A Church wedding simply wouldn't be a Church wedding without the music, but regardless of what you may have heard, it doesn't all have to be 'Here Comes the Bride'! This article takes a closer look at the various types of Church wedding ceremony music that will be played during the course of the service and gives you help and advice in choosing the right musicians and pieces of music for you..
How Many Pieces of Church Wedding Ceremony Music are Needed?
Typically, there are four sets of music that will be played during the course of a Church wedding ceremony; prelude music, processional music, music for the signing of the register, and recessional music.
Prelude music will be the first set of Church wedding ceremony music that will be played on the day. As guests begin to arrive for the wedding (expect the first ones to turn up at the Church around quarter of an hour before the start time) it is always nice, but not essential, for them to be greeted with some scene-setting music. Four or five pieces of music should be more than sufficient, and for traditional examples and samples be sure to check out our Church wedding prelude music article.
The second piece of Church wedding ceremony music is perhaps the most important of them all. Processional music is played as the Bride, her father and her bridesmaids enter the Church and proceed down the aisle. This triumphant piece of music heralds the arrival of one of the stars of the show and is sure to get all the guests on their feet and get the Groom's pulse racing. Examples and clips of the most popular Church processional music can be found in our dedicated article.
As the newlyweds are taken aside to sign the register, it is commonplace for some light and romantic music to be played to the congregation. Completing the legalities can take a few moments so entertaining the wedding guests with some music is always advised. There are numerous options available to Bride's and Groom's and some of our favourites can be found in our signing of the register music article.
Finally, a rousing piece of recessional music is played as the couple exit the Church as man and wife. Mendelssohn's 'Wedding March' is always a favourite but there are plenty of others to choose from too. For a list of the most popular options and musical clips of each, our recessional music article is essential reading.
Who Plays the Church Wedding Ceremony Music?
The majority of weddings that take place in Church will have the music played by the Church organist. Because of the sheer size of the building, it is important that the music isn’t ‘lost’ in the rafters, hence why many couples will opt for the one instrument that has been specifically designed for the purpose of playing music in such a venue.
Minister’s up and down the country will recommend their organist and may also offer the use of the Church choir, for a small fee, to join in with the hymns and music. The repertoire of the Church organist is sometimes limited, especially if you're after more obscure pieces of music, and for those of you looking for a modern slant on your day, their use may seem somewhat antiquated. That said, not only will the use of a Church organist provide a powerful rendition, but in many ways it also seems natural and fitting.
As long as the Church Minister approves, you could always enlist the help of an alternative musician to perform your Church wedding ceremony music - a string quartet, bag-piper, harpist or pianist for example.
In all cases, your Minister will have the final say as to 'alternative musicians' so look to seek their approval as early as possible if you are considering heading down this path. When choosing your musician you should remember that the building itself will absorb aloud of the noise, so it may be wise to enquire if the Church has previously witnessed an effective performance from your chosen type of musician on an earlier occasion.
What Church Wedding Ceremony Music Can Be Played?
Once you have discussed options with the Minister and weighed up your alternatives, it is then time to make your decision and push ahead and choose the music you would like played.
Minister’s tend to be quite traditional in the Church wedding ceremony music they approve of for wedding ceremonies and, luckily, so do many couples. Sure, some couples will want to steer away from classical pieces and move towards more modern tunes, and for these couples it is wise to speak to their Minister asap to seek their approval. However, in 70 to 80% of weddings, it is the same pieces of music that crop up again and again – music that is timeless and somehow seems ‘just right’.
For those of you who do have a particular preference for modern day love songs, you may wish to check out our 'First Dance' article for some ideas, and as soon as you have a shortlist, speak to your Minister to see how they feel about them. For the remainder of you, our prelude music, processional music, music for the signing of the register and recessional music articles are a good first port of call.
Whatever you choose, we can’t stress enough how important it is to clarify your position with the Minister as soon as possible, and work with them throughout the planning process. Some ultra-strict Ministers have even been known to to take issue with traditional and classical pieces of music, just because of the history of the piece.The Bridal March by Wagner from the opera Lohengrin is a good example. In the opera it is played to celebrate a wedding that is never consummated and ends just moments after the ceremony when the Bride betrays her new husband, reneging on her word and her vows. Minister’s may, but probably won't, voice their approval at such a choice, but nonetheless it is strongly advised that you engage your Minister at an early stage to avoid unnecessary problems nearer the day.
For those of you wanting to find out more, we've a whole host of other wedding ceremony articles on our site packed full of expert information and helpful advice, not to mention our online wedding directory that's filled with wedding venues, florists, decor suppliers and more.