Planning the Ceremony Music

Planning your wedding music can be very challenging. For many people classical music can be a bit daunting and for good reason. It can be very confusing, pronouncing Mozart with a "t" sound before the letter z, remembering to spell Pachelbel with two L's or understanding that there is a "Classical" period in "Classical" music that is different from the "Baroque" period of "Classical" music. When it comes to choosing music, there are literally hundreds of years of repertoire from thousands of composers providing a seemingly endless number of selections from which to choose.

So where do we begin? We find that people often know the music that they like, they just don't always remember the names of the pieces or the composers. We have provided demos of some popular works for you to listen to, but recording hundreds of pieces for demo purposes isn't practical. However, our music coordinators are very skilled in this area and they will be happy to work with you to identify those hard-to-remember pieces. We aren't music snobs but, rather, eager to help you identify these pieces and accurately list your music selections in the wedding program. Please don't hesitate to ask. We can't help if you don't ask.

Here are some general guidelines to picking your music. Often the church, priest/minister, music director or organist will have additional rules that will need to be followed. You will need to consult with them so that we have those guidelines. Also, in Catholic services the Lord's Prayer can be sung, but this is done in the prelude and not when the Lord's Prayer is spoken in the service.

It is fairly common that music in a church ceremony is restricted by the church or minister to liturgical, sacred or classical music selections only. This means that certain secular songs, for example your favorite song on the radio, may not be allowed. If you are having a non-religious service and you are the coach of the local college football team then we would be happy to play the college fight song for you as the recessional, but otherwise, it's probably not going to be appropriate for your ceremony.

Below is a sample outline for a Catholic wedding. You will generally need to have music for the following:

Prelude - we recommend 15-20 minutes of prelude music. We also recommend that you pick 3 selections and let the musicians coordinate any additional prelude music that is needed. Listing more than 3 prelude pieces in the program can take up lots of space and if you are tight on program space another option is to simply list "selections" for prelude. Allowing the musicians to choose the prelude music will give you the best representation and quality of music for your desired ensemble and wll further showcase the ensemble package that you choose. If you choose the quartet package or higher, then we recommend showcasing the different instruments and vocalist that you've chosen using different combinations of instruments on the differet prelude pieces.

You can also choose to mix majestic selections with softer selections, but we recommend doing the majestic selections earlier in the prelude so not to interfere with the majestic nature of the Bridal Procession. Also, if you have a family member or friend that you would like to participate in the music this is an ideal opportunity.

The selections available for Prelude are too numerous to list in totality, but below is a list of common selections as well as some "Artist Choices" that you might consider.

Majestic Selections (also used as Recessional/Postlude)

Trumpet Tune Henry Purcell
from First Suite in D
Jean-Joseph Mouret
from the Water Music
George Frideric Handel
Prelude to a Te Deum Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Rigaudon Andre Campa
from the Four Seasons
Antonio Vivaldi
Psalm XIX Benedetto Marcello
La Réjouissance
from the Royal Fireworks
George Frideric Handel

Softer Selections

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring Johann Sebastian Bach
from the Water Music
George Frideric Handel
Air on the G String Johann Sebastian Bach
Prelude in C Johann Sebastian Bach
Bist Du Bei Mir Johann Sebastian Bach
Where'er You Walk
from Semele
George Frideric Handel

Vocal Selections and Other Selections

In This Very Room Ron and Carol Harris
The Gift of Love arr. Hal Hopson
How Beautiful Twila Paris
And On This Day Tina English
Laudate Dominum Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
from Exultate Jubilate
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Caro Mio Ben Giuseppe Giordani
Panis Angelicus Cesar Franck
O Mio Babbino Caro
from Gianni Schicchi
Giacomo Puccini
Prayer of St. Francis Sebastian Temple
I Will be With You James E. Moore, Jr.
Love is the Sunlight Donald Busarow
I Have Loved You Michael Joncas
Taste and See James Moore, Jr.
The Lord's Prayer Albert Hay Malotte
A Wedding Prayer David Williams

Artist Choice Selections*

Let the Bright Seraphim George Frideric Handel
Eternal Source of Light Divine George Frideric Handel
Evening Prayer
from Hansel and Gretel
Engelbert Humperdinck
To A Wild Rose Edward MacDowell
Song to the Moon
from Rusalka
Antonin Dvorak
Flower Duet
from Lakme
Leo Delibes
from Cello Suite No. 1
Johann Sebastian Bach
Prayer of St. Gregory Alan Hovhaness
Ballade for A Ceremony Eric Ewazen

*Artist Choice selections may require certain instruments or vocalists. Please contact us for details.

Seating of the Parents - this is usually a specific piece separate from the prelude, but it can also be done as the last selection of the prelude. We've also used the same music for both the Seating of the Parents and the Wedding Party, although this is less common. When done as a separate piece it is usually a softer selection. The most common selections are Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by J.S. Bach, Air from the Water Music by Handel, Air on the G String by J.S. Bach or a setting of Ave Maria if there is no Devotion to Mary later in the ceremony.

Presentation of the Wedding Party (Bridesmaids, Groomsmen, Maid of Honor, Flower Girls, Ring Bearer)- this is a single selection, typically a softer selection. The most common is Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel, but other pieces like Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by J.S. Bach can work nicely too. Some couples will chose to have a majestic march for the Wedding Party as well as the Bride (this is less common). If you choose to do this, then we recommend Trumpet Tune by Henry Purcell as a nice lead in to Trumpet Voluntary for the bride (see below).

Presentation of the Bride - Prior to 1981, the standard wedding processional was Wagner's Bridal Chorus, commonly referred to as "Here Comes the Bride". On July 29, 1981, Lady Diana and Prince Charles were married at St. Paul's Cathedral in a wedding that came to be known as the "Wedding of the Century". The processional that they chose was the Prince of Denmark's March by Jeremiah Clarke (commonly referred to as Trumpet Voluntary ). Trumpet Voluntary has become the standard processional for the modern bride. Although some churches and music directors prefer couples not to choose the Wagner, this is more a matter of personal taste than a requirement.

Today, Trumpet Voluntary is usually played on the modern piccolo trumpet which is a smaller trumpet producing a brighter and more majestic sound than a regular trumpet. You can hear the difference in sound from the piccolo trumpets (HERE) vs. the regular trumpet (HERE). Also, if hiring a trumpet player, prior to Trumpet Voluntary, the trumpet will typically play a flourishing fanfare before the doors open and the processional begins.

It should be noted that Trumpet Voluntary can be requested and performed without hiring a trumpet player, however, the effect of another instrument playing it will not be the same.

Gathering Hymn (optional)

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
Now Thank We All Our God
For the Beauty of the Earth
We Gather Together

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 128: Blest Are Those Who Love You
Psalm 118: This is the Day the Lord Has Made
Psalm 103: The Lord is Kind and Merciful
Psalm 34: Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord

Gospel Acclamation - this is typically the Alleluia that is commonly used in the church or is most familiar to the priest/minister, family and guests. The most common example is the Celtic Alleluia, but others are sometimes done.

Lighting of the Unity Candle (optional) - this can be a special selection, a favorite liturgical song or another classical selection. Also, if you have a family member or friend that you would like to participate in the music this is an ideal opportunity. Keep in mind that the Unity Candle doesn't take very long, so typically this is a very short selection unless you are featuring a family member or friend.

Presentation of the Gifts (for full Mass ceremonies only) - this is typically a short selection or the organist/pianist will play some quiet music.

Eucharistic Acclamations and Lamb of God (for full Mass ceremonies only) - this is typically the Mass that is commonly used in the church or is most familiar to the priest/minister, family and guests. The most common example is the Mass of Creation, but others are sometimes done.

Communion (for full Mass ceremonies only) - this can be a selection of appropriate hymns, liturgical settings or other classical music. The amount of music needed will depend on the number of guests that you have attending that will be taking communion. Typically 2-3 pieces will be plenty of music.

Devotion to Mary (optional) - this can be one of the common settings of the Ave Maria. In addition we offer a special Ave Maria that was written by pianist/organist Phil Amalong as a wedding gift to his bride. We have featured this in our wedding demos (HERE) and would make an excellent choice if you are looking for something different that the traditional Schubert or Bach/Gounod Ave Maria.

Recessional - the traditional recessional of years past was the Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Felix Mendelssohn. Unlike Trumpet Voluntary taking the place of Wagner's Bridal Chorus, there is no one selection that has replaced Mendelssohn's Wedding March. There are a number of pieces that are often played, all of which are majestic selections. We prefer selections on the piccolo trumpet that compare in majestic sound to Trumpet Voluntary. Here is a short list of possible Recessionals.

Trumpet Tune Henry Purcell
from First Suite in D
Jean-Joseph Mouret
from the Water Music
George Frideric Handel
Te Deum Marc-Antoine Charpentier
from the Four Seasons
Antonio Vivaldi
La Réjouissance
from the Royal Fireworks
George Frideric Handel

Postlude - After the recessional, we will often play an additional piece for Postlude. This will typically be enough music for the majority of the guests to exit the church. We do not recommend dismissing your guests aisle by aisle, especially for large weddings as this can take a considerable amount of time. If this is something you wish to do we will need to add additional music and there may be an additional cost.

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