Saying I do to music- part 2

So you’ve looked at your budget. You’ve made your choices for live music or pre-recorded. And now it’s time to narrow down the music selection itself.

If you’re having a fairly straightforward ceremony (not a full Catholic mass, for instance) there are 5 main occasions for music. This includes music before the ceremony and immediately afterwards. It’s always really nice to have something quiet playing in the background as the guests are arriving and being seated. Saves awkward silences, creates that welcoming atmosphere, and can also help to heighten anticipation as the time for the bride’s arrival draws near. And let’s not forget something calming for the waiting groom as well.

Just as an aside- if you’ve gone with the live music option (yah you!) then don’t feel the need to programme every piece to be played before the ceremony as you would a jukebox. Give the musos an idea of preferences and general musical tastes by all means, but then leave them to do their job. That’s one of the benefits of having live performers there. A true professional will judge the mood of the gathering and respond accordingly. They will watch what’s going on around them and time the music to fit with the pre-ceremony announcements and the arrival of the bride. There would be no sudden hitting of the stop button.

Ditto with the music at the end of the ceremony. This is the time to party! So fast and happy is the way to go. Something that keeps playing as the guests exit the chapel, or move on to a group photo or reach for a drink.  And if you’re having pre-dinner drinks immediately following the ceremony you should definitely consider having the ceremony musicians keep on playing for a smooth transition into the party atmosphere.

But when all is said and done the most important piece of music, the one that everyone wants to get right, is the processional, the bride’s entrance music.  If you are making a formal entrance then that music will be remembered like nothing else. The traditional music used is the ‘Bridal Chorus’ by Wagner from his opera ‘Lohengrin’. Originally written for an ethereal female voice choir it kind of got taken over by great thundering organs, and that’s how most people think of it today. That and the school yard lyrics ‘Here comes the bride, fair, fat and wide’ etc. Not helpful.  

Suffice to say it is a piece of music that people either love or hate. No middle ground with this one. If you like it- great! If not then there are lots of alternatives. Go through your favourite songs, look at lists of suggest wedding repertoire, head to YouTube- there are a wealth of resources to draw on. And if you’re using live musicians, get their repertoire lists and have a chat with them. I always love it when a bride and I talk about their music preferences as it becomes a real collaborative effort and I know that everything will be as the happy couple would like.

One thing to be aware of is that it doesn’t take that long to get down an average length aisle. I’ve had people give me timings of up to 5 minutes for the entrance.  50 seconds is usually more accurate. Pace out your aisle to be sure, time it and allow for the fact that most people will go faster rather than slower on the day. Except for me. I tripped.

*Coughs, looks embarrassed*

Anyhoo- following on from the processional is the music for the signing of the register. Just as most people overestimate how long the entrance music needs to be it’s easy to underestimate the amount of time needed for the signing. There are several documents to be signed by several people and then most of the time there will be posed shots with the official photographer as well as a possible free for all for every guest with a camera. I recommend choosing 2 pieces of music for this one, which is usually around 5 minutes worth. Again it’s better with live musicians as they can cut it short, or add in something else if required.


When choosing music for the register signing it’s a good chance to think about the overall direction your music is taking. Is it mainly traditional/classical, or are you using current songs? Would you like to mix it up or stick with a theme or even the same composer/singer? This is a good time in the ceremony to subtly change the mood. A more formal classical entrance such as the Bridal Chorus can lead into a classical work in the register such as Canon in D by Pachelbel for your first choice, and then a fave love song for your second choice. Then you’re all set to walk off down the aisle to ‘Signed, sealed, delivered’ having made the move from classical to pop in one clever musical shift.

And that brings us to the final music choice- the recessional. Just like the processional there is a traditional work that can be used here: Mendelssohn’s ‘Bridal March’. And just like the Bridal Chorus people either love it or hate it. Whatever you choose the one thing I would definitely recommend is that it is fast and happy. Imagine- you have just been pronounced husband and wife, everyone is clapping and cheering, champagne corks are popping, confetti is flying. The mood is UP. And then Celine Dion kicks in with ‘My heart will go on’. Mmmm. Maybe not.

But whatever you choose- live music or pre-recorded, classical or pop, traditional or contemporary- it is your day. Do take the time to do the research that will create that mood and those memories that you are hoping for. Go with your gut feeling, and all the best for your wedding!