Ceremony Music: An Overview

Here is a short guide to the different types of selections that are typically encountered at a ceremony service. We have included a short explanation of the usual placement and purpose of these different selections in case you are not familiar with them, and we have also included some comments and tips for each of them that we think might help you in determining the musical content of your ceremony.

This section is designed to be helpful to you in planning your ceremony whether we are providing your ceremony music or not. You can even use this section to help you if you are having your ceremony music provided by a church, live musicians, or both.

How we do it and why…

Our ceremony sound system is completely separate from our reception system and it is 100% battery powered and can operate self contained anywhere it’s needed.
Often times the actual ceremony is in a separate area of a venue from the reception itself and with many ceremonies being held outside in a remote region of the venue, power can become a challenge. Sometimes there are no power outlets within a reasonable distance or if there is power available it would require hundreds of feet or extension cords running across foot traffic areas. We avoid all those hurdles and unsightly cords by using a battery powered system. We also use wireless transmitters to allow us to position speakers discretely so they provide excellent audio coverage while remaining out of main line of sight or invisible to your guest. This can help to create a more majestic feeling, as if the music is coming out of nowhere. This also ensures the only things being photographed are you and your guests.

Prelude

The prelude is the music that starts before your ceremony while your guests arrive and find their seats. It is typically quieter music that helps to set the tone for the rest of your ceremony. This could also be the music that special family members such as mothers, grandmothers, etc. would be escorted down the isle to their seats to.

Prelude tips
The prelude can start either when the doors open, or at a specified time (i.e. 20 minutes or so) before you are going to come down the isle. One benefit to the second option is that the start of the prelude music acts as a call for mingling guests to start to find their seats. If there is music playing from the time of your guests arriving, there may not be a sense of urgency to get seated and few things are more aggravating than trying to corral and reign-in guests while you are waiting to go down the isle.

Expect to play no less than 20 or so minutes of prelude selections, sometimes a few more. We are always ready to accommodate unexpected delays requiring an extended prelude.

Processional

The processional selections are the selections that your wedding party, and then yourself, will walk down the isle to. On occasion, more than two processionals can be played. Remember… no two weddings are the same, and we can help you program the music that best suits your wedding needs.

The following is a typical processional order. Please modify it to best suit your particular situation.
-The groom, best man and Officiant enter down the isle or by using a side door. They all stand facing the guests.
-An usher escorts the grandmother(s)of the bride to their seats.
-An usher escorts the grandmother(s)of the groom to their seats.
-An usher escorts the mother of the groom to her seat.
-An usher escorts the mother of the bride to her seat.
-The ushers walk down the aisle (or escort the bridesmaids) and stand next the groom and best man and then face the guests.
-The bridesmaids walk down the aisle.
-The maid of honor walks down the aisle.
-The ring bearer walks down the aisle.
-The flower girl walks down the aisle. (Many times the flower girl and ring bearer will walk together)
-The father of the bride escorts the bride down aisle.

Processional tips

Typically, a separate processional is chosen for each – the wedding party, and the bride herself. Sometimes, there might be more processional selections if you are having others walk down the isle as well… to be seated for example. Maybe you even want a separate selection for “the guys” to walk down to.

The processional for the wedding party should mark an increase in interest from the prelude selections just played, but should not outshine the regal and splendor of the bridal processional that the bride will walk down to.

Most often, the processionals will not be played in their entirety, but only long enough for the parties to walk down the isle to, after which they are smoothly faded out, with only a short pause before the bride starts to walk down the isle. Work with us to establish the cue points in each selection when the walk down the isle will begin. You may not want to start walking at the beginning of the first note, and you may even want your us to cue up the start of the selections a point other than the very beginning of the song itself.

Interlude

Musical segments during your ceremony where you would like a subtle musical backdrop. Common examples are communion, the exchange of rings, the lighting of a unity candle, sand ceremony, rose ceremony, hand-binding ceremony, etc. Popular vocal/instrumental music is also commonly used as an interlude, as well as orchestral pieces with operatic vocals. Let your tastes determine what is right for you, and work with us to find the right interlude(s).

Live performances

It is not at all uncommon to have either a live instrumental, vocal solo, or other type of live performance at some point in the ceremony. Often, it may even be done by a friend or family member. We invite you to think about this possibility before glancing over it. If someone close to you is musically inclined, and is not averse to performing in front of others, this would make a wonderful addition to your ceremony, and would be all it would take to catapult it to a whole other level.

Recessional

Music that plays right after the pronouncement where your officiant introduces you to your guests as man and wife. You walk back down the isle, followed by the bridal party, and possibly other special individuals such as mothers, grandmothers, etc.

Here is an example of a typical recessional order that is nothing more than a reversal of the processional order above. As with everything, modify this as needed.
-Bride and Groom exit
-Flower girl & Ring bearer exit
-Maid of Honor & Best Man exit
-Bridesmaids (each accompanied by an usher) exit
-Bride’s parents exit
-Groom’s parents exit
-Bride’s grandparents exit
-Groom’s grandparents exit
-Wedding guests exit

The recessional is usually one of the grandest selections played at a ceremony, and is typically very upbeat, joyous, and triumphant in nature. It can also be creative and fun!

Postlude
These are the selections that play after you and your bridal party have walked back down the isle to your recessional. Typically upbeat and joyous in nature, but slightly more subdued that your recessional itself, the postludes provide a pleasing backdrop to which your guests can start to enjoy the company of family and friends and exit the ceremony area on their way to the reception. Usually, only a couple postlude selections are needed, and sometimes, the recessional is simply played in it’s entirety and no additional postlude selections are played. Work with us to find the best scenario for you.

Some other things to consider in making your ceremony music selections:

Location

The location of your wedding can be a major factor in determining the type of music that is right for your ceremony.

For example, a ceremony indoors in a larger, more ornate setting such as a sanctuary or hall might lend itself better to a more regal and formal presentation that is full of power and majesty to match the surroundings you are in. Pieces featuring organs and full-orchestras are best suited for achieving this kind of feel.

On the other-hand, ceremonies outdoors often go better with lighter, more upbeat, and joyous music. Typically ceremony selections for an outdoor ceremony are performed by smaller, more loosely orchestrated ensembles such as quartets or quintets who’s sound is more open and airy, making it a perfect match for an outdoors occasion. Also, pieces featuring guitar, harp, and flute, either as solo performances, or as accompaniment to a larger ensemble, can help to create an intimate and fun setting perfect for celebrating your union with your family and friends.

Religious Requirements

If having your ceremony at a church, synagogue, or other religious institution or location, there may be specific requirements as to what types, styles, and/or specific selections and composers may be played at a ceremony. If such guidelines are present, the person you are working with will usually make them known to you… but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you are having your music provided or performed by musicians from the church, or are having them play prerecorded selections for your ceremony, chances are you will be working with a musical director or someone else who will already be familiar with any kinds of special considerations or limitations regarding appropriate selections.