Playlist: Classical Wedding Music

When the APW staff started discussing ceremony music, it quickly became very clear: you were either a person who would have pop music for your processional, or you were not. (The middle ground, of course, is having pop songs played by string quartets, but gimmie a second and we’ll get there.) Maddie’s processional was “Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” (which is totally adorable, but still, idea of me personally doing that is a stretch). My processional was a Hebrew love song, but only because we couldn’t have amplified music and couldn’t afford musicians, otherwise it for sure would have been some sort of trumpet voluntary (ideas that left Maddie baffled).

Today’s post is for you music traditionalists. The wedding web seems to give you lots of modern choices for processionals and recessionals, but if you’re a classical music type, you’re stuck with those horrifically cheesy CD’s of classical wedding music with blurry black and white pictures of brides in long veils on the cover. Barf. So today, crowd sourced by APW and edited by me, we have some non-cheesy classical music selections for your wedding, guaranteed to not make you feel like you’re watching the montage part in a movie where people are running through fields. As he was listening to me select music, David pointed out that my taste perhaps ran a bit towards British-Royal-Wedding-Meets-Masterpiece-Classic, but I told him that while he was not wrong, he was also insulting my parents wedding recessional, so he could get out of my office. MARRIAGE!

Our next playlist will cover religious music (since you can absolutely use classical music in a secular ceremony, this genre needed two posts). But in the meantime. If you used a classical interpretation of a pop song (“Wild Horses” played by a string quartet anyone??) leave your favorites in the comments, and we’ll round those suckers up for you as well.

But for now, our APW Classical Wedding music mix tape, with even more ideas that didn’t make the mix.



Classical Wedding Mix from practicalmaddie on 8tracks Radio.

  1. Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke
  2. Sinfonia from Cantata 29, BWV 29  by Johann Sebastian Bach
  3. Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G major: Prelude, BWV 1007 by Johann Sebastian Bach
  4. Prelude to Te Deum by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
  5. Allegro from Trois pièces brèves for Wind Quintet by Jacques Ibert
  6. Rondeau from Abdelazer by Henry Purcell
  7. Alla Hornpipe from Water Music, Suite in D Major by George Frideric Handel
  8. Rondeau from Sinfonies de fanfares by Jean-Joseph Mouret
  9. Air On the G String, from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068 by Johann Sebastian Bach
  10. Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat Major, “St. Anne,” BWV 552 by Johann Sebastian Bach


And more ideas!


  1. Variations on a Shaker Melody from Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copeland
  2. Nocturne from a Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn
  3. Movement Nos. 3 & 4 from Excursions by Samuel Barber
  4. Clair de lune from Suite bergamasque by Claude Debussy
  5. Chorale from Jupiter from The Planets by Gustav Holst
  6. “St. Columba’s Tune,” Traditional
  7. Vltava from Má Vlast by Bedřich Smetana
  8. The Flower Duet from Lakmé by Léo Delibes
  9. Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat Major by Franz Schubert


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  • erin b

    You wanted recommendations for classical renditions of pop songs. We used the Vitamin String Quartet’s “Rock n Roll Wedding Collection” (available on iTunes) plus a couple of their other versions of pop/rock songs (Ho Hey by the Lumineers is on one of their more recent offerings) to play while our guests were waiting for us to show up (we got married at a monument on the National Mall in DC). Our processional was the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” as performed by the Section Quartet (also a strings group that does covers of popular songs).

    We went with “normal” music for the reception and everything else, but several guests remarked they had fun guessing the songs and singing along while they waited for the ceremony to start!

  • Jessica

    For some classical interpretations of pop songs:

    He’s got some gorgeous covers of fairly recent songs, and will sell you an Mp3 if you contact him. I’m a sucker for violin/fiddle music, so we’re going to be using his cover of “I Won’t Give Up” for the processional, and his cover of “We Are Young” for the recessional.

  • Allison

    I was just married this month, and I walked down the aisle to O Mio Babbino Caro by Puccini. It’s classical, but unexpected. I recommend it!

    • MegsDad

      Bravo, Allison!

  • Cleo

    The Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty is awesome. You might better know it as “Once Upon a Dream” from Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty. (starts about 40 seconds in)

    Also, one of my favorites: Polovitsian Dance by Borodin.

    • Just remember that you are walking (usually a 2/4, 4/4, 6/8 activity) to a piece that is in 3/4.


      • Cleo

        Good point. :)

        I have a good friend (music teacher actually) who used the waltz from Sleeping Beauty as her recessional. She’s super girly and it was a nice way for her to indulge in her princess fantasy without going cupcake-y…

        and in retrospect she probably chose it as her recessional, because she and her husband joyously skipped back down the aisle without much concern for beat/rhythm, so that potential awkwardness wasn’t noticeable.

      • Kirsten

        Although with a faster, Viennese-style waltz like that, it might work since it’s felt in 1 and the steps could just be on each downbeat. Of course, it might be hard not to sway and lilt up the aisle instead… :)

      • Unless you decide to skip. . . :-)

      • Melissa

        My fiance, a music nerd to the core, said the exact same thing to me! Every song I picked (I really wanted walk in to Married Life from Up) was in 3/4.

        • Jenny

          I walked in to Married Life from Up. It worked out just fine for me!

        • 1. Oooo, I’m looking for waltzes for our first dance.

          2. I just re-watched the opening and, as usual, cried.

  • Emily

    Slightly off-topic… are there alternate words for “processional” and “recessional” that I could put on our program? For some reason I can’t really put my finger on, I really can’t stand those words (maybe since they sound too church-y to me?).

    • You could use Entrance and Exit, and modify- “Bridal Party Entrance, Bride’s Entrance” and “Couple Exit”

      • Emily

        Hm… that makes me think of other modifications, like “Entering Our Ceremony,” or “Couple Exits for Additional Celebrations.” Or something like that.

        • Exactly! You could make it as formal or light-hearted as you pleased. “Couple Whisks Away To Begin Merrymaking” or “Bridge and Groom Joyously Step Outside a Minute” and for your entrance, list the bridal party (as necessary) and for your entrance, something as simple as “This is IT” gets the message across.

          • …more recommendations, please?
            We are doing a secular ceremony and these are great! Our theme is art/science sooo…?

          • Blair, I can’t reply directly to you, but what about using molecular terminology? “Bride is now entering orbit” or “The Happy Couple, Recently Collided, Will Now Continue Down the Path with Greatest Force” or something? I like nerd puns, but don’t really have the technical knowledge to make sure they’re correct. For physics, I know there’s plenty of good vector metaphors out there. ” Equal But Opposite Force Enters Downstage” “With Combined Power, Couple Now Travels Path with Little Friction”

            . . .art had me a little stumped though, because I know less about the process. . .

          • I love APW for the fact that these kinds of conversations even take place.

    • meg

      It’s because they are, in fact, religious terms. (I grew up in a liturgy nerd family. I gots the answers.)

      • Liz

        That’s so interesting! Can you tell us where they relate to?

    • LMN

      My FH is making playlists right now, and he has our processional labeled as “Intro” and our recessional as “Outro.” The simplicity of it has grown on me.

  • I walked down the aisle to a beautiful folk/instrumental version of John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” by Michael Maxwell. It was perfect for us — gentle, happy, with hints of tradition, and not too grand. (It was also a nod to my dad, who loves the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez, John Denver, etc. and shared all their music with me as I was growing up.)

  • Kirsten

    Another classical suggestion not on the list- John Stanley organ voluntaries are wonderful, but less common than the standard Purcell or Clarke voluntaries. I can’t remember exactly which one, but one by Stanley was used during the wedding scene in Mona Lisa Smile, and it is gorgeous.

    I second the suggestion of Vitamin String Quartet arrangements of pop songs. Last summer I played at a [religious] wedding that used their arrangement of Hallelujah by Paramore, and it actually worked pretty well for a recessional.

  • Somewhere on the border between classical and religious, I am hoping to enter to the assembly singing the Unitarian hymn “We Would Be One,” which is set to the tune of Sibelius’ “Finlandia.”

    I wanted to find something that would be simple and fairly familiar for a large group of people to sing, that would also be wedding appropriate *and* non-religious (fiance is an atheist). It was a challenge.

    I think that the Finlania tune is familiar enough that everyone will be able to pick it up from a quick instrumental run-through, and even if they don’t know the words, they are simple enough to be read while singing.

    I’m not sure why I got the idea that I wanted to walk down the aisle to “congregational” singing, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I like it. I just hope it works.

    • meg

      We did that. It’s great because it’s symbolic, right?

    • ElisabethJoanne

      We had some choices about our processional, but never considered anything other than congregational singing, which was the norm for our community.

      Everyone loved the photos of Dad and I singing during the processional. The recessional photos are a bit funnier – mouths are open wider, probably because my family loves the recessional hymn more than the processional hymn.

      I’m sure the bridesmaids appreciated having verbal, rather than purely instrumental, cues, too.

    • april

      Wow. I just listened to this and it pretty much reduced me to tears. Beautiful.

    • Finlandia <3

      Congregational singing <3 <3 <3 !!!!

  • One of my best friends is a concert violinist, so that worked out in our favor! She played an assortment of classical and more traditional Appalachian music. For the processional, she played a solo violin version of Yo-Yo Ma/Edgar Meyer/Mark O’Connor’s Appalachian Waltz (so beautiful, I’m tearing up just listening to it again right now):

    Along those lines, “Ashokan Farewell” is also beautiful; I think she played that one during the prelude but I’ve heard of people using it as processional music.

    I also had a vision of myself walking down the aisle to Gillian Welch’s “Dear Someone.” During the planning process, this had been a controversial decision with family members who wanted me to walk down the aisle to something everyone would recognize. But our musician worked with me to arrange a solo violin version (which ended up being one of my favorite pre-wedding memories, drinking wine together and reminiscing and listening to her play the fiddle…). The song was beautiful, and I don’t think anyone worried about whether they recognized it or not. So my advice: if you’ve got a piece of music you think would be perfect for your wedding, don’t worry about whether or not your folks like it. They’ll come around in the moment.

    • SaratogaJen

      Being a musician and having a lot of musicians/music-lovers at my wedding, I tried really hard to stray a bit from the usual stuff (the Canon in D is and will always be great; my sister had used it as had my aunt and I needed something different).

      My girls processed to Simple Gifts (piano/flute).

      My dad and I processed to the Bridal March by Jonathan Cain – a great take on the traditional. You can download the piano music, which I did, so our pianist could play it live. Still makes me cry.

      Then, we recessed to Ode to Joy (Beethoven’s Ninth final movement) on the organ for that big, beautiful, joyful sound. I thought that was going to be a common choice and many people had told me they had never heard it used a recessional. So that worked. I thought it was great.

    • OOH! I used Appalachian Waltz to come down the aisle too! I’ve never heard of anyone else using it, so it’s nice to hear! :) (And I was playing it, in fact, as I read this comment!!!) I agree that it is incredibly beautiful! I loved that it has a classical feel with an Appalachian vibe that connects with my family roots…
      Edit: Ah, you used it for the processional, but not your entrance. Regardless, it still is exciting! (And I used it for both…processional and me coming in. It was long enough for us.)

  • Angela

    My cousin is a pianist and played the processional & recessional music for my wedding. Here is the list of pieces that gave to me to choose from:
    For mothers and bridesmaids
    Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring -J.S. Bach **
    Pachelbel Canon [I can’t stand it, but everyone else loves it]
    Air on the G String [love title?? ;-) ] J.S. Bach
    “Sheep may Safely Graze” — J.S. Bach
    Chorale from “Jupiter” from ‘The Planets’ — Gustav Holst [This happens at about 3:00 into the piece in most recordings, if you listen to it] **
    Largo from “Serse” — Handel
    Theme from ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’ — Handel
    “Pathetique” Sonata, 2nd movement — Beethoven
    Gabriel’s Oboe – Enrico Morricone **

    For YOU
    Wachet Auf – J.S. Bach **
    Trumpet Tune – Henry Purcell **
    Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin — Wagner [[Here Comes the Bride]
    ‘Air’ from Water Music — Handel
    (most of the above choices for mothers and bridesmaids are also standard processionals, except the ‘Air on G String’, the Beethoven and the Morricone)

    Wedding March from ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ — Mendelssohn [that’s the standard]
    Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee — Beethoven [commonly known as Ode to Joy]
    Rondeau — Mouret **
    Allegro maestoso from ‘Water Music’ — Handel **
    ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from ‘Messiah’ – Handel [yes. Really. It’s common.]
    Trumpet Voluntary — Jeremiah Clarke **
    “Gloria in Excelsis” from ‘Gloria’ — Vivaldi
    (The asterisks indicate popular choices.)

    For those who are curious, we picked Wachet Auf for our mothers & my maid of honor, and Chorale from “Jupiter” from ‘The Planets’ for my entrance.

    • Lauren

      Jupiter is my favorite composition of all time. Bar none. It sadly doesn’t really go with everything else for our wedding (read: hippies), but I love it just the same. It literally makes me cry just listening to it, so I can’t imagine walking down the aisle!

      • I’m planning to walk down the aisle to it, and I am worried about needing a pile of tissues at the end! Fingers crossed that the waterproof mascara holds up… : )

    • Add me to the “can’t stand” list for Pachebel’s Canon. We made fun of it incessantly when I spent a year in music college, because every single bride would request that from the hired students.

      I know Vitamin String Quartet has already been mentioned, but I just LOVE their version of “Hoppipolla” by Sigur Ros. Beautiful!

  • Lizzie

    Here are my picks.

    David Garret (Solo Violin/Rock Band/Orchestra – His cover of “November Rain” is beautiful)
    The Piano Guys (Cello/Piano – These guys like taking a pop song and mixing it with a classical piece like their Titanium/Pavane piece)
    Dallas String Quartet (String Quartet similar to Vitamin String)
    Secret Garden (Orchestra — Really pretty background type music)

    Also you can take your favorite pop song and type classical rock or violin or piano and see what pops up in Google. A lot of classical musicians love the same music you do and recreate it on their instruments.

    • Stacey

      I was going to mention David Garret too! His version of “Smooth Criminal” is genius!

      I wanted to walk in to “Ride of the Valkyries” but my FH thought it wouldn’t be appropriate. I was just trying to keep things light so I wouldn’t break down crying. Sigh.

      Instead, I’ll be walking in to “Meditation de Thais” by Jules Massenet, as performed by Joshua Bell. I’m a big Joshua Bell fan, and the first 1:30 of that piece is complete in itself, so you can safely cut it off without seeming like you’re chopping a piece of music badly.

  • I’m pretty unfancy about this, so it will be Canon in D. Partly because it reminds me of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice theme music (which is related to Canon in D; I think it uses the same chord progression); I’m not gonna lie.

    • meg

      Look, I grew up in a household that ONLY listened to classical music. ONLY. And I still ike Canon in D. It may be overplayed, but it’s a good piece of music.

      • Yay, thank you! I agree! It’s so pretty and delicate and I just love it.

        • Katie

          I’m a classical musician and my Husband Elect loves video games; ironically, he insisted on Canon in D and I wanted to incorporate some game music. We compromised by arranging Canon in D with the Prelude from Final Fantasy for harp and flute, and I am super excited to hear it live.

          • Maria

            I’m more classical (and have loved Canon in D since playing it in orchestra in middle school) and my husband is more techno, so I processed in to a techno cover of Canon in D by Ronald Jenkees:

            It felt like the perfect mix of both of us, and it went well with the Vitamin String Quartet music that we had playing before the service.

      • Allieoop

        This reminds me of a video of a comedian who called out a bunch of non-classical songs that use the same chord progression–

        No matter what your opinion of Canon in D is, it’s kinda funny to watch him get so worked up over it.

    • Kirsten

      A friend of mine who’s a huge fan of the BBC version of P&P had a composer friend arrange a string quartet version of the song from the “long look across the room” scene. :)

    • Jacquelyn

      Second that for using Canon in D for my processional in November. Any recommendations for a particular version??

  • Rachel

    Ah this post reminded me that I’ve been wanting to find a classical or acoustic version of The Darkness “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” for our wedding! Just did some Googling and though I didn’t find exactly what I’m looking for, I’m off to a good start with this:

    • JessPeebs

      We played the original version of this for our entrance into the reception :)

  • Carolyn

    Bach Sinfonia from Cantata 29 YESSSS! This was our recessional and I just love it to bits. It’s so. damn. joyful. Like a million angels high-fiving.

  • My husband convinced me that we should hire a string ensemble to “class up” our ceremony. I was really hesitant because they were expensive (about $4-500 bucks, I can’t remember, to be there for like an hour) BUT it was one of the “worth it” splurges.

    Canon in D may be “overplayed” (I think I remember hearing some music snob friends scoff about it before our wedding without realizing that’s what we chose) but we walked down the aisle to it (everyone walked down the aisle, bridesmaids and groomsmen, my husband and his parents, and me and my parents). It makes me tear up and think of weddings and love so what better song to use?

    The TOTALLY WORTH IT part though was getting the ensemble to learn ABBA’s “I Do I Do I Do” for the recessional. We actually didn’t hear them play it until the ceremony and it was perfect and happy and wonderful and I only wish someone took a video so I could listen to how great it was again.

    • 39bride

      Like you, we splurged on a string quartet for the ceremony (about 15% of the total budget) and it was worth every single cent. They were fantastic and the church had great acoustics, so the effect was spectacular. One of my favorite memories of the wedding is opening the door from the hallway I was waiting in before my entrance, only to feel that incredible music wash over me. People raved about them and I wish we could’ve afforded to have them for our short reception as well.

      Btw, we used “Intermezzo” from Cavalleria Rusticana for the mothers’ entrance. It has a wonderful bittersweet quality (after the melancholy opening) that seemed to fit perfectly for our family situation (both fathers died young and our mothers are quite old, but after we chose it I learned that it was the theme from Raging Bull. We did it anyway, and I don’t think anyone recognized it and our moms loved it.

      • Ris

        I couldn’t afford a full quartet, so I hired a cellist and a classical guitarist from a local university instead. They were wonderful, although even just the cellist would have been fine. I seriously doubt anyone thought we were “cheaping out.”

        FWIW, I walked in to the Bach Cello Suite No. 1 in G. Is there a more beautiful piece out there? Don’t think so!

  • april

    I’ve always loved “Make our Garden Grow” from Bernstein’s Candide: It would be fun to try to incorporate it somewhere.

  • Katie

    If you’re ipodding it up (or if you have access to a full orchestra/chorale) there are lots of options classical music-wise. One of my friends walked to the overture from The Marriage of Figaro. There are some awesome symphonies out there – Beethoven comes to mind, and Brahms as well. Or if you want something vocal, you could go old-school with Palestrina (if you’re ok with music originally written for a mass.)

  • We have a wonderful pianist for our wedding and are looking forward to her interpretations of some modern pieces. For my processional/entrance/whatever, we are having her play “Hoppipolla” by Sigur Ros which is delightful on piano and translates to “puddle hopping” which seems so appropriate to the kind of light-hearted adventure my fiance and I have been on.

  • Hope

    Polyethylene Part II by Radiohead as played on the piano by Christopher O’Riley.

    • twiddles

      YES on the Christopher O’Riley Radiohead arrangements. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Most “classical” versions of “rock” music really leave me cold (both as a classical musician and as a rock music fan), but O’Riley really tapped into something wonderful.

  • Lauren

    My dad and I are dancing to Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss. He is big into classical music and so am I, so it makes sense. I didn’t actually think he cared about a first dance, but he does! Cue awws.

    I am a huge fan of traditional Celtic and Appalachian music, so I hired a mountain dulcimer player (my one insistence that I would pay any price for, luckily, he’s relatively inexpensive). He’ll do a selection of mountain hymns and Celtic music at the beginning, then maids enter to “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms.” I’ll be entering to “Si Beag, Si Mhor,” which is my favorite Celtic tune ever, and the fella and I will leave to “Haste to the Wedding,” a really lovely reel.

    I am probably the most pumped for the dulcimer music. It’s the one part of my wedding I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid and I can’t believe it worked out!

  • Sara

    We’re also using “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” for the processional, but we are doing a classicalish rendition of it. I fell in love with this cello/ukulele duet version of it ( and since we had already hired a cello and violinist duo, I just had to find a ukulelist for a single song (harder than you think!). It’s costing a bit extra, but it’s sort of my one must-have indulgence. :)

    I appreciate that Pachelbel’s Canon is not on the playlist – it’s kinda overdone! I’m from a family of musicians, and everyone insisted that I do not use that song. So, of course, I plan to work it in to annoy everyone. Our cellist/violinist have agreed to play the first few bars and then seamlessly transition to another song in the same key that we’ve chosen. I can’t wait to see the look on my mom’s face. HA!

  • Naomi

    I walked into my ceremony to pachelbel’s canon, played on the harp. The harpist then played golden brown (strangler’s) while we signed the register and then me and my brand new husband left together to here comes the sun played on the harp. It was one of the best things we did for the wedding and our harpist played on for the drinks reception and has been playing in our ceremony barn while the guests arrived. It was perfect! And one of our youngest guests, an adorable six year old was enchanted by the harp and harpist and stood close by watching for almost the entire drinks reception by all accounts.

  • WeddAsh

    We did all acoustic guitar versions of songs…
    Mothers and Bridesmaids walked to Pachelbel’s Canon. I walked to Saint Saens’ “La Cygne”…it’s a tad melancholy but it’s a very graceful piece (plus, I’m a ballet dancer and there is a famous solo to it). For the recessional, we used a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” because it’s so peppy.

  • 39bride

    We had a string quartet and used Serenade from String Quartet in F by Joseph Haydn for the ring bearer and flower girl. It’s so wonderfully light and bouncy if the quartet doesn’t let it drag, perfect for the 4 and 5-year-olds who filled the roles (the flower girl literally skipped to the music).

  • Londonsarah

    We had Gabriel’s Oboe by Enrico Morricone as our (my) processional, played on the church organ. Organist/organ could have been slightly tighter but it’s a beautiful piece. The recessional was Widor’s Toccata, which was stunning! The organist has to know it and will need a page turner, but it’s the most spectacular piece, I wish I’d been able to stay to hear it all!!! It possible that this one really only works in a large church…

  • alyssa

    Ah, finally one of my suggestions (Purcell’s Rondeau) makes it into a playlist!
    Alas, I don’t believe that it was actually ON the playlist. As in, the 8tracks list didn’t play it. Perhaps an error from my end, but I thought I’d let you know just in case!

  • Athena

    We used all interpretations of love songs. Vitamin String Quartet’s “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel as a Prelude, Apocalyptica’s “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica for the groom and his attendants, VSQ’s “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol for my attendants, “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney for ring bearer, flower girl and me, and VSQ’s “Head Over Feet” by Alanis Morissette for the recessional. We also tacked VSQ’s “All I Want is You” by U2 and their version of “Hey Ya” by Outkast for the stragglers to hear on their way out.

    • Stacey

      Oh, my dad is performing Nothing Else Matters solo during our ceremony! It’s such a beautiful song!

    • Karyn

      I nearly walked down the aisle to “Nothing Else Matters” by Apocalyptica. I only decided against it because the sound was darker than we wanted overall.

  • Sara

    Editz: my parents wedding recessional –> my parents’ wedding recessional

  • XO

    We’re going tried and true for our processional with Pachelbel’s Canon, using the recording from an old vinyl record we found at my grandmother’s house after she passed away– using this LP was one of the few things my fiance really felt strongly about during wedding planning.

    For our recessional, though, we’re going weird with Chaconne in G Major by Moondog, an outsider composer from the 50s-90’s. It’s a light, dance-y string & percussion piece, perfect for our seamless transition from ceremony to party. You can listen to it here:

  • Melanie

    This could not have come at a more perfect time. I was just sitting down at the computer to write an email to our violinist saying, on second thought, he could play whatever classical music he wanted.

  • meaganep

    We walked in to Johnny Cash’s “Rose of My Heart” as played by friends on guitar and violin, and the recessional was Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” (also played by friends on guitar and violin).

    Before the ceremony our friends played arrangements of Beatles songs and we got tons of compliments on all of the selections.

  • At my first wedding we had an opera singer perform Sam Cooke, “You Send Me,” as we walked out.

    Just saying.

  • Sarah

    Another vote for Vitamin String Quartet! My husband doesn’t like Springsteen but I ended up walking down the aisle to the “classed up” version of Thunder Road. And it was awesome.

  • Caroline

    Queen’s Love of my Life performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. And Here Comes My Baby (Cat Stevens) for my Dad and I.

  • Lee H P

    Recent wedding grad!
    The music was my favorite thing to obsess over.

    We went with Vitamin String Quartet for pre processional and processional music. I gave my DJ a list of songs I liked from VSQ and he played them while guests were arriving/seating.

    The specifics:

    Unofficial pre-processional, just for me to hear while getting excited:
    Here Comes Your Man – Pixies performed by vitamin string quartet
    Grandparents, mother of groom and groomsmen:
    Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen (performed by vitamin string quartet)
    We’re Going To Be Friends – White Stripes (Vitamin string quartet)

    I searched for weeks trying to figure out a VSQ song for me to walk down the aisle to, almost going with Here Comes My Baby – Cat Stevens, liking the play on words “And it comes as no surprise to me, with another guy.” (my dad).

    But, alas, I wanted to have a bit of fanfare and tie in some traditionalism (husband very trational) and made 10th grade me happy with Canon in D.

    Recessional was All You Need Is Love by Vitamin String Quartet

    We were then introduced with the regular Beatles version of All You Need Is Love

  • Karyn

    I walked down the aisle to “Hoppipolla” by Vitamin String Quartet (originally by Sigur Ros). It’s been 9 months and I still get teary-eyed when I hear it.

    We then walked out of the ceremony to “What a Wonderful World.” By Joey Ramone. So, y’know.

    • Becca

      Just listened to that version of Hoppipolla, and I think I may have just found my recessional music. This post is great!

  • Fun fact #1: I was totally coincidentally listening to ‘Water music’ as I read this.

    Fun fact #2: ‘Jupiter suite’ is lovely, and I can never use it or anything sampling it ever because years ago my school principal wrote a terrible ‘school anthem’ to it and my Dad will never not sing those words whenever it plays.

  • The first movement of The Butterfly Lovers, faded out (there’s no clear resolution):

    You could actually modify this for a solo instrument – we had a flutist very good friend friend do it, from the violin sheet music (she has a background in arranging, too).

    Bach’s famous flute Badinerie from Orchestral Suite #7: (this was our recessional)

    Bach’s Partita for Solo Flute:

    Bach’s Partita #3 for Solo Violin:

    This is a bit of a weirdo: …but I played it as a kid and kind of wanted to walk to it, but we went with Butterfly Lovers above as I’d lived in China and it is my favorite Chinese opera. This one too (cutting the military-style introduction):

    Not my taste for processionals but I liked it:

    I know this is a weird choice, too, but imagine timing it just right so the bride and groom walked to all that cool bombast at the end. WOW. : (I kind of dreamed of doing that)

    Any Bach guitar works work, and would be lovely for a soloist friend in a woods or meadow wedding (this is just one example – Bach has tons of guitar stuff):

    People woulda looked at me funny, but I think it would have been super cool to walk to Rondo Alla Turca:

    I know minor songs are not usually popular at weddings but I’ve also had an affectation for this one for years (can you tell I am a former trumpeter?):

    A few of my faves that have been kind of ruined by commercials and TV shows: – have also played this and loved it, but, er, thanks PBS show my parents always watched for ruining it for me. – imagine taking a few-minute segment of this classic. But thanks to Delta Airlines (or was it United?)…it’d be weird: – it’s not good for marching but still – how cool would you be? Totally cool.

    And you can thank Dove (chocolate, not soap) for ruining this one:

    …I know some of these options seem odd or overly non-traditional, but they are all classical, and I did in all seriousness consider all of them for my wedding, so I’m seriously contributing them here. I just have odd taste I guess (with some – others are straight-up traditional)

  • Badger delegated the task of choosing music for the ceremony to me, with a polite request that I not pick anything ‘too clever’ and would play ‘stuff people know.’ Before I chose pieces I knew I wanted a female vocal and had a general idea of what instruments I thought would work well together – piano, flute and viola – so I pestered friends, family, and some orchestra colleagues until I got the right combination, and my brother helped me to transcribe the music for those instruments from recordings I had.

    In the end I chose four pieces. The processional was to Sean Ó Riada’s ‘Mná n hÉireann’ (Women of Ireland) on the basis that if I had to walk up the aisle, I was damn well doing it to something that had feminist overtones (not the music itself, but the title phrase, as used by Mary Robinson in her acceptance speech when elected President).

    After our vows, I had Iarla Ó Lionaird’s ‘Lámh le Lámh’ (Hand in Hand) I adore Iarla’s music (my nephew is named after him) and this also reminded me a little of Ó Riada’s ‘Tabhair dom do lámh’ (Give me your hand) which my parents used in their own wedding ceremony almost 30 years ago.

    Since flute is my own instrument, I wanted to show it off with a nice solo – and Fauré is a particular favourite, so I went with his Morceau de Concours to be played just after we signed the register.

    Finally, for a bit of whimsy, I chose Belle and Sebastian’s Mary Jo for the recessional – just an instrumental version, since the lyrics weren’t entirely wedding appropriate (the phrase ‘and the men you left for intrigue and the men you left for dead’ features prominently in the chorus!)

  • We used an instrumental version of “Seasons of Love” from Rent, performed by the Vitamin String Quartet. I loved it. It’s not too fast or two slow, upbeat but not cheesy. And even though we used an instrumental version, the lyrics are just beautiful, about appreciating every second of love that comes your way.

  • AnnDee

    Don’t forget the brass bands and brass ensembles! You can often get a brass ensemble for the same or less than a string ensemble (though the quintet at our wedding was made up of family members). I’ve played at weddings as a solo trumpeter, in a quintet, as part of a ten piece and in a full brass band.

    We started our ceremony with a recording of three movements from the brass band piece Music of the Spheres. We went live dixie during the signing (Cantina Band), with a bit of Jason Mraz for good measure. We walked out to Orkestra Del Sol’s recording of the music from Tetris.

    If we’d gone orchestral, the finalists were William Walton’s Orb and Sceptre, Great Gate of Kiev from the Askenazy orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition, or a spot of Star Wars with the Throne Room.

    Canon in D makes me want to throw things, mostly because I’ve heard it played so badly so so so many times. There is one exception, Colin Clansey’s bagpipes, bagpipes and more bagpipes.

  • Elemjay

    We used Ombra Mai Fu which is a super well known aria from an otherwise not well known opera by Handel called Sersei. We found an instrumental version which was lovely. This was for “coming in to the registry office” music.

    Plus point – it’s on classical music radio quite a bit and usually makes me cry (in a good way) when I hear it – wedding flashbacks hooray!

  • Peabody_bites

    I grew up with classic musicals – Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Sandy Wilson etc. . They are a huge part of my family life and something very important I share with my mother and sisters (in fact, we just went to see A Chorus Line last night).

    My processional was the Processional used at the end of the Sound of Music when Maria marries the Captain. Its a wondeful piece of organ music which is not recognisable to most people as being from the Sound of Music – unless they know. And if they know, they are your people anyway! It gave me huge pleasure and still makes me grin hugely when I listen to it, which I am now.

    We recessed to Fantasia in G major by Bach – an incredibly joyous piece of music but also great for recessionals because is a long introduction in which you can faff about with your train and dress and generally get ready to move/build up expectation, as well as pause briefly so that everyone can see the two of you at the altar, and then it crashes into spectacular chords.

    Just in case anyone is also looking for an anthem, we had How Lovely are thy Dwellings by Brahms, which is beautiful.

  • Laura

    Even though my church doesn’t allow recorded music, what awesome stuff! This is truly the music you only get to play once in your life, and what grandeur. I love it, and I’m someone who’s never played a note in her life.

  • JH

    Using classical music during the ceremony was one of the ways we honored my mother’s memory, since she had been a violinist. For the processional and recessional we used Ernst Bloch’s Wedding Marches. Very unusual, but my mother had loved Bloch, and it’s a wonderful choice for classical organ music that isn’t overdone (if you’re into that sort of thing). The quartet for the prelude and special music was made up of some of her musician friends, and there was some overlap with the music played at my parents’ wedding. My husband, a pop music guy, was totally supportive of the classical music ceremony (he was in charge of the playlist for the reception). It felt right.

  • Jess

    I’m so psyched to see Variations on a Shaker Melody on here. We are using it in our ceremony. We’re WVU graduates and Simple Gifts is one of the songs associated with the university. We’re using it for the presentation of the gifts and I guarantee I’m going to cry. I’m almost crying thinking about it.

  • Abby

    We are getting married in just under a month (WOO!). One of the members of our wedding party, aka, The Fellowship of the (Wedding) Ring, is playing classical pieces on the piano:

    Prelude: Girl with the Flaxen Hair/Debussy
    Processional: Intermezzo in E-flat Major, op. 117 no. 1/Debussy
    Recessional: Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum/Debussy

    Here’s a link to the processional:

    We wanted something kind of understated for the processional, and both composers are near and dear to us as music students.

    • H

      Oh Abby, if I could have done exactly that I might have. I always liked the impressionists for weddings – they give that perfectly shimmery feeling where darkness and light imperceptibly shade into one another. And they add that little bit of wistfulness that everyone feels around weddings. I only wish I could’ve done this, but what we did worked out fantastically.

      To add to the rest of the discussion, I want to add in the Rachmaninov 18th? variation on the theme by paganini. How amazing would it be to walk into that? *sigh*

  • My string trio plays weddings and we love getting requests for pop/non-religious songs to arrange! Some that we’ve arranged and done for couples include:

    “Yellow” – Coldplay
    “Annie’s Song” – John Denver
    “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – Guns & Roses (no, I’m not kidding)
    “Kissing You” – Des’ree, from Romeo + Juliet
    “When I’m 64” – The Beatles
    “Here Comes the Sun” – The Beatles
    “Cantina Band Song” – Star Wars (yes, that one, also, I’m not kidding)
    “Paradise” – Coldplay
    “Viva la Vida” – Coldplay
    “Falling Slowly” – Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

    If I’m allowed to put this here, here is a link to our contemporary repertoire for ideas (so I don’t take up even more space writing it out here, haha).

    For my own wedding, I walked down the aisle to “A Thousand Years” by The Piano Guys.

  • My parents used Charles-Maria Widor’s Toccata from his 5th Symphony in F, Movement V, as their recessional. It’s one of the happiest organ pieces I’ve ever heard, and I have this sentimental wish to use it at my own wedding someday…

  • Claire

    My fiance and I aren’t sure if we’ll be doing a processional yet, but if we do we’ll be using the Pas de Deux: Intrada from the Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. Despite being from the Nutcracker it’s not Christmas-y at all. The beginning (about first 2 minutes) would make for a beautiful processional, I think. is the best video I could find. There’s a version out there of Valery Gergiev conducting the Kirov Orchestra that I think is the best.

  • Helen

    Thank you so much for putting this together! This is so helpful!

  • Emma

    I like number 3 (Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1, Bach). A friend plays the cello and has kindly offered to play at our wedding. Do you have any other suggestions for solo cello?

    • Miriam

      The D major and C major preludes are also really beautiful. The end of the C major sounds like a lot more than one instrument, kind of like a chorale. And the D major does this wonderful echoing thing, both great for a wedding.

      • Emma

        Thank you! Our friend played us parts of the other suites and we liked them too, so she’s going to play what she likes from the whole set. We hadn’t been planning to have classical music but Bach’s cello suites are just beautiful! :)

  • Dana

    As a violinist with a professional string quartet going on our twelfth year of weddings (we’re up to almost 150 at this point!), I just wanted to throw out a few things from the musician side that may be useful to you all!

    If you’re hiring live musicians, certain things won’t translate as well to a trio or string quartet.

    1. In terms of rock music, make sure to consider what the singer’s line will sound like without the lyrics. Hum the melody to yourself; is the singer staying on the same note for long stretches of the verse? This may not sound as good; ask your musicians if they think the songs will translate.

    2. Vitamin String Quartet is awesome, and we get requests for them all the time (we love their music, too!). But just a caveat, some of their stuff is studio magic that won’t translate to a traditional string quartet. They often use multiple cellos to give the recording a deeper sound, or employ effects processors to give the strings more edge, so it may be impossible to duplicate their version live. The last thing with VSQ is that they don’t have commercially available arrangements for many of their popular songs (here’s a link to the ones they do have:, so if you’re going with live musicians, they will have to re-create the arrangement from scratch, by ear, which can be a tedious and expensive process even for an experienced arranger.

    3. That said, ask your string quartet if they feel comfortable making a similar arrangement in the style of VSQ; some groups may be more or less comfortable with the arranging process, and if the song is not already in their repertoire it can add costs as they will charge you for arranging and rehearsal time.

    4. The classical selections above are beautiful choices, many of which are great for string quartets and trios and the like. However, for pieces originally scored for larger ensembles, or for solo keyboard instruments, they may not translate quite as well to the group you’re using, but it also depends what repertoire your group already has. Just be aware that symphonic and operatic works may or may not condense as easily, and keyboard music may not sound as good when spread out over several musicians.

    Again, communication is key! When you’re first talking to a group to book them, it’s good to have a pretty good sense of what you’re looking for in terms of the ceremony music. Get a repertoire list from them to see what they already have (and thus won’t charge extra to learn), and ask whether they do special arrangements upon request, and any fees that may result from an unorthodox musical selection. They should be up-front with you about what’s feasible. It should be a collaboration and an enjoyable process for all parties. We want nothing more than to add some magic to the proceedings. Live music is something truly special at a wedding, and your guests will be delighted when you walk down the aisle to something unique.

  • Allie

    We had a string trio. I walked in to them playing the Beatles Blackbird, and the recessional was Elbow’s One Day Like This (if you don’t know it, seriously, listen to it – it will make you smile). Our musicians were awesome, I literally spoke to them the week before the wedding to tell them the songs. They’d never even heard Elbow before and worked up a version that week.

    They also played versions of You Are My Sunshine and the Iz version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

    Moral of the story— if you have good musicians, they can probably work up a version of any song you like…!

  • IRMcK

    I was supposed to walk down the aisle to “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” while my sweet husband and wedding party came in to the string arrangement of “Sweet Child of Mind.” However, the string quartet got it backwards, but apparently all our wedding guests totally thought that would be something I’d do, so it worked.

    I still love the Bach piece though:

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  • Elenka

    I am lucky enough to have a whole chorus of friends singing at my wedding. The wedding party will walk in to Franz Josef Haydn’s Die Harmonie in der Ehe and I’ll be walking in to Durufle’s Ubi Caritas. During the ceremony I’ll be singing Jake Heggie’s My True Love Hath My Heart (this isn’t very walkable – but it’s a beautiful song – I would recommend it to anyone that wants something sung during the ceremony).

    Since most of my friends are singers I’ve been to a few weddings with classical choral pieces/solos. I think my favorites were “Mairi’s Wedding” and Barber’s “The Coolin”

    If you know some singers and can get a choir together there’s a whole lot of music out there for you.

  • Miriam

    I’m a self-confessed classical music snob (because even the *term* classical is misused–I also like baroque, romantic, contemporary). So I have to say that although most of the pieces on the original post are gorgeous, they all seem like they have been overused to me, verging on clichés. I do still tear up when I hear Air on a G string done well, but it also reminds me of the harrowing scene in Waltz with Bashir, and all the other movies in which it’s been done ironically.

    That said, I’m having a very difficult time picking ceremony music for the wedding. Fiance is also quite musical, but not a musician (I play chamber music, won conservatory scholarships, but chose to go into academia instead). He really loves the Mendelssohn wedding march, which makes me cringe. So we have to work this out–isn’t that what marriage is about? Right now I’ve decided I’ll give him the march if he lets me pick something amazing for the processional, even though I thought it would be fun to have something swingy and Gershwinny for the recessional.

    I’ve finally admitted that Beethoven’s “Heiliger Dankesang” from the A minor string quartet is maybe too intense (and much too long) for a processional, even excerpted. But I am in love with the Adagio from Schubert’s string quintet in C major, the first three and a half minutes would be perfect, I think. But we may only have a quartet, which would mean they would have to do some serious re-voicing (you kind of need two cellos, one for the pizzicato and one for the melody). But it’s soooo beautiful!

    I also love the Bach cello suites, but would probably pick the D major prelude or the end of the C major one, because the G major while lovely can sometimes sound a bit melancholy.

    Are there any other classical chamber musicians/snobs out there? What would you recommend that’s truly not well known.

  • Miriam

    Also, I just have to add: I think choosing classical ceremony music is SO MUCH HARDER if you love and/or have played chamber music. I love the suggestion of the Schubert E flat trio, and I also think the Beethoven Archduke, or the third movement of Op. 70 No. 2 would be flat out gorgeous for a wedding ceremony, but I’ve played all three, and would probably be highly critical of the musicians, even without trying to be. So maybe sometimes it’s best to choose music that you don’t know too well!

  • Danyel

    Thank you all for sharing music suggestions! After listening to many I was really into the idea of remakes like Vitamin String Quartet, but wasn’t sold. I really love guitar and wondering if anyone has other guitar suggestions of originals or remakes? Thanks!


  • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

    My church organist had concert yesterday and fell in love with the performance of Phoenix Fanfare by Dan Locklair. There’s a larger piece that’s Phoenix Fanfare and Processional. I wanted to note it here in case pigs learn to fly and I have a wedding at my church.

  • Kaija

    My fiancé and I are both classical musicians, and our ceremony picks are:

    Bridal Party: Brahms, Intermezzo in A, Op. 118, no. 2
    Bride’s Entrance: Liszt/Schumann, Widmung
    Ceremony 1: Mozart, Laudamus Te from the Mass in C Minor
    Ceremony 2: Bellini, Casta Diva from Norma (arr. for violin and piano)
    Recessional: Grieg, Holberg Suite, Praeludium (piano version)

    We’d have loved to include the first movement of both Brahms’ 2nd String Sextet (it’s so ethereal and romantic!) and Mendelssohn’s Octet, but we just couldn’t afford that many players. If you’ve got the budget, though – ah, those pieces are amazing!

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