Wondering how to choose wedding music? In the midst of thinking about flowers, cakes, dresses, honeymoon destinations, vows, and everything else, your ceremony music timeline is yet another aspect of your wedding to figure out.
Music sets a tone, stirs up emotions, and shares a message with your guests, so picking the right songs is key—as is making sure they’re a good fit for the ceremony you have planned. Here are our top tips for getting that music right.
Know the Basics
How many songs do you need for a wedding ceremony? There are three big moments to pick music for: both of your processionals (one song each) and the recessional. Your partner's processional could also be the song the wedding party walks down the aisle to, or they can have a tune all their own, as you'll have.
Check With Your Venue
If you’re having a wedding in a house of worship, the first thing to do before you choose any songs is to talk to your officiant and see if there are restrictions as to what you can use. Some more conservative venues will have a specific list of traditional (often religious) songs for you to choose from. Others might allow anything as long as it’s instrumental and has no recorded words, and the most progressive may be open to whichever music you choose (with the officiant’s review and approval first). Find out what rules you need to follow, and go from there.
Consider Your History
No matter how long the two of you have been together, there’s bound to be a song, artist, or genre of music that you both really connect to. Think back: Is there a tune you love to belt out in the car? One you always dance to in the kitchen? A song one of you has heard that makes you think about the other? Or maybe a concert you went to together by an artist you really love? Any of these will help guide you toward a song or two that are really meaningful.
Read the Lyrics
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s crucial that you read the lyrics before pressing “play” at your ceremony. Think about “Every Breath You Take,” by the Police. It pops up at weddings all the time, but Sting himself has insisted that it’s about jealousy, obsession, and a lost lover—not how you want to kick off your marriage.
Make sure the songs you choose are telling the story you really want your guests to hear, and keep an eye out for any lines or verses that may ruffle feathers.
Choose a Theme
For a little more cohesion, choose a theme to tie your processional songs together. That could be songs in the same genre, songs with a similar tempo, or songs from the same era. This will lead to a better flow between songs as you and your wedding party process.
Think About the Feeling You're Trying to Create
Of course, you want the main feeling to be "love"—but do you want something calm and subdued, upbeat, or a fun surprise your guests might barely pick up on, like an instrumental version of that rap song the two of you can't help but dance to? Don't be afraid to pick an unexpected genre, especially if there's an acoustic or instrumental version that will nod to your favorite tune without busting out the hard rock on your way down the aisle.
Make It a Surprise
To really personalize the ceremony, you and your partner could each choose your processional songs in private, and not share them until you walk down the aisle. Find a song that represents the way you feel about your partner, a tune they love that you know they’d be thrilled to hear, or one that holds a special memory. Let your planner or whoever is operating the sound system know what you’ve chosen, and make sure you both have tissues on hand.
Your recessional song should be one that’s up-tempo, happy, and primed to get the party started. After all, you’ve just tied the knot. Pick a song that will make you want to dance down the aisle, and will have your guests singing along. Go for a surprise here, too. This could be anything from a gospel choir singing “Oh Happy Day” to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” by Stevie Wonder to Beyoncé and Jay-Z's “Crazy in Love.” Have fun with this one.