Choosing music for your wedding should be one of the planning stage’s more enjoyable decisions, and it should be done together as a couple. While selecting music to celebrate your big day can be overwhelming (like everything else about the wedding), it can be simplified if you separate the decisions into ‘categories.’ There is appropriate music for religious ceremonies, as well as secular and ethnic weddings.
At almost every wedding ceremony, music is played while the guests are being seated. The next musical change should be for the formal seatings (grandparents and parents). Usually this musical selection is the same one played for the bridesmaids, but there always will be a bride who wants a separate piece played for the ‘formals’ and one for the bridal party. Remember, starting one piece and properly beginning another requires some timing.
If children are in your ceremony, they should walk after your honor attendants, but before the bride. Next, the doors will be closed. The musicians will end the selection and wait for a few seconds before beginning the bride’s music. The doors are opened, revealing the beautiful bride, who is usually escorted by her father (but, as you know, there are dozens of variations on this). The bride and her escort should enter to the most dramatic musical choice of the wedding.
Most brides will choose Mendelssohn’s classic Wedding March or Lohengrin’s Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride). I have heard Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, and the very dramatic Trumpet Voluntary by Clarke played by a trumpeter. Other favorites include Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and Bach’s Jesu.
If the wedding is an Orthodox Jewish one, the bride may be accompanied by a klezmer band. In more casual ceremonies, any piece can be played. I have suggested that couples listen to Cole Porter’s Love Songs or Oscar Peterson’s Royal Wedding Suite.
Most party stores have bridal sections and CDs with bridal music selections. You may want to invest in one to get a general overview. These include such classics as Handel’s Alla Hornpipe, Vivaldi’s Spring, and Mozart’s Adagio from Sonata in E-Flat and Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Some brides choose to have a solo sung, with some of the more popular selections being Pie Jesu (made popular by Charlotte Church), as well as the more formal Panis Angelicus and Ave Maria. I also have heard soloists perform Amazing Grace, My Girl, and even All You Need is Love.
Recessional music should be light-hearted and joyous. If you have brought in a klezmer band, the very infectious Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov evokes clapping. Some couples choose a bagpiper or even a children’s choir. Especially memorable for me were the joyous voices of a gospel group that led the couple out to their awaiting vehicle, and continued to sing as the guests left the church.
Decisions for the reception music are especially important, as music is considered the life of the party. Good bands will have guests on their feet and dancing all night long. While the wedding reception is a jubilant feast, the celebration of what preceded it should have a more serious tone to commemorate a meaningful rite of passage.
In the St. Louis area, we are blessed to have many fine chamber ensembles and string quartets, which are sometimes accompanied by a flutist or harp player. Likewise, try to find a DJ or band that will play music that best represents you as a couple.
After that, you have one more thing to do: Live happily ever after.
Wedding expert John Sullivan has worked with partner Ken Miesner for 30-plus years at Ken Miesner's Flowers in Plaza Frontenac, where they have collaborated for some 1,200 weddings! 'Like' him on Facebook under 'Wedding Wisdom,' where guests are welcome to post pictures, and leave comments and opinions.