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”

How to Handle Music Requests at your Wedding Reception

Wedding Reception Dancing - Doing the DipDo you want the DJ to take music requests from the guests at your wedding reception – or not? Some couples do, others prefer not to. There is no right or wrong answer; but please remember, when a guest requests a song, that it’s not possible for a DJ to have every possible song that might be requested – no matter how big a DJ brags his music repertoire is.

Challenges

There are other challenges that requests can present. Sometimes, guests may request songs that simply do not “fit-in” with the music programming, or a requested song may completely alter the mood or environment contrary to what you want. Playing heavy metal or gangsta’ rap, for example, will likely upset or displease some of your guests, especially the older ones. Certainly, songs containing objectionable, foul or sexually graphic language should not be played.

Wedding Reception - Danced So Much My Feet HurtIt’s just tacky to play any song with the “f-bomb” being dropped every fourth word at a wedding. Even though you may like a particular song, you’ll survive if you don’t hear it. Obviously, you don’t want to cause anyone to feel uncomfortable. Your wedding celebration won’t be hampered by a song that isn’t played, but could be significantly and instantly damaged by a song that is played.

An experienced wedding DJ will use their personal experience and professional judgment to know when it is acceptable to honor requests, while amateur DJs may be inclined to play any song that is requested.  (Remember, if inappropriate requests are played, these songs will make you look bad.)

Your Special Songs

You may have specific songs that you want to hear during your reception, dinner or dancing. That’s great, but there’s certainly no need to pick them all. That’s why you are hiring a truly polished professional wedding DJ. That person should know how to properly read a crowd, play the right tune at the right time, maintain music volume and seamlessly enhance the atmosphere.

In fact, outside of your special wedding dances (1st dance, father/bride dance, etc.), all you probably need to do is select a handful of songs you especially like to provide a flavor of what you wish to hear. Maybe it’s the first song you kissed to, or the very first song you danced to. If you would like supply an additional list or specific artists or songs beyond just a few, it’s often best to permit the experienced wedding DJ read the crowd and mix them in where and when appropriate.