Choosing music for your wedding should be one of the planning stage’s more joyous decisions. It should be done together, as a couple, and while it 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, secular weddings 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 is the same music that is played for the bridesmaids. Starting one piece and beginning another properly requires time. But there will always be a bride who wants a separate piece played for the ‘formals’ and one for the ‘maids.’
If children are in your ceremony, they should walk after your honor attendant, but before the bride. Next, the doors will be closed. The musicians will end the selection and simply wait a few seconds before starting the bride’s music. The doors are opened, and out comes the beautiful bride, usually escorted by her father (but I have seen 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’ 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 weddings, any piece can be played. I have suggested that couples listen to Cole Porter’s ‘Love Songs’ or Oscar Peterson’s ‘Classic Music 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 ‘Hornpipe,’ Vivaldi’s ‘Spring,’ Mozart’s ‘Adagio from Sonata in E-Flat’ and his ‘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, or ‘Panis Angelicus’ and ‘Ave Maria,’ two more formal selections. I have also heard soloists do ‘Amazing Grace,’ ‘My Girl’ and even ‘All You Need is Love.’
In the Saint Louis area, we are blessed with many fine chamber ensembles and string quartets, which are sometimes accompanied by a flautist or harp. Recessional music should be light-hearted and joyous. If you have brought in a klezmer band, the very infectious ‘Siman Tov U Mazel 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. The bridal reception is a jubilant feast, the celebration of what preceded it, a serious and meaningful rite of passage. 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.