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Music, Readings, Unity Ceremonies... Oh My!

A wedding ceremony is a symbolic event which portrays the beginning of a lifelong love and commitment. You as a couple want the aspects of your service to have a significance to you and expresses your personality, style, and love for each other. The more intricate details of the wedding ceremony include the music, readings, and unity ceremonies.

The Music Music helps set the tone for the entire event, whether it is religious, traditional or contemporary. Many couples already have a favorite style or level of formality in mind for their wedding, but often struggle to find exactly the right music. To make the planning for your music go more smoothly, approach it by breaking it down into the parts of the ceremony. You can choose one or two songs for each section.

Prelude The prelude is the first thing people hear as they enter the ceremony site and take their seats, so it sets the tone.

Here are some favorite prelude options:

"Air" (from Water Music) - Handel

"Air on a G String" - J.S. Bach

"Reminiscent Joy" - The O'Neill Brothers

"I Can Only Imagine" - MercyMe

"Largo"- Handel

"The Wedding Song" - Kenny G

"Wachet Auf"- J.S. Bach

"Clair de Lune" - Claude Debussy

"Arioso" - J.S. Bach

Processional One of the most important scene-setting decisions you can make is the song or songs you choose for the processional. Some people choose just one processional piece that's played while the bridesmaids and the bride enter the venue, with the music paused momentarily or growing louder just before the bride enters. Others choose to select multiple processional pieces; for the seating of the grandparents and mothers, the bridesmaids and the bride. Either way, the processional announces the beginning of your ceremony. (I prefer multiple pieces for each part of the processional. But as with other parts of your wedding, the choice is entirely the couples preference.) The joyful, accompanying music played during the processional reflects the pride and joy of parents, family, and friends on the couple's special day. Just remember to slowly walk down the aisle and take it all in because it is your special day!

Here are a few traditional processional options:

"Canon in F" - The O'Neill Brothers

"Canon in D" - Pachelbel

"Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" - J.S. Bach

"Trumpet Voluntary" - Clarke

"A Thousand Years" - Christina Perri

"Air from Water Music" - Handel

"The Marriage of Figaro" - Mozart

"100 Years" - Five for Fighting

"Hymne" - The O'Neill Brothers


Music during the ceremony can express how you feel about each other as perfectly as your vows. Some couples choose traditional pieces, and others prefer contemporary music.

Here are some selections to consider for the ceremony:

"Ave Maria" - Schubert

"How Beautiful" - Paris

"I Will be Here" - Chapman

"When God Made You" - Newsong

"The Prayer" - Groban & Church

"There is Love" (The Wedding Song) - Mary McGregor

"Surely the Presence of the Lord" - Wolfe

"This Ring" - T Carter

"The Marriage Prayer" - John Waller

"A Thousand Years" - Christina Perril

"Choose You" - Sara Bareilles


Finalize your wedding ceremony with the perfect recessional music that expresses your happiness. You will be bursting with joy for your grand exit. All the nerves will be a thing of the past. Recessional music is the culmination of the entire ceremony and is often fast-paced and upbeat. The music you choose for the recessional speaks to your relationship going forward together.

Options to consider for the recessional:

"Finale" (from Water Music) - Handel

"Ode to Joy" - Beethoven

"Spring" (from The Four Seasons) - Vivaldi

"Trumpet Tune" - Purcell

"The Wedding March" (from A Midsummer Night's Dream) - Mendelssohn

"Trumpet Voluntary" - Clarke

"Hornpipe" (from Water Music) - Handel

Contemporary Music Choices:

"Wonderful World" – Louis Armstrong

"When I’m 64" - Beatles

"All You Need is Love" – Beatles

"How Sweet It Is" – James Taylor or Marvin Gaye

"Love & Marriage" – Frank Sinatra

"This Will Be An Everlasting Love" – Natalie Cole

The most important thing concerning the music is that it is meaningful for you.

Readings Readings at your ceremony can add meaning to the day. They are by no means necessary or a legal part of the ceremony. Readings can enhance your ceremony in a remarkable way. They are also an excellent way to involve family and friends in your ceremony. If you are having a church ceremony, your clergy may also include the reading. Readings are a wonderful way to emphasize the importance of your special day by articulating the values that speak to your decision to marry.

If you are having a church wedding ceremony, you may want to choose a suitable religious reading. But you may also have the option of including a secular (non-religious) reading too. The choice of Bible texts is up to you, but your officiant will be happy to provide guidance.

Here is a selection of traditional New Testament wedding readings:

Matthew 5: 1-10 The Beatitudes

Matthew 6: 19-21 Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be

Matthew 22: 36-40 The Greatest Commandment

John 15: 9-17 Love one another as I have loved you

Romans 12: 9-12 Let love be genuine

1 Corinthians 13: 4-13 Love

Ephesians 3: 14-19 May you be grounded and rooted in love

Colossians 3: 12-17 Put on love, which binds everything together

1 John 4: 7-8, 12 Beloved, let us love one another

If you have decided for a civil ceremony, you can choose readings that are suitable for your wedding day.

Some options for where to find readings for a civil ceremony:

Romantic Novels - authors like Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Tolkien, Toni Morrison or Hemingway

Poems - Tennyson, Byron, Rossetti, Brian Patten's Love Poems

Songs - "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion, "At Last" by Etta James or "Wonderwall" by Oasis

Before your final decision, here is a checklist to make sure you get the right reading for your ceremony:

Does the text meet the approval from the minister/officiant?

Is the text really about marriage?

Will it fit with the rest of the order of service?

Is it a self-contained piece that needs no further explanation?

Is it free of any material that might offend your guests?

Is it the right length?

Unity Ceremonies

Unity Candle Ceremony: This is one of the most common ceremonies. The bride and groom take a lit candle and simultaneously light a third "unity candle." They may blow out their candles, or leave them lit.

A variation of this is to have the mothers/parents each light a candle representing the joining of two families.

Sand Ceremony: A Sand Ceremony or Blending of the Sand is a unique way to symbolize two lives becoming one in a wedding ceremony. This is also a great way to incorporate children or family into the wedding.The bride and groom both pour different colored sand into a glass container.

The Wedding Braid Ceremony: The Wedding braid is similar to a unity candle or the sand ceremony. Each cord represents one part of the covenant between the bride, the groom, and God. Standing alone the ropes are not strong, but when braided together the cords become unbreakable and for the perfect marriage.

Unity Cross Ceremony: The cross is put together by placing the bride's piece of the cross into the center of the man's piece of the cross. Then to complete this sculpture, representing the couple's covenant, the couple places three pegs to hold it together. These pegs represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, showing God's place in this marriage covenant.

Remember that the ceremony is the most important part of your wedding day so make it special.


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