I realize that brides have to make about a billion decisions and when it comes to choosing the music it can be overwhelming! There are three places in your wedding ceremony that usually require or use music. If you simply want to use traditional selections and want to be done with the process then simply choose the following selections- Seating of Mothers- Jesu (pronounced Yay' zoo) Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach. Brides Maids processional (guys usually come in at this time also)- Trumpet Voluntary by Clark. Bridal processional- Canon in D by Pachelbel. Recessional- Wedding March by Mendelssohn. Let the musicians fill in your preludes. These are all traditional wedding selections that flow well and sound good together. You will likely hear them again at other weddings as you grow old together and you can think back fondly to your own wedding!
If you want to take more time to choose and make your selections then read on-
The three sections needing music are preludes, processionals, and recessionals. Here is the quick breakdown of each along with some popular selections.
Preludes refer to the music before the actual ceremony begins. The start of the ceremony is usually signaled by the seating of the mothers. If there are no mothers then this can be signaled by the entrance of the groomsmen, officiant, bridesmaid, and the bride! The preludes can last from about 15-30 minutes depending on the situation. My recommendation is for the bride to simply choose a few selections (1-5) that she likes and let us fill in the rest. This allows for a smooth flow from selection to selection and lets us do what we do best- play our strongest pieces. common prelude selections include: Largo from Winter by Vivaldi, Sheep May Safely Graze by Bach, Sleepers Awake by Bach, Air from Water Music by Handel, Ode to Joy by Beethoven, and Rondeau by Mouret.
Your processionals are the most important selections that you will make. Commonly you will need 3 selections- Seating of the Mothers, Processional for the bridesmaid/groomsmen, and the bridal processional. This can be reduced or expanded based on the number of people that you have involved. If you have a very intimate wedding such as a couple of parents, a matron of honer and best man. You might just choose one piece for all of you. A large party on the other hand with 4 sets of grandparents, parents, and large wedding party might include music for the grandparents, music for parents, music for groomsmen, music for the bridesmaid, and finally the bride!
Back to the most common configuration of 3 selections. Start by choosing your processional, this is the most important piece of music in the ceremony and, even though everyone else will have the opportunity to enjoy much of the other music, it's possibly the only one you will hear! The most common selections for this are the Canon in D by Pachelbel, the Trumpet Voluntary by Clark, and the Bridal Chorus by Wagner (pronounced Vahg'-ner).
Working our way backwards with the processionals, choose the processional for your bridesmaid. The Canon or Trumpet Voluntary mentioned above are common for this along with Air on a G string by Bach (I know it sounds silly but it's not referring to the undergarment it's referring to the lowest string on the violin), Air from Water Music by Handel, and Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring (Yay'-zoo).
The last processional you should choose is the first one in the ceremony, the seating of the mothers. Common selections here include Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring (Yay'-zoo), by Bach, Ave Maria by Schubert (pronounced shoe'-bert) (there is also an Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod), Air on the G String by Bach, and Arioso also by Bach.
After "you may kiss the bride", or "I now pronounce you Mr and Mrs..., or breaking of the glass comes the recessional. Traditional selections include the Wedding March by Mendelssohn, Hornpipe by Handel, and Rondeau by Mouret.
There are some non traditional selections that become more popular in recent years they include the following: Can't Help Falling in Love by Elvis as a bridal processional, Over the Rainbow, Iz version for Bridal processional or Recessional, All You Need Is Love by the Beatles as a Recessional, and A Thousand Years by Christina Peri for a Bridal processional.
So to sum it up- Make your choices in this order- 1. Your bridal processional. 2. A Processional for the Bridesmaids. 3. Music for the seating of the mothers. 4. Your recessional, and 5. Choose 1-5 (or more) prelude pieces for the music before the start of the ceremony. Hope that was helpful! Wishing you all the best with your wedding plans and please let me know if I can be of any further assistance!