Wedding March: Songs, Etiquette, And Planning

Tips and suggestions for appropriate music for wedding processionals, exploring various traditions and common etiquette, and providing advice for planning an elegant beginning for any wedding service.

There is no doubt that the high point of any wedding ceremony is the exchange of vows between the bride and groom.It is the moment when the two become one; it is the very heart of the ceremony itself.Perhaps the only other moment in the wedding that even comes close to matching the emotion and excitement of the exchange of vows is the processional and entrance of the bride at the start of the ceremony.

Whether a wedding is held in a church or a small wedding chapel, in a grand hotel ballroom or perhaps outdoors in a private park or garden (or even in someone's backyard), it almost always begins with a processional march of the bridesmaids and culminates in the entrance of the bride.This article will provide insight into selecting appropriate music for wedding processionals, explore various traditions and common etiquette, and provide tips and advice for planning an elegant beginning for any wedding service.

As an organist and choir director, I have assisted many couples in selecting the music for their wedding ceremonies.Personally, I believe that the bride and groom should be allowed to select music that expresses their feelings for each other, for their families and friends gathered to witness their marriage, as well as music that compliments their personalities.Professionally, however, I believe in suggesting appropriate music selections and I try to steer the couple into making well informed decisions about the music they choose for their wedding ceremony.If the wedding will be held in a church, chapel, synagogue or other similar setting, it is important to ask whether or not there are any restrictions regarding music.Most churches provide a copy of "rules" or guidelines they expect to be followed, and in many cases there is a church musician, staff member or even a minister who will meet with the couple to discuss the music guidelines and assist in selecting appropriate music for the wedding ceremony.Since each church has different rules and guidelines, ask for a copy and read them thoroughly before planning music for your wedding.

Another thing to consider when selecting music is the musicians and the types of instruments that are available.Most churches will have an organ and usually a piano as well.Obviously, if you are planning and outdoor wedding, organ music will not be an option, unless of course you choose to use recorded music played over a sound system.But recorded music can also be used indoors as well.Other options include a string quartet or a brass ensemble.These musicians are classically trained and therefore your choices will usually be limited to classical music.You may decide to use guitars or flutes, or maybe just a piano.These instruments, and the musicians who play them, offer more flexibility.Hiring a vocalist adds even more choices and options to the mix.The possibilities are literally endless, yet limited by the location of the wedding ceremony and whether or not there are restrictions or music guidelines, by the musicians you hire and the type of instruments they play, and by whether or not you decide to hire a vocalist.

Here are some appropriate music selections for the wedding processional and entrance of the bride:

Classical Music

Cannon in D - Johann Pachelbel

"Air" from Ochestral Suite No. 3 - Johann Sebastian Bach

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude in C major - Johann Sebastian Bach

Trumpet Voluntary - Jeremiah Clarke

Trumpet Fanfare - Jean Joseph Mouret

"Hornpipe" from Water Music - George Frideric Handel

Largo - George Frideric Handel

Ode to Joy - Ludwig von Beethoven

Spring from The Four Seasons - Antonio Vivaldi

Popular Music (can be instrumental or sung by a vocalist)

From This Moment - Shania Twain

Everything I Do, I Do For You - Brian Adams

A Moment Like This - Kelly Clarkston

The Rose - Bette Midler

This I Swear - Nick Lachey

When You Say Nothing At All - Alison Krauss

The Bridal Chorus from Wagner's opera Lohengrin is the well-known "Here Comes the Bride" tune.It is often considered to be the traditional music for the entrance of the bride, but since it is used so often, it can appear "overdone."The opera from which it comes is not one with a happy ending, with the marriage scene ending in murder and suicide.So because of this, many churches do not allow it to be used as a wedding processional.Nonetheless, the piece itself is actually quite beautiful when played in its entirety, and I have used it for many weddings.If a bride comes to me and asks for that particular processional, I will play it, unless of course it is not allowed in the guidelines provided by the church where the wedding is being held.

Wedding processional music should be bright and cheerful, and well tempoed.Don't select music that is either too slow or too fast.Members of the bridal party marching in the procession should walk at a moderate pace with plenty of space between each person.Typically the rule is to wait until the person before you is at least three-quarters of the way down the aisle before the next person begins to process.

There are a number of online resources available to help you select the music you want for your wedding processional.Simply type in "wedding processionals" into your web browser.You will be directed to a number of web pages, many of which include mp3 or midi clips that allow you to hear what the different selections sound like.


Traditional etiquette for a wedding processional places the groom, best man and other groomsmen up front, waiting with the minister or whoever is conducting the wedding ceremony.The bridesmaids walk down the center aisle one at a time, with adequate spacing between.Bridesmaids are followed by the maid (or matron) of honor.Next might come a flower girl, who traditionally would drop flower petals as she walks down the aisle.Finally, the bride makes her entrance and is escorted down the aisle by her father, or another male relative or close family friend.It is also tradition for a white runner to cover the aisle after all the guests have been seated.It is usually then followed by the seating of the mother of the bride and mother and father of the groom, immediately prior to the start of the procession.

But this is not the only way to plan a wedding processional.Providing the music for several weddings, I have witnessed different variations in the processional.For example, only the groom and the best man wait up front with the minister while the other groomsmen march in arm-in-arm with their partnered bridesmaids.A young boy may be designated as a "ring bearer" and walk in the procession with the flower girl.Some couples may decide not to use a flower girl or ring bearer, while other couples who have children may choose to include them in the processional.The bride may be accompanied by both her mother and father as she walks down the aisle, or she may walk down alone.At some weddings the groom may even be a part of the processional, walking down the aisle with his parents before the bride makes her entrance with her parents.All of these variations are acceptable and appropriate.It is important that the bride and groom make the choices that they feel are the best for their wedding ceremony.After all, this is their special day.

The number of standups (bridesmaids and groomsmen) can vary.Law in most states requires that at least two people serve as "witnesses" and they sign the marriage certificate as such after the wedding ceremony.Typically this is the best man and maid of honor.Some couples decide these are the only standups they wish to have in the wedding party.Other couples want to include brothers and sisters as standups, or even best friends or other relatives.Typically, then, the size of the wedding party, including the best man and maid of honor, varies between 3 and 6 couples.Keep in mind any space limits at the church or other location for your wedding.While you may want to have many standups, there just might not be enough room for them up in front.

Referring back to the processional music, it is tradition for the guests of the wedding to be seated during the processional until the entrance of the bride, at which time everyone should stand.Typically, a second processional song is selected for the bride's entrance.In this case, the bridesmaids process to one piece of music, which ends when all of the bridesmaids are in place.Then, after a slight pause, a change in music announces the entrance of the bride and signals everyone to stand.A good example of this might be to select "Cannon in D" as the processional for the bridesmaids, and then switch to the "Bridal Chorus" for the entrance of the bride.But the processional can also be one continuous piece of music as well.In this case, the musicians should signal the entrance of the bride by increasing the volume of the music.


Here is a list of questions to consider while planning your wedding procession:

Where will your wedding be held?

What types of instruments are available?

Does the church (or other location) provide a musician and vocalist?

Does the church (or other location) have any restrictions or "music guidelines"?

What type of music best fits the mood of your wedding?(i.e. if you want a more "traditional" feel, you would select classical wedding music, etc.)

Do you want one processional for the wedding party and a separate processional for the entrance of the bride, or just one continuous song?

How many standups (bridesmaids and groomsmen) will you have in the wedding party?

Will the groomsmen process down the aisle with the bridesmaids, or wait up front with the groom while the bridesmaids process in alone?

Will the groom process in before the bride?Who will accompany him?

Who will accompany the bride down the aisle?

Will the mother of the bride and parents of the groom process in, or be seated immediately before the start of the processional?

Are there other family members you wish to seat immediately before the start of the processional? (i.e. grandparents, etc.)

Do you want to include a flower girl and ring bearer?

Do you want to use the traditional white aisle runner?

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