A Bride's Guide to Choosing (Classical) Music: Part 3

This is the third part in a series about selecting music for your wedding. Maybe you know you want something that sounds classical, but don't know where to start. You've come to the right place! 

 In Part 1  I walked you through some tips and basic decisions before choosing music (I recommend you head there first).

In Part 2  I talked about traditional music for wedding ceremonies. This was mostly a list of Baroque music and the really common classics.

Now in Part 3, I'll focus in slightly more modern music (disclaimer: most of it is still really old) that will give your wedding that classical music  sound without using the same music your parents chose. I'll cover these in two basic categories this time: Processional and Recessional.

Processional

The processional covers everyone walking in to your wedding, from the grandparents down to the bride. You can have several pieces (one for each party), one piece, or anything in between. I am not personally a big, "march for the bridal entrance" fan, so I don't have a huge list of marches for you, but here are a few suggestions:

Bridal Marches

Jupiter Hymn (Holst) https://youtu.be/ZP6dLS_u1tI This is just a small section of a larger work for orchestra. This arrangement is really long, but the hymn part goes until about 1:20.  I hope to post a link to my own (much shorter and appropriate) transcription soon. This hymn is a favorite in my family. 

Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky)  https://youtu.be/QaH0A_E_bRw I have to admit, I am a huge fan of the Russian composers. I've used this piece for Bridal entrances in the past and I think it is perfect. 

Nocturne from Midsummer Night's Dream (Mendelssohn) https://youtu.be/Ztee08vK4Yg This is not a true march, but much more march-like than lyrical. 

If you want more Bridal marches, you might want to go back and look at the part 2 list again. They are not as common in the later eras, especially if you don't want them to sound like Sousa.

If you imagine something more flowing, and graceful, then these lyrical pieces would probably work better. Most of these would also work well for bridesmaids and other entrances. Remember that you can use any part of these, in any length. I will include examples where you may want to only use a brief portion. 

 Lyrical Bridal Processionals  

Pathetique Sonata, Movement 2 (Beethoven)  https://youtu.be/vGq3-Fi_zQY  

Etude No 3 in E major (Chopin) https://youtu.be/EmQBFLJAIcY

Wedding Theme (Douglas Briley) https://youtu.be/AVqexKoLCII

The Young Prince and Princess from Scheherazade, Movement 3 (Rimsky-Korskav) https://youtu.be/PDS7uiOZmGY

Ballade No. 4 (Chopin) https://youtu.be/7tmQSWuYwrI  This was my bridal march for my own wedding, but I only used the first 30 seconds! The pianist repeated that once, and it was plenty to get down the aisle. 

Meditation from Thais (Massenet) https://youtu.be/6KgGGoxUnfk

Clair de Lune from Suite Bergamasque (Debussy) https://youtu.be/vG-vmVrHOGE

Flower Duet from Lakme (Delibes)  https://youtu.be/4dvFA5G6vac

The Swan from the Carnival of the Animals (Saint- Saens) https://youtu.be/lwYDf8V2AfY

Of Foreign Lands and Peoples, Kinderszenen no 1, Scenes from Childhood (Schumann) https://youtu.be/7lihXS3GLw0

Song without Words, No. 1  (Mendelssohn) https://youtu.be/RIU70B6K7Ls

 I have some honorable mentions to add to the Processional list. These are pieces that I personally would not use for a bridal entrance. However, they are pretty and lyrical, and would be excellent selections for grandparents entrance, or grooms entrance, etc. (Or you can ignore my opinion, and If nothing from the last list struck your fancy for a bridal processional, you can also choose one of these).

Non-Bridal Processionals

The Shepherd Boy (Wilson) https://youtu.be/PfuBw9BnoDI (Note: This is a player piano, but I had a hard time finding a recording at the tempo that I prefer) 

Sicilienne (Faure)  https://youtu.be/Zop26oeIeGc

Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, Mvt. 1 (Mozart) https://youtu.be/dP9KWQ8hAYk

Traumerei, Kinderszenen No. 7 from Scenes from Childhood (Schumann)  https://youtu.be/6z82w0l6kwE

Simple Gifts from Appalachian Spring (Copeland) https://youtu.be/2GcvsyB1olQ This is a really pretty arrangement of the Simple Gifts melody found in Copeland's piece for orchestra. 

Deux Arabesque, No. 1 (Debussy) https://youtu.be/a0fap6JZaow

Intrada (Graupner) https://youtu.be/NTzigsvVQDA

Waltz in A minor (Chopin) https://youtu.be/_9Qojo_jflc

Recessionals

Now on to recessionals. Don't worry, this list is shorter. When you are leaving you probably want something buoyant and happy. Like I've said before, this is a good place to add something  modern that means a lot to just the two of you. But if you want to stick with the classical, here are some suggestions. 

Recessionals

Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky) https://youtu.be/e4x_mXNJ-3w This is my absolute favorite recessional. It is fun to play, it is fun to hear. If you don't want to play the whole thing (or your pianist can't because it gets quite difficult) you can just jump around. I usually start at 1:36 and then at 2:04 I jump back to the beginning so that the choral part doesn't come as soon. 

Heather Rose (Lange) https://youtu.be/mVdUSFSr5JM (Ignore the floating fairy. I had a hard time finding a good recording of this). This is my second favorite recessional, and I will often play it as a postlude if I don't play it for the recessional. 

Jubilation (Recessional) (R.J. Mitchell) https://youtu.be/ZDMaDHPeuqM

Waltz from Swan Lake (Tschaikovski)  https://youtu.be/7vGCIzZhxMA

I'm not going to restate my disclaimer from part 2, but these are not the only pieces out there, and this does not delve into most of the really modern music or film scores. I do want to leave you with two pieces that are much more modern and I think could fit well for weddings. Consider these two bonus songs for this list:

Mrs. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice soundtrack (Dario Marianelli) https://youtu.be/SVI6ARREMJA This would be a very pretty processional, or a good addition to the prelude. 

Me and My Cello, Happy Together Cello Cover, (Piano Guys). https://youtu.be/DKC-lRhvdNY This is an awesome recessional! 

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! 

A Bride's Guide to Choosing (Classical) Music: Part 1

There are many daunting parts to planning a wedding.  Choosing music is sometimes just another decision. So as a classical pianist who helps people make these sorts of decisions, I'm writing a comprehensive guide to choosing ceremony music. Part 1 will deal with basic guidelines to narrow down your selection. Parts 2 and 3 will walk you through lots of youtube clips to consider.

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Now, this won't list every piece of classical sounding music ever written. There is SO MUCH music floating around, it is impossible to list it all. I have narrowed it down to Classical music (as opposed to pop music, rock, or jazz. For those of you paying attention in music appreciation classes, this includes Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and some select modern pieces). All this music can be played on the piano by the average wedding pianist and should sound right for the occasion. 

But first, Part 1:

 

 7 Tips for Planning Music for your Wedding Ceremony

1. You'll need a Processional

The processional is the part where everyone walks into the venue to start the show. You can have multiple little processionals. For example: one for the grandparents, one for the groomsmen, one for the bridesmaids, one for the bride.  Or you can cut it down to just a few, say one for everyone who needs to enter and then one for the bride. The combination is up to you.

2. You'll need a Recessional

The recessional is when you leave after saying "I do". This is usually one long song so that everyone can get out. If you want a pretty traditional playlist with something crazy at the end, this is where you would put it.

3. You might want something in the middle

There are some parts of the wedding ceremony  that could use some background music or a special song. These are usually the "unity" symbols- tying a knot, pouring sand, lighting candles, signing the paperwork, etc. This would be a good chance to have a special song that you both love, regardless of time period. However, this one is really optional.

4. Length of the Song

Walking down the aisle can take anywhere from 15 seconds (in a super tiny church or hotel) to a minute. It probably won't take longer than that unless your flower girl has a nervous meltdown or you have a really long entrance at an outdoor venue. So when you are listening to songs, consider that only a tiny bit of it will be played. If you listen to the beginning and think, "I don't really like this part" you can always ask your pianist to start in a different spot. Or if you only like the beginning, you can just ask for just that to be played.

For example, at my wedding, I walked down the aisle to the first 30 seconds of this Ballade by Chopin: https://youtu.be/7tmQSWuYwrI If you keep listening beyond that, it gets a little sad and melodramatic. However the opening itself was exactly what I wanted. 

If you want more of a song played, you can always combine groups walking in to a certain processional or just wait until the song is finished to start the next one.

Recessionals as usually played in their entirety, but don't have to be.

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5. Choosing Your Instruments

All of the songs that I list in the following blogs can be played on piano (you'll notice that all of the recordings are for piano) . However, if you want some combination of piano and strings, or an organ, or a different sound, most of these pieces can be arranged to work. Work with your instrumentalists so they know what you want. They might also have some favorite songs to suggest to you!

6. The Case against Recorded Music

You may think, "a pianist is expensive, I'll just use this recording". I would STRONGLY advise against that (and not just because I am a pianist!). There are too many problems waiting to happen with recorded music. Say you are running late, and the prelude recording runs out of music and goes on to the processional to early. Or the recording won't start and you walk down to silence. Or better yet, when you get to the front of the aisle, the recording is just abruptly stopped with no regards to whether or not it was a good stopping point.

If you hire a good pianist instead, they will tailor the music to whatever is happening at the very moment. If you are late, no problem, they'll just keep playing. They'll make the processional fit perfectly to the length of the entrance. If your flower girl gets scared and takes 3 times as long to get down the aisle as anticipated, they'll cover it and keep going.   Good background music makes those awkward moments endearing instead of terrifying. Hire a real life person who can make the difference.

7. Prelude and Postlude

Finally, the other music. Usually if you hire a pianist (or any instrumentalist), they'll play music before and after the ceremony for you too. If you have any requests, let them know. Otherwise, be nice and let them choose this music for you. They will draw from a wide range of repertoire that they already know and fill all the awkward silences. If you hand them a huge list of music you want them to play instead, be aware that they will probably charge you more to cover the amount of time it will take them to learn all the music. A large part of their job Is performed before your special day even happens, but when it finally arrives, they will make it worth the money.  

Stay tuned for second part of this series coming soon!