experienced violinist
wedding dance

MP3 Music Samples

Trumpet Tune
Air on a G string
Eine Kleine
Con te Partiro
All I Ask of You
Moon River
The Rose

Ceremony Music Outline for Weddings


cello with wedding flowers

There are many different types of wedding ceremonies; traditional, contemporary, religious, and civil. Most ceremonies, however, share common characteristics.

To help in your planning, below is an outline of a traditional wedding ceremony and where music can be played during the ceremony. This outline is only intended to give you an idea of the order of the ceremony. Our musicians are experienced and flexible enough to accommodate traditional and contemporary weddings.

For more ideas on music during the ceremony see our wedding music ideas page. Also, click on our MP3 Music Samples to the left.

Also see our Roman Catholic wedding page.

Prelude Music

Before the wedding ceremony begins, musicians usually play prelude music. The Great Lakes Chamber Players typically begins 20 minutes before the start of the ceremony while the guests arrive. The character of the music tends to be light and melodic with music of Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi. Though we gladly take requests from the wedding couple, many leave the prelude to the musicians' discretion.

Music for the Seating of the Mothers

At the end of the prelude, the mothers and sometimes grandmothers are escorted down the aisle, usually by the groom, to their seats.

While some prefer the seating of the mothers to take place during the prelude music, others place it at the beginning of the processional before the attendants process down the aisle. If the seating of the mothers is at the beginning of the processional, you can choose special music or it can be the same music as for the processional of the attendants. After being escorted, the mothers sometimes light the candles that will be used for the unity candle.

Please remember to have a cue for the musicians when the mothers are ready to be seated. Some popular choices for the seating of the mothers are Ave Maria, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach, and Canon in D by Pachelbel.

Processional Music for the Attendants

After the mothers take their seats, the processional of the attendants begins. This can be different music from the seating of the mothers or a continuation of the same piece.

In some ceremonies, the groom and groomsmen along with the officiant enter at the front from the side after which the bridesmaids and maid of honor process up the aisle one by one. In other weddings, only the groom and officiant enter from the side while all the attendants, groomsmen and bridesmaids, process up the aisle in pairs. In Catholic weddings it is common for the Priest to process up the aisle followed by the groom and groomsmen. Traditionally, the ring bearer and flower girl process last.

Some couples prefer a regal feel for the processional and select Trumpet Voluntary by Clarke or Trumpet Tune by Purcell. Others select pieces that set a gentle and elegant atmosphere such as Canon in D by Pachelbel, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach, or Air on a G String by Bach.

Processional Music for the Bride

After the last attendant has processed, the music for the attendants ends, new music begins for the bride, and the officiant signals for all to stand. Traditionally, the bride's father escorts her up the aisle.

The traditional piece is the Bridal March by Wagner, otherwise recognized as "Here Comes the Bride." Some Catholic Diocese do not allow this piece due to its unsuitability in the liturgy. So check with the Priest officiating if this is your choice. Other pieces can be performed such as Trumpet Voluntary by Clarke or Trumpet Tune by Purcell or Canon in D by Pachelbel, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach, or Air on a G String by Bach.

Pieces during the Wedding Ceremony

Many opportunities for music exist during the ceremony. Music can be performed between readings, during the unity candle or sand ceremony, after the vows, or during communion. Pieces by Bach, Mozart, Handel, and Beethoven are appropriate or a more popular song of your choice. Always check with the Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi regarding any guidelines for music during the ceremony and final approval of music.

Opening Statement by Officiant

After the processional, there is usually some sort of welcome extended to the guests or some statement regarding the purpose of marriage. In more contemporary services, this address can vary greatly and be custom tailored to the couple.

The Declaration of Consent

Traditionally, the declaration of consent is where the officiant asks the bride and groom something quite similar to the wedding vow;

N., will you have this man (woman) to be your husband (wife); to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him (her), comfort him (her), honor and keep him (her), in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him (her) as long as you both shall live? Answer: I will.

Presentation of the Bride

Traditionally the Father would present his daughter for marriage only after she officially gave her consent. Today, this is often ommitted or when asked who presents the bride for marriage the Father responds, "Her Mother and I".

Prayers and Readings

In a religious ceremony, sometime after the Declaration of Consent and before the readings, there is a prayer for the couple.

After the prayers, readings are typically from Scripture, poems, and the like. In contemporary wedding ceremonies, the readings are often done by family and friends. If you are looking for opportunities for music during the ceremony, music can be played between the readings

Homily or an Address by Officiant

In a religious ceremony, the homily usually follows the readings. Homily is the fancy word for "sermon", which hopefully will not be too long! Remember, keep your knees bent and wiggle your toes! In Catholic weddings the entire bridal party usually sits down. Other ceremonies have an address by the officiant that leads up to the marriage vows.

The Marriage Vows

Here is what all of the planning is about! Usually the officiant asks the couple to face each other, hold hands, and repeat the vows. The traditional vows are,

I, N., take you, N., to be my wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part. This is my solemn vow.

It is common today for the couple to write and read their own vows.

After the vows, music can be performed. It can be a piece that has special meaning for the couple, a suitable classical piece or a more popular song.

Exchanging of Rings

This is usually preceded by some comments by the officiant regarding the meaning of the symbol of the wedding bands. In a religious ceremony there is often a prayer of blessing over the rings.

Unity Candle or Sand Ceremony

The unity candle takes place after the vows. For outdoor ceremonies, the sand ceremony is popular because wind is always a factor. The unity candle or sand ceremony is a perfect opportunity for music. There are a couple different ways the unity candle can be done.

Usually the officiant says a few remarks about the significance of the unity candle ceremony followed by the lighting of the unity candle by the couple. The musicians begin playing after the officiant is finished speaking. Because the lighting of the unity candle is typically short, be prepared for the music to run a little longer. You can just stare lovingly into each others eyes!

Another way to include the unity candle is for the officiant to speak while the couple lights the candle. This is more awkward if music is to be played so this probably is not your best bet if you would like music for your unity candle. If you do decide to do it this way, the music can serve as soft background music while the officiant speaks (some officiants do not like this) or the musicians can wait for the unity candle lighting to finish before playing.

A third option is to have the officiant say a few words, followed by the mothers coming forward to light the two candles (if they haven't already done so after the seating of the mothers), followed by the wedding couple lighting the unity candle. This works well from a musical perspective because it takes a longer period of time, allowing for more music to be played.

Be sure to communicate to the musicians exactly how you will be doing the unity candle or sand ceremony.

Pronouncement of Marriage

The pronouncement of marriage is something similar to,

Now that N. and N. have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of rings, I pronounce that they are husband and wife.

This is usually followed by,

You may kiss the bride.

Or a more classy version I came across,

You may now seal your commitment with a kiss.

APPLAUSE! You are almost done!

If the ceremony is religious, a prayer of blessing for the marriage is often offered for the couple at this time.


If the ceremony is Catholic, communion can take place at this time. Communion, of course, is a perfect time for music to be played or sung.

Introduction of Couple

You made it! You are now married and the officiant usually has the couple turn and face the guests saying,

It is my pleasure to introduce to you for the first time as husband and wife: Mr. & Mrs ...

Recessional Music for the Entire Wedding Party

After the introduction, which usually serves as the cue for the musicians, the recessional begins for the entire wedding party. Sometimes, however, there is a final blessing before the recessional begins. The music is often jubilant in nature and faster than the processional. Some popular selections for the recessional are Ode to Joy by Beethoven, Mendelssohn's Bridal March, Spring from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi or Rondeau by Mouret.

Postlude Music

Postlude music is played while the guests leave and is typically 15 minutes. Sometimes the bride and groom dismiss their guests row by row instead of having a receiving line. If your wedding is large, this can take up to 30 minutes. Most couples prefer music the entire time their guests seated so be sure to inform the musicians if this is your plan. Some couples have special requests for the postlude music though often the music is left to the discretion of the musicians

Dress Code

The dress code for the Great Lakes Chamber Players is concert black: tuxedos for men and black tops and pants for women.

For more information on Michigan wedding musicians please contact the Great Lakes Chamber Players.

We hope this article, Ceremony Music Outline for Weddings, was helpful to you. If so, please consider telling others about it (i.e. fellow "knotties" at theknot.com) or linking to us. Thank you!

Copyright 2008-2016 Great Lakes Chamber Players