Finding the person who you want to sing in harmony with for the rest of your life is one of the most amazing and beautiful things you can do. Planning the soundtrack for your wedding is sometimes a more difficult decision. It’s essential to work together to choose songs you both enjoy that will fit the tone of your ceremony and reception so everyone has a good time. The right music will bring back memories for the rest of your life every time you hear certain songs.
Good music makes you feel things. Some songs are sad or filled with political messages and outrage, but those songs are better left for another day. Wedding music can be dignified, classic, romantic, cheesy, or even silly. Whatever you choose, it will be an integral part of the experience on one of the most important days of your life. The wedding music checklist will help ensure you have plenty of songs on your wedding day soundtrack.
What Is a Wedding Music Checklist?
A wedding music checklist helps you sort out all the incredible music you’ll play at a wedding. By breaking the soundtrack into pieces that relate to what is going on at the time, you can more easily select appropriate music. You’ll find suggestions for the tone and ideas for quite a few popular selections to help with the process. This helpful tool lets you see where each song will play on your special day.
The Ultimate Wedding Music Checklist
Before you start planning your wedding music, it’s essential to decide whether you’ll have a band or a DJ at the reception. Since the first part of the wedding, its ceremony is the shorter, more vital piece, the band or DJ’s job will be to handle most of the rest of the event’s soundtrack. Below you will find a list of each part of the wedding ceremony and some ideas for how and what to choose. Feel free to personalize your playlist to suit your taste and style as much as you like. It is, after all, the soundtrack to one of the biggest events in your life.
Before the wedding party arrives, the guests will be trickling in to find their seats. It’s a good idea to have about 30 minutes’ worth of prepared music for them. You may not need all of it, but it’s much nicer when you walk into an event with some pleasant background noise. Here are three ideas that may help.
- Play your favorite classical music. You can put on an entire album while people wait for the main event.
- Smooth jazz makes a superb, laid-back atmosphere. A slow saxophone solo here and there won’t go amiss whether the event is formal or more modern. Plus, smooth jazz doesn’t make people feel rushed.
- January Wedding by The Avett Brothers
The bridesmaids and groomsmen traditionally walk down the aisle in pairs. This s a great time to have a little lighthearted fun or set the mood with songs about love and marriage. Here are a few excellent songs for them before the main event.
- Marry Me by Train
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
- Love Never Felt So Good by Michael Jackson
The bride walking down the aisle is the highlight of the event. In nontraditional weddings where the couple walks together, or there are two brides or two grooms, this is still the moment. The song should be something appropriate. The Bridal March and Canon in D are classics, and I Can’t Help Falling In Love or A Thousand Years by Christina Perri are the more modern go-to’s. If you want to break the mold choose a song that is more uniquely yours, but please avoid anything with explicit lyrics or swearing if you’re having a formal ceremony. If you share a favorite song with your future spouse, and it’s not a good choice for your first dance, then this is a great time to break that out and play it.
Leaving the church or ceremony area is another fantastic time to choose a specific song to walk to. The recessional should be full of joyous music that shows how happy you are to be married. Check out these fun, love-happy songs.
- Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours by Stevie Wonder
- The Best Day of My Life by American Authors
- Beautiful Day by U2
- This Will Be by Natalie Cole
- I Believe In A Thing Called Love by The Darkness
Much like the prelude, it can take a while for people to leave a wedding ceremony venue. The size of your guest list and general setup will determine how long people stick around before they can get out to their cars and get ready for the reception. Choose some music you think they’ll enjoy that has an excellent fast but not frantic beat to help keep people moving. Love songs and rock and roll from the 1950s are good options. Or choose some light, happy 80s pop songs if you’re a little more casual.
You don’t have to make a playlist to get ready for your reception. In fact, delegating this task to a maid of honor or the best man may be better. The music should be upbeat, maybe some favorites for you and our friends to enjoy while you trade the fancy wedding dress fr a more casual, easy-to-dance-in evening gown or even some jeans depending on your style.
Cocktail hour is usually reserved for the wedding party or a few choice friends. The dancing will come later, so you should opt for calmer music everyone in the group can enjoy or tune out. This is another great place for a classical or smooth jazz album for formal weddings. Soft rock, pop love songs, or a favorite country musician’s greatest (not-breakup or cheating-based) hits work well for a more casual group. This more intimate, relaxing stop before the reception should be enjoyable, but it’s not usually the part of your wedding day where the most memories get made.
Dinner is a social affair, so you don’t want music that makes people feel like they need to get up and dance. However, you also don’t want to put them to sleep. Choose soft rock, jazzy singers, crooners, and other pleasant background music for this part of the day. Like a cocktail hour, this music should mostly stay in the background, but you can get more romantic or add your own flair to this list.
- The Way You Look Tonight by Tony Bennet
- Moondance by Van Morrison
- Photograph by Ed Sheeran
- A Sunday Kinda Love by Etta James
- Fever by Peggy Smith
Bridal Party Entrance
Pick a fun, upbeat song for the bridal party to enter the reception. The entrance should be simple, straightforward, and make it clear that the time for fun has begun. Try out any of these four favorites.
- 24K Magic by Bruno Mars
- Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake
- Crazy in Love by Beyonce ft. Jay Z
- Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
This brief event is when the couple gets to celebrate their union and make a grand entrance. You can choose any song that makes both of you feel good together. However, if you’re struggling to find the right piece, listen to these top five favorite humorous and modern newlywed entrance songs.
- Lovely Day by Bill Withers
- Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard
- Happy by Pharrel Williams
- Starships by Nicki Minaj
- Let’s Get It Started by the Black Eyed Peas
Your first dance song should match your dance style. If you are classic and timeless, do the waltz. Country music lovers should dance to a country ballad, and headbangers should probably learn something just a little restrained, so the pictures have more than a blur of hair in them, but it’s your call. Here are a few of the most frequently used first dance songs.
- At last by Etta James
- Endless Love by Luther Vandross
- The Way You Look Tonight by Elton John
- Higher Love by James Vincent McMorrow
- Always by Bon Jovi
- Just The Way You Are by Billy Joel
- Adore You by Harry Stiles
The father-daughter dance is a traditional parting. Whoever your parental figure is, saving a special dance of your wedding for them is a nice gesture. Songs like Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely or My Girl by the Temptations are fantastic go-to’s for this dance. However, if you want to have a little fun, consider something that will make a memory, like teaching your parents a line dance or showing them how to Dougie before the wedding.
Your reception is the time for fun music that you can dance to. Choose a band or small orchestral group to play waltzes and other similar dance music if you want a classic appeal. Opt for music that matches a theme wedding, such as playing country music at a barn wedding or tropical beats at an island wedding. However, most people opt for fun dance remixes of pop tunes like Who Let The Dogs Out and Walk The Dinosaur. The important thing is to choose 2-4 hours’ worth of music you love that makes you want to dance.
The moment you cut the cake, whether it is an Instagrammable photo opportunity, a serious time where you and your new spouse take a moment to do something in unison, or a silly food fight waiting to happen, should have unique music. Choose a personally meaningful tune that isn’t a dance hit for this tradition.
A ‘sexy’ song often accompanies a garter toss. Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, SexyBack by Justin Timberlake, or Nelly’s Hot In Here are good choices. However, if that’s not comfortable for you, consider something funny like Eye of the Tiger.
The final dance of the evening is often a classic symbolic song. Choose something that symbolizes endings, but not in a sad, depressing, or angry manner. You want to leave on a high note, but preferably a cheerful, silly, or romantic high. Here are a half-dozen great songs for the last dance, from slow and sweet to raucous fun.
- What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
- Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
- I’ve Had The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
- You Shook Me All Night by AC/DC
- Closing Time by Semisonic
- Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
For those who still have questions about what music to choose for each part of the wedding, here are a few more frequently asked questions to help clarify the process.
The music for a wedding ceremony is extensive since most weddings last for at least half the day and most of the evening. The list below is the order of wedding songs.
ᐅ Bridesmaids Processional
ᐅ Brides Processional
ᐅ Getting Ready
ᐅ Cocktail Hour
ᐅ Bridal Party Entrance
ᐅ Newlyweds Entrance
ᐅ First Dance
ᐅ Parents Dance
ᐅ Reception (General)
ᐅ Cake Cutting
ᐅ Garter Toss
ᐅ Last Dance
The traditional music for walking down the aisle is Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, often known as “Here Comes The Bride.” However, a bride can choose any song she wants to walk down the aisle. In general, pick something slow, romantic, or dignified.
The number of songs you need will depend on how long the wedding and reception last and how long each piece lasts. However, a good rule of thumb is around 20 per hour plus a handful of unique tunes like the bridal procession and first dance. A wedding ceremony often lasts 20 to 30 minutes, and the ‘after party’ includes getting ready, drinks, and dinner, plus the reception should be about 3-5 hours.
The longest songs at a wedding should be around three minutes. You don’t want too-short music, but using the extended versions of every piece can make it feel like time is dragging. Choose the longest songs for specific events like the bridal party entrance and getting everyone together to throw the bouquet.
Wedding processional songs are usually instrumental. However, the playlist is up to you, and you can switch it up. If your wedding party plans to do a fun or silly choreographed dance, use any song you like, but make sure it’s in keeping with the tone of your wedding and venue appropriate. For example, ‘The Thong Song’ is probably not a great pick for a formal or church wedding.
Traditionally the bridesmaids walk down the aisle to a different song than the bride. Although you can use one long musical piece, doing this doesn’t give the bride her moment in the spotlight like it would if she had her own song.
The most played wedding songs are an eclectic, fun collection of music with a few classic standbys like James Taylor’s How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) and modern favorites based on the newlywed’s taste. However, the most played wedding song in 2021 was Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years.
Almost all brides choose their wedding march or songs to walk down the aisle. In some cases, it may be selected by a good friend, a wedding planner, a future spouse, or even a parent. The moment the soon-to-be-newlyweds first come into the ceremony should be significant and memorable.
There will always be a few favorite moments when you think back on your wedding day. Saying ‘I Do’ is the essential part of the day, but there should be many other happy memories, and each one can have its own song. Your first dance as newlyweds, walking down the aisle, and the last dance of the reception should all have a unique feel. Finding the perfect musical accompaniment can help create the right mood, move things along smoothly, or let people unwind and party. At the end of the day, you’ll be glad you took the time to put together a fantastic soundtrack. When you’re done making the playlist and using it, keep a copy so you can revisit those cherished memories on your anniversary.