Behind the Music: The Parts of a Wedding
By Tim and Ryan O'Neill
The Wedding Music Experts
After the date has been set, the flowers have been ordered, and the
dress has been fitted, the focus of wedding planning turns to the more
intricate details of the ceremony and reception -- especially music.
Music helps set the tone for the entire event, whether it's traditional,
contemporary or religious. Many couples have a favorite style or level
of formality in mind, but often struggle to find exactly the right music.
It doesn't have to be a chore, says Aaron Mauldin of Aaron's DJ Services
in Kern County, CA.
"A wedding ceremony is essentially a symbolic event, an action devised
to portray the beginning of a lifelong love and commitment," says Mauldin.
"Music that reflects the couple's style and personality only enhances
the meaning of the event. It's your wedding; it should be your music."
As long as you choose music that is important to you, your ceremony
will hit all the right notes.
To make planning go more smoothly, approach it systematically by breaking
it down by the parts of the ceremony and choosing one or two songs for
each section. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan each
part of the ceremony:
The prelude music sets the tone - it's the first thing people hear as
they enter the venue and take their seats. Do you want to play traditional,
formal melodies that set a hushed, reverent tone? Or would you rather
encourage your guests to interact with each other by playing upbeat
or casual music? "I have had brides create a medley of their favorite
Jack Johnson songs to play as their guests arrive," says Mauldin. "Personalized
touches really make the day special."
Here are a few popular prelude options:
One of the most important scene-setting decisions you can make is the
song or songs you choose for the processional. Some couples choose just
one processional piece that's played while the bridesmaids and the bride
enter the venue, with the musicians pausing momentarily or increasing
the volume just before the bride enters. Other couples choose to add
heightened focus and drama by selecting multiple processional pieces
(for the mothers being seated, for the groom's entrance, for the bridesmaids,
for the bride). Regardless, the processional officially "announces"
the start of the ceremony and brings the guests to attention.
Today, the processional is about anticipation and suspense - particularly
in situations where the bride has not been seen by anyone prior to the
start of her walk down the aisle. The joyful, accompanying music reflects
the pride and joy being exhibited by parents and family members on the
couple's special day, and serves as a backdrop to the 'oohs' and 'aahs'
from invited guests as they see the bride as they've never seen her
A little drama is great, but it's easy to get a little carried away.
We heard about one bride who walked down the aisle to O Fortuna from
Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. Featured in dozens of action flicks for
the can't-be-ignored drama of its hundreds-strong orchestra and choir,
it probably blew the doors right off the church.
Consider one of these tunes for your processional:
During the ceremony itself, music can express how you feel about each
other as perfectly as your vows -- sometimes even more so. How do you
want to communicate those feelings to your guests? Some people choose
the traditional simplicity of hymns. Others take a more contemporary
route. We know one couple that had their pianist play a beautiful instrumental
version of an AC/DC tune during the ceremony. It's a novel idea -- just
run it by your wedding coordinator or celebrant first.
Of course, if Angus Young isn't exactly your style, here are some more
traditional choices for the ceremony:
One additional suggestion: be consistent. Either choose prerecorded
music for the whole ceremony, or go for live music, but don't mix and
match. It can get a little jarring if you switch back and forth.
The music you choose for your recessional speaks to your relationship
going forward together. It's the culmination of the entire ceremony,
and is often fast-paced and upbeat. Traditional songs full of drama
and verve work well, or this is a great place to insert a contemporary
tune. One couple chose Nothin's Gonna Stop us Now by Starship, played
on the organ.
Some other options include:
Whichever songs you decide on for the different parts of your wedding
ceremony, remember that it's just that: your wedding ceremony. From
the prelude to the recessional and everywhere in between, choose tunes
that evoke positive feelings for you as husband and wife. If the music
is meaningful to you, that's all that matters.
You might want to think twice about O Fortuna, though…
Wedding Music CDs
Click on any CD cover to hear wedding song samples