Recessional songs play a pivotal role in wedding ceremonies because they help kick start the celebration after the ceremony is over and the bride and groom make their exit from the ceremony.
Only one song is usually played during the recessional since it is a brief moment in the ceremony.
Generally, the recessional music starts after the wedding officiant presents the newly married couple. The couple then turn around and walk back up the aisle together while the bridal party follows.
This is a very happy moment in the ceremony which should be celebrated with triumphant, joyous music. The tempo of recessional music is usually fast and upbeat.
Many recessional songs are, in fact, not love songs but fast, happy songs that fit the tone and mood of the moment. The lyrics often mention a big change, a special day or a happy occasion. A lot of popular modern recessional songs are chosen solely because they are cheerful songs that feature beautiful string arrangements or acoustic guitar.
Whether you prefer traditional music, modern music or religious music, here’s a list of popular recessional songs to choose from:
Ode to Joy – Beethoven
This piece is the final movement in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Composed by Beethoven in 1824, the piece uses the text of a poem, also titled “Ode to Joy,” which was written by German composer Friedrich Schiller in 1785.
Water Music – George Frederick Handel
These suites, known as Water Music, contain two popular movements, Air and Hornpipe, which have become popular choices for both processional and recessional songs. These pieces were originally commissioned by King George I for a royal cruise he hosted on the River Thames in 1717.
Rigaudon – Andre Campra
This is a French Baroque dance piece composed by Campra in the 17th century.
Spring (La Primavera) – Antonio Vivaldi
This is the most famous and popular movement in Vivaldi’s set of four violin concertos, known as Four Seasons, which was composed in 1725.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, incidental music, Op. 61 Wedding March – Felix Mendelssohn
Mendelssohn wrote this incidental music for the wedding scene in a production of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1842.
The Harmonious Blacksmith – George Frederick Handel
This piece is the final movement of Handel’s Suite No. 5, which was one of eight suites known as The Eight Great Suites of 1720, composed by Handel in 1720.
Fanfare-Rondeau – Jean Joseph Mouret
This piece is a classical rondeau from Mouret’s Suite de Symphonies, which was composed in 1729. Since then it has become one of Mouret’s most famous songs and became the theme song for PBS’s Masterpiece Theater.
Beautiful Day – U2
Beautiful Day was written and performed by U2. It was released on U2’s 2000 album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
Happy – Pharrell Williams
Happy was written and performed by Pharrell Williams. It was featured in the 2013 film Despicable Me 2 and was released on the film’s soundtrack. The song received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2013.
All You Need is Love – The Beatles
All You Need Is Love was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and performed by the Beatles. The song was commissioned by the BBC in 1967 to be performed during Our World, the first live television production and was released as a single later that year.
Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles
Here Comes the Sun was written by George Harrison and performed by the Beatles. It was released on their 1969 album, Abbey Road.
Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine
Dogs Days Are Over was co-written by Florence Welch and Isabella Summers and performed by Florence and the Machine. It was released on Florence and the Machine’s 2008 album, Lungs.
Happy Together – The Turtles
Happy Together is a song written by Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon and performed by The Turtles. It was released on The Turtle’s 1967 album, Happy Together.
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
What a Wonderful World was written by Bob Thiele and performed by Louis Armstrong. It was released on Louis Armstrong’s 1967 album, What a Wonderful World.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough was written by Valerie Simpson and Nikolas Ashford and performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. It was released on Marvin Gaye and Nikolas Ashford’s 1967 album United.
Dancing on the Ceiling – Lionel Richie
Dancing on the Ceiling was co-written by Lionel Richie, Mike Frenchik, and Carlos Rios and performed by Lionel Richie. It was released on Lionel Richie’s 1986 album, Dancing on the Ceiling.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours – Stevie Wonder
Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours was co-written by Stevie Wonder, Lee Garrett, Syreeta Wright, Lula Mae Hardaway and performed by Stevie Wonder. It was released on Stevie Wonder’s 1970 album, Signed, Sealed & Delivered.
Is This Love – Bob Marley and the Wailers
Is This Love was written and performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers. It was released on Bob Marley and the Wailer’s 1978 album, Kaya. It has since become one of the Bob Marley’s most popular love songs.
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
God Only Knows was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher and performed by the Beach Boys. It was released on The Beach Boys’ 1966 album, Pet Sounds. The song was listed in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Viva La Vida – Coldplay
Viva La Vida was written and performed by Coldplay. It was released on Coldplay’s 2008 album titled Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Although the lyrics are not exactly happy or joyous, it has become a popular choice for a recessional song due to its string arrangement and fast tempo.
Religious Wedding Songs:
Exultate, Jubilate – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
This piece is a religious solo motet, written by Mozart in 1773, during a stay in Milan, Italy. It was first performed at the Theatine Church in Milan in January, 1773.
Now Thank We All Our God – Johann S. Bach
This piece is a popular Christian hymn that Bach included in his Cantata No. 79. The hymn was written in 1636 by Martin Rinkart. It was originally written in German and was later translated into English in the 19th century.
Now Thank We All Our God – Sigfried Karg-Elert
This organ piece is also based on the Christian hymn written by Rinkart in 1636. It was written by 19th century German composer Sigfried Karg-Elert.
Psalm 19 – Benedetto Marcello
This piece is based on the biblical text “Psalm 19: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God” and was written by 17th century Italian composer and lawyer Benedetto Marcello who composed over 50 Psalm settings during his lifetime.
Joy – George Winston
This piece is a cover of Johann S. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It was released on Winston’s 1982 album, December.
Hopefully this list will help you choose the perfect wedding ceremony songs for your big day!