Choosing Wedding Ceremony Readings

Choosing Wedding Ceremony Music

“Here Comes the Bride” is far from your only option when it comes to wedding music. This is another great chance to personalize your wedding.

 Choosing musicians:

If you want live music for your reception, try to contact musicians at least two months before the wedding- more if it is during peak season. Your least expensive option will probably be a solo performer, often a violinist, acoustic guitar player, or harpist. Any good musician will provide samples of their music and a list of all possible tunes; with enough leeway time, they may also be able to accommodate a request for a song they don’t know.


The processional is the song the bridal party walks into. It can be anything from Chopin to the Beatles, but it should be a specific song, so that the bridesmaid and bride don’t miss their cue to enter. It may also help if the song has a recognizable, walkable rhythm, so that people can stride up the aisle in style.

 Music during the ceremony:

Some couples may want a special song performed during silent activities, such as while they light a Unity candle or take Communion. Music during the ceremony is a good way to keep the atmosphere relaxed while there are activities that don’t involve talking. You could also use a special song or performance instead of a wedding reading.


Like the processional, this song is meant to get the bridal party down the aisle- in the opposite direction. These songs tend to be a little more upbeat and joyful than processionals, and can include classical, religious, or popular music. Chances are, you will be too giddy to be paying attention at this point, so don’t stress over this one!

There are millions of websites that will tell you what the “popular” tunes are for the ceremony, but you’d have to spend approximately $7 jillion to buy all of those songs and listen to them. Use a legal music website like Grooveshark.com to listen to full versions of nearly ANY song for free, or use a service like Pandora.com to suggest similar tunes if you hear something you like, but that isn’t quite perfect. This can save you a lot of time and sure beats trying to guess if you’d like the rest of the song from a 30-second sample.

Planning Wedding Ceremony Content

Figuring out the ceremony itself may be tricky for those who do not want a standard religious celebration. Thankfully, the officiant is often there to guide you through a few basic choices, but the info below may also help you narrow down your options.

Religious Ceremonies:

These tend to be the simplest to plan, since there is often a set text and order in which everything happens. Having a religious ceremony usually will involve heavy involvement from the officiant, who can help guide you through each step.

Non-Sectarian/Non-religious Ceremonies:

If you would like the option of “light” or “no” religious content, the running order and customs of the ceremony are much more in your court. Be sure to discuss your spiritual/religious preferences with the officiant so that he/she will know whether it is appropriate to include blessings or references to God.


One custom popular at many weddings is to include one or two readings about love and marriage. Some people choose biblical readings, others prefer love poetry or comic stories about love. You could also ask your readers (usually bridal party members or relatives) to choose readings they find appropriate. See our one-sheet guide to wedding readings for some good options.


To write or not to write, that is the question. In general, writing your own vows will be stressful for anyone who does not frequently put their feelings to paper or has stage fright. If writing your own vows is important to one of you, consider writing them privately, stealing some time away during the reception, and reading them to one another without the audience. A good alternative is to work together to write a set of vows that both of you will use, thus reducing the pressure of having to get it right alone. Otherwise, tell your officiant you’d like to use the traditional vows “to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, etc” and save stress on the whole issue.


Typically, the best man carries the bride’s ring, the maid-of-honor carries the groom’s. It may help to store the rings in a secure place until JUST BEFORE the ceremony, so that there is no risk of someone putting them down and losing them during pre-wedding preparations. Alternatively, give them to the officiant to hold. Be sure to try the rings on a few days before the wedding, to make sure they fit (practicing putting them on each other is okay, too!)

It’s a common mistake to budget too much time for your actual ceremony. Weddings that include a traditional religious ceremony such as a mass, can typically last up to an hour. Non-traditional weddings that include just a few readings, a speech by the officiant, vows, and rings, usually fall between 20-40 minutes.

Choosing A Wedding Officiant

The officiant performs the ceremony, and can really help set the mood of the day. Choosing an officiant should be done with care- this third party will play a significant part in one of the most important rituals in your life.

Religious Officiants:

Ministers, rabbis, and priests are generally affiliated with a specific place of worship. If you attend religious services regularly, you may have a particular religious official who you would like to have perform the wedding. People who plan to get married in a place of worship may be required to use the services of the local parish officials. In general, religious officials will not perform non-religious services, or may need to obtain permission to do so.

Freelance Officiants:

These professionals are licensed to perform weddings, but are not necessarily affiliated with a particular church or religion. Using a freelance officiants can be a good option for people who want a non-denominational or non-religious ceremony. Freelance officiants are generally more open to customized, unique ceremonies, though some offer traditional religious services as well.

Talking to Your Officiant:

It’s important to sit down and discuss the details of your ceremony with the officiant. At most weddings, the officiant will make a short speech about marriage, commitment, and the couple, and thus will need to spend time getting to know you and learn about your relationship. Having a thorough discussion with your officiant will help him or her provide a more authentic, personal ceremony that really speaks about your relationship, specifically.

Marriage Preparation:

Some officiants offer marriage preparation classes. These are generally not “therapy” classes, where problems are discussed, but instead are meetings where the couple works with the official to define the importance of marriage for themselves, and discuss pertinent topics. This can be very illuminating for some couples, and provide you with a weekly chance to focus on your upcoming marriage, not just the details of the wedding. Classes usually meet once a week for a month or two before the wedding.


Be sure your officiant will be available to come to the rehearsal. Their attendance may be included in the fee, or may require an additional payment. It’s customary to invite the officiant to the rehearsal dinner, if one is planned.