How to chose the best music for your wedding ceremony
Music is such an important part of your wedding day. And not just for the P-A-R-T-Y. You need to get it right for the ceremony too. The music you chose should be a reflection of your personalities and set the vibe for your guests, whether that's romantic, classic, relaxed, fun, upbeat or alternative. Music sets the mood and the tone and encourages the guests to be social so it’s worth putting a bit of thought into it.
The first decision you need to make is whether you will have live music or use your celebrant's PA system.
Professional musicians are worth their weight in gold. Live music helps the guests focus on the emotional aspects of the occasion and share in the moments of happiness.
You’ll need to decide if you want to go classical with a harpist, flautist, violinist or something more modern like a singer/guitar duo or band.
I do understand having ceremony music is not in most people's budget. You could get around this by asking someone you know to play guitar and/or sing. I’m sure they would be delighted to be asked to be involved, especially as it’s only for the ceremony.
For a list of singers I recommend in Newcastle and the Hunter, see my Little Black Book.
Check with your celebrant if it’s you or them that’s downloading the music. Personally, I download everything for my couples from Spotify Premium onto a phone I use just for ceremonies. I do ask my couples to provide me with someone to press play on the day. Usually a cousin or the partner of someone in the bridal party is a good option. I always give them a demo on operating the PA system, either at the Rehearsal or about half an hour before the ceremony starts.
Occasions for ceremony music
There are four occasions that you'll need to choose music for:
1. Before the ceremony starts, as guests arrive
Most guests in Australia arrive 20 mins before the ceremony start time. You've likely spent a motza on your wedding, so it's important to make a good first impression. The styling and the music on arrival will do this. They are key for setting the vibe.
You don't have to have music before the ceremony, but silence is not always golden. What could be more uncomfortable than a large group of people sitting silently waiting for the wedding ceremony to begin? Generally something acoustic or pop-y works well pre-ceremony. Think the 'afternoon acoustic' playlist in Spotify. The person walking down the aisle won't actually hear this music, so why not give this job to the other partner to choose the playlist? They could choose songs that they love, something to calm the nerves or hype themselves up. No-one says it has to be romantic music. Park Avenue anyone?
If you have song choice fatigue after choosing the other ceremony music, the first dance song, the reception entrance song etc. and you just don't have the time or headspace to think about pre-ceremony, don't worry! Your celebrant should have a good pre-ceremony playlist they can play, so you don't have to spend any energy thinking about it.
2. Walking-in Song (Processional)
You can have one song for all the bridal party (page boys, flower girls, bridesmaids and bride) or you can split it into two and have one song for the bridal party and one song for the person getting married and whoever is walking them down the aisle. (Normally the bride and her father but these days, who is to say that it’s not a groom walking down the aisle to the processional song?!).
Usually this is something romantic, but it doesn't have to be. If you want to dance down the aisle to ‘I like Big Buts’ or ‘Another one bites the dust’ that’s cool too.
Get whoever is operating your music to faaaadddee when you reach the top of the aisle. Sounds so much better than an abrupt halt.
3. The Signing Song
This is the least important of all the ceremony music. This song just gives your guests permission to chat. They are half-watching you sign, half-chatting about what an awesome ceremony it's been, and this song is just playing in the background on low volume. You don’t want your guests sitting there rigid. It’s not church.
4. Walking Out Song (Recessional)
This one is important. It should reflect the mood. It should be uplifting, upbeat and make you want to dance down the aisle because you are so happy that you have just gotten married. This song should signify to the guests that the party is about to get started!! This sing needs to start with a bang. Lots of great songs take ages to get to the good bit, so if this is a slow starter, the person pressing play may need to skip forward to the good bit.
Tips for choosing your songs
1. Try not to Google wedding music. OK, I know you probably will, but don't be surprised if you get lots of 80s wedding music show up in your search and nothing that really resonates.
2. Connect your song choices to memories. Think back to when you first started dating to see if a song jumps out at you. Try to think of songs you've danced together to in the kitchen or listened to while road-tripping or concerts you've been to together.
3. Check the lyrics. You might love the song but do the lyrics fit your wedding? The Bon Iver' song Skinny Love sounds romantic but is about the sort of love that is destructive.
4. Look for acoustic or instrumental versions of songs E.g. (i) Hold On We're Going Home by Drake sung by the Artic Monkeys (ii) Tinie Tempah's Written in the Starts Acoustic version. (iii) Beyonce’s Halo by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern jukebox.
Youtube is full of acoustic covers that turn music what would be normally not suitable for a wedding into great options.
Another way to incorporate music into your ceremony, is to have a group song. Nothing says crowd participation like making your guests sing along to a song.
I did a Brazilian + Aussie wedding outdoors where it rained and they had no Plan B. All the guests sang 'All you need is love' by the Beatles as the rain poured down and we were all getting soaked. It was a moment I'll never forget! This group song completely lifted the mood.
Some songs to get you started
If you are really stuck and don't know where to start, I've listed a few songs here. Music is deeply personal so there is a good chance you are going to have different taste to me. If you don't like my music, don't read too much into it- I am still the celebrant for you!
Adore - Amy Shark
Agnes Obel – Philharmonics (instrumental)
Aint Nobody (loves me better) - Jasmine Thompson
All of You- Busby Marou
Angels – The XX
Baby I’m Yours – Breakbot
Be Mine – Alabama Shakes
Better Man – Pearl Jam
Better Together – Jack Johnson
Big Jet Plane - Angus and Julia Stone
Big Jet Plane- Angus & Julia Stone
Blackbird – The Beatles
Blue light – Bloc Party
Bubbly- Colbie Caillat
Can’t Do Without You – Caribou
Can’t Help Falling in Love – Hearts and Colours
Cinema – (Skrillex Remix) [feat. Gary Go]
Cupid – Sam Cooke
Damaged – Primal Scream
Dirty Paws - Of Monsters and Men
Dissolve Me – Alt-J
Don’t Let Go – Weezer
Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
Essence- Lucind Williams
Everlong – Foo Fighters
Fall at Your Feet - Boy and Bear
Fell In Love With a Girl – White Stripes
First Day of My Life – Bright Eyes
Fix you - Cold Play
Fresh Eyes – Andy Grammar
Get Good (infinitefreefall remix) – St South
Get Lucky – Daft Punk
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
Groovin Slowly – John Butler Trio
Harvest Moon – Neil Young
Heart Beats Slow - Angus and Julia Stone
Heartbeats- José González
Here Comes Your Man – Pixies
Ho Hey- Lumineers
Hold - Vera Blue
Husky – Forever So
I found a Reason – The Velvet Underground
I Need My Girl – The National
I remember – Deadmau5 & Kaskade
I Walk the Line – Johnny Cash
I Wanna Be Yours – Arctic Monkeys
I will follow you into the dark- Death Cab for Cu
I’m in Love- Cash Savage and the last drinks
It Gets Better – The Preatures
It’s Alright, It’s OK – Primal Scream
January Wedding – I and Love and You – The Avett Brothers
King and Cross – Asgeir
Kings and Queens – Daniel Lee Kendall (acoustic guitar)
Kiss Me - Ed Sheeran
Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye
Lost in the moment - Daniel Lee Kendall
Love Shack – The B-52s
Lover – San Cisco
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
Make the World Safe For You – The Whitlams
Marry Song – Band of Horses
Mess is Mine- Vance Joy
Monday – Matt Corby
My People – Presets
Never Gonna Give You Up – Hannah Trigwell
Never Tear Us Apart – INXS
Peaches and Cream – John Butler
Rather Be - Jasmine Thompson
Rip Tide – Vance Joy
Rivers and Roads- The Head and the Heart
Romeo & Juliet- Dire Straits
Save Me- Goyte
Saved – Khalid
Saw You First- Givers
Say You Will – Hearts and Colours
Skinny Love – Bon Iver
So Good To Me – Chris Malinchak
Something About Us – Daft Punk
Something About Us – Daft Punk
Stay Close – Flume
Stolen away on 55th and 3rd – Dave Matthews Band
Straight to You – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Surprise Yourself – Jack Garrett
Surprise Yourself- Jack Garratt
Sweet Disposition – Temper Trap
Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap
The Songbird – Fleetwood Mac
These Arms of Mine – Otis Redding
Thinkin’ Bout You – Frank Ocean
This Old Love – Lior
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
Two is Better than One- Boys Like Girls
Two of us on the Run- Lucius
Until Death do them part- Paul Kelly, Uncle Bill
Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars)
Walking On a Dream – Empire of the Sun
Wandering Star – Portishead
Wedding Song – Angus & Julia Stone
What A Man – Salt N Pepa
With You Around- Yellowcard
With You Forever – PNAU
Wonderwall – Oasis
You always make me smile- Kyle Andrews
You’ve Got the Love – Florence and the Machine
Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Rey
Young Folks – Peter, Bjorn and John