Personalize your wedding ceremony with music
By Lisa Fredrickson
from Currents, January 25, 2007

There are many details to which to attend when planning a wedding ceremony. After determining the attire, the flowers, the number of guests and choosing a venue, consider your music as an equally important element in creating your perfect day.

Music has the ability to set the tone for any occasion, so brides first should determine the theme or style of the ceremony. Weddings held in churches or temples tend to be more traditional, and an organist or pianist is a popular choice. For a romantic, intimate ceremony, consider the elegant sounds of a harp. For a larger venue and guest list, the classic, full sound of a string quartet provides a range of musical selections. Guitars and flutes are also being incorporated into many ceremonies today, according to, a popular wedding resource Web site.

The Athena Strings Quartet is a string ensemble that has been performing around Greater Cleveland for about 15 years and continues to be in high demand for wedding ceremonies. According to Julie King, cellist for the Athena Strings Ensemble, many string pieces are written for a quartet, but the group also performs as a trio or duet. She has found that music for wedding ceremonies has remained fairly consistent over the years with most requests for classical music. They have, however, received some unique requests including pieces from “Star Wars,” “Sound of Music” and Coldplay. One bride planned the entire ceremony around a “Swan Lake” theme giving Athena Strings the opportunity to play many of those beautiful pieces. “Mixing it up makes it fun for us,” Ms. King said.

(Photograph by Robert Muller)

Whatever the wedding style or theme, a good rule of thumb when choosing music, is to remember that it should complement a wedding ceremony, not dominate it. When choosing specific musical selections, consider that the wedding ceremony can be divided into six sections of activity. The prelude to the ceremony is the 15- to 20-minute period when guests are being seated. This is the time for a soothing musical backdrop such as Handel’s Water Music.

The processional signals the start of the ceremony and draws attention to the wedding party entering the room. Marcia Snavely, freelance wedding musician who has been playing the organ for weddings for more than 50 years, has seen the selections for this part of the wedding change the most through the years. According to Ms. Snavely, the bridal party does not approach the altar using the hesitation step anymore. Today’s bridal party slowly walks down the aisle which has somewhat decreased the demand for Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” It is still quite popular for processionals, though, as is “Canon in D Major” by Pachelbel which Ms. Snavely first played for a wedding about 25 years ago. Many brides choose an additional selection announcing their arrival down the aisle. Purcell’s “Trumpet Voluntary” is quite popular as is the traditional “Here Comes the Bride.”

The interlude in a wedding ceremony is the period of time when intimate moments between the bride and groom are shared such as lighting the unity candle. “Ave Maria” by Schubert is a popular selection, but the interlude presents a chance to incorporate contemporary favorites into the ceremony. This is the time for that special love song, the song that throughout the courtship has become “our song.” Ms. King has recently received requests for romantic show tunes during this time as well.

The recessional marks the official end of the ceremony and is most often a celebratory piece with an upbeat tempo. This is also the time during the ceremony to get creative. Move down the aisle to the Motown sounds of the Temptations, Marvin Gaye or with the Athena Strings Quartet, march to the reception to the sounds of the Notre Dame Victory song. When the wedding party has exited, the postlude time begins. As with the prelude, selections during this time should serve as backdrop music as guests are dismissed, but increasing the tempo contributes to the celebratory atmosphere.
Be sure to check with a representative of your ceremony site as to any restrictions as some venues, mostly churches and temples, may have rules about what type of music is allowed. Churches and temples may also be able to provide a list of pre-approved ceremony musicians from which to choose as well as information on the availability of musical instruments. It is also very helpful to include the musicians during the rehearsal if at all possible, and try to arrange a practice session if your vocalist is different from your musician.

Music evokes many emotions and is an effective way to personalize a wedding ceremony. As with all aspects of “the big day,” make the music memorable.

The quartet includes Leah Goor, Julie Myers King, Donna Dehn and Laura Shuster.

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