Wedding Ceremony Songs

After a decade of working as a professional classical musician, I have performed at hundreds of weddings and have learned a thing or two about wedding music.

Wedding ceremony songs should always be beautiful and celebratory but should also reflect the personalities of the bride and groom.

Matthew Lister Wedding Guitarist

I always recommend a few pieces to brides and grooms and let them decide which songs to choose based on their tastes.

So how many songs do you need for a wedding ceremony? The ceremony music is generally sorted into three categories:  prelude music, processional music and recessional music, and they all tend to have a specific number of songs played during each part.

Prelude Songs:

Prelude songs (pieces I play while guests are being seated) should be joyous, lighthearted and entertaining. These songs set the tone of the ceremony and keep the guests entertained while they wait for the ceremony to start. Prelude music is usually played for about 15-30 minutes, which averages out to be about 5 to 10 songs. My suggestions include:

Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 – Johann Sebastian Bach

Sonata in A (K.322) – Domenico Scarletti

The Harmonious Blacksmith – George Frederick Handel

Canarios – Gaspar Sanz

Romanza – Anonymous

Water Music – George Frederick Handel

Processional Songs:

For the processional (marching in) the music should be serene, regal, and majestic. Couples usually ask for two pieces: One for the bridal party and one for the bride. My suggestions include:

Canon in D – Johann Pachelbel

Nocturn – Johann Kaspar Mertz

Prince of Denmark March – Jeremiah Clarke

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Johann Sebastian Bach

Something – The Beatles

In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel

Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Harold Arlen

Sheep May Safely Graze – Johann Sebastian Bach

Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love (Theme from the Princess Bride) – Mark Knopfler

The Wedding Song – Paul Stookey

Recessional Songs:

The recessional (marching out) music should be triumphant. The ceremony is over! Let’s celebrate! Only one song is usually played during the recessional. My suggestions include:

Spring from Four Seasons – Antonio Vivaldi

Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles

Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Harold Arlen

All You Need Is Love – The Beatles

The Harmonious Blacksmith – George Frederick Handel

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

When choosing songs for the wedding ceremony, just remember that the music is there to create ambiance and to add atmosphere to the special occasion.

For information on themed weddings, check out my article on Themed Wedding Music.

If you need advice on how to hire wedding musicians, check out my article on Hiring Wedding Musicians: Advice from a Professional Musician.

Thank you for visiting!

Sincerely, Matthew Lister

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