Everything you need to know about wedding ceremony music

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When it comes to music for wedding ceremonies, everyone knows they have to have something for the start and something for the end and possibly something in between. But when it really comes down to it, nobody ever really knows what to have at the start, the end, nor what goes in between!

The truth is, you can have whatever the hell you like. And so to help you make your decisions for your ceremony music, I think it’s a good idea to explain what the purpose of ceremony music is and why we have it, which will hopefully make it easier to decide what to have!

Looking back to look forward

For as long back as marriage rituals have taken place there has always been some sort of sounds played to signal the start of a marriage ceremony, whether it was the blowing of a conch or the banging of drums. As sounds became more sophisticated and became like music as we know it, the first recognised pieces of wedding music were soon composed.

You may not know the names or who composed them but everyone knows the two most famous wedding songs of all; Wagners Bridal Chorus is the most traditional wedding entrance song, which you’ll probably know as the ‘Here comes the bride…’ song. And then there is Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March,’ which is the oldest of all wedding exit songs. Both pieces were written in the mid 1800 hundreds which just goes to show that music has been an integral part of wedding ceremonies for for centuries.

Entrance/processional music

In my opinion and you know I have a lot of opinions,  I think the most important criteria for choosing any wedding music is choosing music that a) you like and b) means something to you and c) fits in with your celebrations.

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Let your music, reflect who you are!

For example, not everyone listens to or likes classical music. So if you fall into this group, DON’T choose classical music. Their is no rule or law that says you do, so don’t. If you feel like you’d like something similar to a classical piece, without it actually being one, then maybe take a look at instrumental or classical versions of your favourite pop songs. Christina Perry’s 1000 years has been turned into a lovely instrumental version by the Piano Guys, and is a big hit as a ceremony entrance song.

For me, it has been amazing to witness the different kinds of music that couples have chosen for their ceremonies. Everyone is so different and people choose music for many different reasons. I am also not a believer that entrance music needs to be slow tempo, either. I think it”s really nice to start the ceremony with an upbeat piece of music. It really lightens the mood and makes people more receptive of the ceremony that is to follow. Obviously, they type of ceremony you are having will dictate to some extent, your choice in music.

To show you just how people chose from the heart and go with what is right for them, I have gone through the files of the last fourteen weddings that I did of 2014 to show you what each couple chose for either the bride’s entrance, groom’s entrance or their join entrance.



And lastly, bag pipe music.

Now is that a mixed bag or is that a mixed bag (no pun intended)? It just goes to show, that everyone really is very different in their tastes.

Musical Interludes

Sometimes, if you want to, it is nice to stand back during your ceremony and pause for a while, to appreciate and reflect on all that is going on, whilst a really nice piece of music or a song that means the world to you is being played or being sung. BUT, (you now when I’ve got a capitalised but, it’s a big but) personally I think you should only do this if the music being played is live, ie musicians or singers who will play the music, right there and then in person.

Let me explain.

Without having something/someone to focus on, the whole idea of a musical interlude can feel weird. When you have someone playing music, you can focus on them and watch whilst their beautifully perform your favourite ever song. You won’t have that with a recorded piece of music. And unless you don’t mind everyone sitting and staring at an i-pod booming out your best song in the world, it’s probably best not to have a musical interlude.

If you can’t afford to hire musicians or don’t have friends who can perform something for you, but still really want one of your favourite songs to be played, then a good idea is to play the music during the signing of the register or certificate signing. This way, something else will be happening whilst the recorded music is being played, which will give people something to focus on.

Some people like the idea of music being played but don’t like the idea of it as an interlude, where everything stops whilst the music takes place. So the signing of the register can also be a nice place to have music being played too, whether it is live or not.

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Live musicians can add a beautiful dimension to your ceremony. Photo by Owen Farrell

Group songs

If you like the idea of a musical interlude, but prefer the idea of the music coming from within your lovely group of peeps, then why not have a group song? I love group songs with all my heart. It is such a fun way to involve all of your guests, to get everyone singing and to bring some live music into your ceremony. I have dedicated a WHOLE post to group singing, because I am that obsessed with it.

Exit/Recessional music

As your ceremony is drawn to a beautiful end, and everyone is on a natural high, you’re going to want a piece of music to kick in, which will keep that high going and signal the start of party time. And so naturally it follows that as with your entrance music, you can and should have whatever the hell you want. I have had couples play anything from the Rocky theme tune to Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Seal and Delivered. It really is whatever floats your boat. Here are the fourteen exit songs that the last of my 2014 couples chose.




Live music Vs recorded

As a huge lover of live music, I would naturally say to have live wedding music ALL day long from the minute you wake up to the moment you close your eyes. However, back in the real world, I know that isn’t always possible. But, it doesn’t have to cost the earth, and now it’s quite easy and economical to hire musicians for just a few hours. Or you may find that you are actually surrounded by a really talented array of friends who are more than capable of doing a good job with your ceremony music. Some of the best ceremony music I have ever heard has been thanks to wedding guests and their ukuleles!

Live music might also be your only option, especially if your ceremony is outdoors; on a beach or in a woodland or field, with no power supply. If you can have the real deal, then go for it, but if not, no one is going to have a strop or think of you any less, if the string quartet playing Fleur de Lis is coming from your i-pad and not a real-life string quartet!

So what do I hope you will all take away with you from this post?

Well, primarily I hope that you’ve got the point that there really are no rules as to what you can have for your ceremony music, other than what feels right for you. You and your love bunny know who you are, know what you’re all about and know what feels right for you both. So take that knowledge and apply it to your choices for your ceremony music, and voila, there you have it! I know, I make everything sound so easy, don’t I?

Are you still deciding on your ceremony music? What are you thinking of choosing, and why? Nosey me, would love to know.


About the author

Natasha Johnson

Natasha Johnson is an experienced Wedding Celebrant, blogger and writer on all things related to weddings, in particular wedding ceremonies. Her mission is life is to encourage couples to see the importance of their wedding ceremony and to get married in just the way they want to. Make sure you catch her on the Engaged and Ready Wedding Podcast, here or on iTunes and Stitcher.


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