truly work through all the issues you need to work through. You’re not going to get everything done in one or two sessions.

Let therapy proceed and unfold at its own pace. Know that it’s going to take time and be ready to be patient with that.

How to Tell if Couples Therapy is “Working”

Every time you and your partner communicate better, spend more time together, or are happier in one another’s company you’ve achieved a victory together. As long as therapy is helping you see improvements then it is in fact working.

There’s no “endpoint” for deciding when you’ve “arrived” at the perfect, healthy relationship. Yet it is possible to make measurable process just by observing whether or not you feel happier and more centered. Eventually you should notice that you and your partner are doing a better job of pulling together for common goals.

So take heart, and approach your first session with an attitude of optimism and openness! This could be the best thing you and your spouse do for one another this year.

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Celebrating a Formal Wedding after a Courthouse Wedding

Can you have a more formal wedding after a civil marriage? Absolutely!

There are a number of reasons this set-up might be desirable or even necessary. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible for many couples to enjoy a formal wedding. For some couples, getting legally married first helps to solve immigration issues. Some couples keep a breathtaking elopement secret before choosing to have a more public ceremony.

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How to get Married During the Coronavirus Pandemic

While we’re all eager for things to go back to normal, as of this writing the Covid-19 pandemic is still in force. There’s still a need to take precautions, which means many couples will continue to need to make accommodations to ensure their weddings are safe, happy occasions.

Here’s what you need to know about your options during this, or any other, pandemic.

Courthouse Weddings During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Large gatherings create superspreader events, but under the right conditions a small, intimate gathering can be done safely. This makes short, sweet courthouse weddings perfect.

Having a courthouse wedding can reduce awkward conversations about who is and isn’t invited, sidestepping talks about who is and who is not in the “Covid pod.” Most people understand that a courthouse wedding only allows for so many guests.

How much does a courthouse wedding cost?

It depends on the individual courthouse where you choose to get married. Some only charge you for the marriage license. Some charge you for the license and the ceremony. Research your local courthouse and budget accordingly.

Keep in mind that you will usually need to apply for, pay for, and receive your marriage license before you can get married. This is true of traditional weddings as well.

How can you make a courthouse wedding special?

Dress up, hire a photographer, and send out formal invitations to your chosen guests, just as you would for a larger wedding. Treat yourself to flowers and a nice spa day prior to the event, and put some effort into writing your vows.

Then, go all-in on putting together the best reception or after-party you can under the circumstances. Rent a private room at a restaurant, or decorate your own backyard to the nines.

A courthouse wedding isn’t less valid than a wedding with hundreds of guests. It’s just small and secular. You have a lot of options to build in moments that will be meaningful for you and your spouse.

Virtual Weddings During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Those who have trouble getting access to a vaccine, who have health conditions that make Covid especially danger, or who simply don’t feel safe coming out of their homes yet may still opt for a virtual wedding.

A virtual wedding runs just like an in-person wedding, save that the officiant, couple, and all the guests come in via Zoom or some other teleconferencing program. The wedding tends to be shorter: 15 to 20 minutes for the ceremony. There is rarely a reception.

How much does a virtual wedding cost?

You might have a few expenses, like a photographer, a wedding outfit, and an officiant. You’ll have to pay for your marriage license, just like you would for any other wedding.

If you do not already have a strong, fast internet connection, a high-quality camera and a good microphone, these may be good investments to ensure that technical problems do not plague your wedding day.

How can you make a virtual wedding special?

Start with the background! The right background can make a big difference when it comes to setting the right atmosphere.

The next thing you’re going to want to do is to choose the right wedding day outfits. Hire a photographer to come to take a few photos of you in your wedding finery. You’ll still want those keepsakes, and it’s possible for your photographer to stay masked and distanced while taking a few photographs.

Keep your guests included by sending out a party box or favour box. There are several options that have been created just for weddings.

Finally, treat yourself and your partner to a romantic dinner after the wedding is done. You won’t’ get a big reception, so you should take every opportunity to celebrate together.

Hold a Socially Distanced Coronavirus Wedding

For many people, the answer will be to keep the guests, to keep the larger venue, and to keep their traditions. The trick will be to do it all as safely as possible, which generally means a masked, socially distanced outdoor gathering.

This wedding will work much like any other wedding, though you might want to give special attention to making sure that guests have safe places to unmask and eat with others who live in their household.

Require Wedding Guests to Be Vaccinated

Now that vaccinations are available, most couples are going to want to hold the same wedding they might have held before the pandemic, with one caveat: they’re going to want to make sure all their guests are vaccinated. Fortunately, etiquette guidelines are already emerging for those who wish to communicate vaccine and testing requirements to guests.

One way to do this is to add a health and safety card to the invitation that asks if the guest intends to be vaccinated and if the guest is willing to take a Covid test the week of the wedding. Some states require that Covid tests be taken by all guests to even big gatherings, even private ones and if your state is one of them you should communicate to your guests that this is a matter of state law.

You should also use your wedding website to communicate that you are requiring guests to be vaccinated prior to the wedding, and to share vaccine resources. Guests may need to be reminded that they don’t reach full immunity until 14 days after receiving the second dose, which will allow guests to plan their vaccination. Remember, as of this writing the vaccine is not available to children under twelve, which may mean you need to have a child-free wedding in order for it to qualify.

In addition, if you’re hosting a large gathering you should still ask your guests to mask up. The bride and groom should do the same. It’s the surest way to keep everyone safe…especially since there’s always the chance that someone may not respect your requirements and may not be entirely honest about their vaccination status—which is an unavoidable risk unless you’re literally asking people to show their vaccine cards at the door.

Not sure you’ll be able to get everyone to play ball? Moving your wedding to 2022 might be the only viable option to keep everyone safe.

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