Processional songs are incredibly important because they mark the moment the bride and bridal party make their way down the aisle. It’s one of the biggest moments in the ceremony and deserves some special music.
Two songs are usually played during the processional: one for the bridal party and one for the bride.
Generally, the processional music starts when the bridal party lines up and prepares to make their entrance. Up until that moment, the wedding musician plays prelude music to keep the guests entertained and to help set the tone of the wedding.
Once the bridal party arrives, a cue is often given to the musician to start the first processional song. This cue can be anything from a simple nod to the musician, a pre-arranged signal from the wedding officiant or an usher inform the musician that the bridal party is ready. The wedding musician then plays the first processional song while the bridal party marches in.
The choice of song for this moment is simply a matter of taste. Any song can be played, but usually couples choose a song that has a beautiful melody, sentimental or romantic lyrics and a moderate tempo so the bridal party can walk down the aisle with ease.
After the bridal party has finished walking down the aisle, then the bride’s entrance song is played. This is one of the most important songs in the ceremony. When the guests hear this song, they should know the bride is about to enter and should stand to greet her.
The song should be regal, majestic and also have a moderate tempo. The bride should slowly stroll down the aisle, not feel rushed along by a fast beat.
If the bride wants, this song can also have some special significance. It’s her big moment so the song should be something very personal and meaningful to her.
As for the style of the processional music, that is all up to the bride and groom. Any genre of music can be played, although if you are holding your wedding in a religious building such as a church or synagogue you should check with the person in charge first to see which type of music they allow.
Whether you prefer traditional music or modern music, here’s a list of wedding ceremony songs to play during the processional:
Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin – Richard Wagner
Also known as “Here Comes the Bride” this song is from Wagner’s 1850 opera titled Lohengrin. It became a popular wedding song after it was played during the processional of Princess Royal Victoria and Prince Frederick William of Prussia’s wedding in 1858.
Canon in D – Johann Pachelbel
This canon is from Pachelbel’s “Canon and Gigue for 3 Violins and basso continuo” which was composed sometime around 1680. The work was forgotten for centuries but became popular after it was published in 1919 and recorded by French conductor Jean-François Paillard in the 1970s.
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Johann Sebastian Bach
This is the last movement in Bach’s cantata titled Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart an Mouth and Deed and Life) composed between 1716-1723.
Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1 – Johann Sebastian Bach
This piece is the prelude from Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello which was composed sometime between 1717-1723. The suites were relatively unknown for centuries and only became popular after cellist Pablo Casals recorded them at Abbey Road Studios in 1939.
Arioso – Johann Sebastian Bach
This instrumental piece is from Bach’s church cantata titled Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe (I am standing with one foot in the grave) which was composed in 1729.
Air on a G String – Johann Sebastian Bach
This piece is the second movement from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 which was composed sometime between 1717 and 1723. The piece was commissioned by Bach’s patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt.
Ave Maria – Franz Schubert
Also known as Ellen’s Third Song, this song is from Schubert’s Opus 52, which was composed in 1825.
Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy
This piece is the third movement from DeBussy’s piano suite Bergamasqu, which was composed in 1890.
Trumpet Voluntary – John Stanley
This piece is a trumpet voluntary, a piece of church music written for either organ or trumpet, composed by Stanley in 1730.
Gymnopedie – Erik Satie
This piece consists of three piano compositions written by French composer Satie in 1888.
Guitar Concerto in D Major, Largo – Antonio Vivaldi
Vivaldi originally wrote this piece for solo lute in the 1730s, but it was later transcribed for guitar and has since become known as a guitar concerto.
Water Music – George Frederick Handel
Written by Handel in 1717, Water Music contains two popular movements, titled Air and Hornpipe, which are often used in wedding processionals. Water Music was commissioned by King George I and first performed on royal cruise he hosted on the River Thames in July of 1717.
The Prince of Denmark’s March – Jeremiah Clarke
Also known as Trumpet Voluntary, this piece was written by Clarke sometime around 1700. The piece became a popular wedding song after it was played during the processional in Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles wedding at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981.
Wedding March, from the Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart wrote this piece for a wedding scene in the third act of his 1786 opera titled The Marriage of Figaro.
Prelude from Te Deum – Marc-Antoine Charpentier
This is the prelude to Charpentier’s choral piece, Te Deum, composed sometime between 1688 and 1698. Forgotten for centuries, the piece was rediscovered in 1953 and surged in popularity after it was featured in many television shows and movies.
Trumpet Tune and Air – Henry Purcell
This piece is a trumpet voluntary, a piece of church music written for either organ or trumpet, composed by Purcell sometime in the 1600s.
The Wedding Song – Paul Stookey
The Wedding Song (There Is Love) is a song written and performed by Paul Stookey. It was originally written for the 1969 wedding of Peter Yarrow, Paul’s band mate in Peter, Paul and Mary, and was later released on Stookey’s 1971 solo album titled Paul.
All I Want Is You – U2
All I Want Is You is a song written and performed by U2. It was released on U2’s 1988 album titled Rattle and Hum. The song was listed in Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Greatest Love Songs. Its string arrangement and romantic lyrics have since made it popular choice for a processional song.
Glasgow Love Theme – Craig Armstrong
Glasgow Love Theme is an instrumental song written by Craig Armstrong. It was featured in the 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Harold Arlen
Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a ballad written by Harold Arlen and performed by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Another popular version is the ukulele cover performed by Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.
In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
In Your Eyes is a song written and performed by Peter Gabriel. It was released on Gabriel’s 1986 album titled So and later featured in the 1989 film Say Anything.
Something – The Beatles
Something is a song written by George Harrison and performed by the Beatles. It was released on the Beatles’ 1969 album titled Abbey Road. It has become a popular processional song due to its romantic lyrics and soft melody.
In My Life – The Beatles
In My Life is a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and performed by the Beatles. It was released on the Beatles’ 1965 album titled Rubber Soul. The song was listed in Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and became a popular processional song due to its sentimental lyrics and soft melody.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love – Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
Why Do Fools Fall in Love is a Doo Wop song originally performed by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. It was released on the 1956 album titled The Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon and has since been covered by numerous artists such as Joni Mitchell, The Beach Boys and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
A Thousand Years – Christina Perry
A Thousand Years is a song co-written by Christina Perry and David Hodges and performed by Christina Perry. It was featured in the 2011 film Twilight: Breaking Dawn. Another popular version of the song is an instrumental cover performed by the Piano guys.
Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love – Mark Knopfler
Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love is a song written Mark Knopfler and performed by Guy Fletcher. The song was featured in the 1987 film The Princess Bride.
Religious Wedding Songs:
All People That On Earth Do Dwell – William Kethe
This piece is a hymn written by Kethe in 1650.
Dona Nobis Pacem – Unknown
Often sung as a canon, this is a hymn written sometime in the 16th century. It is not known who originally wrote this hymn.
Hanava Babanot – Amitai Ne’eman
This is a Hebrew piece written by Amitai Ne’eman in 1951.
St. Anthony’s Chorale – Franz Joseph Haydn
This piece is a hymn written by Haydn in 1780.
Scalero de Oro
This piece is a traditional Sephardic song, which is a traditional song often sung during ceremonies.
This list should help you find the perfect processional songs for your wedding. With so many great songs to choose from, it can be hard to narrow it down.
Just remember to choose two songs that match the tone and mood of the moment but also reflect your own personality and style.
If you are currently planning a wedding, what song do you plan to use during the processional? If you know someone who got married recently or in the past, what did they choose for a processional song? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Hopefully this list will help you choose the perfect wedding ceremony songs for your big day!