Huffpost Weddings
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Sharon Sacks Headshot

Your Wedding Ceremony: What Music Do I Play and When?

Posted: Updated:

"Music is love in search of a word"- Sidney Lanier

Every bride hopes for the perfect music to accompany her down the aisle as she steps into her new life. Whether your ceremony is religious, formal or informal, your music will bring atmosphere and poignancy to your vows and ceremony. In a well-planned ceremony, the music flows seamlessly through to the end in perfect harmony, upholding well-preserved familial and religious traditions, and giving a deeper meaning to event. The secret to creating this magic is in understanding the timing. Each phase of the ceremony is its own segment with its own musical accompaniment. The music breaks the ceremony up into its individual parts, much like the chapters of a book. The ceremony should be split into five independent segments. The five segments are as follows:

1. The Prelude - Played as the guests arrive and take their seats.
2. The Pre-Processional - Played as the honored family members walk down the aisle.
3. The Processional - Played as the bridal party walks down the aisle.
4. The Bride Song - Played as the bride walks down the aisle.
5. The Recessional - Played as the newlyweds and their bridal party exit back down the aisle.

Timing is everything and the timing of your ceremony begins with The Prelude. This segment establishes the mood and begins as guests arrive, typically 45 minutes before your ceremony. Once everyone is seated, and your bridal party is ready, the music pauses for a beat just before they begin their walk down the aisle. Then the Pre-Processional segment commences as your honored family members walk down the aisle. After they have taken their seats, there is another brief pause, and then the Processional segment begins as the bridal party takes their positions at the altar, followed by another brief pause for five seconds to allow everyone to take a moment to appreciate and give respect to the special ceremony that is about to take place. Then the Bride song begins as the bride begins her walk down the aisle. As the bride comes into the guests' view, she will pause for five seconds and then begin walking. Then, the ceremony will commence with no musical accompaniment. After the matrimonial kiss, the Recessional segment begins as the newlywed couple exits down the aisle.

The location of your ceremony will help guide you in your choice of instruments. People often overlook the significance location plays on your choice of instrumentation. For example, if your ceremony is indoors with hard surfaces, such as marble or glass, then string instruments or wind instruments are complemented by the favorable acoustic properties of these surfaces. An outdoor ceremony will work best with instruments that are naturally louder such as woodwinds or brass instruments. When using violins and cellos always make sure they are hooked up to a speaker system as their sounds drowns out easily.

The instrumental combinations are endless with hundreds of different instruments that you or your Music Coordinator can choose from. Whether you have two instruments or 30, all combinations will have overlaps that serve as the foundation. Below are the basics by ensemble type.

1. String Ensemble
a. Contemporary
i. One guitar, keyboard or harp is required.

b. Classical
i. One viola, cello, or violin is required.

2. Wind Ensemble
a. Woodwind
i. A flute, clarinet or bassoon is required along with at least one additional instrument to provide a melody.

b. Brass
i. A French horn is required.

If you want to use a music coordinator, from my experience the best way to find one is through word of mouth. Get references and make sure you feel comfortable with them. Discuss your expectations such as the proper attire for musicians, the musical selections, and the timing.

Choosing songs for each segment can be a fun activity for you and your fiancé to do together. With apps and the internet there are tons of musical sites that can help you to identify the perfect songs for your ceremony. You'll end up learning about each other's musical taste, and this discovery can enrich your relationship. Keep in mind certain religious locations may have restrictions on the types of music allowed. Check with your officiant to find out if there are any restrictions at your ceremony site.

Music is not merely a sound, but the most perfect means of expression, a language in itself that has the ability to express something words cannot. Let your music echo the vows that you and your fiancé will hold true forever.