Choosing Your Wedding Ceremony Music – Part 1: Church Ceremony

So you’ve decided to go with a church wedding? Here’s the good news:

Traditional churches have a gorgeous acoustic ambience which means real instruments can sound truly beautiful. So whether you choose the pipe organ, or hire a string quartet, solo singer, harpist or perhaps even a brass function band – you will be able to mesmerise your guests and create an incredible, unforgettable atmosphere.

Most love songs, even the contemporary ones, are suitable for performance in a church.

Depending on your style of service, there will be a number of occasions where music can be used to create special moments for you and your guests. The first two on our list are the bridal entrance and the bridal exit, followed by your guests’ arrival and guests’ exit. There are also lulls during the signing of the register and during communion (if applicable) where your performers can harness the power of live music to heighten the ambience.

We would recommend to err on the side of classical or traditional when choosing your church wedding songs, to best fit with the ambience of the location, with perhaps a dash of contemporary as a tonic at one or two given moments.

Here are some ideas for each of those categories:

Guests Arrival:

To create a welcoming atmosphere we would suggest instrumental and incidental background music – a string quartet performing classical pieces works fabulously in a church, as does a harpist performing similar material. This will set the tone for the proceedings to come, so try to go with something elegant, bold and relatively formal (the general rule is to move from formal to informal over the course of the day).

An organist could also be a great choice for something grandiose and emotive. If you’re going to choose just one musician for the ceremony – make it an organist!

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Bridal Entrance:

The traditional wedding music choice for an entrance is the Bridal Chorus by Richard Wagner – the one you might know as Here Comes the Bride.

This piece sounds incredible played fanfare-style by a brass quintet, but it will also sound excellent on either an organ or by a string quartet too. Other popular classical choices include Trumpet Voluntary (J. Clarke), Trumpet Tune (Purcell), Canon in D (Pachelbel) and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Rachmaninoff).

You wedding day should be tailored to you, so spend some time thinking about the best song choices for your big day. For some contemporary song ideas, you can check out some articles here, here and here.

Hymns:

The traditional way to present your hymns is the congregation singing alongside the accompaniment of an organ. Guests joining in with the music is always a fantastic experience – it can create a real sense of togetherness from the start of the day.

Hymns can also be sung by a solo singer. This could be somebody you know or an experienced professional singer – either contemporary or classical. Sung acapella, (without accompaniment) hymns can be spine-tingling when performed by an incredible soloist or vocal group. Acapella singing is particularly effective in church – which is no surprise considering the word comes from the Italian term meaning ‘in the manner of the church’!

All kinds of hymns can be sung at a wedding at different points. They can be decided upon with your live music provider and your priest or vicar – all of whom will be more than happy to advise.

There are some good suggestions for starting points on this website.

Signing of the Register:

This is an interlude which will take between five and ten minutes in total – so your musicians should have plenty of material prepared for this point. It’s normal for your guests to be engaging in low-level chat and taking photographs at this point, so try to avoid picking church wedding songs that you want all your guests to listen to intently.


The pieces you pick could be classical or contemporary and can be performed by any of the instrumentalists you have at your ceremony.

Bride/Groom Exit (Recessional):

The traditional choice is the Wedding March by Mendelssohn – and this is where a real church organ can really shine. It also sounds spectacular when performed by a fantastic brass ensemble or a string quartet.

Rousing is probably the best way to describe the bridal exit – something hugely celebratory and uplifting. This could well be the most memorable piece of the ceremony so choose wisely!

You’ll find some amazing classical-style ideas here and Hitched’s contemporary wedding music suggestions here.

Guests Exit:

As your guests leave, your music should mirror the style which was played when they entered the building. Make sure your music evokes the right emotions, setting your guests up for a great afternoon celebrating your nuptials.

 

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