Planning the Music for Your Wedding Ceremony

It’s safe to say that out of all the events for which you will gather your friends and family to celebrate your marriage, the wedding ceremony itself will be the most meaningful and, hopefully, memorable. Music plays many vital roles in the ceremony, from providing flow and ambiance to highlighting the deeper emotional meaning with timeless style and class.

For the music, most American wedding ceremonies have six major parts, each with their own special requirements:

  • The prelude
  • The wedding party’s processional
  • The bride’s processional
  • The interlude
  • The recessional
  • The postlude

The Prelude

The purpose of the prelude music is to welcome guests as they are being seated before the ceremony. It also should give a cheerful yet subdued atmosphere, setting the stage for the solemnity of the event. The prelude generally begins 15 to 20 minutes before the ceremony start time, and it often involves quite a few songs. Because of this, it’s best to give the musician(s) an idea of the genre of music you want and leave the individual song
choices up to their discretion. Since the prelude sets the tone for the rest of the ceremony, it’s a good idea to base your genre choice on the type of music you will be using later in the ceremony. Popular genre choices include Classical, Love Songs, Jazz, and Broadway, and these genres can be mixed together within the prelude to suit your taste. It is usually best to leave those choices up to the musicians unless you have strong feelings one way or another.

The Wedding Party’s Processional

The wedding party’s processional marks the official beginning of the ceremony. It should have a slow but flowing feel, ushering the beautiful bridesmaids and other members of the wedding party down the aisle. Perhaps the classic example here is Canon in D by Pachelbel, but you should listen to various musical selections to find a song that strikes a chord with you.

      Pachelbel Canon In D - Harp

      Pachelbel Canon In D - Guitar

      Pachelbel Canon In D - Piano

      Pachelbel Canon In D - String Quartet

The Bride’s Processional

The bride’s processional can be an incredible moment, as memorable to everyone involved as the vows or any other part of the ceremony. You should choose a very special song here. If you go with Classical music, the obvious traditional choice is Wagner’s Bridal Chorus (“Here Comes the Bride”). But any Classical piece that strikes you as particularly beautiful or meaningful can be used here. See below for other choices.

      Bridal Chorus - Harp

      Bridal Chorus - Guitar

      Bridal Chorus - Piano

      Bridal Chorus - String Quartet

The Interlude

The interlude can actually be many different moments in the ceremony, my very loose definition being any time there are no words being spoken for a minute or more. For most ceremonies, the interlude is the unity candle, memorial candle, or rose presentation. These are moments of quiet reflection, and the music you choose—if any—should encourage this mood.

The Recessional

At last, time to celebrate! The wedding officiant’s pronouncement of husband and wife is followed by enthusiastic applause and joyous recessional music as the happy couple leads the way back up the aisle. The song you choose should be bright and upbeat, inviting everyone to celebrate your union. The top traditional choice for the recessional is Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. But any song with a joyous feel that speaks to you will work well in this spot. See below for other choices.

      Wedding March - Harp

      Wedding March - Guitar

      Wedding March - Piano

      Wedding March - String Quartet

The Postlude

The postlude sets a pleasant atmosphere as guests are leaving. It usually lasts between 5 to 10 minutes, so it’s best to treat the postlude like the prelude and simply give the musicians an idea of what you want. Experienced wedding musicians will play postlude music that is refined but upbeat, adding the finishing touch to your beautiful ceremony.

Other great Classical music options for Processional and Recessional

Bach Air on the G String

      Air On the G String - Harp

      Air On the G String - Guitar

      Air On the G String - Piano

      Air On the G String - String Quartet

Bach Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

      Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring - Harp

      Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring - Guitar

      Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring - Piano

      Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring - String Quartet

Handel Air from Water Music Suite

      Air (Water Music) - Harp

      Air (Water Music) - Guitar

      Air (Water Music) - Piano

      Air (Water Music) - String Quartet

Beethoven Ode to Joy from Symphony #9

      Ode to Joy - Harp

      Ode to Joy - Guitar

      Ode to Joy - Piano

      Ode to Joy - String Quartet

Purcell Trumpet Tune

      Trumpet Tune - Harp

      Trumpet Tune - Guitar

      Trumpet Tune - Piano

      Trumpet Tune - String Quartet

Vivaldi “Spring” from Four Seasons

      Spring (Four Seasons) - Harp

      Spring (Four Seasons) - Guitar

      Spring (Four Seasons) - Piano

      Spring (Four Seasons) - String Quartet

Clark Trumpet Voluntary

      Trumpet Voluntary - Harp

      Trumpet Voluntary - Guitar

      Trumpet Voluntary - Piano

      Trumpet Voluntary - String Quartet

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