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Wedding Ceremony Music


With your ceremony and venue plans firmly in place, it’s time to get cracking on the wedding music.  More specifically, the wedding ceremony music.  Historically speaking, classical accompaniment holds court during the main events of the hour but with newer more relaxed views in place, anything from the likes of rock, pop, opera and even Uncle Albert’s Cornish funk… er… house band can be heard blasting from services across the land nowadays.  As ever, there are a few key points to consider before signing on the dotted line but with a cracking selection of tunes and live players at your disposal, you’ll have the pick of the very best.

Wedding ceremony music – where to begin?

‘Music can play a very important role in establishing an atmosphere at the ceremony. The bride and groom should think about what worked at other weddings they have attended and build on those impressions’, say the bods at Debrett’s.

Cracking advice as ever, but it’s worth bearing in mind that your choice of venue, and more specifically choice of ceremony itself will also dictate a hefty chunk of the wedding music arrangement.

So where to begin?

What type of wedding ceremony are you having?

Make no mistake, the type of ceremony holds hefty sway over the both the choice of wedding music and the band or sound system you can use.  Your three main contenders:

1)       Church service – Offers both live and recorded options depending on available space, building restrictions and the final nod of approval from your church official.

2)        Registry office – Strict limits on both service length and facility size firmly puts recorded music (CD/ipod/sound system) as the main option here but again you’ll still need the nod from the registrar.

3)       Licensed venue (civil ceremony) – The choice, gentlemen, is completely yours!  (well, almost – subject to terms and conditions… but fear ye not, ruddy long text shy folk of groom-kind, no small print on this one, just check out the venue guidelines below)

Wedding ceremony music – venue checklist

Your wedding venue needs to be taken into consideration early on in the game – everything from space and logistics to sound quality will ultimately depend on the chosen location, so it’s worth checking out the finer details well in advance of the big day.

  • Size – Short story?  It matters!  Be aware of the space and dimensions you’ve got up for grabs.  If you’ve hired a live crew to provide the music, you’ll need to factor in not only the number of bods, but space for instruments and any assorted extras (chairs, music stands etc.) as well.  Also bear in mind audience size and the distance you’ll need the sound to carry.
  • Acoustics – Older buildings like churches without doubt lend themselves well to top notch acoustics, and the smaller registry offices work well with sound systems but if you’ve opted for an outdoor affair it’s a whole different ball game, and there’s every chance the hard-earned cash you coughed up on that superb string quartet will quite literally disappear in the wind.  So bear in mind the suitability of the surroundings.
  • Facilities – Check out access to power points and existing sound systems.  Get the heads-up on necessary equipment for outdoor arrangements (solid surface for bands in a marquee, for example).  And if it’s a church affair have a word with the official to see what musical facilities are already in place – the majority of churches will offer use of their own organ, organist and/or choir (for a fee) if available.
  • Legal bits
    • Musicians – Make sure they’ve got the relevant public liability insurance and PAT certificates on board.
    • Venues – Check allowances and restrictions on number of musicians and use of equipment, particularly if it’s a listed or registered building.  Also be aware some religious establishments run a tight ship when it comes to the use of amps, so it’s worth having a word with your official before making any bookings.

Wedding music variety

You’ve got the pick of a mighty fine bunch of tunes and talent out there – from playlist suggestions on the likes of Spotify, YouTube and suppliers’ own sites, to top flight pianists, choirs, solo artists, string quartets, steel bands, pipers, orchestras…. the options are endless.  But keep in mind your performers’ scope and limitations.  If you’re on for using your church’s own organ, for example, you’ll need to give your chosen musician the heads-up on the details.  And also be aware your chosen team will need an early idea on wedding song choice so they can get to work on any lesser-known selections, or let you know if you’re shooting for an unrealistic goal.

Budget matters

A few key points to factor into the equation:

  • Band size – The bigger the group the more moolah you’ll need to pay out.
  • Distance and travel – Double-check details on petrol and accommodation costs / requirements.
  • Recording – Be aware that musicians are well within their rights to bump up the final bill if your ceremony – and so their performance – is recorded.

When should you include wedding music?

Next up on the agenda, you need to decide exactly when you want your wedding soundtrack to come into play.  While the majority of weddings include a hat-trick of pieces for the main event (in, sign, out), as ever with pre-nuptial planning, personal preference ultimately reigns supreme.  However, be aware that the ‘when’ will also have a massive impact on the ‘what’ you can play and ‘how long’ it needs to last

Traditionally, the moments to cover include:


1)       The Prelude(bit before the bride rocks up to the door)

Tunes here set the mood for the entire ceremony, not to mention keeping the crowds amused until the bridal party arrives.  Music giants Gigmasters suggest planning for at least 30 minutes worth of music on this one, which should give your team of ushers ample opportunity to seat the guests.  Be aware you might need a song or three to spare, depending on your lovely lady’s idea of just how ‘fashionably late’ a bride should be.

Traditional choices:            

o        Air (from Water Music Suite) – Handel

o        Canon D – Johann Pachelbel

You probably shouldn’t choose:

o        Send in the clowns – A Little Night Music

o        Should I stay or should I go? – The Clash


2)       Processional(bridal party down the aisle)

You know the score on this one.  Yes your best man will have given you the nod to let you know your bride-to-be has arrived but nothing lets you know the gig’s about to start like that piece of music.  It’s by no means set in stone that you have to use the infamous Bridal Chorus though chaps (you know the one).  Yes, it’s traditional but the world’s your lyrical lobster – it’s your day afterall.  But bear in mind, especially for civil ceremony venues, that the aisle itself will probably be quite short, so anything with a long intro is probably best avoided.

You probably shouldn’t choose:

o        Chariots of Fire (but slow motion action would be ruddy hilarious)

o        Highway to Hell – AC/DC

o        Jaws theme tune


3)       Interlude / during ceremony(er… interlude… during the ceremony)

In terms of civil ceremonies, short solo pieces or songs can be a handy way to tie sections of the service together, while church services usually include a few hymns.  But how to choose?  First up, two or three hymns is the norm, according to  It’s also worth factoring your audience into the decision on this one.  If the majority of guests aren’t likely to have come across a hymn since their cross-legged assembly school-days, you might be safer opting for the ‘easier’ tunes of the bunch.  Check out Yourchurchwedding’s guide to the popular wedding picks.

Entirely inappropriate choices:

o        Run for your life – The Beatles

o        Don’t marry her – Beautiful South

o        A little less conversation – Elvis


4)       Signing the register (official bit)

As a general rule you’ll need at least five minutes’ worth of well-chosen tunes for this bit – quite possibly double that if you’re signing the deed away from the masses (in the vestry), with a truckload of witnesses and post-signature photos to boot. The bods at suggest opting for ‘romantic, reflective music’ at this point in proceedings.

Traditional choices:

o        Air on a G string – Bach

o        Ave Maria – Schubert

Definite no-no’s:

o        Heaven knows I’m miserable now – The Smiths

o        It’s the end of the world as we know it– R.E.M


5)       Recessional (signed, sealed, delivered…. party time!)

No two ways about it, Mendelssohn’s Wedding March still reigns supreme as the all-out crowd favourite when it’s time for the newlyweds to leave as fully fledged man and wife.  But again, it’s all down to personal preference here.  Yes, you’ll be first out of the door, so you’re not going to get to hear much of the tune anyway, but it might well take your guests a while to filter out, so bear in mind song length when choosing.

We couldn’t be less helpful if we tried:

o        Another one bites the dust – Queen

o        Bat out of hell – Meatloaf

o        Still haven’t found what I’m looking for – U2

o        It wasn’t me – Shaggy

Wedding song choices

Fair play, we’ve taken a lighthearted look at a few of the more dubious wedding tunes to be found but in all honesty, your song choices really do matter.  So pick wisely.  Take into account your audience as much as personal taste – bear in mind that something your best mates might find ruddy hilarious could easily offend Aunty Ethel, or worse…. your new in-laws.  And while it is your day you want people to remember the occasion for all the right reasons.  So it’s also worth paying close attention to lyrics – some of those slushy songs your lovely lady has her eye on just might not be as romantic as she thinks.

Useful online resources:


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