Wedding Music and Sound

The Importance of Music and Sound

Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Music is said to be the speech of angels, it is what feelings sound like, it is the poetry of the air, and the great Ludwig van Beethoven declared, “Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life. Music is love.”

Selecting the music for your wedding ceremony is extremely important. Music sets the tone, the mood, and the tempo of your wedding. Music embodies such powerful emotions and power and the Bride and Groom should select music that expresses their feelings for each other. No other single element of your celebration has the power to move your guests and engage the emotions of all in attendance, the way beautiful music does.

The music selected should represent who the Bride and Groom are, and reflect their taste and styles in music, but your selections should also add to the honor, significance and importance of the commitment that is being made.

Music is to your ears and heart as color is to your eyes and fragrance to the air you breathe. Music is an auditory cue that guides the participants through the entrance and exit process. Ultimately your music selections will add greatly to your ceremony or conversely cause great distractions.

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Sound Quality

Virtually every textbook on filmmaking and every course teaches how incredibly important sound is. Here’s a quote from Director, Edoardo Nolfo, on his blog on, “Poor sound is a major weakness – maybe the major weakness – of independent films. Professionals claim that audiences can put up with poor image quality if the story is good, but they will never put up with poor sound.”

Every filmmaker will also tell you to make sure that you get several “takes” of every important scene. Of course, the problem with a wedding is that we only have one take, that’s it. No redoes, no “try agains”, no extra “takes”. One shot, that’s all.

As a professional, I am intensely committed to doing everything I can to provide the best in sound quality. One of the top ten complaints that I hear about other weddings (than the ones I’ve done) is that the guest couldn’t hear the officiant. Along with years of training in public speaking, the sound equipment that we use plays a critical role in solving this problem.

Along with being able to provide my clients with a complete sound system for their ceremony, I use a number of different microphones that provide superior performance. One of my favorites is Shure Beta 53, a head-worn microphone that is built with ultra-thin design for demanding performance applications.

A microphone like this performs exceedingly well in the many outdoor venues that I preside at. Not only does it eliminate wind and ambient sounds, but it also lets me move around freely. This increases the opportunities for us to do special things during your ceremony,…like moving to the side during your vows, creating the most personal and individual moment for you and your fiancée. Here’s a photo of Steve and Laicy sharing their vows as I stand off to the side and near the groomsmen.

Who Will Play Your Music

Live, DJ, Friend, Pastor, Officiant?

Since music is such a critical part of a ceremony, who presents it is very important too. When I ask Brides and Grooms about other weddings that they’ve been to, another top ten complaint about ceremonies involves music. Have you ever been to a wedding where the wrong song was loaded and played? Have you ever been to a ceremony where the bride and her father stand at the front row, while the music is played on and on? 30 seconds can seem like an eternity. Or how about the unity ceremony music that is played in its entirety when it only took 15 seconds to light the candles? Chances are you’ve been to a wedding where this may have happened. Surely things like this will happen, but professionals will do everything they can to manage against the likelihood that mishaps occur.

Selecting a DJ or friend that will help present the music during your ceremony is a critical decision. Timing, volume and smooth transitions are an essential part of an excellent celebration.

Another option that we can provide uses new state of the art technology that enables your officiant to actually manage the music through wireless and digital mediums from his/her position as your officiant.

This option eliminates a lot of the potential for the wrong song being cued, or the right song being cued at the wrong time. As your officiant, this enables us to bring the music up and fade it out precisely at the right points to maximize the positive effects of your music selections.

Music Selections

The music selected should represent who the Bride and Groom are, and reflect their taste and styles in music, but your selections should also add to the honor, significance and importance of the commitment that is being made. Ultimately your music selections will add greatly to your ceremony or conversely cause great distractions.

If your wedding is 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 the “rules” or guidelines they expect to be followed, and in many cases there is a church musician, staff member, or even a worship pastor who will meet with every couple to discuss the music guidelines and protocol as they assist in selecting appropriate music for the wedding ceremony. Since each church and setting have different rules and requirements, ask for a copy of the rules and read them thoroughly before planning the music for your wedding.

Common times for music and possible choices:

The prelude is the period of time before the ceremony begins. During this prelude, your guests will be arriving and taking their seats. You want to make sure that there is music playing as soon as your first guests arrive so you should begin playing your prelude music as early as possible. Enough music to fill 20-30 minutes is typical.

Prelude music sets the tone for your wedding and gives your guests their first impression of what type of ceremony to expect. You may want to choose chamber music pieces for a formal ceremony, or smooth jazz for a less formal ceremony. In general, the music should be non-intrusive.

The pre-processional is the time just before the procession of the wedding party begins. This is the time when candles will be lit, sand decanters filled, and important family members, such as the grandparents, mother-of-the groom and mother-of-the-bride, are ushered to their seats.

Changing the music from prelude to pre-processional lets your guests know that the ceremony has begun is a way to honor family members who are especially important to you.

Examples of traditional songs that have been played during this portion of the ceremony:

  • “Adagio” from Mozart’s Sonata in E-Flat
  • “Air” from Handel’s Water Music
  • “Air on the G String” from J. S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.3
  • “Allegro” from J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #4 in G
  • “Courante” from Three Lute Dances
  • “Nocturne In E flat, Op.9 No.2” by Chopin
  • “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Debussy
  • “So This Is Love” (Instrumental “Cinderella”) by David, Hoffman, Livingston
  • “Waltz” from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Act I
  • “Ashoken Farewell” by Ungar
  • “On Wings of Song” by Mendelssohn
  • “So this is Love” (Instrumental “Cinderella”) by David, Hoffman, Livingston
  • “Waltz” from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Act I

And some classics of this generation:

  • “Secrets” by the Piano Guys
  • “Somewhere over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz
  • “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole
  • “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
  • “The Wedding Song, There Is Love” by Paul Stokey
  • “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
  • “Butterfly Kisses” by Tim McGraw
  • “Blue Skies” by Ella Fitzgerald
  • “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
  • “How Long Will I Love You” by Ellie Goulding
  • “Waiting on an Angel” by Ron Harper

Processional music is played as the bridal party walks down the aisle. When the wedding party appears at the top of the aisle, the music should switch from pre-processional to processional. The processional pace should have a tempo that allows the bridesmaids and groomsmen to walk down the aisle at a measured pace and heightens the suspense for the wedding guests as they wait to see the bride.

Examples of traditional processional music:

  • Lohengrin Traditional Wedding March (“Here Comes the Bride”) by Wagner
  • Processional to “Te Deum” by Charpentier
  • “Trumpet Tune” by Purcell
  • “Trumpet Voluntary” (“Prince of Denmark’s March”) by Clarke
  • “Canon in D” by Pachelbel
  • “Arioso” by J. S. Bach
  • “Heroic Marches” by Telemann
  • “Introduction” by Purcell
  • “Romance from String Quartet” by Mozart
  • “Elvira Madigan Theme” by Bach
  • “Dodi Li” by Steven Sher
  • “Erev Ba” by Shoshana Damari
  • “Rondeau” (“Masterpiece Theater Theme”) by Shoshana Damari
  • “Hymne” by Vangelis
  • “Romantic Piece Number” by Dvorak
  • “Sheep May Safely Graze” by Bach
  • “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach
  • “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven
  • “Morning Prayer” by Tschaiovsky
  • “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz
  • “Butterfly Waltz” by Crain
  • “River Flows in You” by Yiruma
  • “Autumn from the Four Seasons” by Vivaldi
  • “Spring from the Four Seasons” by Vivaldi
  • “Winter from the Four Seasons” by Vivaldi
  • “Anne’s Theme“ by Hagood Hardy
  • “Ashokan’s Farewell“ by Ungar
  • “English Countryside“ by Jean Martin
  • “Interludes I, II, III, IV, V, VI”  by Mark Haye
  • “Liebestraum“ by Liszt
  • “Lover’s Waltz“ by Ungar
  • “Majesty and Glory“ by Tom Fettke
  • “Morning Has Broken“ by Farjeon
  • “My Heart Will Go On“ by James Horne
  • “Shores of Capri“ by Jean Martin
  • “Somewhere in Time Theme“ by John Barry
  • “The Prayer“ by Bayer Sager/Foster
  • “You Raise me Up“ by Loveland
  • “English Countryside“ by Jean Martin

When the bride appears at the top of the aisle and begins to make her entrance, the music should switch to the piece you have chosen for the bride’s entrance. This is the moment that you, and all of your guests, have been waiting for. Your music should be dramatic and sweeping. Often a bride will choose one of the processional selections above, which is a different song than the bridesmaid’s processional music. Feel free to consider music besides the traditional wedding march, such as instrumental versions of favorite ballads and contemporary love songs.

Along with the traditional songs, here are some contemporary songs that couples have used for this most powerful, emotional and sentimental moment:

  • “Love Actually”, Glasgow Love Theme
  • “Our Time” by Damon Dotson
  • “Storybook Love” by Matthew Lister
  • “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri or the Piano Guys
  • “Marry Me” by Train
  • “Tenerife Sea” by Ed Sheeran
  • “Seasons of Love” from Rent
  • “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles (Instrumental)
  • “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole
  • “All of Me” by John Legend
  • “Your Song” by Ellie Goulding
  • “Twilight Soundtrack” by Flightless Bird, American Mouth
  • “Sea of Love” by Cat Power
  • “Cosmic Love” by Florence and the Machine
  • “Kiss Me” by Ed Sheeran
  • “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars
  • “Never Quit Loving You” by Jill Barber
  • “You and Me” by John Legend
  • “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden
  • “God Gave Me You” by Blake Shelton
  • “God Gave Me You” by Bryan White
  • “Songbird” by Eva Cassidy
  • “Like I’m Gonna Loose You” by Meghan Trainor
  • “No Place I’d Rather Be” by Clean Bandit
  • “I Do” by Colbie Caillat

During Your Unity Celebrations is a great time to incorporate “Your Song” or a selection that truly embraces your love and commitment to each other.

This is also a great place to include a special song sung by a friend, a brother, a sister or even the bride or groom. Here’s a picture of Damon singing to his bride Ali as a part of their unity ceremonies from a wedding we officiated in the summer/fall of 2015. Damon and Ali did several unity ceremonies including a tree planting with their parents. (Photos Courtesy of ZTSPHOTO)

The following is a list of songs that have been used during the unity ceremony and sometimes in other segments of the wedding as well. Examples of the unity ceremony greats are:

  • “A Love So Beautiful” by Michael Bolton
  • “Always” by Atlantic Starr
  • “Amazing Grace” by Lari White
  • “Ave Maria” by Shubert
  • “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion
  • “Better Together” by Jack Johnson
  • “Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel
  • “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli
  • “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
  • “Color My World” by Chicago
  • “Don’t Stop Believing” by the Vitamin String Quartet
  • “Endless Love” by Lionel Ritchie, Diana Ross
  • “Flesh of My Flesh” by Leon Patillo
  • “Forever and For Always” by Shania Twain
  • “Forever” by The Beach Boys
  • “From This Moment On” by Shania Twain
  • “Give Me Forever (I Do)” by John Tesh
  • “God Gave Me You” by Blake Shelton
  • “Greensleeves”, Traditional
  • “Grow Old With Me” by Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross
  • “Household of Faith” by Steve Green
  • “I Believe in You and Me” by Whitney Houston
  • “I Do (Cherish You)” by Mark Wills
  • “I Do” by Paul Brandt
  • “I Need You” by LeAnn Rimes
  • “I Wanna Be Your Everything” by Keith Urban
  • “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman
  • “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz
  • “I’ll Always be Right There” by Bryan Adams
  • “It’s Your Love” by Time McGraw & Faith Hill
  • “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J. S. Bach
  • “Keeper of the Stars” by Tracy Byrd
  • “Lord’s Prayer” by Mallote
  • “Love Never Fails” by Brandon Heath
  • “Me and You” by Kenny Chesney
  • “Old Love” by Bob Ford
  • “One Hand, One Heart” by Streisand-Mathis
  • “Only Time” by Enya
  • “Only You (And You Alone)” by The Platters
  • “Spend My Life With You” by Eric Benet ft. Tamia Lyrics
  • “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin
  • “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Celine Dion
  • “The Keeper of the Stars” by Tracy Byrd
  • “The Twelfth of Never” by Johnny Mathis
  • “The Wedding Song” by Kenny G
  • “Time In A Bottle” by Jim Croce
  • “True Companion” by Marc Cohn
  • “Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Star” by Merle Haggard
  • “Unchained Melody” by Ryan Marissa
  • “We are Glass” by Thompson Square
  • “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
  • “When I Say I Do” by Clint Black, Lisa Hartman
  • “When You Love Someone” by Bryan Adams
  • “Wherever You Go” by David Haas
  • “Without You” by Mariah Carey
  • “You Light Up My Life” by Leann Rimes
  • “You’re My Everything” by Santa Esmeralda
  • “You’re My Everything” by The Temptations
  • “You Are So Beautiful To Me” by Joe Cocker
  • “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” by Barry White
  • “You’re the One” by Tracy Chapman

Shortly after you’ve been pronounced as husband and wife, and introduced for the first time as Mr. and Mrs., your recessional music will begin. Let the celebration begin, it’s official, you’re married! This is the moment you and your new spouse will march back up the aisle. You should choose music that is joyous and conveys your great feelings of excitement and happiness.

For the most part, recessionals are fast paced and dynamic. There is an unlimited variety of classical and contemporary music to choose from depending upon the setting of your wedding. Anything from a traditional wedding march to a contemporary pop song may be perfect for your wedding.

Either way, use this time to create a feeling of celebration. We have gone from a few tears, to a little laughter with lots of smiles, and now we’ve arrived at the celebration, it’s time for the party!

Examples of recessional selections starting with some newer selections and then traditional classics:

  • “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors
  • “Don’t Stop Believing” by Vitamin String Quartet
  • “This Will be An Everlasting Love” by Natalie Cole
  • “When I’m 64” by the Beatles
  • “Tumbling” by Damon Dotson
  • “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
  • “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” by Stevie Wonder
  • “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson
  • “Paradise” by Coldplay
  • “Feel Again” by One Republic
  • “Wedding March” from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven
  • “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
  • “Autumn” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
  • “Sonata in G” by Tartini
  • “Hornpipe” from Handel’s Water Music
  • “Sonata in G” by Tartini
  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from Handel’s Solomon
  • “First Movement” from J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #1 in F
  • “La Rejouissance” from Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music
  • “Siman Tov u Mazel Tov”, various artists
  • “Toccata” from Widor’s Organ Symphony #5
  • “Entrance of the Queen of Sheba ” by Handel

The interlude or postlude is the time between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception. The music you choose for the interlude should be non-intrusive to allow for conversation. The interlude may be a good time to showcase your musical tastes and to have some fun.

Examples of sample selections from classical to pop:

  • “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J. S. Bach
  • “Sheep May Safely Graze” by J. S. Bach
  • “Air On The G String” by J. S. Bach
  • “Amen! Praise and Glory” by Peacock
  • “Ave Maria” by Schubert
  • “Ave Maria” by Gounod
  • “The Call from Five Mystical Songs” by Vaughan Williams
  • “Cavalleria Rusticana” by Intermezzo Mascagni
  • “Greensleeves”, Traditional
  • “Finlandia” (“Ode to Joy”), (words by Grieg, music by Beethoven)
  • “Let There Be Peace on Earth”
  • “London Trio #3 – Adante” by Haydn
  • “Lord’s Prayer” (various)
  • “O God of Life” (“Panus Angelicus”) by Franck
  • “O Mio Babbino Caro” (Gianna Schicchi) by Puccini
  • “Quando Men’ Vo” (Musetta’s Waltz from La Boheme) by Puccini
  • “At Last” by Etta James

Live Music and Professional Musicians

Friends and Family

Your wedding is a time to celebrate your love and the blending of your families together. Asking a friend or relative to sing at your wedding is a great way to include your family in your ceremony. If you have a talented relative who is willing, by all means this is an excellent choice.

Along with having the privilege to share a message that truly incorporates the love story and relationship of the newlyweds, the bride and groom personalizing their own vows, and including family in readings and unity ceremonies, this is one of the greatest ways to make your wedding personal and special.

Ideally you want to make sure that everyone feels included and welcome at your wedding, so if you choose this route it’s important that your choices don’t make anyone else feel excluded. You also don’t want the person that you are asking to feel pressured. Some musicians sing beautifully in a concert, or at church, or other venue, but the pressure of a “once in a lifetime” event like your wedding can be overwhelming.

Professional Musicians

Michelle Bell and The Fiddle Chics (Violin, Fiddle)

thefiddlechics -at- gmail -dot- com

Vibrant, vivacious, versatile violinists. From old-time, bluegrass, sacred to classical Michelle Bell and the Fiddle Chics will bring your music alive at your wedding. Michelle has decades of experience with the violin, fiddle and keyboards/piano.

Whether you book Michelle as a soloist, as a duo or the whole band, she will work with you to compile a music program that fits your overall theme.

Her strength lies in her ability to adapt to any mood, theme or music venue. What we love most about Michelle is her heart. Some of the deepest trials of life, combined with her musical victories, create a talent that believes in love forever and turns music into love.

Amy Carr and Signature Strings (Piano, Violin)

signaturestrings -dot- iowa -at- gmail -dot- com

In our opinion Amy Carr and Signature Strings are one of the finest additions you could make to your wedding. Every ceremony that we have had the privilege to serve together at Amy and her accompanists have set the bar on excellence. Each and every song change has occurred exactly on cue. Songs have been faded out at the right time coinciding with the length of the processionals and unity ceremonies.

The faces of Amy shine through in classical, hymns, Irish and more. Amy has been performing since she was a very young girl, beginning her study of piano at age five. At age 9, she began studying violin. Her passion is to make her instruments “sing”! She performs as a soloist, or with her string quartet and string duo called “Signature Strings”.

Kris Maahs (Harp)

krismaahs -at- gmail -dot- com

“A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself; and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man’s heart. The season, the scene, the air, were all favourable to tenderness and sentiment.” ~ Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

That quote captures the sophisticated beauty of the sound of the harp, and few can make one sing like Kristin. As an experienced classical and Celtic harpist who performs extensively throughout central Iowa. I have had the honor to serve with Kristin from the ornate halls of the Salisbury House to the simple beauty of the Church of the Land.

Excellence is the word to describe her work. She never misses a beat, every cue with perfection, her performance strengthens and enhances the focus upon the beauty of the bride and the honor of the groom. Accompaniment with excellence.

Brad Myers (Guitar and Band)
booking -at- bradmyersmusic -dot- com

When it comes to acoustic guitars and weddings, there is one name that resounds with timeless memories, and that’s Brad Myers. A man who understands love and people. Here’s a quote from Brad that shines the spotlight on what’s important, “The most challenging part of my job is not losing focus of the ‘big picture.’ When working with music it can be easy to spend all our time critiquing the details of the music, the reality is that people and relationships are far more important.”

Damon Dotson (Guitar and Band)
damondotsonmusic -at- yahoo -dot- com

Want your wedding to be on cloud nine? Since emerging onto the Midwest music scene in 2003, Damon Dotson’s demand and popularity have soared. He now has a religious fan following and is known to pack venues anywhere he plays. Damon is versatile in his performances and songwriting, performing not only as a solo acoustic act, but also with his full band. He has sustained his career for 10 years, including the release of four of his original albums and countless shows throughout the Midwest.

The bottom line is that many many people love Damon Dotson and his music. I’ve had the unique opportunity to see his heart…and this is a man who understands life, pain, suffering, victory, fame and most of love. If you could have the opportunity to book Damon for your wedding and reception, you can count on having the wedding celebration of your life.

Spenser Hardin (Solo Harpist)

I’ve had the honor to work with Spenser at a number of venues over the years. She will bring elegance and beauty to your wedding ceremony, in a way that cannot be matched by recorded music. Spenser is a capable artist that is willing to perform at indoor and outdoor venue.

Spenser is bright, talented, and fun to work with. She is professional and reasonably priced, even though she has been playing for wedding ceremonies, celebrations and receptions for over 10 years.