What are the best traditional and contemporary songs for the prelude of your wedding ceremony? The prelude is the period before the ceremony when the guests start to arrive. Typically, the period lasts about 30 to 45 minutes. If you plan to use recorded music during this time, expect to choose at least 10 to 12 songs. However, you will need to have a contingency plan in case your wedding does not start on time. This can include either restarting the playlist (or CD), having several extra songs at the end of the playlist, or having a second playlist altogether, as a back up.
Speaking of backup, if you are using a CD make sure you have an extra copy of any recorded CDs you plan on using and that you test any CDs you plan on using in advance of the wedding day. CDs can scratch or burn improperly. You do not want to have to suffer in silence when it is very easy to make a copy of any CD. (FYI: It is perfectly legal for you to make a copy of a CD you own for your own use–it is no different that putting a song on your computer or your iPod. If you are using an iPod, iPhone or a similar device and plugging into the church’s music/sound system, make sure everything works correctly beforehand.
Music for the prelude should be soft and relaxing. It should be similar in volume as one would find in a retail store: loud enough for the guests to hear, but soft enough that they can comfortably speak over it. Beyond that, the type of music you use is optional. Many brides and grooms choose to use recorded music during this period and then use live music during the ceremony. Some mix recorded music with a vocalist (which makes it a good place to put a soloist by a friend or family member that you are unable to use during the ceremony). Look for music that is not too obtrusive and that will relax the guests as they wait for the ceremony to begin.
Typically, the prelude ends the moment the ushers begin seating any VIPs and/or grandparents. Some brides like to choose a special song for this period, which is also called the pre-processional. The groom and best man will not take their place at the altar until the processional starts. If you have a soloist, you could opt to have them sing a special song during the pre-processional.
When switching from the prelude into the pre-processional, the volume of the music will need to change. No, you are not going to start shaking the rafters, but the increase in volume will help signal to the guests that things are shifting.
Because the prelude is a portion of time where vocals are used as often as instrumentals, we have listed instrumental versions and contemporary vocal versions for some of the songs we have listed. If you are looking for a song to play during the pre-processional, check out our page on Best Processional Songs, Best Songs for Family Dances, or Best Songs for Parent Dances.
Listed below are the best songs for the prelude of the Wedding Ceremony. For your convenience, we have compiled the songs in a playlist, making it easy for you to listen to a sample or purchase a song. Additional commentary about each song is provided below the playlist.
Two popular versions of the traditional song “Ave Maria” exist. One was composed by Charles Gounod in 1859 and is based on the harmony and texture of J.S. Bach’s Prelude No.1 in C Major. It is a setting of the standard Latin Ave Maria text. Another version, written by Franz Schubert in 1825, was originally titled “Ellens ditter Gesang” (D. 839) but is more commonly referred to today as Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Schubert’s version was eventually adapted to fit the Roman Catholic prayer Ave Maria as well. Both versions are very beautiful and are standards during weddings and at Christmas.
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” is the title of a transcription by the English pianist Myra Hess of the chorale that ends each part of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147. The piece is also a favorite for funerals, but more commonly used during weddings as either a piece for a choir or as an instrumental. This song is good for either the prelude or the processional.
Every guest has heard this lovely but traditional song by Vivaldi. It is a splendid group of four violin concertos. Antonio Vivaldi wrote them in 1725 as part of a set of twelve. They represent the four seasons and vary greatly in style to fit the seasons. This is an excellent traditional choice for prelude songs. It is an instrumental music piece that needs no words. It is divided into four pieces: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. “Allegro” from Spring and “Largo” from Winter are the two most popular pieces used during the prelude.