What Music Is Played At Weddings? All You Need To Know

what music is played at weddings

What Music Is Played At Weddings?

Creating your wedding playlist yourself? DIY wedding song selection can feel daunting, but it isn’t all that difficult to pull off. The first step is to know what music is played at weddings. The types of music played at weddings include processional songs, recessional songs, cake-cutting, wedding party songs, first dance songs, and more.

That’s because a typical wedding day comprises different segments, and there should be corresponding music to create the mood. For example, as the couple walks down the aisle, you want a slow wedding song and opt for more lively pieces when the party begins.

Now, let’s talk about the music of wedding ceremonies.

what music is played at weddings

Wedding Ceremony Music Program

A typical wedding ceremony music program usually includes three types of songs: prelude (or pre-processional), processional, and recessional. Some weddings also add interlude and postlude songs to the playlist.


Prelude music is usually soft and light instrumental to create a calm ambiance in the venue as the guests wait for the ceremony to commence. “Canon in D” by Johann Pachelbel, “Air on the G String” by Johann Sebastian Bach, and “Trumpet Voluntary” by Jeremiah Clarke are popular prelude songs.

The wedding song may play 20 minutes before the ceremony begins or just as the floors open. Prelude songs play as background music as guests take their seats.

Wedding Processional Songs

Some classic instrumentals will also do here. The wedding processional song accompanies the bride as she enters and walks down the aisle with the family and wedding party. The same kind of songs can be used for the prelude and processional, but it’s better to change to another piece to highlight that grand entrance and to add drama as the bride walks in gracefully.

Wedding Recessional

At the end of the wedding ceremony (after the vows and pronouncement as husband and wife), the recessional music plays as you exit. Recessional music is usually livery and celebratory, reflecting the joy that abounds at that moment. You’re finally and officially married!

  • “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn: Big-time classical music and the traditional choice for the recessional. Often played as the couple exits the ceremony space.
  • “Ode to Joy” by Ludwig van Beethoven: This wedding song is a popular choice for the recessional as it is joyous and celebratory.
  • “Marry You” by Bruno Mars is a fun and upbeat modern choice perfect for a non-traditional couple.

Interlude And Postlude Songs

Not all couples add interlude or postlude songs, but some choose to. Interludes are songs played during significant moments like unity candle lighting and ketubah signing. Like the recessional song, a postlude may be performed as guests exit the ceremony.

You can add some color to the event by asking the musician to play the violin or some other string instrument to parade the guests out, creating a festive mood.

Reception Music

Reception music is the music played during the wedding party (reception) as everyone wines, dines, and dances amid the chatter. Here are some popular choices:

“I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas: An incredibly popular choice for wedding parties because of its infectious beat and optimistic lyrics. It’s a great way to get guests onto the dance floor and keep the party going.

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake: This modern and upbeat song is perfect for getting people out on the dance floor.

“Celebration” by Kool & The Gang: A classic party song perfect for getting everyone up and dancing.

First Dance Songs

First dance music is the songs played during the first dance between the newlyweds and is usually soft and slow with highly romantic lyrics to fill the air with love. It may also be one that tells the love story of the newlyweds.

“At Last” by Etta James: A classic and romantic piece good for a slow dance.

“Perfect” by Ed Sheeran: This is a modern and romantic choice that has become popular for first dances in recent years.

“You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne: This is a fun and upbeat choice perfect for couples who want to show off their dance moves.

How To Choose The Right Wedding Pro

Let’s face it, music is a massive part of the wedding experience, and the kind of sound generated can heighten or dull the entire atmosphere. If you’re hosting a large wedding and can’t go DIY, you want to hire a good musician who can make your big day a blast and give guests a wonderful time.

Here are some considerations when choosing your wedding music pro:

1. Live Music Vs. DJ

Hiring a DJ to perform at your wedding can be more cost-effective than live music, but there’s something extra that live musicians bring to the table.

For example, while recorded music can’t time arrivals, such as the bride’s entrance, a live musician can make it seem like they’re singing just for her. The aesthetics and creativity can bring the whole place to life. The vibes ultimately make for an ideal sensory experience.

But then, it’s worth seeing them perform so you can have an idea of how good they are before hiring. So it’s a great idea to ask the musician where their next wedding event will be hosted.

But if you can’t afford it, by all means, go for a good DJ.

2. Decide On What Kind Of Musician You Want On Your Big Day

Do you want a pianist, solo guitarist, harpist, or vocalist to pull off your wedding music? It may be tricky to decide what’s best, given that all are great options, but there are some factors to help you decide.

  • Venue: An outdoor wedding would be better off with a larger musical assemblage, such as a string trio or quartet, or guitar and drums, as they provide a more powerful sound without much amplification. An indoor venue would do well with two or three guitarists, violinists, flutists, and harpists. Etc. There will also be electrical outlets for amplification in the walls.
  • The wedding size: A small wedding will be fine with a solo musician. A guitarist with great vocals can be a great choice. But for a wedding with up to 100 guests, go for at least a string duo.

3. Start Searching Early

Although great wedding musicians don’t necessarily cost more than average ones, they usually get booked first. They’re good, so everyone wants them. So if you want them to be available when you need them, it’s worth starting the search early.

Tips On How To Choose Wedding Ceremony Music

Here are a few factors to consider when choosing your wedding songs.

  • Think about the kind of atmosphere you want to create, whether romantic, classic, or fun. Choose music that helps to set that mood.
  • Don’t feel obligated to stick to traditional wedding music if you have other preferences. It’s your special day, so choose what you love. But even at that, ensure you include popular songs that your guests can vibe to.
  • Finally, remember that this is a wedding ceremony and not a concert or club, so make sure the music is appropriate in terms of volume.
  • Other factors that can guide your decision include the type of wedding you’re having, the venue, and your personal preferences.

In summary, choose music that fits the tone of your wedding, and make sure it’s appropriate for the setting.

Traditional Wedding Ceremony Songs

These songs are classic, traditional wedding music and have been relevant for years. With them, you just can’t go wrong. Popular traditional wedding ceremony songs include:

  • “Canon in D” by Johann Pachelbel
  • “Amazing Grace” by Terri Geisel
  • “Procession of Joy” by Hal Hopson
  • “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
  • “Your Song” by Elton John

Popular Modern Ceremony Songs

If you want to go the contemporary route, here are some great modern songs for your wedding ceremony:

  • “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran
  • “Marry You” by Bruno Mars
  • “All of Me” by John Legend

When it comes to choosing wedding music, the options are numerous, so you need to curate a separate song list for each segment. But if you’re not pulling off your wedding music without a DJ or live band, you only need to choose the right musical talent or DJ who knows what to play at the right time.

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