Everything you wanted to know about Wedding Ceremony Music
Wedding Bells and Sounds
by Ralph Lecessi
You stand in the foyer of your church in your wedding dress. You watch the regal procession of your wedding party down the main aisle of your church. Now it is your turn to begin your climactic walk. Your guests stand facing you, eagerly awaiting your entrance. You take the first step, but WAIT! Where’s the music!
Could you imagine walking down the aisle to nothing but the sound of your own heart beating? This example illustrates the importance of music to your wedding ceremony. “No other single element of your celebration has the power to move your guests and engage the emotions of all in attendance the way beautiful music does”. In this article I discuss music for each part of the wedding ceremony, first by describing the role of music, and then by recommending selections that most successfully accomplish it.
ESTABLISHING MOOD – YOUR PRELUDE
The Prelude is an interval of music starting 20 to 30 minutes prior to your ceremony. During the Prelude, your music provider establishes the mood for your wedding. The choice of appropriate mood is entirely up to you, and you may use vocal or instrumental music to create it. A string ensemble playing violin concertos by Vivaldi will create an elegant mood. An organist playing liturgical selections will create a religious mood symbolizing the importance of this day. A vocalist singing contemporary love ballads will create a romantic mood. Or perhaps, you may desire ethnic selections, creating a variety of different moods.
One general rule applies to your Prelude selections: the music should not be dance oriented, and should be played at a volume that creates suitable background for prayer, reflection, and light conversation. Each selection should be approved by your musical director or officiant.
The following works are very effective in creating various moods:
Violin Concerto #8 (Vivaldi)
Air (from The Water Music – Handel)
Concerto #1 (from The Four Seasons, Spring -Vivaldi)
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Bach)
Largo (from Xerxes – Handel)
God is my Shepherd (Antoni Dvorak)
Brandenburg Concerto #2 (Bach)
Hornpipe in D (from The Water Music – Handel)
Rondo for Flute and Orchestra (Mozart)
One Hand, One Heart (from West Side Story – Sondheim/Bernstein)
All I Ask of You (from Phantom of the Opera – Webber)
While the Prelude music plays, the ushers escort your guests to their seats. The groom’s mother, father, and finally the bride’s mother are the last people escorted to their seats. I have found that playing a majestic classical work with a quick tempo can dramatically capture the guests’ attention and announce the beginning of the wedding ceremony. Trumpet Voluntary (Clarke) or Trumpet Tune and Air (Purcell) are ideal choices, due to their strong march rhythms. The music should continue until the aisle carpet has been unrolled. The Processional may now begin.
SETTING THE PACE – THE PROCESSIONAL
Your ceremony begins with the entrance of the wedding party. Normally, the ushers lead the procession, followed by the bridesmaids, maid of honor, the ring bearer, and the flower girl. The music “…should have a clearly audible cadence so that it is easy for you and your attendants to keep time while walking.”. The music begins softly, and gradually increases in volume until the bride’s entrance. If the same selection is also used for the bride’s entrance, there must be a noticeable increase in volume when she is ready to enter.
The haunting melody and driving rhythm (cello combined with violin playing pizzicato) of Pachelbel’s Canon have made it a very popular Processional piece.
Canon in D Major (Pachelbel)
Air on a G String (Bach)
THE BIG MOMENT – THE BRIDE’S ENTRANCE
The bride’s entrance is the most important moment of the wedding day. The music that is played greatly contributes to this lifelong memory. Its role is to announce the bride and focus all attention on her. The volume must be significantly louder than the music played for the attendants. With each step, the bride is assisted by the driving rhythm of the music.
Synonymous with the wedding ceremony, the Bridal Chorus will instantly proclaim your entrance. Or if you prefer, the breathtaking violin arpeggios of the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba are sure to create a lasting impression.
Bridal Chorus (from Lohengrin – Wagner)
Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Handel)
Trumpet Voluntary (Clarke)
CONGRATULATIONS! – THE RECESSIONAL
The end of the ceremony is usually marked by the bridal kiss or the announcement of the newly married couple. The bride and groom exit arm in arm, followed by the flower girl and ring bearer, the maid of honor and best man, and bridesmaid/usher pairs. Music should be majestic and played with a quick tempo. The regal melody and powerful orchestration of Ode to Joy will proclaim your union to your guests.
Ode to Joy (from 9th Symphony – Beethoven)
Wedding March (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mendelssohn)
Congratulations and best wishes for a beautiful wedding day!
References and further reading:
1. Gray, Winifred, You and your Wedding, Bantam Books, 1986.
2. Lalli, Cele Goldsmith, et.al., Modern Bride Complete Wedding Planner, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997.
 Goldsmith, et.al., Modern Bride Complete Wedding Planner, 169.
 Goldsmith, et.al., Modern Bride Complete Wedding Planner, 170.
About the Author
Ralph Lecessi has been performing classical music at wedding ceremonies for nearly 20 years. He is a concert soloist at churches and universities. He is also the author of the award winning “Ceremony Music Resource Page” and the multimedia adventure “Journey Down the Aisle”.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of CapeCodDJ.com or DJ Tom Tuttle. Our thanks to Ralph Lecessi for sharing his ceremony music view with us.