Top 10 Wedding Ceremony Songs (For String Quartet)

I have been playing for weddings for about 20 years, and over that 20 years, I have received a LOT of wedding requests. Some of these requests have been for the ceremony, and others for the reception, but for this post I’m going to stick to the songs that people love to hear for their wedding ceremony.

  1. Canon in D – J. Pachelbel – This is hands down the most requested ceremony song of all time. I think that I have played Canon in D at nearly every wedding I have played, and that’s a lot! Sometimes Canon is played for the bridesmaids, and other times for the bride, but unless you are a cellist, you will agree that Canon in D is a beautiful tune and is quite appropriate for an elegant walk down the aisle. I prefer this tune as one for the bridesmaids, because of it’s understated beauty.
  2. Trumpet Voluntary (aka Prince of Denmark March) – J. Clarke – This commanding tune is most frequently used as the processional. And, what bride wouldn’t want to walk down the aisle to it, really… If you really want to do trumpet voluntary right, you should add a trumpet to this tune. I have even had weddings, where the trumpet and an organist were hired just to play this one tune, giving it a truly over the top sound, when contrasted with the quiet elegance of the string quartet for the rest of the ceremony.
  3. Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring – J.S. Bach – To get this tune off on the right foot, the correct pronunciation of the first word in this title is Yay-zoo. The pulse of this tune makes for really good walking music, and it’s another one that is great for the bridesmaids, or even the seating of the mothers and grandmothers. It’s an elegant and memorable melody that will probably get stuck in the heads of some of your guests. Definitely a classic wedding music choice.
  4. Air from Suite in D (aka Air on the G String) – J.S. Bach – This is one of my favorite wedding tunes to play. The interplay between the different instruments makes this Air stunningly beautiful. Bach was no slouch, when it came to writing music, but this is one of my all-time faves. Because this is a slower tune, I have most commonly played this for the lighting of the unity candle, although it works well as prelude music as well.
  5. Claire de Lune – C. Debussy – Although, I haven’t had the opportunity to play this tune as frequently as those above, Clair de Lune is a gorgeous tune. The emotion in this melody is evident from the start. And, passion flows through every second of it. Debussy was a master of using music to express emotion, and this is one of his masterpieces.
  6. Water Music – Finale (Sometimes recorded as Water Music – Hornpipe) – G.F. Handel – The Finale from Handel’s Water Music is a triumphant piece with a jubilant feeling. When your guests hear this tune, they will have no doubt that this is the end of the ceremony. They only risk here is that you may want to skip down the aisle to this one.
  7. Ave Maria – F. Schubert – Ave Maria is a classic – especially for Catholic wedding ceremonies. The violin carries a beautiful and slow melody. It’s bound to bring tears to the eyes of many of your guests. * Special Note Regarding Ave Maria: There are many tunes named Ave Maria because the name means prayer to Virgin Mary. The Ave Maria by Schubert is probably the one you want. 
  8. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade) – W.A. Mozart – If there is only one string quartet tune that you will recognize, it might be Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, (A Little Night Music) by Mozart. Eine Kleine Nachmusik is actually a suite of 4 melodies, but the most popular tune among these is the Serenade. This piece is fun, and fast moving, and is sure to please. Serenade makes a great tune for post lude music as the guests prepare exit the ceremony.
  9. Wedding March – Mendelssohn – Mendelssohn’s Wedding March is the tune you hear in the movies as the recessional. Everybody recognizes it, and it truly is a beautiful tune. It originally appeared at the wedding scene in a musical rendition of Shakespeare’s a Midsummer Nights Dream. If you want to stay traditional, this is your tune, but if not, consider Handel’s Finale from Water Music. *Special Note regarding Wedding March: Some Churches don’t allow this tune because the consider it to be “Secular Music”
  10. Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride) – Wagner – Here is the tune that some people love, and others love to hate. Bridal Chorus originated as a part of Wagner’s romantic opera, Lohengrin. It has been played so often that it is the song people think of first when they think of Weddings. Here Come’s the Bride is the name most people know this tune by. Truly because this tune is so common in our society, my clients rarely have us play it. The reason is that people who hire a string quartet are looking for something classy and different. They want to set themselves apart, and the Wedding March doesn’t do that. However, for the traditionalist, this is your tune for the processional. *Special Note regarding Bridal Chorus: Some Churches don’t allow this tune because the consider it to be “Secular Music”

Wedding Music for Your Style

Brides often ask me for recommendations of wedding music. This sounds like a simple request, but there is no one size fits all answer.

Some couples are planning a wedding that is very traditional, while others are planning a ceremony that is quirky and off the beaten track.

My number one recommendation is that you pick music that will fit your style for your wedding. Music is a powerful way to reinforce the mood that you want to create.

The most common request I have for my string quartet is music that is classy and elegant, but not overplayed. I have created such a list of wedding tunes here.

Here are my general recommendations for music choice through the ceremony.

Prelude Music: Prelude music should usually be calming, and peaceful. It should set the mood for the event, while still allowing the guests to talk with each other. Keep in mind that the Bridal Party will not be in the sanctuary while this music is playing, so it’s not the time to play your most personally meaningful selections.

Seating of the Grandmothers: Depending on how many grandparents you have between the two of you, this is often combined with the seating of the mothers. If you do want to have an individual tune for the seating of the grandmothers, it makes sense to pick a tune that is meaningful to one or more of the grandparents, or to the relationship that the bride or groom has with a grandparent.

 Seating of the Mothers: This is a great opportunity to get sentimental. This song should still be understated. This is the beginning of the ceremony, and the mood should build as the ceremony proceeds. Sometimes the Mothers will also light a candle in preparation for the unity candle ceremony later.

Processional of the Bridesmaids/Groomsmen: This song should build the emotion, but should not be overpowering – afterall, this song is for the Bridesmaids, not the Bride. It’s nice to have a song that has a pulse to it so that the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen can feel the beat and walk to it. This will keep them moving down the aisle at the same speed.  The speed of this song should be a slow, comfortable walking pace. If you have a ring bearer and flower girl, they will also walk down the aisle to this song.

Processional of the Bride: This is the second most charged song of the Wedding. It is the announcement of the bride, and her triumphal entrance. Make no mistake, this song is important. Here comes the bride! Now, if you are going to the expense of hiring a string quartet, there is a good chance that you want to make a departure from the most traditional of traditional wedding tunes. This tune should be BIG. It should give the guests no chance to question if this is the time to stand up. This is the announcement!

Lighting of the Unity Candle / Sand Ceremony: This is an intimate moment between the bride and groom, and the music should reflect the solemnity of the moment. This is the point in the ceremony where the bride and groom mark their departure from being separate, and signify becoming one. Side note: If your wedding is outdoors, do a sand ceremony or other alternative to the unity candle unless you want to deal with your candle being blown out. It is a great place for a reflective ballad, or peaceful classical piece.

Recessional: This is the big sendoff. Everybody is excited and there is much rejoicing. Pick an upbeat tune that reflects this jubilant tone.

Postlude: Continue the jubilant tone in these 2-3 tunes as people begin to leave the ceremony and make their way to the reception. Think happy!

Keep these general tips in mind when you select your music, regardless of what style you want to represent you. And, whatever you do, keep you music choices authentic, and true to your style.

Originally posted here: http://www.fortcollinsstrings.com/wedding-music-to-match-your-style/