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Songs for Your Wedding: From Ceremony Music to Reception Music

Updated on March 6, 2015

Wedding Music Sets the Backdrop for the Event

Your wedding is one of the most special days in your life. You have probably dreamed of this day all your life!

So, let's make it memorable.

One of the best ways to do so is to pick meaningful music that will resonate in your heart, and remind you and your soul mate of your special day in the years to come. Interestingly, the choice of music is often one of the last decisions that brides and grooms make. They will pick a date, a location, choose their bridesmaids and groomsmen, attire, and probably even flowers and cake.

Don't forget - music sets a tone for the entire affair! Your choice of music will depend in part on where you are getting married, and then - during the reception - what music you like, and what has the greatest meaning to you, your spouse, and your father... and your friends too!

Songs for your Wedding: First dance music?
Songs for your Wedding: First dance music?
Church weddings may have special rules when it comes to music for the ceremony
Church weddings may have special rules when it comes to music for the ceremony

Consider a Compact Disc for Wedding Ceremonies

Choose Songs for Your Wedding Based on Location

If you are getting married in a church, temple or mosque, there may be strict rules with regard to music that may be played before, during and after the ceremony.

Check with the religious leader and/or a wedding coordinator, if you have retained one. In such circumstances, there are many beautiful, meaningful hymns and sung prayers that can add depth to the ceremony. You can have piano music, choral music, instrumental music, or organ music. Just be sure to check, and realize that additional fees may apply.

For example, many brides and grooms enjoy having a string quartet play Handel's Water Music and other familiar classical music as guests are entering.

Perhaps you love horn music instead? Or maybe even harps? There are many books filled with wedding sheet music (check out some of the selections to the right). Familiar favorites may be played on a piano or organ. Some arrangements are specially made for flute, harp, violin (or string quartet), or even french horn.

Many churches and temples alike have declared the tune "Here Comes the Bride," to be both Anti-Semitic and inappropriate for Christian weddings. Therefore, you may have to pick Pachelbel's Canon in D, or another mutually agreeable tune for a processional, instead. Be sure to consult with the choir director or organ master at least a month in advance of your ceremony so that you are not taken by surprise.

Both processionals and recessionals may be strictly regulated, as well as any interludes during the ceremony itself. In addition, use of flash photography and videography may be prohibited. Make sure that you ask ahead of time so that you get appropriate photos outside, if required.

Appropriate breaks in a wedding ceremony for vocal selections may include: (1) during the seating of the mothers or lighting of candles; (2) before the processional; (3) before the exchange of vows; (4) during the lighting of the Unity Candle (if you choose to have one); and (5) during communion (if you choose to include it as part of the service). Of course, all selections must be secular and must be approved ahead of time by the church or other house of worship (often times the music director). Popular choices include, "The Lord's Prayer," and "Ava Maria."

Perhaps you have chosen to get married outdoors, on a boat, or at another location, instead. In those circumstances, you will need to make arrangements to have sound piped in. You should see about setting up a sound system on which to play your favorite pre-recorded songs on your favorite CDs.

Alternatively, you may hire musicians to play during the processional and recessional, if you desire. Soloists and/or a duet may sing selections during breaks in the ceremony, as you wish. Generally, there is considerably more flexibility with respect to the timing of music and musical selections if you get married outside a house of worship.

There are many albums arranged specially for weddings, with songs by Bach, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Handel, Clarke, and other classical composers with which you will be familiar. Of course, you can liven things up a bit and select music that has a special meaning for you and your partner (romantic, religious, classical - or not!)

One final note as to why you should not delay in choosing your music until the last minute, is with respect to printing your programs. You will want to include the title of the processional and recessional selection, and any specific songs that will be sung or played during the ceremony, as well as give credit to your soloists, accompanists, and other musicians.

As noted above, ceremonies that will take place in houses of worship require advance approval of music selected.

A beautiful dress deserves a special dance at your wedding reception
A beautiful dress deserves a special dance at your wedding reception

Popular First Dance Songs (Modern and Time-Tested)

  • "The Right Place," by Taylor Hicks
  • "Lost in This Moment," by Big and Rich
  • "Once in a Lifetime Love," by Keith Urban
  • "From this Moment," Shania Twain and Bryan White
  • "At Last," Etta James
  • "On Bended Knee," by Boyz II Men
  • "Here and Now," by Luther Vandross
  • "When a Man Loves a Woman," by Percy Sledge
  • "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You," by Elvis
  • "The Way You Look Tonight," by Tony Bennett
  • "Kiss from a Rose," by Seal
  • "You are So Beautiful," by Joe Crocker
  • "I Do (Cherish You)," by 98 Degrees
  • "And I Love Her," by the Beatles
  • "Breathe," by Faith Hill
  • "She Believes in Me," by Kenny Rogers
  • "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," by the Police
  • "Unforgettable," Natalie Cole w/ Nat King Cole

Father of the Bride/Daughters by John Mayer

The Reception!

This is when the fun really begins! You can let your hair down (literally, or just figuratively) and play the music that you really like! Take off the high-heel shoes, bustle up the dress and let's boogie! Some brides and grooms decide to take dancing lessons beforehand so they can impress the crowds with a romantic first dance. That is up to you. It can be a fun investment, and may add meaning to that first, special dance.

Most weddings that I have attended, the guests are usually raring to get out on the dance floor themselves, so... turn the mushy music off and get the beat going! But before I get too far astray, let's talk about recommendations on first dance tracks, both for dads-daughters, and brides and grooms. Next, we'll groove to the beat of the most danceable disks for wedding receptions!

Traditionally, the bride and groom dance a first dance together. The father of the bride will cut in towards the end of the dance, and then will follow with a father-daughter dance. Sometimes, the mother of the groom will also dance with her son at the same time, but this is less traditional.

As a bride, you and your father may want to pick a special song that has significance for you, growing up, or perhaps one that signifies your transition away from a child into a woman for your dance. You could also make a choice based on his, or your, favorite artists. The following are popular choices for Father-Daughter dances:

  1. "Save the Last Dance for Me," by Michael Buble
  2. "The Way You Look Tonight," by Frank Sinatra
  3. "Isn't She Lovely," by Stevie Wonder
  4. "I Hope You Dance," by Lee Ann Womack
  5. "Daddy's Girl," by Peter Cetera
  6. "My Girl," by the Temptations
  7. "My Father's Eyes," by Eric Clapton
  8. "Have I Told You Lately," by Rod Stewart
  9. "Daughters," by John Mayer
  10. "Butterfly Kisses," by John Carlisle

Let the fun begin at your wedding reception!
Let the fun begin at your wedding reception!

Group Wedding Party Dance! (no kidding)

Band or DJ for Your Wedding Reception?

This is a really tough question, and unless you know the band well, you may (emphasis on may) do better with a DJ. I got really lucky and had a fantastic live band at my wedding reception, with a super cool name.... The Neon Lips! They played a wide range of classic rock to contemporary favorites. Everyone was out on the dance floor... way after my husband and I left! My favorite image from our video was my best friend clapping her shoes together over her head while she danced the night away! So much fun!! If you are thinking about hiring a band, then make sure that you get several recommendations, and enter into a good contract beforehand. In fact, this advice applies equally well to DJ services!

Of course, if you are serving alcohol at your reception, things may get sillier and more out of control. But booze is not necessary to really get down with the beat - as is evidenced by the number of children that really get into the whole dancin' thing... Check out the video to the right!

It can be fun to play songs to get group dances going. "Electric Slide" may get some dancing, but in this day and age, its probably out of date. But for some reason, everyone loves the Village People's "YMCA"! You're also bound to get people out there dancing (or lip syncing) to Copacabana. Another note: the Macarena was left in the 1990s, so don't try to resurrect it now!

You'll want to keep the variety going, with some old and some new hits. Grandma and Grandpa will like dancing to "You Can't Hurry Love," by the Supremes. But you and your friends may like "Dancin With Myself" by Billy Idol. And all the young cousins? Well, they'll be groovin' to "Don't Cha" by the Pussycat Dolls.

Towards the end of the night, you may want to wind things down, with a few slower, more romantic songs (hey, maybe someone else may get lucky), like "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, or "The Last Dance," by Frank Sinatra.

If there are songs that you hate (whether you have a band or DJ), you can put together a "do not play" list! This is highly recommended. The last thing you want on your wedding day is to hear a song that gives you chills, instead of thrills!

Now THIS is some fun wedding music!

Choose Songs for your Wedding with Special Memories

Music, like aroma and taste, have a long-lasting connection to our memories.

When you are planning your wedding, make sure that you include special tunes that have significance to you and your spouse. You can honor those that are present (fathers and mothers) and those that may have passed. Choose a special song that speaks to you in its lyrics, tune, or both!

Most importantly, don't delay your decision! You'll remember the songs that were part of your ceremony and reception long after the taste of your wedding cake has faded from memory...

All the best to you on your special day!

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    • profile image

      Ripson 5 years ago

      Guys,Annies Song by John Denver is also good for first march :)

    • profile image

      mtariq8usadsad 6 years ago

      Yup! the good old eighties tunes

      great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Gift Experts profile image

      Gift Experts 7 years ago

      Hey, there are some great country / western songs out there, like Glen Campbell and Dolly Parton love songs and toe-tappin' dance tunes. Just a heads up :)

    • BestWeddingDances profile image

      BestWeddingDances 7 years ago

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 8 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      great selection of wedding songs, but I love to hear grow old with you by adam sandler on my wedding day. LOL.

    • anicheri profile image

      anicheri 8 years ago from Illinois

      I am planning my wedding and started a hub for it. I've asked people to vote on what they like best and I add a new element each week. judging by your hub I think you could help me a lot. right now it is bridesmaids dresses and is soon to be changed to bouquets. I would greatly appreciate it if you could stop by and take a look as well as vote on the dress and my page.

      lots of love--nina

    • zeke0711 profile image

      zeke0711 8 years ago from Ohio

      Good list! I have heard 'em all!

    • agathi profile image

      agathi 8 years ago

      song nice

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      I made a big mistake in choosing a song for my soloist in our wedding. We did not time it just right so she was STILL singing long after we had lit the unity candle and handed flowers to our mothers. It seemed to go on forever. Pay attention to timing!

    • profile image

      yesenia (CALIFORNIA) 8 years ago

      What about spanish father and bride songs to dance????????????????????

    • profile image

      wedding songs 8 years ago

      Wedding Songs, Top wedding Songs , Best Wedding Songs and More Wedding Songs at Songsera.com.

    • profile image

      doncarlos 9 years ago

      Nothing but the best for your wedding. Choose from

      http://mp3walls.com/

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Glad you could take a trip down memory lane, MommyMandy!

    • MommyMandy profile image

      MommyMandy 9 years ago from The South

      Great hub, it brings back memories of my husband & I planning out the music for our wedding!!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      DJ and Blogger Mom - Love the great comments - keep 'em coming! OK, just reading DJ's comments, makes me want to dance. Any one of those tunes, really! Turn the Beat Around... Brass Monkey... American Girl... Respect... You Shook Me All Night Long! These are all great! Someone PLEASE invite me to a wedding! (LOL)

    • Blogger Mom profile image

      Blogger Mom 9 years ago from Northeast, US

      Steph, great hub! Thumbs up!

      DJ Funktual - we had Al Green's Let's Stay Together and we got so many complements on it. I'm glad we picked that song, but was a bit peeved when I heard it on a Tide commercial a few months ago. :P But I love your list of songs!

    • DJ Funktual profile image

      DJ Funktual 9 years ago from One Nation Under a Groove

      Just came back to see that you helped lots of friends here Steph. Congrats to you!

      Here's some more helpful suggestions from your pal DJ Funktual:

      Bubble Toes by Jack Johnson

      If your dance floor gets too empty try:

      Classic Rock >>>

      Stuck in the Middle with You - Stealer's Wheel

      You Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC

      American Girl - Tom Petty

      NEW WAVE >>>>

      Dancing With Myself - Billy Idol

      Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes

      Been Caught Stealing - Jane's Addiction

      HIP-HOP >>>>>

      The Humpty Dance - The Digital Underground

      Bust a Move - Young MC

      Rapper's Delight - Sugar Hill Gang

      Brass Monkey - Beastie Boys

      MOTOWN >>>>>>>

      ABC or I Want You Back - Jackson 5

      Respect - Aretha Franklin

      Got To Give It Up Part 1 - Marvin Gaye

      80s CLUB MUSIC >>>>

      Groove is in the Heart - Dee-Lite

      When I Hear Music - Debbie Deb

      Din Daa Daa (Trommeltanz) - George Kranz

      70s DISCO >>>>>>

      Stayin Alive - The Bee Gee's

      Rock With You or Off The Wall by Michael Jackson

      I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor

      Turn The Beat Around - Vicki Sue Robinson

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Cheapbuys, PenmanZee and Lissie! It is so wonderful to get so many super comments. I enjoy reading about everyone's personal favorites and their experiences (Welcome to the Family - how perfect!) And, yes Lissie - waltzes vs. foxtrots. LOL - just recalling our distastrous pre-wedding dance lessons.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      I love Buble - I always think there's a disconnect between the traditional waltz and the fact that a lot of popular music is 4/4 timing ie foxtrots or rhumbas generally. You are right about the dont play list - I have now had "Tennesse Waltz - Can I have this dance for the rest of my life" played at 2 funerals for dancing friends - I struggle to handle it in a practice class never mind a wedding! If I ever did get married Iwould probably spend most of the organising on the wedding dance and the music, followed by the food and then nothing much for the rest of it! Its beyond me how you can spend much time organising a simple ceremony and a party :-)

    • PenmanZee profile image

      PenmanZee 9 years ago

      The amount of research - Amazing! Great hub. I like what you said about choosing a song that speaks to you. At our wedding, my brothers and sisters sang a song called "Welcome to the Family" - very plain and simple. At the end of the song, almost everybody in the chapel was in tears.

    • cheapbuys profile image

      cheapbuys 9 years ago

      One very popular wedding song not mentioned here is Stephen Curtis Chapman's "I will be here". It' a very moving and romantic song. Great hub!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Wedding Consultant! We love Michael Buble - if he had been around 13 years ago when we got married, I would have certainly used one of his songs!

    • WeddingConsultant profile image

      WeddingConsultant 9 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Steph, I would expect nothing less from you than this well written hub!

      I was glad to see you mentioned Michael Buble as he has become quite popular in the wedding crowds these days!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Brick House is a fun one to dance to! Thanks Kat!

    • Kat07 profile image

      Kat07 9 years ago from Tampa

      Great hub, Steph. My husband and I tried to put together reception music that represented us and the types of music we liked, and it was a total bomb. Thankfully our DJ had a standby CD mix of stuff like Brick House and the like - that is what got people on their feet to dance!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you dtricarico and Ruthie! It was fun to put this together and I hope its helpful for brides (and grooms) planning their weddings! Peter, yes, that is funny! I guess what I meant to say is that smell does bring up memories (good and bad). That could include the scent of lilacs - should the bride decide to use those as flowers - or the stench of.... well, we need not go there, right? LOL

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      My guess is that if someone's memory from their wedding includes the aroma, there's a funny story behind it. This is not my area of expertise, but your song list is great and I will refer it to any prospective brides (it is their decision anyway, is it not?).

    • profile image

      RUTHIE17 9 years ago

      Another great hub! You put a lot of time and thought into this one and it shows!

    • dtricarico profile image

      dtricarico 9 years ago

      What a beautifully designed and well-written hub! Thank you! I'm signing up for your fan club!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Awesome! Thank you so much for the comments DJ Funktual! I was hoping that you and others would comment and add your perspectives! This is super helpful! Personally, I wish that my DH and I would have spent more time picking our our song to dance to. I don't really like "When a Man Loves a Woman," and that's what they played for us. You have some great suggestions, too! Thanks again.... all the best- Steph

    • dsasser profile image

      dsasser 9 years ago from US

      good songs

    • dsasser profile image

      dsasser 9 years ago from US

      good songs

    • monitor profile image

      monitor 9 years ago from The world.

      Great hub that attracted a very detailed comment. Well done. Mon.

    • DJ Funktual profile image

      DJ Funktual 9 years ago from One Nation Under a Groove

      First of all, This is a fantstic HUB for wedding planners you give a lot of practical advice especially about SPREADING THE MUSIC AROUND FOR VARIOUS AGE GROUPS and the fact that certain songs you just do NOT want to hear on your wedding day!

      Perfect example: Last Night I was doing a wedding for a young spanish couple that did not speak a ton of english but knew their music and they liked reggae and jazz. I'm looking at my partner's dinner mix that is about play for these people and he's got Karma Chameleon by Culture Club on it!!! ??? huh?

      Right before it went on I deleted in along with a few more dandies on his list.

      THE ONLY THING I NOTICED IS THAT I DO NOT USE ANY BUT TWO OF THE SONGS YOU MENTIONED AT WEDDINGS FOR A FIRST DANCE. (at last & when a man loves a woman)

      for first songs....your list is a little country heavy.

      That's just a New Yorker talking.

      YOUR FATHER-DAUGHTER LIST IS SUPERB!!!!! I GET THOSE EVERY WEEKEND.

      here's some unsolicited advice from your sexy pal DJ Funktual: do not pick a trendy current song as your wedding song because you might not like that same song in 10 years. TRUST ME. I have so many couples telling me they hate their own wedding song because they picked a sappy Bryan Adams song or a Power Ballad from a Hair Band. Or worse like an N*SYNC type group. DON'T DO IT!

      Standard Wedding Songs from a DJ's playlist are...

      Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton

      The Lady in Red - Chris DeBurgh

      Let's Stay Together - Al Green

      Ain't That a Kick in the Head - Dean Martin

      MY WIFE AND I CHOSE A SONG FROM The Wonder Boys Soundtrack for our wedding song.

      It's called 'NEED YOUR LOVE SO BAD' by RnR Hall of Famer LITTLE WILLIE JOHN.

      Peace