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Ceremony Music

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Topic: Ceremony Music/Selections
Timeframe: ASAP
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Ceremony Music

The three main musical components of a ceremony include the prelude (may include a solo or two), the processional (introduces wedding party and bride), and recessional/postlude (which begin the celebration).

You should always discuss your ideas with and obtain approval from the officiant or music director at your ceremony site. Some faiths require certain types or even particular pieces of music, and/or forbid other selections, particularly secular pieces.

Ceremony music will vary based upon your faith. Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church. As such, it limits the choice of music, but offers options for musical interludes (selected prayers, sign of peace, unity candle ceremony, and Holy Communion). Protestant ceremonies vary by congregation. Musical selections can encompass the lighting of the unity candle, Lord’s Prayer, or hymns sung as blessings. Reformed and Conservative Jewish ceremonies generally offer the greatest range of selection, often permitting a mixture of traditional and popular music. Orthodox Jewish ceremony music, however, reflects the solemnity of the ceremony, and is generally selected from a group of traditional pieces. For a sample of favorite ceremony selections, see the list at the end of this article

The Prelude

Prelude music should begin 20 to 30 minutes before the ceremony. Music played at this time can encompass classical selections, religious music, and/or romantic favorites. Many places of worship place few, if any, restrictions on pre-ceremony music. If you do not have specific requests for the prelude, the music director and/or musicians selected will create a program for you.

The Processional

The processional signals the arrival of the wedding party. Selections can range from traditional to modern. If you have a large bridal party, you may want to consider having one musical selection for the entrance of the attendants and another selection for the entrance of the brid e.

The Recessional and Postlude

The recessional marks the true beginning of the celebration. Music selected should reflect the joy of the day. Postlude music should be lively and upbeat, and should be played as your guests are exiting.

Selecting Musicians

The organ, harp, and piano comprise the three instruments that can carry a church service. Some couples opt to enhance their musical selections with other musicians. Trumpets, flutes, violins, guitar, and bagpipes all embellish with distinct sound. A string quartet, comprised of two violins, a viola, and a cello, adds an elegant touch. For a majestic quartet, consider brass: two trumpets, a trombone, and a French horn. Popular trios are the woodwind: comprised of a flute, oboe, and bassoon, or the flute: comprised of a flute, violin and cello. An extremely elegant duo pairs a harp and a flute.

When considering ceremony musicians, be sure to inquire about church or synagogue policies. Many churches require you to use their staff musicians and/or soloists. Others will permit you to hire and bring in your own musicians, but require that you pay their staff musicians whether you use them or not. Be certain to inquire about fees, and what they include. If there is a special selection that you want a musician to play, offer to send them copies of the sheet music with proper arrangements—well in advance of the wedding date. If special selections must be learned, or extra rehearsals are required with outside musicians/soloists, additional fees may apply.

If you hold your ceremony and reception at the same location, you can have the same musicians for both functions. If not, you may want to have some of the musicians from the ceremony travel to the reception, either for dinner music, or the entire reception. If you rely on a DJ for both ceremony and reception, make sure he/she has proper music for the ceremony.

As with any wedding professional, obtain a contract covering details under contract inf ormation.

Be sure to check out the Ceremony Music Worksheet under: For Brides: My Bridal Suite

Ceremony Musical Selections

Below are some musical suggestions for the prelude, processional and recessional. You may use any of these or choose your own – just be sure to check with your officiant for any restrictions.


Aire on a G String – Bach

Ave Maria – Schubert

Canon in D – Pachelbel

Second Movement, from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart

Nocturne, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mendelssohn

Panis Angelicus – Franck

Spring, from The Four Seasons – Vivaldi

The Greatest Of These Is Love – Bitgood

The Wedding Song – Stookey


Air, from WaterMusic, Suite in D/G Major – Handel

Allemande, G-Major Suite – Pachelbel

Apotheosis, from Sleeping Beauty – Tchaikovsky

Dodi Li for Jewish grooms

Erev Shel Shoshanim for Jewish brides

Fanfare, from The Triumphant – Couperin

Fanfare, from a Te Deum – Charpentier

Four Wedding Marches – Bloch

Intrada – Sibelius

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach

Prince of Denmark’s March – Clarke

Psalm XIX – Marcello

Rigaudon – Campra

Rondeau (Theme from Masterpiece Theatre) – Mouret

Rondeau, from Sinfonies de Fanfare – Jongen

St. Anthony Chorale – Haydn

Saraband, Suite No. 11 – Handel

Sinfonia, from Wedding Cantata – Bach

Trumpet Voluntaire – Purcell

Trumpet Voluntary in D Major – Clarke

Wedding March, from Lohengrin (Here Comes the Bride) – Wagner

Wedding March, from The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart

Y’did Nefesh for Jewish grooms


Benedictus – Simon and Garfunkel

Carillon-Sortie – Mulet

Fugue in C Minor – Buxtehude

Hornpipe, from The WaterMusic – Handel

Hymn – Vangelis

Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee – Beethoven
< br>La Rejouissance, from Fireworks – Handel

Now Thank We All Our God – Karg-Elert

Ode to Joy, from the Ninth Symphony – Beethoven

Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 – Elgar

Radetzky March – Johann Strauss

Third/Fourth Movements, from Eine Klein Nachtmusik – Mozart

Toccata, from Symphony No. 5, Opus 42 – Widor

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