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Ceremony Music Suggestions and Tips

A brief discussion about ceremony music in general followed by a list of suggested songs.

ceremony music ideas

Music can be a beautiful and important part of your wedding ceremony. It’s a wonderful welcome as your guests arrive and find their seats and helps establish a joyous and reverent mood. Scroll down and click the player below to hear some examples as you read.

Musically, the typical wedding is divided into several sections including the prelude, the processional, incidental music during the ceremony and recessional.

The prelude music is usually left to the discretion of the musicians. The timing is not precise and the musicians will want to be able to adjust their program according to factors such as the number of people that have arrived and any unexpected delays. If there are a few particular favorites that you would like to include in the Prelude, be sure to mention them to the musicians and they will be included if possible.

In the Christian tradition, the last thing to happen before the processional begins, is the seating of the immediate family, any grandparents, the groom’s mother, and finally the bride’s mother. Traditionally, no one is seated after the bride’s mother. However, this tradition has relaxed somewhat in recent years.

A special song is often selected for the seating of the immediate family. If this is the case, an usher should advise the musicians when the family is about to be seated. The ushers and family should wait while the musicians conclude the piece that they are playing. A pause in the music will be the signal to the ushers that they should start seating the family members when the music starts again.

When the immediate family has been seated, the musicians will once again conclude the piece they are playing. The bride’s maids should wait until they hear another pause in the music. When the musicians start playing again is when the bride’s maids should start. Everyone in the processional should wait until the previous person is almost to the altar before starting and then walk slowly.

If the music is to change, another pause will occur between the last person in the bridal party and the bride. This will usually be the maid of honor or a flower girl. The bride, usually escorted by her father, will then start down the aisle. It is very helpful for the musicians to know the number of people in the bridal party and who will be last.

In the Jewish tradition, the family and both parents of the bride and groom are part of the formal processional. Therefore, the processional music usually begins with the seating of any grandparents.

It is important for the bridal couple to select the pieces that they want for the seating of the mothers if applicable, the procession of  the bridal party and the procession of the bride. It is not required that the music change for the bride and if the procession is very short, or the wedding is informal, it may be preferable not to switch.

It should also be noted that “Here Comes the Bride” which is actually the Wedding March from the opera, “Lohengrin” by Wagner, is not usually considered appropriate for a Jewish wedding.

Some thoughts about the Pachelbel Canon

The Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel is a beautiful piece that begins simply and gets more elaborate and beautiful as it progresses. It is a popular choice for the wedding processional. However, unless the processional is long, it has to get cut before the best part! This is especially true if it is used only for the bride. The bride has usually arrived at the alter before the introduction is complete. It is far more appropriate to have the Canon played toward the end of the prelude when most of the guests have arrived and can hear it in it’s entirety.

Here is a list of music that is beautiful and appropriate for a wedding ceremony. You can pretty much mix and match the music for the bridal party and the bride. There follows a section that suggests some pretty combinations.

PROCESSIONALS

CLASSICAL

  • Aire on a G String – Bach
  • Aria – Kuhnau
  • Bransle de la Torche – Praetorius
  • Bridal March from Lohengrin (Here Comes the Bride) Wagner
  • Canon in D – Pachelbel
  • Come Ye Sons of Art Away – Bach
  • Chaconne – Purcell
  • Hartes Ease – Holborne
  • Hornpipe – Handel (From Water Music)
  • Hornpipe – Purcell
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach
  • Largo from Concerto in D Major – Vivaldi
  • Largo from Winter – Vivaldi
  • Minuet Finale from Water Music – Handel
  • Pavane in Renaissance Style – Wachs
  • Rigadoon – Purcell
  • Rondeau – Mouret (Theme from Masterpiece Theater)
  • Sheep May Safely Graze – Bach
  • Spring – Vivaldi
  • Te Deum – Charpentier
  • Trumpet Tune – Purcell
  • Trumpet Voluntary – Purcell

JEWISH

  • Al Kol Eleh – Shemer
  • Bridal March – Hassidic
  • Chorsha ha Eucaliptus (On the Jordan)
  • Dodi Li
  • Entreat Me No to Leave Thee – Avery
  • Erev Ba – Avissar
  • Erev Shel Shoshonin
  • Dodi Li – Sher
  • Haha’ava Babanot
  • Hodaya – Miron
  • L’Kha Dodi – Zeira
  • Lu Yehi – Shemer
  • Wedding March

CELTIC

  • Carrickfergus
  • The Lark in the Clear Air
  • Loch Ta Boat Song
  • My Love is Like a Red Red Rose
  • Welsh Aire

Some Nice segues for Bridal party and then Bride

  • Canon in D to Come Ye Sons of Art Away or Erev Shel Shoshonim or Hornpipe from Water Music or Jesu, Joy or Largo from Concerto in D major or Rondeau by Mouret or Trumpet Voluntary
  • Hornpipe by Purcell to Rigadoon by Purcell or Rondeau by Mouret
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring to Bridal March or Hornpipe by Handel or Hornpipe by Purcell or Pavane in Renaissance Style or Rondeau by Mouret or Trumpet Voluntary or Trumpet Tune
  • Largo from Four Seasons Winter to Bridal March or Jesu Joy or Trumpet Voluntary
  • Pavane in Renaissance Style to Trumpet Voluntary
  • Rigadoon to Bridal March or Trumpet Voluntary
  • Trumpet Voluntary to Bridal March* or Trumpet Tune

*Traditional

RECESSIONALS

CLASSICAL

  • Allegretto from Spring – Vivaldi
  • Concerto in B Flat Major, First Movement, Allegro Moderato – Handel
  • Hornpipe from Water Music – Handel
  • Ode to Joy – Beethovan
  • The Rejoycing From Royal Fireworks Music – Handel
  • Rondeau (Theme form Masterpiece Theater) – Mouret
  • Sonatina I – Naderman
  • Te Deum – Charpientier
  • Trumpet Tune by Purcell
  • Trumpet Voluntary – Purcell
  • Wedding March – Mendelssohn*

JEWISH

  • Artza Alinu – Flok tuneBashana
  • Chussen Kalle Mazel Tov
  • Dodi Li – Chen
  • Eile Chamda Libi
  • Haba’ah – Hirsch
  • Hevenu Shalon Alekhem
  • Hine Ma Tov
  • L’cha Dodi
  • Mitzvah G’odola
  • Od Yishoma
  • Rad Halaila – Trad. Hassidic
  • Simon Tov

CELTIC

  • Chanter
  • Gary Owen
  • Give Me Your Hand
  • Mairi’s Wedding
  • Morrison’s Jig
  • Rocky Road to Dublin
  • Scotland the Brave

Article Submitted By:
Margaret Sneddon, Harpist