Setting The Tone
If any one element is crucial to setting the appropriate tone and atmosphere for your wedding it’s the music. The music played during your wedding should do more than just entertain; it should evoke the deep emotion of your ceremony. The right music takes the right kind of planning, and by following a few guidelines you can ensure perfect harmony between your ceremony and the music you choose for it.
Prior to selecting your music, it is best to decide if you want to use religious songs only or a combination of religious and popular tunes. Once you’ve decided, set an appointment with the director of music for your church or synagogue. This person will be able to make recommendations for music suitable for the acoustics of the building and complement any of your wedding’s religious or cultural themes. Music for your ceremony should be divided into four parts: the prelude, the processional, interlude(s) and the recessional.
Prelude music typically begins 20 to 40 minutes prior to the ceremony. These selections set the mood for the coming event. Since the prelude provides an acoustic backdrop for your guests, it’s best to choose pieces that will be familiar.
A string ensemble creates an elegant mood, while a vocalist singing love ballads evokes a more romantic atmosphere. Because prelude selections are played during the seating of the mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom, you might choose songs with special meaning for them, perhaps the piece that was played on their own wedding day. Generally, your prelude selections should be played at a volume that will create a background for light conversation and reflection. These might be appropriate:
• Piano Concerto in C, 2nd Movement (Schubert)
• Violin Concerto #8 (Vivaldi)
• Air from Water Music (Handel)
• Rondo for Flute and Orchestra (Mozart)
• Hornpipe in D from Water Music (Handel)
The processional announces the arrival of the wedding attendants and, ultimately, the bride. The music for the bridal party’s entrance should have a definitive rhythm so that the attendants can easily keep time as they walk down the aisle. It should begin at a soft volume, then slowly increase until the bride’s entrance.
Organ music is the typical choice for the processional, but you can opt for a string quartet, a trumpet solo, or even a vocal solo. Whatever your selection, the music should be dignified and splendid and should also be the right length to accompany all of the attendants from the back of the church to the altar. Typically, there are two selections played during the processional: one for the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and a different selection for the bride. If you decide to play the same selection for both, there should be a pause for the guests to stand and a noticeable increase in volume upon your initial entry into the sanctuary.
• Canon in D Major (Pachelbel)
• Air on a G String (Bach)
• Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies (Tchaikovsky)
• Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin (Wagner)
• Trumpet Voluntary (Clarke)
• Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Handel)
Throughout the ceremony, you should accentuate key moments with music, which makes a impact on your guests and breaks up the solemnity of the occasion. You might want to include music just before or after a reading, during communion or at the signing of the register. These selections may be performed by your musicians or sung by the congregation, but either way they should be slow paced and softly played to give your guests a moment for contemplation or reflection.
• Panis Angelicas (Franck)
• The Wedding Song (Stookey)
• Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod)
The recessional is the grand finale of the ceremony and should reflect the jubilant nature of the occasion. The selections played should be uplifting, possessing a quick, majestic tempo that proclaims the joy of your new union. Music should play as the wedding party leaves the church and continue until all guests have departed.
• Hallelujah Chorus (Handel)
• Wedding March (Mendelssohn)
• Sonata Prima (Vivaldi) B