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Choosing Wedding Music - Ceremony Music and Reception Songs


Ceremony music is the music played during the ceremony; i.e., prelude, processional, ceremony, recessional, and postlude. Prelude music is played 15 to 30 minutes before the ceremony begins and while guests are being seated. Processional music is played as the wedding party enters the ceremony site. Ceremony music is played during the ceremony. Recessional music is played as the wedding party leaves the ceremony site. Postlude music is played while guests leave the ceremony site. Options: The most traditional musical instrument for wedding ceremonies is the organ. But guitars, pianos, flutes, harps and violins are also popular today.

Popular selections for a Christian wedding:
Trumpet Voluntary by Purcell, The Bridal Chorus by Wagner, Wedding March by Mendelssohn, Postlude in G Major by Handel, Canon in D Major by Pachelbel, Adagio in A Minor by Bach
Popular selections for a Jewish wedding:
Erev Shel Shoshanim, Erev Ba Hana' Ava Babanot

Things To Consider

Music may or may not be included as part of the ceremony site fee. Be sure to check with your ceremony site about restrictions pertaining to music and the availability of musical instruments for your use. Discuss the selection of ceremony music with your officiant and musicians. Make sure the musicians know how to play the selections you request.

When selecting ceremony music, keep in mind the formality of your wedding, your religious affiliation, and the length of the ceremony. Also consider the location and time of day. If the ceremony is outside where there may be other noises such as traffic, wind, or people's voices, or if a large number of guests will be attending your ceremony, consider having the music, your officiant, and your vows amplified. Make sure there are electrical outlets close to where the instruments will be set up.


Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour may or may not be an extension of your postlude, depending on how and where you have your reception set up in relation to your ceremony. If your guests have had to travel to a new location, you may want to change the style and genre of your music to reflect a more party-like atmosphere. You may want to choose background music that can be played as your guests mingle around the bar and cocktail area. Smooth jazz, instrumental versions of pop songs, string quartets playing classical pieces, or the band playing low-key jazz standards are all good choices for the cocktail hour.

Newlyweds' Entrance

The entrance of the bride and groom to the reception is really the first time that you will be introduced to your family and friends as husband and wife. This is a grand entrance, so choose music that fits the moment. There are numerous choices for classical music that will create a feeling of grandeur. For less formal and informal receptions, you may want to choose popular rock or R&B songs such as "Simply the Best" from Tina Turner. Because the song will most likely not be playing long (you will soon be changing to the music for your first dance) you have the freedom to choose a song that has a great chorus, even if you do not want the rest of the song played.


If you are serving a meal during the reception, you will want to decide what type of music to play while your guests dine. Follow the same rule of thumb that you would for the cocktail hour; in other words, background music that sets the mood for your reception. If you have hired a harpist or string quartet for your ceremony, consider having them perform throughout the dinner hour as well. Smooth Jazz, New Age, and Easy Listening are all good choices of music genres. If a DJ is providing your music, be sure they keep music at an appropriate volume.

Music is a major part of your reception, and should be planned carefully. Music helps create the atmosphere of your wedding. Special songs will make your reception unique. When you select music for your reception, keep in mind the age and musical preference of your guests, your budget, and any restrictions that the reception site may have. Bands and musicians are typically more expensive than DJ's.


There are many options for reception music: you can hire a DJ, a band, an orchestra, or any combination of one or more instruments and vocalists.

Things To Consider

Consider hiring an entertainment agency that can help you choose a reliable DJ or band that will play the type of music you want. Whoever you choose should have experience performing at wedding receptions.

If you want your musician to act as a master of ceremonies, make sure s/he has a complete timeline for your reception so s/he knows when to announce the various events such as the toasts, first dance, and cutting of the cake. Consider watching your musicians perform at another event before booking their services.

If you need a large variety of music to satisfy all your guests, consider hiring a DJ. A professional DJ can play any type of music and may even offer a light show. Make sure you give him/her a list of the songs you want played at your reception and a timeline for playing each one. Make sure there are electrical outlets at the reception site close to where the musicians will be performing.

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