Wedding Music Guide: A Complete Rundown of Different Musical Moments

I recently attended a wedding that had the best music for each part of the wedding — from live band to dinner music to the DJ playing awesome dance songs — and I realized what a big part music played in how much the guests enjoyed themselves. There are multiple parts of the wedding where you’ll have to choose songs or music genres for, and below you’ll find a breakdown of the different categories as well as some helpful tips!

1. Ceremony Music

  • The Prelude
    This is the music that plays as your guests enter. Something subtle like a string quartet usually does the trick.
  • The Processional 
    This is the music that plays as the wedding party walks down the aisle. You’ll need a song for when the bridesmaids/groomsmen walk down and then you’ll need to pick out a song for the bride’s grand entrance. Traditionally, “Here comes the bride” is what most brides use, but Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” is also a popular choice. You can always customize this song to be whichever you like.
  • The Interlude
    This is the special song that is highlighted during the ceremony (if you choose so), whether it’s during the lighting of a unity candle or a standalone performance.
  • The Recessional
    This song is your exit song after you’ve tied the knot! This should be something more upbeat and cheerful.
  • The Postlude
    This is the song that plays when your guests are exiting — sometimes it takes a while if they are stopping to greet you on their way out, so you may want to pick a few songs.

2. Cocktail Hour Music

If you choose to have a cocktail hour between the ceremony and reception, it’s good to have a list of songs to play during this time to keep the mood upbeat and light. You don’t want something too mellow or your guests might fall asleep, but this is a good time to mingle so you don’t want something too loud either — cheerful but soft is a good way to go.

3. Reception Music

  • Reception Entrance
    This is the music you want to play as you are making your grand entrance as Mr. & Mrs. So and So. It should be something upbeat to set the mood. If you want your bridal party entering in before you, you should choose a separate song for them.
  • The First Dance
    It’s a struggle to find your first dance song unless you’ve already had one in mind but there are a ton of beautiful love songs out there to choose from. If there’s a special song between you and your spouse, it may be an appropriate choice to go with something sentimental.
  • Father/Daughter Dance
    Traditionally, the father and daughter will dance after the couple’s first dance. This can be something sentimental or just a beautiful song. Some couples will also have a mother and son dance as well.
  • Reception Music
    Whether you hire a DJ or a live band or choose to go with a playlist, you can have as much or as little control of the reception music with your input. You may have a list of songs you are dying to hear and on the flip side, there may be songs you definitely don’t want included in the list. Remember though that the music played during the reception can play an integral part in the mood of your guests.
  • Cake Cutting
    If you want to have the cake cutting as a highlighted part of your wedding reception, you may want to choose a special song for this. A good tip is if there is a first dance song you had to rule out because it was too upbeat, it might be the perfect opportunity to use the song for the cake cutting.
  • Bouquet Toss
    This is a fun part of the wedding so you’ll want to go with a song that’s cheery and upbeat. Many weddings will play Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” to literally demand all the single ladies to go to the dance floor. If you have a garter toss, the same rules will apply.
  • The Last Dance
    Whether you choose to go with a sentimental song or something more fun and upbeat, make sure you go out with a bang! This is the last song your guests will remember your wedding by.
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