So, the time has come to choose and/or hire the music for your wedding. Wedding music adds to the overall mood of your celebration. As a couple, the two of you have shared your favorite music with each other. There is a soundtrack to your relationship. Now is the time to incorporate that into your wedding day festivities.
A contemporary North American wedding ceremony, most often held in a church, uses music to announce and accompany a specific order of events, starting with the ritual seating of mothers and grandmothers by the ushers, followed by the entrance of the groomsmen and clergy, then the bridesmaids and lastly the bride. All these events are accompanied by their own individual musical pieces, selected beforehand in conjunction with the musician(s) hired to perform. In lieu of live players, recorded music can be substituted to fulfill these functions.
The wedding ceremony generally begins with a prelude. The use of string quartets and harps have in modern times increased in popularity, sometimes replacing the customary organ. After the prelude, there is generally special music for the seating of the mothers and grandmothers. A popular selection is the Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel. Then the bridal party (bridesmaids) proceeds down the aisle, followed by the bride — often escorted by her father. They arrive at the church altar where the groom, groomsmen and priest are assembled. This bridal march is accompanied by a processional tune.
For over 100 years the most popular processional has been Wagner's Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin (1850), often called "Here Comes The Bride". This has been historically played by an organist. During the service there may be a few hymns, especially in liturgical settings. Optional solos and a short piece for the lighting of the Unity Candle may also occur. At the end of the service, the bride and groom march down the aisle to a lively recessional tune. The most popular tune being Mendelssohn's The Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826). The ceremony concludes with an instrumental postlude as the guests depart. In the US, the most common musical instruments used for ceremony music is either a piano/organ or a string quartet, but a harpist, woodwind quintet, or classical guitar is sometimes used.
After the ceremony, the guests adjourn to the reception, where a catered meal is served. During the meal, it is customary to have music playing in the background. After the meal, the dancing ensues. Most receptions offer a variety of dances. The couples first dance, followed by a dance for the bridal party, a father/daughter dance, and a mother/son dance. For the rest of the reception, the couple chooses a variety of songs to be played by either the band or the DJ. These songs are generally popular recorded songs at the time, but others are more traditional.