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What Kind of Music Should You Play During Your Ceremony?

And how to narrow down your options.

bride and groom performance
Photography by: Lexia Frank Photography

Deciding what kind of music to play at your wedding ceremony can be a daunting task, even for the music aficionados of the world. Here are a few factors to take into consideration before determining what will work best, depending on your venue and your style.

 

Wedding Music Checklist 

 

Consider your venue.

The size and style of your venue can help dictate the type of music you should select. For instance, you wouldn’t have a solo acoustic guitarist play at a huge outdoor venue with a huge guest list because no one would notice the music. Spatial restrictions may also come into play if you're looking at bringing in something like a gospel choir or brass band, so there are some obvious logistical considerations to be made. Religious venues and indoor facilities sometimes have particular restrictions in regards to music, but you'll typically find this out as soon as you start planning.

 

Determine the formality.

If you’re hosting a black-tie wedding in a formal space like a museum or gallery, a bluegrass band wouldn’t really be as appropriate as, say, a cellist or a trio of classical musicians. The formality of your wedding venue may also have some influence on whether you select live music or a playlist. That said, sometimes the juxtaposition of adding informal tunes to a formal setting is a playful twist on the unexpected.

 

Pay attention to time allotments.

It's common for couples to hire the same entertainment for both the ceremony and cocktail hour, as many musicians have time minimums. In this case, you may opt to start with a duet for the ceremony, and then go up to the full quartet during cocktail hour. You may also be concerned about your song selection being too long or too short. If you're hiring a live band, they can usually repeat a chorus at the end of a song to extend it, or cut a song short if needed. If you've decided to use a playlist or a recorded song, you have a little less leeway but should assign a friend to monitor the timing, lowering the volume to slow fade out if the processional flies by too quickly.

 

Choose a style you love.

Unless you're having a religious wedding, your ceremony music really only consists of a couple of specified processional songs (one to two for attendants and one for the bride's entrance) and a recessional song. That said, you should have background music playing from the time guests start to arrive until after the guests have cleared out of the ceremony area. Choosing a musical style that resonates with the tone of the wedding and also feels in line with who you are as a couple should be a priority.

 

Select your songs.

Most musicians are happy to provide a list of song suggestions for the processional and recessional. These are songs that can usually be dragged out a bit if there's any lag in the attendants getting down the aisle (i.e. flower child meltdown), or songs that are particularly popular for weddings. If you give your selections to your musicians far enough in advance, they may also be willing to learn a song that's not on their list.

 

Many couples determine their wedding ceremony song selections based on the tone they'd like to set, emotional connections they have to certain tunes, songs they feel represent their relationship, or by sticking to the classics. Songs like "Clare de Lune" and "Canon in D" have been used for many, many years to signify a bride's entry, and while some love that tradition, others may prefer a pop song or something they find to be more cheerful. Recessional songs really open up the gamut to something celebratory and upbeat.

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