When you’re a guest at a wedding, do you pay much attention to the music at the ceremony?
You may notice familiar or favorite love songs as a guest, and perhaps appreciate the musicians who are performing. But until you’ve planned a wedding (for yourself or someone else), it’s hard to appreciate the meticulous planning that often goes into a ceremony.
Are you working on planning a wedding right now? If so, you may be curious to know how wedding music is typically structured in a ceremony. What music is often incorporated? What are the cues or “mile markers” in the ceremony agenda that move the wedding along? In this article, we’ll unpack the three traditional categories of wedding music, or “The Three P’s”: Prelude, Processional, and Postlude. We’ll also provide some suggestions of songs for each of these moments.
Note: When we use the word “traditional” in this article, we’re not talking about a traditional style of music itself. Rather, we’re referring to the traditional format and flow of a wedding ceremony. Remember that a wedding is a deeply personal day, unique to you and your loved one. It’s yours to design however you wish!
In most wedding ceremonies, you’ll find that music is broken down into three sections. The first one is the Prelude. A prelude refers to the music that plays before the ceremony as guests are entering the venue and finding their seats. Think of it as the background music that’s happening before the “real show” begins. There’s typically a mellow, calm tone to this wedding music tradition.
Here are some ideas for prelude songs:
Clair De Lune by Claude Debussy, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Johann Sebastian Bach, Air on the G String by Johann Sebastian Bach, and Voi Che Sapete by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sweet Creature by Harry Styles, Invisible String by Taylor Swift, Cherry Wine by Hozier, and Love by Lana Del Rey
Other Fun Ideas
Crazy Love by Van Morrison, In My Life by The Beatles, Marry Me by Train, and Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan
The second category of wedding music is the Processional. As the name indicates, this is the music that plays as the wedding party and happy couple are “proceeding” into the venue. For example: you’ll probably have a special song set aside for when grandparents and parents are walking down the aisle, for when bridesmaids are walking down the aisle, and for when the bride makes her grand entrance as well. All of these songs are processionals.
Here are some ideas for processional songs:
Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven, Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel, Ave Maria by Franz Schubert, and (of course) Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn
The Only Exception by Paramore, Butterflies by Kacey Musgraves, Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine, and Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Other Fun Ideas
Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley, Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, At Last! by Etta James, and Your Song by Elton John
The final music tradition is the Postlude. Closely related to a prelude, this is the music that plays when the ceremony concludes and guests are leaving the venue to make their way to a cocktail hour or reception. It’s often more upbeat than prelude music, to help get the party started. You can also lump a Recessional into this category. A recessional refers to the song(s) that are played when the newlyweds and their wedding party exits, before guests are dismissed.
Here are some ideas for postlude songs:
The Four Seasons:Spring by Antonio Vivaldi, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfang Amadeus Mozart, Wedding Day At Troldhaugen by Edvard Grieg, and Rondeau by Jean-Joseph Mouret
Crazy In Love by Beyonce featuring Jay-Z, Home by Phillip Phillips, Hey Ho by The Lumineers, and Best Day of My Life by American Authors
Other Fun Ideas
All You Need is Love by The Beatles, Rhythm of Love by Plain White T’s, Fly Me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra, and You Make My Dreams (Come True) by Hall & Oates
Aside from preludes, processionals, and postludes, there are lots of other moments you can use to incorporate music into your ceremony. Have fun making your own special selections!
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