We all know that music can make or break a mood. Throw on a song that doesn’t pop and the dance floor clears. Put on something you can shake and shimmy to and the floor is packed. But for a wedding ceremony, you’re not necessarily relying on a DJ or band to choose music for you. Even in a traditional religious setting, you’re often asked to choose music for your wedding ceremony. How do you choose wedding ceremony music?
Before you choose, what are the major wedding ceremony music selections you’ll probably need to make?
These are played before the ceremony while guests gather. Many choose to start playing these pieces 20-30 minutes before the ceremony begins. That equates to 4-6 songs (don’t be like me and pick 3…it means they’ll be on repeat, oops!). Sometimes if couples are having a more traditional wedding, they like to pick the less traditional songs for the prelude music. Prelude music really sets the tone for the ceremony.
Popular prelude songs: “God Only Knows”; “I and Love and You”; “Ho Hey”; “Moonlight Sonata”; “Ave Maria”; “Clair de Lune”; “Crazy Love”; “Make You Feel My Love”
Usually there are two, one for the wedding party headed down the aisle and one for the bride. The reason for this is to signal the standing of everyone as the bride comes down the aisle, traditionally. But you’re free to choose just one song for everyone to walk to as well. Or some people are now choosing to skip the wedding party walking down the aisle. It’s really up to you.
Popular processional songs: “Canon in D”; “A Thousand Years”; “Air” by Handel; “Can’t Help Falling in Love”; “Book of Love”
These are not necessary, but it’s nice to have music playing during a unity tradition. Or perhaps you have a friend or family member with a music talent they’d like to share (my sister sang Make You Feel My Love by Adele while we did a hand fastening ceremony).
Popular interlude songs: “Ave Maria”; “Perfect”; “The Luckiest”; “Thinking Out Loud”; “Amazed”; “Your Song”
These are always the most celebratory. You’re married, it’s time to party! Recessional songs are played as you recess down the aisle, followed by your wedding party.
Popular recessional songs: ” Lovely Day”; “Happy”; “Can’t Stop the Feeling”; “Love on Top”; “Forever”; “10,000 Hours”; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”; “At Last”; “You Make My Dreams Come True”
As guests filter out of the ceremony space or perhaps linger, it can be nice to have some postlude songs to fill the space. It depends on your venue and how quick you want guests to move out!
Not sure where these songs fit into the larger ceremony structure? Read part one of this blog series on ceremonies.
So how do you choose wedding ceremony music?
I think it first goes back to style and vibe. For instance, if you’re having an untraditional wedding, it might feel weird to hear an organ rendition of “Here Comes the Bride,” the super duper traditional wedding march that we all know.
The sky is truly the limit when it comes to music and ceremonies. I’ve heard everything from the traditional Canon in D to Hobbits from Lord of the Rings to the Leia love theme from Star Wars played. Really the music can reflect what you love as a couple or the vibe of the day!
You’ve probably already established your vibe and written at least a draft of your ceremony (if not, make sure you read this blog post about writing your ceremony). So now choosing the ceremony music is like the cherry on top.
You already know your overall music preferences (and if not, talk with your partner). It’s okay to choose country songs if that’s what you both enjoy. It’s cool to pick oldies if that’s more your vibe. Don’t worry about the latest song trends…the important thing to pick songs that resonate with your personalities, preferences, and overall tone for your ceremony. If you’re more untraditional, you can totally go for rock music. If you’re having a more traditional, religious service, maybe you include more classical or religious music.
Of course, it’s 100% your call and you know your music preferences better than anyone. For reference, here’s what we played at our wedding:
- Prelude songs: “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds; “On a Night Like This” by Dave Barnes; “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones; and “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison
- Processional: “The Book of Love” by Gavin James
- Bridal Processional: “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Ingrid Michaelson
- Interlude: “Make You Feel My Love” sung in the style of Adele by my sister Candace
- Recessional: “Lovely Day” Bill Withers
We avoided religious songs and played songs that we LIKED. We both tend to enjoy oldies and folk/acoustic pop, so that’s what we played.
To help get you started, I’ve compiled some wedding ceremony songs I like on Spotify. This is geared more towards the non-traditional (as you have more choices), but don’t be scared to literally play some of your favorite movie scores or favorite songs during the ceremony!
Other Ceremony Tips and Tricks: