Posted by Jessica Ahmed on March 13, 2011
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Bach Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Handel Air from Water Music Suite
Beethoven Ode to Joy from Symphony #9
Purcell Trumpet Tune
Vivaldi “Spring” from Four Seasons
Clark Trumpet Voluntary