A Bride's Guide to Choosing (Classical) Music: Part 2

Choosing music for your wedding is hard. Not everyone has their wedding planned out from the day they turned 6. This guide will help you navigate the deep waters of classical music for weddings. In Part 1, I walked you through the different kinds of pieces you need for a wedding ceremony, and guidelines to help you decide what you need. So on to...

Part 2: Traditional Classical Music for Weddings

In this part I will walk you through some songs that have been used for weddings for a really long time. These are the songs that are used in movies to evoke the traditional wedding theme, and may bring to mind a huge cathedral and a billowing white wedding gown. If you had a song in mind that you know is usually played at weddings, but don't know the name of it, this is probably the list for you. 

If you want something that sounds classical, but hasn't been used in weddings for 70 years, stay tuned for Part 3. This list is almost exclusively Baroque music (think, Bach and Handel). The next list will have more pieces from the Romantic era (think Chopin) and a few modern pieces. 

Ok, remember the parts you need? Processional, recessional, something in the middle. 

Processionals

When it comes to processionals, one option is a march, or something similar. It is loud, regal, and fit for a queen. The most common one is actually called "Bridal Chorus", and was written by Wagner as part of an opera.  Listen here: https://youtu.be/OxDEUwGORZ8

If something that traditional isn't your cup of tea, don't worry. You might have cause not to use it:  Why You Do NOT Want Wagner's Bridal Chorus in Your Wedding  <--- an interesting read if you care about the context of your music.

The full list of March-like processionals:  

Bridal Chorus (Wagner) https://youtu.be/OxDEUwGORZ8

Trumpet Tune (Purcell) https://youtu.be/qnjzs6iWjk0

Trumpet Voluntary (Clarke) https://youtu.be/sOGFd0JSU8g

Ode to Joy (Beethoven) https://youtu.be/zqLT7NmYlgA (This is a improvised version, since Ode to Joy is actually part of a symphony. It can be played like a march, or more lyrically like a dance. 

Allegro Maestoso, Watermusic (Handel) https://youtu.be/JNKyNNbIuOM

Rondo from the Abdelazer Suite (Purcell) https://youtu.be/exdgIOcmHG0

Te Deum (Charpentier) https://youtu.be/j3F0nfWRztE

Hornpipe from Watermusic (Handel)  https://youtu.be/JvVP_RPme_U

(Note: since these pieces were not originally written for piano, there are many different arrangements of them. The basic tune will be the same though.)

If you don't envision yourself coming down the aisle to something quite so assertive, here are some more dance-like processionals. These are quieter, flowing, and generally very pretty. The most common of these is Canon in D by Pachelbel. These would also work very well for any other parties that need to come down the aisle (bridesmaids, etc.) 

Lyrical Processionals

Canon in D (Pachelbel) https://youtu.be/rNsgHMklBW0

Ode to Joy (Beethoven) https://youtu.be/zqLT7NmYlgA (remember, this one can go both ways)

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach) https://youtu.be/TlfPxh8O6TU

Largo from Xerxes (Handel) https://youtu.be/K7s17kSbGU4 (mostly the first 45 seconds. This one could almost go in the march category as well) 

Arioso (Bach) https://youtu.be/3EcwpiZxYHE

Sheep May Safely Graze (Bach) https://youtu.be/a_MtK9W_nok

Air on a G String (Bach) https://youtu.be/VlQX94roZi8

Prelude in C (Bach) https://youtu.be/PXMVkQ70I88

Air from Suite no 3 in D Major (Bach) https://youtu.be/cdb1GL4ST9E

Ave Maria (Bach/ Gounod) https://youtu.be/QYlW3NRBjLs (same as Prelude in C but with the  Ave Maria melody over it)

Panis Angelicus (Franck) https://youtu.be/1k2U113LPhA

You may notice that all these pieces sound similar in style. A lot of these composers, Bach, Purcell, Handle, and Clarke especially, wrote in the same musical era. That means you can use any combination of these pieces and they will all sound like they belong together. 

Recessionals 

 So now that we've gotten you down the aisle, let's focus on the ending. The most traditional wedding recessional out there is:

Wedding March (Mendehlson): https://youtu.be/qdOMzvcI8go

There really aren't any others that are just used as recessionals. However, most of marches listed in the wedding processional list, are also just as commonly used as wedding recessionals. The goal is to have something joyful and exuberant playing as you walk out. I'll list again the ones that would work  well to set the mood:

Trumpet Tune (Purcell) https://youtu.be/qnjzs6iWjk0

Trumpet Voluntary (Clarke) https://youtu.be/sOGFd0JSU8g

Ode to Joy (Beethoven) https://youtu.be/zqLT7NmYlgA

Allegro Maestoso, Watermusic (Handel) https://youtu.be/JNKyNNbIuOM

Rondo from the Abdelazer Suite (Purcell) https://youtu.be/exdgIOcmHG0

Te Deum (Charpentier) https://youtu.be/j3F0nfWRztE

Hornpipe from Watermusic (Handel)  https://youtu.be/JvVP_RPme_U

If none of these fit what you are looking for, remember that the recessional is a great place to do something a little different. This is just the first half of the list! 

Something in the Middle

Back in part 1, I mentioned that it is nice to have something as as special song during those special unity moments in your service. There are a lot of hymns that would fit the bill. There are also a lot of modern songs too. This part is maybe the most subjective of all wedding music, and really hard to make suggestions without knowing more about you. But since we are dealing with traditional music, two of the song already listed are also sometimes used for this purpose. Be sure to read the translations if you choose these: 

Ave Maria (Bach/ Gounod) https://youtu.be/QYlW3NRBjLs 

Panis Angelicus (Franck) https://youtu.be/1k2U113LPhA

 

I'll end with just a brief disclaimer about the pieces I list, in case you were wondering: Obviously these are not the only Baroque pieces out there. I am a little subjective about this and picked: 

  1. Pieces that I think can work well on the piano (some pieces written for the organ just don't sound very good on the piano)
  2. Pieces that I think work for weddings (because not everything does- know your context!)
  3. Pieces I actually like. Actually, some of these aren't my favorites (looking at you, Pachelbel), but I made exceptions for pieces that lots of other people tend to like for weddings. I've gotten input from other pianists from around the world as I put together this list.  

These basic guidelines apply to the list for part 3 as well. If you want to help me add to this list, leave me a note in the comments!