Good Music for Weddings

I’ve played piano for 40 years and organ for 25. As such, I’m called upon now and then to play for weddings. Many times, the bride has no idea what music to use for the wedding. Allow me to make a few suggestions.

Traditional Processionals for Weddings

So that you know my leanings upfront, I feel that traditional is the way to go with wedding music. Think back to your senior picture. Did you wear something classic and traditional, or something that was a fad and “in” at the time? Chances are, you’re grateful if you made a traditional choice. You may be watching video of your wedding for years to come. Do you really want to hear a canned pop song recording that will make you (and your fellow viewers) cringe? I once played at a wedding where the bride wanted to feature “Don’t Know Much (but I know I love you).” Wow, how I wished she would reconsider, but it was the bride’s day and all that.

Traditional music avoids that problem. Additionally, it’s appropriate. A wedding is a worship service, and the wedding music should match. Save the wild ‘n crazy stuff for the reception, if you must.

For the bride’s processional, of course there’s the traditional Bridal March — you know, Here comes the Bride. As a bit of trivia, did you know that it was written by composer Richard Wagner as part of one of his operas? It’s true (Wagner also inspired Mad King Ludwig to build his most famous castle, Neuschwanstein).

Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach is another great choice. It can be used for the attendants’ processional or the seating of the mothers as well. Ditto for his “Sheep May Safely Graze.”

Remember the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana? The marriage may have hit the rocks early on, but there’s no denying it was an awesome wedding. Diana walked the aisle to Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke. It’s very proper, very British, and a very popular and appropriate choice for bridal processionals.

The more recent wedding of Diana and Charles’ son, Prince William, featured the Bridal March from “The Birds” (a play by Aristophanes) by Charles Parry. This is really sublime, and it was actually played during the Queen’s procession into the Abbey. I read this online commentary about the piece: It doesn’t really get more English than the Bridal march. Those who have never heard it might not understand this comment, and everybody else probably does. Imagine a period costume drama (movie or theatre), the Queen, Union Jack, and… Bridal march in the background. Follow that by Pomp and circumstance, and there is an all-you-need English evening. This would be a different, yet still lovely and appropriate, choice for your wedding.

“If Thou Art Near” by Bach is good as well. Calm, soothing, classy.

Kate Middleton walked the aisle to “I Was Glad,” arranged by John Rutter. It was really effective and moving, but unless you have access to a world-class orchestra and choir, it’s not going to work very well at most non-royal weddings. I recommend leaving this one to William and Kate.


Traditional Recessionals for Weddings

  • The gold standard is “Wedding March” by Mendelssohn. You’ve probably noticed that most of the pieces I’m recommending are by a “master” of some type. The classics are classics for a reason. They still sound as fresh and new now as they did a hundred or so years ago.
  • “Psalm 19” by Marcello is great — I play it a bit faster than this recording, though. For recessionals, pretty much anything upbeat. Attendants exit the sanctuary a lot quicker than they enter!
  • I love “Allegro Maestoso” from Handel’s Water Music Suite. I often transition from “Wedding March” straight into this. I dare you to try listening to it without at least tapping your toe …
  • Another of my faves: “Prelude in Classical Style” by Gordon Young. I was introduced to this at one of my cousin’s weddings.
  • If you’ve got an organist who can pull it off, Widor’s Toccato from the 5th Symphony is absolutely spine-tingling.

6 thoughts on “Good Music for Weddings

  1. My processional was to Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke. I love it!

  2. At which cousin’s wedding were you introduces to Prelude in Classical Style? I haven’t yet decided which music I’ll use at my wedding!!!

  3. Hey Elaine, actually it was at JoAnn’s. I played “If Thou Art Near” at Rebekah’s … I would have fun playing at yours!!

  4. Very interesting entry today! I loved your enthusiasm for the traditional music.
    Lots of research involved and excellent music, too. You’re right about not being able to beat the master composers!

  5. My bridesmaids walked down the aisle to “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” by Rachmaninov. The tempo was just right, and the music provided both a sense of peace and one of anticipation. It’s one of my favorite pieces!

  6. For our wedding, we used traditional music for the processional and recessional. But of the songs I asked the organist to play before the wedding began, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” was my favorite, for sentimental reasons.

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