Music defines so many of the most important parts of a wedding—the reception entrance, first dance, last dance—that it only makes sense for there to be some good tunes playing before the festivities begin. Most wedding guests (the good ones, at least) arrive about 10 to 15 minutes before the ceremony begins, and though you're not required to provide any entertainment for this period, it's not a bad idea to have some music playing to fill the time.
This is called prelude music, and when used, it's played for about 30 minutes before the ceremony start time and consists of mellow songs that set the mood for a meaningful moment. Whether played on a speaker or by a band or string quartet or band, the music can create the ambiance you desire.
Match your prelude music to the overall vibe of your wedding. For a rustic wedding in nature, contemporary acoustic songs make a great choice; for a traditional ceremony, pick mostly classical, instrumental music.
Generally, five or six songs are the right amount, so take a listen to 65 of our favorite ceremony prelude songs and have fun making your selections.
"Moonlight Sonata," by Beethoven
Why We Love It: A soft piano melody makes this song soothing and peaceful.
"A Case of You," by Joni Mitchell
Lyrics of Love: "I remember that time that you told me, you said/Love is touching souls"
"Helplessly Hoping," by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Lyrics of Love: "They are one person/They are two alone/They are three together/They are for each other"
"Harvest Moon," by Neil Young
Lyrics of Love: "Because I'm still in love with you/I want to see you dance again"
"God Only Knows," by John Legend and Cynthia Erivo
Lyrics of Love: "God only knows what I'd be without you"
"I and Love and You," by The Avett Brothers
Lyrics of Love: "Three words that became hard to say/I and love and you"
"Serenade, D. 957, No. 4," by Franz Schubert
Why We Love It: An uplifting and energetic violin performance to set the mood.
"Everything," by Michael Bublé
Lyrics of Love: "And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times/It's you, it's you; you make me sing"
"Real Love," by The Beatles
Lyrics of Love: "Don't need to be alone/No need to be alone/It's real love"
"Still Fallin'," by Hunter Hayes
Lyrics of Love: "I hold on to every word/Like it's the first one that I've heard/It's the only time I've ever felt like this this"
"Ho Hey," by The Lumineers
Lyrics of Love: "I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart"
"Sheep May Safely Graze," by Bach
Why We Love It: A popular piano piece great for celebrations.
"Yellow," by Coldplay
Lyrics of Love: "I came along/I wrote a song for you/And all the things you do/And it was called 'Yellow'"
"The One," by Kodaline
Lyrics of Love: "Tell me that you want me/And I'll be yours completely/For better or for worse"
"Ave Maria," by Beyoncé
Lyrics of Love: "I found heaven on Earth/You are my last, my first"
"We've Only Just Begun," by Carpenters
Lyrics of Love: "And when the evening comes, we smile/So much of life ahead/We'll find a place where there's room to grow"
"Love," by Lana Del Rey
Lyrics of Love: "To be young and in love/Don't worry, baby"
"The Best of My Love," by Eagles
Lyrics of Love: "Oh, sweet darlin'/You get the best of my love"
"Water Music Suite No.3, HWV 350," by George Frideric Handel
Why We Love It: A robust orchestra to usher in an exciting day.
"Make You Feel My Love," by Bob Dylan
Lyrics of Love: "When the rain is blowing in your face/And the whole world is on your case/I could offer a warm embrace/To make you feel my love"
"(Ummm, Oh Yeah) Dearest," by Buddy Holly
Lyrics of Love: "Dearest, though you're the nearest to my heart/Please don't ever, ummm yeah, ever ever say we'll part"
"Clair de Lune," by Claude Debussy
Why We Love It: An emotional piano performance that oozes romance.
"She's Got a Way," by Billy Joel
Lyrics of Love: "She's got a way about her/I don't know what it is/But I know that I can't live without her"
"Can't Help Falling in Love," by Ingrid Michaelson
Lyrics of Love: "Some things are meant to be/So take my hand, and take my whole life too/Cause I can't help falling in love with you"
"The Wind," by Yusuf / Cat Stevens
Lyrics of Love: "I listen to my words but they fall far below/I let my music take me where my heart wants to go"
"#34," by Dave Matthews Band
Lyrics of Love: "Lean upon me/I'll lean upon you/We'll be ok"
"How Sweet It Is," by James Taylor
Lyrics of Love: "Everywhere I went it seems I'd been there before/But you brighten up for me all of my days/With a love so sweet in so many ways"
"XO," by John Mayer
Lyrics of Love: "Your heart is glowing/And I'm crashing into you/Baby kiss me, kiss me"
"Cherish," by The Association
Lyrics of Love: "And I do/Cherish you"
"Crazy Love," by Van Morrison
Lyrics of Love: "I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles/And the heaven's open every time she smiles"
"Truly," by Lionel Richie
Lyrics of Love: "There's no other love like your love/And I, as long as I live/I'll give you all the joy/My heart and soul can give"
"You and I," by Stevie Wonder
Lyrics of Love: "Here we are on Earth together/It's you and I/God has made us fall in love, it's true/I've really found someone like you"
"So Beautiful," by Musiq Soulchild
Lyrics of Love: "Cause it just feels so right/I don't wanna waste no time/If I had to choose I know/I'm going always choose to be with you"
"Come Rain or Come Shine," by Billie Holiday
Lyrics of Love: "I'm gonna love you like nobody's loved you/Come rain or come shine/High as a mountain and deep as a river"
"Evergreen," by Barbra Streisand
Lyrics of Love: "Love soft as an easy chair/Love fresh as the morning air/One love that is shared by two/I have found with you"
"Time After Time," by Iron & Wine
Lyrics of Love: "If you're lost, you can look and you will find me/Time after time/If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting/Time after time"
"Better Together," by Jack Johnson
Lyrics of Love: "It's not always easy and/Sometimes life can be deceiving/I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together"
"The Way I Am," by Ingrid Michaelson
Lyrics of Love: "If you were falling/Then I would catch you/You need a light/I'd find a match/Cause I love the way you say good morning/And you take me the way I am"
"I'm With You," by Vance Joy
Lyrics of Love: "I was just coasting 'til we met/You remind me just how good it can get"
"Lovin' You," by Minnie Riperton
Lyrics of Love: "No one else can make me feel/The colors that you bring/Stay with me while we grow old/And we will live each day in springtime"
"Lucky," by Jason Mraz featuring Colbie Caillat
Lyrics of Love: "I'm lucky we're in love in every way/Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed"
"Invisible String," by Taylor Swift
Lyrics of Love: "And isn't it just so pretty to think/All along there was some/Invisible string/Tying you to me?"
"Just the Way You Are," by The Piano Guys
Why We Love It: A beautiful piano rendition of a romantic pop song.
"Steady As We Go," by Dave Matthews Band
Lyrics of Love: "I walk halfway around the world/Just to sit down by your side/And I would do most anything girl/To be the apple of your eye"
"Thinking Out Loud," by Ed Sheeran
Lyrics of Love: "Take me into your loving arms/Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars/Place your head on my beating heart"
"Love You for a Long Time," by Maggie Rogers
Lyrics of Love: "And in the morning when I'm waking up/I swear you're the first thing that I'm thinking of/I feel it in my body, know it in my mind/Oh, I, I'm gonna love you for a long time"
"Love Is a Verb," by John Mayer
Lyrics of Love: "When you show me love/I don't need your words/Yeah, love ain't a thing/Love is a verb"
"River," by Leon Bridges
Lyrics of Love: "Take me to your river/I wanna go/Oh, go/Take me to your river/I wanna know"
"Lover," by Taylor Swift
Lyrics of Love: "Can I go where you go?/Can we always be this close forever and ever?/And ah, take me out, and take me home/You're my, my, my, my lover"
"Put Your Records On," by Corinne Bailey Rae
Lyrics of Love: "Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song/You go ahead, let your hair down"
"I Like You," by Ben Rector
Lyrics of Love: "There are way too many love songs/And I think they've got it all wrong/'Cause life is not the mountain tops/It's the walking in between/And I like you walking next to me"
"O Perfect Love," by Sir Joseph Barnby
Why We Love It: A classic, uplifting piano tune that emanates romance.
"Falling Like the Stars," by James Arthur
Lyrics of Love: "I swear to God, when I come home/I'm gonna hold you so close/I swear to God, when I come home/I'll never let go"
"Forever You and Me," by The Teskey Brothers
Lyrics of Love: "It could be forever, a lifetime spent together/It could be, forever you and me"
"Come Home to Me," by Léon
Lyrics of Love: "Oh, love, hold me closer 'til we're old 'cause/You know that in your arms I feel at/Home, love, take me over, say you know now"
"Here On Out," by Dave Matthews Band
Lyrics of Love: "When you laugh, it's like a light/That fills me up/'Cause you are my love/Like when I fell into your eyes/I could not get out/And I could not get enough"
"Save Room," by John Legend
Lyrics of Love: "Let down your guard just a little/I'll keep you safe in these arms of mine/Hold on to me, pretty baby/You will see, I can be all you need"
"Rainbow," by Kacey Musgraves
Lyrics of Love: "Let go of your umbrella/'Cause, darlin', I'm just tryin' to tell ya/That there's always been a rainbow hangin' over your head"
"Yours (Wedding Edition)," by Russell Dickerson
Lyrics of Love: "I came to life when I first kissed you/The best me has his arms around you/You make me better than I was before/Thank God I'm yours"
"Home to You," by Sigrid
Lyrics of Love: "When I don't know what to do/There's a room I need to sit in/Surrounded by my favorite view/And I need a hand to hold/Someone to tell the truth/Would it be okay if I came home to you?"
"I Will Spend My Whole Life Loving You," by Imaginary Future and Kina Grannis
Lyrics of Love: "Oh believe me/I've been counting my stars/Cause I will spend my whole life/Loving you"
"Marry Me," by Train
Lyrics of Love: "Together can never be close enough for me/To feel like I am close enough to you/You wear white, and I'll wear out the words 'I love you'"
"Collide," by Howie Day
Lyrics of Love: "Even the best fall down sometimes/Even the wrong words seem to rhyme/Out of the doubt that fills your mind/You finally find/You and I collide"
"First Day of My Life," by Bright Eyes
Lyrics of Love: "Yours was the first face that I saw/I think I was blind before I met you/And I don't know where I am, I don't know where I've been/But I know where I want to go"
"Cherry Wine (Live)," by Hozier
Lyrics of Love: "The way she tells me I'm hers and she is mine/Open hand or closed fist would be fine/The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine"
Is it better to have acoustic songs or songs with lyrics for wedding prelude music?
Both instrumental music and songs with lyrics can be used as wedding prelude music. A good rule of thumb is to choose songs that have a mellow presence and won't bring too much energy to the environment (that comes later!).