Generally speaking, there are 5 points at which music can play an important role in the wedding ceremony. These are as follows:-
1. Incidental or background music played while guests congregate and take their places ready for the ceremony.
2. The processional fanfare or wedding march to signal the arrival of the bride-to-be.
3. The hymns or other sung items during the ceremony.
4. Incidental music, or a specially-chosen piece played or sung while the marriage register is being signed and legally formalized.
5. The recessional fanfare or wedding icons, as the newlyweds are presented to their family and friends. This may be followed by further music as guests disperse, usually outside (weather permitting!) for photographs and champagne toasts.
Weddings are usually emotional events, and the final 15 minutes or so immediately prior to the ceremony itself can be anxious as well as exciting. Thoughtfully-chosen background music can serve to relax and soothe susceptible nerves, at the same time setting a mood of anticipation as the time draws near… and passes, as brides are, traditionally, fashionably late. The choice of music can range widely, from serious (but not too solemn) to light- hearted (but not too frivolous), depending on the overall mood intended for the forthcoming event.
“Here Comes The Bride” (from “Lohengrin”, by Wagner) is arguably the benchmark for ideal level of solemnity, convenient duration and immediate universal association. However, something which is clearly iconic on the one hand can be viewed as clicheic on the other: nevertheless, there are many viable alternatives (depending on which musical instruments are available) if the Wagner is not chosen. Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” or Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” (for the more confident bride!) are both popular preferences.
Hymns and Biblical readings as such will be confined to church ceremonies. However, secular readings are permitted and encouraged in civil ceremonies, and there is no reason why one or more of these cannot be delivered as a sung musical item. However, a distinction between “sacred” and “secular” lyrics needs to be clearly observed; the Registrar will be able to advise in guiding your choice.
The legal formalities and signing of the Register set the final seal on the marriage. This process will take several minutes at least, especially if photographs are to be taken, allowing the opportunity for a specially-chosen piece of music to be performed. The range of choice is wide, both for church and for civil ceremonies, and the selected item is often intended to be the musical highlight of the entire event. Alternatively, gentle background music can fill in a potentially awkward gap in proceedings.
As earlier for the entrance of the bride, there are iconic choices of music to “announce” the newlyweds. Foremost among these must be the wedding march from “Music For A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, by Mendelssohn (it even begins with a fanfare which acts as the signal for everyone to stand up to receive and acknowledge the happy couple). However universally recognized, well-suited and convenient, this piece is nonetheless not to everyone’s taste, but there are plenty of equally appropriate alternatives, one of which can be chosen to best reflect the overall atmosphere and style of the completed ceremony.