As you plan your wedding, you may begin to wonder what musical pieces you will need for the ceremony and reception. In contemporary American wedding ceremonies, there are standard periods of time in which you will need to select music for. The music you select will provide the ambience for your guests and will set the tone for your entire wedding day. It is imperative you select pieces that reflects your personal style and taste, and will create an atmosphere that you wish to embody for your special day. Although organ music is standard, many brides are choosing to have harpists or string quartets to replace the traditional standard.

Wedding ceremony music is used to announce and accompany a specific order of events. Typically, the ceremony begins with twenty to thirty minutes of prelude music. Usually this prelude music is meditative and soothing. This music fills the ceremony space with tranquility as guests begin to slowly enter. Some examples of popular prelude music include: Bach's, Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring or Cantata 147, Beethoven's Fur Elise, or Ackerman's Prelude to the Bridal Suite.

After your guests have arrived, the time has arrived to begin the ceremony. It is customary to have the ushers accompany the mothers and grandmothers down the aisle at this time. Generally, there is special music for this procession and seating. Some common music pieces for this is Canon_in_D, by Johann Pachelbel or Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F 1st by Bach.

Once the mother of the bride assumes her seating position, the processional begins with the bridesmaids, followed by the maid of honor, the flower girl and ring bearer, and finally the bride accompanied by her father or other figure who is giving the bride away. For over one hundred years, the traditional wedding march has been Wagner's Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin, often called Here Comes The Bride. However, other processional marches have been used including, Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary, and Water Music (Suite #1) by Handle.

After the procession, depending on your particular ceremony, you may need to select ceremony music or hymnal music, a solo or a short piece for the lighting of the Unity Candle, and/or communion music. At the end of your service you will also need to select a recessional piece, to march down the aisle as husband and wife. Usually, the recessional music is lively and exciting. Some examples of commonly used recessional pieces include: Mendelssohn's Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream . Another popular choice is Widor's Toccata from Symphony No. 5 and The Carpenter's We've Only Just Begun. The ceremony then concludes with an instrumental postlude as the guests depart, such as Kenny G's The Wedding Song.

After the ceremony, most couples will celebrate with loved ones at their reception. The reception traditionally, also has standard dances in which you will need to select music for. Conventionally, the wedding party enters the reception area first, with the emcee announcing their names and titles. During this time, background music is played. After the wedding party has been announced, it is tradition to open the reception party with the newlywed's first dance, followed by dancing with each other's in-laws. There may also be a father-daughter dance and a mother-son dance.

The bride and groom should discuss with the selected DJ or band, the style of music they wish to have played during the meal and any special requests of favorite songs to play. Sometime during the end of the reception, the cake cutting ceremony will require background music. You will need to also discuss with your musicians what to play.

If you are having difficulty deciding on which songs to play during your wedding, discuss this not only with your fiancé but also with family, friends and the DJ or band. The musicians you have selected will be able to offer you insight on which songs are appropriate, which songs are most popular, and offer some suggestions to you.

Remember though, this is your day, and if a certain song is meaningful to you, then you should include it in your ceremony - even if it is different from the norm.

In summary, here is a list of musical pieces you will need to select for your wedding:

Ceremony Music:

  1. Prelude Music
  2. Processional music for the mothers and grandmothers
  3. Processional music for the groomsmen & clergy (if walking down the aisle)
  4. Processional music for the wedding party & bride
  5. Recessional
  6. Postlude
And if needed, Interlude Music:
  1. Ceremony / hymnal music
  2. Unity Candle music
  3. Communion music
Reception Music:
  1. Background Music to announce bridal party
  2. First Dance
  3. In-Law Dance
  4. Father/Daughter & Mother/Son Dance
  5. Cake Cutting