Common Wedding Ceremony Music

Traditional songs are always a hit

By Faith Alessio

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It's getting closer to your big day and you really have no idea what music you want for your wedding. There are so many options: Do you want just piano, a string quartet or something else? There are other options to take into consideration as well. If your wedding is a church wedding, all selections will need to be cleared with your officiant. A list of common songs can make that part of the planning easier, leaving you free to think about other things.

Prelude Music

The prelude is the music played for perhaps 30 minutes before the wedding while the guests are being seated. It can be a place to put songs that have significance to you as a couple. Prelude pieces might include "Sunrise, Sunset" from "Fiddler on the Roof," "All I Ask of You" from "The Phantom of the Opera," "Air" from "Water Music" by Handel, or "Air on the G String" by Bach. At many weddings, the grandparents and parents are seated at the end of the prelude time, often accompanied by a special song signaling the start of the ceremony.


"Canon in D" by Pachelbel for the bridesmaids and "Bridal Chorus" (Here Comes the Bride) by Wagner for the entrance of the bride are perhaps the most common wedding songs of all time. Other frequently chosen selections are "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" by Bach, "Prince of Denmark's March" by Clarke, "Wedding Processional" from "The Sound of Music," "Rondeau" by Mouret ("Masterpiece Theater" theme), or "The Vow" by Lubbock.

During the Ceremony

Music during the ceremony often includes a song that has special meaning for the bride and groom. Generally, there is music during the lighting of the unity candle or while the family Bible is signed. This special music may be a vocal solo or an instrumental piece. Some popular selections include "Meditation" from "Thais" by Massenet, "The Prayer" by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, "The Blessing Song" by Jernigan, and "The Lord's Prayer" by Malotte.


The recessional is the most triumphant part of the whole ceremony, when the officiant introduces the couple and they walk (or run) down the aisle, followed by the wedding party. "Wedding March" from "A Midsummer's Night Dream" by Mendelssohn and "Hornpipe" from "Water Music" by Handel are two common choices. Other pieces that are often used are "Hallelujah Chorus" by Handel, "Linus & Lucy" by Guaraldi, "Ode to Joy" by Beethoven, "From This Moment On" by Cole Porter, and "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" by Handel.

Postlude Music

While the guests are waiting to be dismissed, postlude music is played for 15 minutes or so. Generally, lively celebrative music is played here. Some choices for this final part of the ceremony include "La Rejouissance" from "Royal Fireworks" or "Allegro" from "Water Music", both by Handel; any of the six Brandenburg Concertos by Bach; and the hymn "To God Be the Glory" by Doane.

About the Author

Faith Alessio is a freelancer writer and a contributor to DexKnows.

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Father and bride walking down the aisle

Alternatives to the Wedding March

"Wedding March," composed by Richard Wagner in 1848, has been a traditional wedding processional song for more than a century. The song made its wedding debut in 1858 at the ceremony of Victoria, The Princess Royal and the Crown Prince of Prussia. ... Read More

Planning Reminder:

wedding ceremony with harp

Select ceremony music

Music is a critical element to making guests feel welcome. Traditional selections such as the prelude give guests cues to what's coming next. Consider music that has personal meaning and seasonal significance and works with your theme.

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Wedding Glossary


Music played while guests are being seated for the wedding ceremony.

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