How to Create a Wedding Music Checklist

Plan the ceremony and reception as unique musical events

By Jen Whitten

Violin player over the shoulder
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With the fragrant aroma of the flowers, sweet taste of the cake and elegant sparkle of the wedding gown, weddings are sensory experiences. But don't forget about everyone's sense of hearing as you plan your wedding. Long after the memory of the cake's taste fades, your guests will still hum your music selections. With this in mind, select music to enhance the emotion of your day. By creating your music checklist early in your planning, you can ensure that all the senses are delighted.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Plan your ceremony and reception as separate events with unique musical needs.
  • Houses of worship often have guidelines for ceremony music, so check with yours before making your selections.
Planning the music for your wedding day

Step 1:

Decide on a tone for your wedding. Will it be formal or informal? Traditional or original and uniquely you? Formal, traditional weddings typically include classical pieces for the ceremony. Less traditional weddings feature more contemporary songs for such elements as the bride's entrance.

Step 2:

Follow your theme. If your wedding is taking place on the beach, adding tropical tunes to your reception music checklist will accentuate your theme in a way Top 40 songs cannot.

Step 3:

Make a list of the special moments in the ceremony and at the reception that need their own music. For the ceremony, these special moments can include the processional, the bride's entrance, the lighting of the unity candle and the recessional. The reception is trickier because tradition gives way to individual taste. The newlywed's first dance, the cake cutting, the garter toss and the bouquet toss are all special moments you may want to include in your reception for which you would want specific song selections.

Step 4:

Brainstorm song ideas with your future spouse. You not only want your music selections to be catchy, but you also want them to be meaningful. Make a list of possible song selections for each key event during the ceremony and reception, respectively. Having more options than you need is advisable.

Step 5:

Listen to the lyrics of all the songs you select. Do they convey the appropriate depth of feeling for the event? For example, if a song is for your first dance as a married couple, it should speak to your love for each another and the life you will build together.

Step 6:

Ask for input from members of the wedding party, family and friends. For example, a groom might not have an opinion about the napkin color, but he should definitely have the opportunity to help select music. Along those lines, if your reception will include special dances, such as the bride with her father or the groom with his mother, then you should consult mom and dad about what music they might like to dance to.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Remember to keep the music age-appropriate for all your guests. Do you really want your flower girl dancing to the latest Kayne West hit?
  • Be sure to listen to ALL the lyrics of the songs you select. You may be familiar with the first verse but there could be an embarrassing or unintentional meaning to a lyric later on in the song.
  • Be flexible with your music selections. Your DJ or wedding band may have suggestions you didn't consider.
  • If you have strong feelings against a song suggested by someone involved in the planning process, speak your mind and be as kind as you can while remaining firm.

About the Author

Jen Whitten is a freelance writer and worked in the event and wedding planning fields.

Planning Reminder:

wedding march and orchids

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.

View your wedding checklist!


Wedding Glossary


A musical ensemble of four musicians playing string instruments. Typically includes two violins, a viola and a cello.

View the Full Weddings Glossary
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