How to select your wedding ceremony music

Modern day wedding ceremonies can take a myriad of forms - from intimate registry office affairs to elaborate church services, outdoor ceremonies or bespoke humanist unions. And whatever style of ceremony you choose, it’s highly likely that some element of music will play a part to play in the process.

But how do you decide on the right choice of wedding ceremony music that reflects your own personal tastes? That feels in keeping with the unique style of your ceremony and that helps to communicate your ‘story’?

Traditional or contemporary?

For some couples a more traditional approach to wedding music might be the most appropriate option - perhaps comprising a few hymns or songs provided by a church organist, string quartet or choir. For others the idea of a more modern musical accompaniment can offer a something a little more original and bespoke in style.

The days of being restricted to the wedding march, a selection of hymns or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (while they’re still very viable and lovely options) are now long behind us. And even in the context of a more formal religious setting it’s possible to include a range of contemporary musical genres.

The great thing too is that the musical styles you opt for needn’t be an either/or decision. You can mix and match your musical choices to create a playlist that spans both old and new.

Live or recorded?

Another key decision to make when it comes to your selection of wedding ceremony music is whether you’d like this music to be live or recorded.

There’s no doubt that recorded music offers an element of safety, convenience and reassurance that can make it an appealing option. You’ll save the expense of musicians’ fees for one thing; and you can rely on the fact that the recorded music you’ve chosen is going to sound exactly as you expect it to.

There are some logistical considerations to consider with recorded music though. You’ll have to check that there will there be a speaker or PA system that you can play your music through. And you’ll need to make sure that there’s a trustworthy person in charge of making sure each track is cued up, played and faded out as required.

Including a live musical element as part of your wedding ceremony can add a personal, human touch.

But of course opting for live musicians does require some forethought. You’ll need to think about where your musician or musicians will set up and how much space they’ll need. Will their music be acoustic or amplified? Will they need access to power sockets? You’ll also want to be sure that they’re able to perform your song choices in the style that you’re envisioning. You might like to check that you can see them performing the songs live just to be sure. Or perhaps they’d be able to provide you with a recording to listen to so you can be sure of your choice?

What songs to choose?

OK, so once you’ve got an idea of the general style of music you’re after, and whether you prefer live or recorded options, it’s down to the fun part of selecting your wedding ceremony songs. For some couples this can be a pretty quick and painless process. For others it can be less straightforward.

First things first is to think about approximately how many songs you’ll need.

As a starting point there’s your entrance song. As the first chords strike up, and your guests await your arrival, your entrance music can help to build the excitement. Then as you make your entrance that music can evoke some pretty amazing feelings as everyone sees you for the first time!

Equally too, there’s your exit music - that “whew, we made it” song that celebrates your union, signifies the end of the formalities and hints at the party to come.

You might also like to include a couple of songs to fill the time while you’re signing the register or dealing with any important documents. And there’s also the option to include one or two more songs as part of the ceremony itself.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you explore your options.

  • If a song has lyrics, do the words have some special significance? And perhaps even more importantly - are the lyrics relevant and appropriate? It’s surprising how many beautiful tunes can have lyrics with a double meaning or a darker undertone that isn’t necessarily so wedding-friendly (Adele’s Someone Like You and Lou Reed’s Perfect Day are just a couple of examples.)

  • Remember too that your entrance music in particular is likely to be a fairly short excerpt rather than a whole song. Depending on how long you think your entrance will take, it might be that just a few seconds or a minute at the most is all you’ll need. With this in mind it can be worth thinking about whether there’s a particular part of your entrance song that you’d especially like to walk in to. Perhaps it’s the chorus that you’d like to enter to rather than the very beginning of the song?

  • While your entrance music is an opportunity for a bit of drama or romance, your walking out music is a great chance to choose something a little more upbeat. After all your exit from your ceremony signifies the end of the most significant formal element of your day - and it’s a great way to signal a shift in mood.

  • Finally too, if you’re considering a civil ceremony then it’s important to remember to exclude any songs with any religious reference.

Your wedding ceremony is a really special part of your wedding day. It marks the start of your new life together, it’s the formal acknowledgment of your commitment and it invariably kicks off the celebrations to come. If you’re after some inspiration, why not take a look at this set-list song which includes some suggestions for wedding ceremony music.

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Andrea Blades