The MANual: Wedding Music

The Ceremony Rituals That Need Music

The traditional wedding is full of rituals that, according to the age-old wisdom, require a  soundtrack: a prelude song, a processional song, etc. Part of planning the ceremony is finding these perfectly appropriate tracks

Think of it this way: weddings would be confusing if they had no music. Songs gives your guests valuable clues about what’s going on in the ceremony and what they can expect to happen next. Beyond being something to listen to and enjoy, music provides a timeline for people to follow.

We asked Mike Bedkowski (wedding DJ and co-owner of Posh DJs) to run down the traditional wedding ceremony songs and offer advice on when they should be played. We’ll start with the Ceremony, then take up the Reception in our next article.

The Ceremony

Prelude Music

What is it:

It’s the signal to the guests that they are not late. The ceremony will soon be starting. They’ve arrived, taken off their coats, said hello to each other and given the venue the once-over. The prelude music tells them that the big moment is fast approaching, and they need to find a place to sit.

What to play:

Something light and pretty to let people know that they’re in the right place at the right time. Classical music is good, but if you’re looking for a twist, Bedkowski suggested playing orchestral versions of popular songs. “People hear violins, violas and cellos,” Bedkowski said. “But then you’re sitting down, you’re reading the program and you’re like, ‘wait a minute. Is this ‘Free Bird’ on a violin? That’s pretty cool.’”

Processional Music

What is it:

The soundtrack to the big reveal, which plays as the wedding party, the groom, and the bride walk down the aisle. Strictly speaking, the processional refers to the music that plays as the bride maker her entrance, but over the years it has expanded to include the groom, both sets of parents, and everyone in the wedding party. First question to ask is: do you want separate music for the wedding party and the bride?

What to play:

The most famous piece of processional music is “Here Comes the Bride,” which is actually called “The Bridal Chorus” and is from an opera by Wagner (who you probably know from “Ride of the Valkyries,” the soundtrack to the best scene in Apocalypse Now.) But there’s nothing that says you have to use it. Take a cue from Parks and Recreation and play something wistful and sweet like “April Comes She Will” by Simon and Garfunkel.

Recessional Music

What is it:

The recessional music is like the end credits score for the ceremony. It sends the couple off into their new life with a fanfare and celebration, and lets everybody know that the show’s over and it’s time to leave their seats.

What to play:

Think something high energy and upbeat to segue from the ceremony to the reception. Your guests spent the ceremony calmly watching things happen. The recessional music is their cue that it’s time to get up and take a more active role in the festivities.  The most famous recessional song is Mendlesohn’s Wedding March–so common that most people probably think it’s just a continuation of Here Comes The Bride. Again, a solid choice but not one that you are required to use. Other suggestions can include everything from The Beatles to Daft Punk.


Bottom Line

Get to know all the different moments where, traditionally, you’re supposed to have music during your ceremony. Then start listening to those playlists.

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