There are many good lists online that will give you ideas for music selections for your big day. However here are some my thoughts & advice attained through well over 600 weddings that may make those selections easier and help make your day unique and special:
You want something evokes the mood, that prepares your guests for the upcoming ceremony. Classical music, new-age like Enya, light jazz- all these will work well but I have used Motown, country songs and even the Beatles depending on the bridal couple’s preferences.
Bridal Party Processional
There are many good choices and in this digital world they are not limited to the standard classical songs. Pacbel’s Canon is a one of those that I use a lot, as the cadence is perfect and the mood is uplifting. Ideally you want something that the bridal party, nervously trying to walk perfectly, will find an easy rhythm or cadence to settle into. There are a lot of contemporary songs that work very well, and if you like a song but think that the pop vibe is a bit much, chances are that there are piano and string quartet versions on iTunes that will work perfectly. Time can be a consideration here if you have a large bridal party, shy ring bearers or flower girls, and/or a long way to walk. I can and have looped a song to go longer to accommodate all the people coming down the aisle, so it is usually not a big deal. Sometimes you may want a different song for the kids than for the rest of the bridal party, maybe a Disney theme for the flower girls fading into something else of the maids.
Many brides have always dreamed of walking down to “Here Comes the Bride” (Bridal Chorus), and if that is what you envision, then great! However many brides are choosing songs that have some special meaning or just ones that are beautiful and worthy of the most momentous steps they’ll ever make. I am a believer that if you can find a song and make it your own, then you should do it. When the “Bridal Chorus” is played, it is hard to separate the many brides you’ve seen use the song from each other, whereas your song will immediately transport you back to that moment without fail.
Candle or Sand Ceremonies
Some couples have a ceremony within the ceremony pouring sand or water together into one receptacle or perhaps lighting a single candle from two separate ones. Songs that work well are typically instrumentals or light vocals, sometimes with religious connotations, sometimes not. "The Wedding Song (There is Love)" is one I have used in the past but other songs will work just as well.
Bride & Groom’s Recessional
The traditional recessional is the “Wedding March”, and many couples still use this. It is something that punctuates the ceremony and puts an exclamation point on the end. However you can easily use another song to put your own spin on it and have some fun. Typically you want something that sentimentally says something about the two of you or something upbeat that celebrates your new life together. An example of the sentimental type song would be “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer while something like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” would be an upbeat example. The sky is the limit, and unlike the prior two, cadence is not usually an issue. Think of a song that makes you happy- that’s what you want.
Grand entrances vary from couple to couple. Some have everyone in the bridal party, maybe some family and the bride & groom announced. Some just have the bride & groom. There is no right or wrong way. Whatever you envision, we’ll make happen. Sometimes I’ll just play a song for everyone. Sometimes just for the bride & groom and sometimes each person or pair will have their own theme song to walk in to. That can be a bit of a hassle to figure out, but if the people are into it then it can be very fun. If you want to do that, ask your bridal party etc. to pick a song that they like. Sometimes it references what they do or who they are or their background. Sometimes it is just a favorite song to dance in to. For them or for the bride & groom, the same ideas as the Recessional apply: sentimental and/or fun and upbeat. My favorite story to tell is of the couple who liked Star Wars, so for the Recessional they used the ending music of the first (IV) movie and for their Grand Entrance they came in the “Imperial March” from the next movie which is very imperious and dark. Everybody loved it. So, like in all these songs, the more you tailor the music to you, the better it will work out.
Usually music isn’t played during the toasts as it interferes with hearing and the toaster’s train of thought. In the few times where the B&G have wanted some music, I have played something innocuous and low to set the tone they are trying to achieve without disrupting the speakers.
Typically you want some nice background song to punctuate the cutting. I will usually play something like “Love & Marriage” by Sinatra or “Marry Me” by Train, but the sky is once again the limit.
This is not as easy to give advice about. The first dance should be personal- something between the bride & groom that means something to them. There are thousands of songs to choose from and if you are stuck you can always listen to artists or genres you like together to begin to find the perfect one. If it is quirky or a little too fast, don’t disregard it offhand. If it is special to you we can make it happen. Some couples do elaborate dances they learn and then the song also has to be something that will accommodate the dance style. More popular now is the mixing of two or more songs together to match choreography, like starting with a slow song, jumping into a fast fun song, and then maybe ending back in the original. Most people however just cling to each other for their whole song, the rest of the world fading to the background as they share their moment.
When I started deejaying in the ‘80s, there were a few songs that everyone associated with a dad dancing with his daughter. Now there are dozens that fit the bill and more come out all the time. If you don’t know what you’d like, ask Dad! He may have a song he has dreamed about dancing with you since you were a little girl. If there are artists that you and your dad enjoy together or maybe sung together in the car, perhaps think of using one of them to dance to. It is nice if everyone gets the sentimentality of a song, but really all that matters is you and your dad.
Very similar to Father/Daughter, although there aren’t as many songs out there as there are for dad. I tend to see more songs that mean something to mom and her son. A wedding I did last summer used “Wild Thing” by the Troggs; not a typical Mother/Son song but it was special to the two of them and everyone loved it.
The Anniversary Dance celebrates not only your marriage but all those married family and guests, acknowledging their vows whether they were a half a year ago or half a century. Usually a good song is something that cuts through all the ages present, like “At Last” by Etta James or “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole.
This song is all about the girls. You want something that is fun and that fires them up. “Single Ladies” by Beyonce or “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” are just a couple of examples but there are many possibilities. What does your crowd get crazy to? That may be the perfect song.
This is similar to the bouquet song but for the guys. As you are maybe sliding a garter off a leg, you may want to add a playful twist to it, by playing the “Stripper” or “Legs” by ZZTop to bring up the level of risqué. Many times it is just a fun guy song.
Some couples like to program a last song of the evening. Maybe it was a close runner-up to you 1st Dance choice or maybe another version of your 1st Dance. Maybe it is something fast & fun and guaranteed to get everyone up one last time. Maybe it is sentimental to the moment, like Semisonic’s “Closing Time”, Sinatra’s “Last Dance” or even Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.” Sometimes it is just better to go with the flow and cap off a great dancing night with something on the fly, a request off the floor, or a last minute idea from the B&G. Either way, if the newlyweds are on the floor, everyone will want to join them regardless of the song.
Even if you don't pick many or most of the songs for your events, we'll be fine. I have done so many different scenarios of each event that I can pick something that will work well. However, why not personalize it? The day is all about the two of you, shouldn't that apply to the music as well?