It seems like choosing the songs for the wedding ceremony strikes fear into the heart of even the most organized bride or groom. You want your ceremony to be perfect, down to the last detail. So how should the ceremony music be selected? How do you ensure that it reflects your personality, without worrying that you are picking something that will sound ridiculous? How do you make it all come together like that vision in your head?
The first thing to know is that Go 4 Baroque is out playing weddings almost every weekend during the wedding season and has been doing this for years. I can help you with your music selections. I deal with everything ranging from couples that choose every song that gets played, to couples that only choose 1 or 2 of the songs, to couples that don’t choose any of the songs. Most couples are somewhere in the middle, and with a phone conversation, I’m able to get a feel for what they like, offer some suggestions, and help them decide.
That said, to get the process started, it helps to break the wedding down into the portions of the ceremony (or cocktail hour or dinner) for which you will need music.
- Prelude music is played while guests are arriving and being seated. This usually runs for 15 minutes or so, before the ceremony starts. It’s not necessary to actually choose these songs, if you don’t want to, and many couples leave that to me. Or, you can give a little guidance, like specifying that you want mostly classical or contemporary, or you want Beatles music, et cetera, and I can choose music that will provide the feel you want without you having to actually specify the songs. However, if you want to pick the songs, that’s fine, too. For this portion, you want to choose 4 to 6 songs that set the mood for your ceremony. You want to avoid songs that sound like the processional, since the guests might start looking around to see if “this is it”. You also should avoid songs that sound like the recessional, since it just sounds weird to have something too boisterous at this point. Think light and airy, getting seated and settled.
- The processional is the “big one”. This is the one that’s the most important musical choice. Pachelbel’s “Kanon in D” continues to be the front-runner for this, but there are many other options. We’ve recently been getting requests to play Sigur Ros’s “Hoppipolla” and it seems to work well. We’ve even done “Sweet Child of Mine” and for that bride, it was just right. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box. There are several ways to handle this section.
- You can have one song for the bridal party AND the bride. This has several advantages from my standpoint. One is that the processional runs very smoothly. There is no need to stop the music we are currently playing when the last bridesmaid gets to the front, flip pages to another song, and start it for the bride; only to end it less than a minute later when the bride arrives at the front. It’s sometimes difficult to find a great place to end a song, so the transition is not as smooth as you might like. Another advantage is that whatever special song is played, more of it will be heard if it’s played for the bridal party as well as the bride. I think most couples don’t realize how short the walk really is. When playing a song like “Kanon in D” for the bride only, we don’t even get through the first theme, and we have to stop. I think brides are concerned that if they don’t change the music, maybe the guests won’t notice that they are coming in. This never happens. The guests all stand up and turn around when the bride enters, so you will not be missed!
- The other option is to have a song for the bridal party and another for the bride. If you go for this option, make sure that you have songs that will sound good together. You don’t want songs that sound too similar, but you also don’t want the difference to be jarring. It’s best to select a song for the bride that gets to the point very quickly. If you pick a special song and we only get into the first line, you might be disappointed that you got up to the front before anyone was really able to identify the song. I am not as big a fan of the 2-processional route, but some couples feel strongly about it and there are ways to make it work, if you choose the right songs.
- Should parents and grandparents be included as part of the processional? If they are included, do they get their own song? My personal opinion is that it’s best to let parents and grandparents be seated during the prelude music, right before the processional is to start. There are enough timing issues without adding more couples into the equation. Often grandparents may not find it that easy to go down the aisle and would rather not have everyone looking at them and waiting for them. And, if parents are considered part of the processional with their own song, it just adds to the choppiness of too many songs that get started and then ended early. If you envision it with songs having to get cut off, pages turning, and a new song starting for each group, I think you will see that for processional songs, less is more.
- Music during the ceremony would include anything played during a unity candle lighting or unity sand or any variation on that theme. Or if it’s a Catholic mass, it might include gifts to Mary or songs during communion. Often, just a background song is used, which we quickly bring to a close as soon as you are back in your places. Sometimes, a song that is special to the couple is played here. We have done songs such as “One Hand, One Heart” and others.
- The recessional is what’s played when it’s all over and you are walking out together. A very joyful sounding song is best here. There are many options, both classical and contemporary. We’ve done a range of songs from “Brandenburg Concerto #3” to the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”. There are many choices that can reflect your personality and still be appropriate.
Keep in mind that you want your music to enhance the ceremony – not take it over and dominate it.
We often play for cocktail hours, dinners, and sometimes the entire reception. It’s a bit easier to choose songs for this portion, because here you can just pick a mixture of songs that you like and that you think will entertain your guests. Keep in mind you’ll probably have a range of ages in attendance and it’s nice to try to cover a range of tastes. But, here again, many couples give us free reign to play a mix of songs, or just give a few suggestions of songs they like or don’t like. It’s not necessary to provide an entire play list.
There are so many decisions to make, that if song selection is stressing you out, leave it to us – we’ve got you covered.