Ceremony Music 101: Four Times to Play Music (+ One Time Not To!)

Ceremony Music 101

When might you want music in your wedding ceremony?

Here are 4 places most couples include music, and 1 time not to!


In most cases, your wedding guests will start to arrive about 30 minutes before the start time listed on your invitations.

Many couples choose to play music during this time, to set the stage and get everyone in just the right mood.

No matter how well you’ve planned, you can generally expect your ceremony to start at least 5 – 10 minutes late. It’s just the nature of the beast!

To be on the safe side, plan for about 40-45 minutes of prelude music.


The wedding processional includes anyone walking down the aisle.

Depending on your ceremony plans, this could include:

  • Parents, grandparents or other important family members
  • Attendants for one or both sides of the couple
  • Children or pets bearing flowers or rings
  • One or both partners

If you have multiple people participating in your processional, you can choose how many different songs to use.

The fewer processional songs you need to switch between, the easier it will be to coordinate.

In most typical ceremony venues, it only takes 20-30 seconds to walk down the aisle. You might want to start your processional songs partway through, so you can hear your favorite parts!


You can include music at any time during your ceremony. Here are a few common options:

  • During a short unity ritual such as lighting a unity candle or pouring sand for a sand ceremony
  • Throughout a more involved ceremony ritual like a tree planting
  • During the signing the marriage license or related document
  • Between readings or as a transition from one part of the ceremony to another

If you are playing music between readings or at a transition point while nothing else is going on, opt for about 30 seconds of music at a time.

More than that will feel too long and your guests will start to get fidgety.


The recessional happens when the couple and their attendants walk back up the aisle at the end of the ceremony.

It is a joyful and celebratory moment often accompanied by cheers or applause from your guests!

Choose an upbeat song, and skip over any slow build at the beginning.

Some couples also choose to have a “postlude” as well: 5-10 minutes of music after the recessional as your guests file out of the ceremony space.

When NOT to play music

During your ceremony, avoid playing music while anyone is speaking.

When your officiant or reader is talking, it might seem like a good idea to include background music for extra effect.

In reality this just makes it hard for your guests to hear what’s going on.

Save the music for times when no one is speaking. Your guests will appreciate it!