How long should a commencement ceremony be?

In reviewing post-commencement surveys and through our own anecdotal evidence from commencement coordinators around the country, the number one complaint about graduations is the length of time that they take.  That begs the question, “what is the ideal length for a graduation ceremony?“

So let’s work in from the extremes and come back to a happy medium for us to work on that ideal length for a commencement ceremony

From the previous blog post, (What makes a Commencement ceremony meaningful for your graduates?) we know that the ceremony is meaningful once the graduate experiences “five seconds for me, and everything else“. 

Would a 15 or 30  minute ceremony be adequate enough? Probably not. For the parents who have come in from all over the country to witness this momentous event, a very short graduation ceremony is not enough of “everything else“ to build up enough meaning for such a momentous occasion in the lives of their graduates.


On the other extreme, what about a four-hour ceremony? At that point in time, most graduates and the people in the crowd experience a feeling of “enough is enough already.“ they usually vote with their feet, and leave the ceremony early.  (We have personally been to graduation ceremonies that have been this long.)

Here is our suggestion:  your commencement ceremony should be about the length of an average movie with no intermissions.  Nobody should have to get up and take a bathroom break during your commencement ceremony.

Translating that into practical terms:  the ideal length for a commencement ceremony is about 90 minutes to 2 hours in length.  The absolute maximum length should be 2 1/2 hours knowing that you will get complaints for ceremonies over two hours. 

Want us to help come coach your commencement team with best practices of graduation ceremonies around the country? We are happy to consult with you. Please contact us at “”

The Grad Team specializes in capturing unforgettable moments at graduation ceremonies across the nation. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for excellence, we ensure every graduate walks away with a keepsake they’ll treasure forever.

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