Why do some government formation periods end after a few days, while others last for several weeks or even months? Despite the rich literature on government formation, surprisingly little is known about the underlying bargaining processes. This article introduces a new dataset on 303 bargaining attempts in nineteen European democracies to analyse the duration of individual bargaining rounds. The study hypothesizes that (1) preference tangentiality, (2) ideological proximity, (3) incumbency and (4) party leadership tenure decrease the duration of coalition bargaining. Employing a copula approach to account for the non-random selection process of the observations, it shows that these actor-specific factors matter in addition to systemic context factors such as post-election bargaining and party system complexity. These findings highlight the need to consider both actor-specific and systemic factors of the bargaining context to explain government formation.