Ideal Length for a Ceremony

How long should a graduation ceremony be?

From the perspective of a graduate and his or her family, a commencement ceremony is something that marks a pivotal time in a person‘s life. This encompasses both a celebration of the individual and the institution at the same time. From the standpoint of the participants, this is viewed as: five seconds for me, and everything else.

The “five seconds for me“ is the time of individual recognition that the participant has at the ceremony. This five seconds is the time for family and friends to appreciate the achievement of the graduate. The “everything else“ part of the ceremony is the portion that lends pageantry and meaning to the event. This portion includes and is not limited to processionals, speeches, awards, bestowing of honorary doctorates, and/or musical performances.

When consulting with clients, one of the biggest challenges is that the commencement ceremony goes on “too long”, we are certain that you can relate. Our clients are often looking for ways to shorten the ceremony. This begs the question – how long should a ceremony be?

If a parent or loved one flies across the country for a ceremony that last 10 minutes, they will wonder “what was all the fuss about?“. Likewise, if they are forced to endure a 4-hour marathon, no one leaves happy.

So we are all familiar that the ceremony must take a certain amount of time, to lend gravity and meaning to the event, but there are limitations, people should not be restless at the ceremony and that heavily depends on the quality and length of the ceremony.

The time frame we recommend is the same as a movie with no intermission. That typically means 90 minutes, but no more than 2 hours. Think about this from your own experience. Picture these two hypothetical situations. One, if you pay to watch a movie and it is 45 minutes long, you might feel cheated out of the money. Two, if you had to sit in the movie theater for four hours to watch a movie, you might think that your time was not given the due respect (and that someone needed to work on the editing).

How to adequately budget your time for a commencement ceremony?

Start with the participants. It takes about 8 to 10 minutes of time to recognize 100 participants at the ceremony. Recognizing a graduating class of 500 should
take between 40 and 50 minutes.

Add 5 to 10 minutes on the end for a welcome from the alumni association or a closing prayer. Our ceremony is now at between 45 minutes and an hour. Let’s assume you plan on a 20-minute processional based on the previous year. That leaves you about 20 minutes worth of pageantry to plan. Think you can do it? Next month, we will discuss a few tips on how to get a hold of your commencement timeline.

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