outdoor wedding ceremony musicians

Wedding Ceremony Music: What to Play (& When)

Planning your wedding ceremony music may not seem to be as fun of a task as creating the reception playlist alongside your beau, but it’s just as important to the ambiance and experience of both you and your guests. And it’s much more than deciding on which song to walk down the aisle to. Instead, you’re planning for an entire program of music and sound.

The Essentials

If we’re talking tradition, your ceremony will include three main areas of music: the prelude, processional, and the recessional. And these are all places in the event that you’ll want to really resonate with and think about the type of music (and statement) you want to make.


The prelude should begin just before the guests start to arrive at the ceremony site. Traditionally, classical music goes here but we’ve seen brides and grooms take alternative and personalized routes here. Having contemporary or pop music played acoustically or just the instrumental versions of their favorite movie scores, there’s a lot of leeways to be had in this area.


The processional happens when the bridal party begins to make its entrance into the ceremony. Again, traditional or classical music is usually the staple here but it’s okay to infuse your couple style subtly into this realm as well. It’s always nice to have a live vocalist to create an even more warm and romantic ambiance to the scene.


And this is where the true magic happens. Vows are swapping, kisses are shared… there are several places throughout this main event that you may want to pair with some quality music. The instrumental versions of songs by musicians might provide backing to a variety of places throughout the service; this is entirely up to the couple and what fits their vision.

Unity Candle: A lot of couples will add a unity candle lighting to their ceremony program. If so, this is another great spot to add some light music as an accompaniment to the tradition.


Finally, comes the recessional. This takes place at the end of the ceremony as the bridal party – along with the newlyweds – walk back down the aisle. This is where the more lively, upbeat songs are usually included. And is where the most innovation and creativity of the music program comes to call.

The Songs: 25 of the Best

Here are 25 of the best choices for ceremony songs. From the prelude to the recessional, scour through our favorited list for some inspiration in your playlist planning.

Contemporary HIts

A Thousand Years by Christina Perri | iTunes | YouTube

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz | iTunes | YouTube

All of Me by John Legend | iTunes | YouTube

Better Together by Jack Johnson | iTunes | YouTube

Best Day Of My Life by American Authors | iTunes | YouTube

God Gave Me Your by Dave Barnes | iTunes | YouTube

Come Away With My by Norah Jones | iTunes | YouTube

Beautiful Day by U2 | iTunes | YouTube

Accidentally In Love by Counting Crows | iTunes | YouTube

Make You Feel My Love by Adele | iTunes | YouTube

She Is Love by Parachute | iTunes | YouTube

Good Life by OneRepublic | iTunes | YouTube

Making Memories of Us by Keith Urban | iTunes | YouTube

You & Me by Dave Matthews Band | iTunes | YouTube

Offbeat Hits

Shallow by Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga | iTunes | YouTube

A Sky Full Of Stars by Piano Guys | iTunes | YouTube

Real Love by Beach House | iTunes | YouTube

Traditional Hits

All You Need Is Love by The Beatles | iTunes | YouTube

Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley | iTunes | YouTube

At Last by Etta James | iTunes | YouTube

Wedding Song by Noel Paul Stookey | iTunes | YouTube

Everyday by Buddy Holly | iTunes | YouTube

Classical Hits

Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy | iTunes | YouTube

Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel | iTunes | YouTube

Butterfly Waltz by Brian Crain | iTunes | YouTube