Ceremony Music

Music, whether it be played from a tape or CD, by live musicians or by the church organist can really add to the atmosphere of the wedding ceremony and perhaps you can have ceremony music for your wedding breakfast as well.

In this section


My husband and I chose to have a civil ceremony rather than a church ceremony. But the thing about a church wedding is you have the splendour of the church building, the harmonious church bells ringing and the uplifting feeling brought on by the playing of the organ. I knew we could create splendour with our chosen venue but I wasn't so sure about whether I could achieve an uplifting feeling with our music. But with a little help we were able to create a magical sound.

Get yourself some inspiration with a Ceremony Music CD >>

We hired live musicians to play at our wedding ceremony and continue playing during the taking of photographs. Surprisingly it did not cost an extortionate amount of money for the following reasons:

  1. We started looking for musicians a year before we were to marry. This allowed us to find a suitable group of musicians and we could then ask them to hold the total cost of their services at the current years prices.
  2. We contacted a number of musicians to get a feel of how much it cost to hire their services. We then agreed our budget with the musicians from the start and asked them whether they could work within it.
  3. We negotiated with a group of musicians on the total cost of performing for our guests on the wedding day including travel costs, and had it agreed in writing.

Ceremony Music Check List

  • Set yourself a budget and stick to it.
  • Only have live musicians if the setting is appropriate. It's pointless having live musicians in a church when you can take advantage of the beautiful sound of the church bells and the organ.
  • Is there room for you to have live musicians play in your chosen venue and if there isn't, can they play outside the entrance and still be heard.
  • Contact a number of musicians and if you cannot go and see them play ask for a recording of their play list.
  • They must have experience playing at weddings.
  • Find out the total cost of booking the musicians including their travel costs.
  • Get the musicians to confirm the total cost of their services in writing.
  • Find out if they are available for your wedding date.
  • Ensure the musicians are exclusive to you on your wedding day, and do not intend to rush off to make another booking.
  • Try and get them to agree to visit the venue before your wedding day so you can see how they can work with the layout of the building.

Handy Ceremony Music Tips

  • Contact your local college or university and ask if they have musicians who could play at your wedding. They maybe far cheaper to hire.
  • If you are having a civil ceremony then there can be no religious music played before and after the ceremony. Though the Superintendent Registrar does have the final word so check in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • If you are getting married in a registrar office it is unlikely that you would be allowed live music, so do not spend wasted energy looking for live musicians without checking first.

Small budget

If you do not want live musicians or your budget will not stretch that far you can have recorded music played.

What music should you play?

During the day music can be played at four key points:

Before the service

Guests will be congregating in the church or venue awaiting the arrival of the bride. Some joyous music should be played at this point to signify the happiness of the occasion. Popular pieces include:

  • 'Ava Maria' by Schubert
  • Canon in D by Pachelbel *
  • Church Bells by Wesley
  • Holsworthy Church Bells by Wesley
  • Prince of Denmark's March by Clarke *
  • Sheep May Safely Graze by Bach

Entrance of the Bride (The Processional)

Choose your music wisely as the aisle for most civil wedding venues are fairly short, so avoid long introductions. Traditionally the Bridal March by Wagner is chosen but other popular pieces include:

  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel
  • Canon in D by Pachelbel *
  • Grand March from 'Aida' by Verdi *
  • Hornpipe in D from 'The Water Music' by Handel *
  • La Rejouissance from the 'Fireworks' music by Handel *
  • Wedding March from 'The Marriage of Figaro' by Mozart
  • Trumpet Voluntary by Clarke

Signing of the register

If you are having a church wedding the organist will often play any music of your choice or they can play music from their own repertoire. At a civil ceremony it may give you the opportunity to play a very personal song or piece of music. Whatever you choose to play though, it should not detract from the bride and groom declaring their love in writing with the signing of the register. Some popular pieces include:

  • Air on the G-string by Bach *
  • Air from 'The Water Music' by Handel
  • Ava Maria by Gounod
  • Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart
  • Canon in D by Pachelbel *
  • Flower Duet from 'Lame' by Delibes *
  • The Lord bless you and keep you by Rutte

Departure of the Bridal party (The Recessional)

This is where the bride and groom lead the bridal party out of the church or venue. Traditionally this was carried out to the Wedding March from a 'Midsummer Night's Dream' by Mendelssohn, but other popular pieces include:

  • La Rejouissance from 'The Fireworks Music' by Handel *
  • Hornpipe from 'The Water Music' by Handel *
  • Ode to Joy by Beethoven
  • Overture from 'The Marriage of Figaro' by Mozart *
  • Pomp and Circumstance March No 4 by Elgar *
  • Toccata from Symphony No 5 by Widor
  • Trumpet Voluntary from 'The Prince of Denmark's March' by Clarke *
  • Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah

*Denotes a non-religious piece of music that can be played for either a civil or church ceremony, although it will need to be confirmed by the Superintendent Registrar.

These musical interludes are easier to achieve for a church and approved premises wedding, but may be difficult for all the musical interludes in a registry office setting as there are time restraints.

Hymns for your Church ceremony

Most Christian wedding services will have three hymns sung. The first on arrival when standing on the chancel steps, one after the marriage ceremony and one after the blessing. You should choose hymns that you like but which will be known to your guests.

Discuss your preferences with the minister, as he or she will have to approve them. Here is a list of some of the more popular hymns used at weddings:

  • All things bright and beautiful
  • Amazing grace
  • Jerusalem
  • Love Divine, all love excelling
  • Morning has broken
  • Praise my soul, the king of heaven
  • The Lord's my Shepherd

Whether you choose to have music or hymns played at your ceremony they should be a reflection on how the bride and groom feel during the course of the wedding, so choose with care.