Traditional Wedding Ceremony Songs

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Traditional wedding ceremony songs are quickly becoming a thing of the past as more and more brides now opt for more trendy, modern music for their wedding ceremony.

Yet, as fun as modern wedding songs can be, traditional songs are classics and will give your wedding a timeless feel. These types of songs are sentimental, instantly recognizable and always tasteful.

Matthew Lister Wedding Guitarist

You can do no wrong when you choose traditional songs for your wedding. Traditional songs are a great choice for conventional wedding venues such as churches, synagogues or other religious places.

These songs are not only considered more appropriate for these venues but they also reflect the setting, tone and mood of the wedding more accurately.

Since traditional wedding songs tend to be universal and appreciated by nearly everyone, they can also serve as a musical compromise for brides and grooms with conflicting musical tastes.

Here’s a list of traditional wedding ceremony songs to choose from. These include prelude songs, processional songs and recessional songs (Note that many songs are appropriate for all three portions of the wedding ceremony, the prelude, processional and recessional, and are sometimes listed in more than one section):

Traditional Prelude Songs:

Prelude music is played while the guests are being seated. It keeps the guests entertained and helps set the mood for the ceremony. Here are some traditional song suggestions:

Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 – Johann Sebastian Bach
Cello Suite No. 1 is a piece from the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello written by Bach between 1717-1723. The pieces were not well known prior to 1900 and only became popular after cellist Pablo Casals recorded them at Abbey Road Studios in London in 1939.

Traditional Wedding Prelude SongsWater Music – George Frederick Handel
Air and Hornpipe are two popular movements from Handel’s Water Music suites, written in 1717. Water Music was written and performed at the request of King George I on a royal cruise he hosted on the River Thames in July of 1717.

Air on a G String – Johann Sebastian Bach
Air on a G String is the second movement of Orchestral Suite No. 3 written by Bach for his patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt between 1717 and 1723. Air on a G String became one of the first pieces by Bach to be recorded after cellist Aleksandr Verzhbilovich and an unknown pianist recorded it in 1902.

Romanza – Anonymous
Romanza is a guitar piece also known by various other names such as Estudio en Mi de Rubira Spanish Romance, Romance de España, Romance of the Guitar and Romance d’Amour. It is not known who wrote the piece or when, although experts suspect it was written in the 19th century. The piece was first recorded sometime between 1897 and 1901 in Madrid by guitarists Luis and Simon Ramírez.

Sonata in A – Domenico Scarletti
Sonata in A is a keyboard sonata originally written by Scarletti in the 1600s for harpsichord but has since been transcribed for other instruments, such as guitar.

The Harmonious Blacksmith – George Frederick Handel
The Harmonious Blacksmith is the popular name of the final movement of Handel’s Suite No. 5. The suite was one of eight, titled The Eight “Great” Suites of 1720, written and published by Handel in 1720.

Traditional Processional Songs:

Processional music is played while the wedding party enters. Generally, two songs are played: One for the bridal party and one for the bride. Here are some traditional song suggestions:

Bridal Chorus – Richard Wagner
Bridal Chorus is a piece from Wagner’s 1850 opera titled Lohengrin. It is most commonly referred to as “Here Comes the Bride.” The piece became popular after it was performed during the processional at the wedding of Princess Royal Victoria and Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858.

Traditional Processional SongsCanon in D – Johann Pachelbel
Canon in D is one of Pachelbel’s most famous compositions and is the name of a canon, which is a piece of music that repeats and works over itself, in Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and Basso Continuo, which was written sometime around 1680. The work remained forgotten for centuries until 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
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Dressing is the title of the 10th and last movement of Bach’s cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life) written between 1716 and 1723.

Arioso – Johann Sebastian Bach
Arioso is an instrumental piece from Bach’s church cantata titled Ich Steh Mit Einem Fuß Im Grabe (I Am Standing With One Foot in the Grave) written in 1729.

Ave Maria – Franz Schubert
Ave Maria, known in English as Ellen’s Third Song, was written by Schubert in 1825 as part of his Opus 52. It is his most famous piece and was first performed at the castle of Countess Sophie Weissenwolff in Austria in 1825.

Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy
Clair de Lune, which means “moonlight’ in French, is the third movement from DeBussy’s piano Suite Bergamasqu, which was first composed in 1890 and published in 1905.

Gymnopedie – Erik Satie
Gymnopedie are three piano compositions written and published by French composer Satie in Paris in 1888.

Guitar Concerto in D Major, Largo – Antonio Vivaldi
Guitar Concerto in D Major was originally written for solo lute in the 1730s, before the guitar even existed, but was later transcribed for guitar. Today the concerto is usually played on the guitar.

The Prince of Denmark’s March – Jeremiah Clarke
The Prince of Denmark’s March, also known as Trumpet Voluntary, was written by Clarke, who was the first organist at the newly rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral, around 1700. Some sources state the march was written in honor of Prince George of Denmark. It became a popular wedding song after it was played during the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981.

Trumpet Voluntary – John Stanley
Trumpet Voluntary is a two part voluntary, which is a piece of music usually written for an organ or trumpet and played as part of a church service, written by Stanley in 1730.

Trumpet Tune and Air – Henry Purcell
Trumpet Tune and Air is a trumpet voluntary, which is a piece of music usually written for an organ or trumpet and played as part of a church service, written by Henry Purcell in the 1600s.

Wedding March, from the Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Wedding March is a piece from the third act of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro, written in 1786.

Prelude from Te Deum – Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Prelude from Te Deum is a choral piece written by Charpentier sometime between 1688 and 1698. Te Deum was rediscovered in 1953 and used in many television shows and movies, causing a surge in its popularity.

Air on a G String – Johann Sebastian Bach
Air on a G String is the second movement of Orchestral Suite No. 3 written by Bach for his patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt between 1717 and 1723. Air on a G String became one of the first pieces by Bach to be recorded after cellist Aleksandr Verzhbilovich and an unknown pianist recorded it in 1902.

Irish Wedding Song – Ian Betteridge
Irish Wedding Song is a piece written by Australian composer Ian Betteridge in 1976. The song has since become his most famous composition and is a very popular choice for Irish wedding music. Check out my own arrangement of the Irish Wedding Song on iTunes here.

Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1 – Johann Sebastian Bach
Cello Suite No. 1 is a piece from the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello written by Bach between 1717-1723. The pieces were not well known prior to 1900 and only became popular after cellist Pablo Casals recorded them at Abbey Road Studios in London in 1939.

Water Music – George Frederick Handel
Air and Hornpipe are two popular movements from Handel’s Water Music suites, written in 1717. Water Music was written and performed at the request of King George I on a royal cruise he hosted on the River Thames in July of 1717.

Traditional Recessional Songs:

Recessional music is played while the wedding party leaves. This music should be triumphant and celebratory. Here are some traditional song suggestions:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, incidental music, Op. 61 Wedding March – Felix Mendelssohn
The Wedding March is a part of the incidental music Mendelssohn wrote for a production of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1842. It has since become his most popular composition.

Ode to Joy – Beethoven
Ode to Joy is the final movement in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The piece, written in 1824, uses the text of a poem, also titled “Ode to Joy,” which was written by German composer Friedrich Schiller in 1785.

Rigaudon – Andre Campra
Rigaudon is a French Baroque dance piece written by French composer Andre Campra in the 17th century.

Spring – Antonio Vivaldi
Spring is a popular movement in Vivaldi’s set of four violin concertos titled Four Seasons, which was composed in 1725.

Fanfare-Rondeau – Jean Joseph Mouret
Fanfare-Rondeau is a classical rondeau, a piece of music that repeats the main theme, from Mouret’s Suite de Symphonies written in 1729. It is one of Mouret’s most famous compositions and later became the theme song for Masterpiece Theater on PBS.

The Harmonious Blacksmith – George Frederick Handel
The Harmonious Blacksmith is the popular name of the final movement of Handel’s Suite No. 5. The suite was one of eight, titled The Eight “Great” Suites of 1720, written and published by Handel in 1720.

Water Music – George Frederick Handel
Air and Hornpipe are two popular movements from Handel’s Water Music suites, written in 1717. Water Music was written and performed at the request of King George I on a royal cruise he hosted on the River Thames in July of 1717.

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