Thursday, 21 May 2009

How to choose songs for your wedding? Look to Hollywood…

When planning my own wedding, I discovered that the best way for me to decide on key songs for my ceremony and reception was to look to my favorite films - films that had the essence that I wanted to portray. What songs create the mood you want everyone to feel? What scenes from movies are in your head because the music left you speechless? What songs have meaning for you?

For my wedding, I wanted the ceremony to be ethereal while the reception was enchanting, chic and fun. I used the music to make the event flow from one stage to the next. So in order to create this imagery, my ceremony music included Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The recessional was to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in order to spread the joy of our nuptials amongst the crowd. A swing band created the mood for the reception with a few songs from my favorite film (When Harry Met Sally) including “It Had To Be You” – which was 1 of our two wedding songs. The second song was “Your Song” by Al Jarreau (also sang in Moulin Rouge).

Using music to create the mood of your wedding day is the perfect way to illicit emotion and usher guests from one part of your wedding to the next. The music is the beautiful satin bow that ties every element up for your wedding to create the perfect day. Think of which movies inspire you and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. When you were younger, which movies made you dream of your wedding day? Was it Father of the Bride or My Best Friend’s Wedding or an old classic like It Had to Be You (the original Runaway Bride with Ginger Rogers)? Chances are that your favorite romantic film might be the key to selecting your wedding music – so go ahead and watch some movies – let the films guide you towards your selection.


  1. Hello there! What a fantastic idea...

    You know, I'm embarrassed to admit I hadn't given thought to a song other than "Here Comes the Bride" up until today, when my fiance informed that that's quite "corny" too traditional. Meanwhile, we're marring next MONTH (June 2009) at a Catholic Church in Greenwich, CT.

    Is "Here Comes the Bride" ridiculous?
    And might you have another suggestion?

    We've hired a STRINGS ensemble (3-piece -- cello & two violins) to perform during the ceremony.

    Perhaps "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring for the three bridesmaids (small wedding) and your brilliant "Moon River" for my entrance with my Dad?

    I'd be so appreciative to hear your thoughts!

    Grateful bride-to-be who's losing her mind over this.

  2. Hi there,

    First off - Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

    Regarding song choices, I think that if you like Here Comes the Bride then you should go with it because it is your day and it will be your special moment. But if you think that another song might be more 'you' then why not try it? It sounds like you like some classic and traditional songs so what about Pachabel's Canon? Or are the start of Gloria, there are some nice beats for your wedding party to walk down the aisle to (like in the De Beers commercials from a few years ago).

    Another option for the strings ensemble (nice choice!) to play could be any of your favourite songs. I am a big fan of 80s music so I always thought it would be cool to have a power ballad played by strings - it would be really unique and sounds so lovely (like Journey's Don't Stop Believing) - it you aren't an 80s fan, that might sound a bit cheesy (and maybe not fit with the church ambience) but you could do the same with any of your favourite songs. By switching the instrument to a 3-piece string ensemble, the song instantly becomes something you could walk down the aisle to!

    Also, it would help to know what type of wedding you are having? Is it traditional? Rustic? Romantic? Modern? Since the music is a big piece of the event, the overall vision of your wedding would be a helpful piece of the puzzle to figure out what songs would fit for your ceremony.

    Let me know if you have any further questions or want more info - I am happy to help.

    Last but not least - keep calm and enjoy these days. Have fun and embrace this time because it is such a wonderful time for you to remember.


  3. Great advice Amanda - what awesome songs you chose for your wedding, I bet they really created the ambiance you are looking for.
    I picked out the songs for our wedding long before we got engaged - "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson for the entrance and " I Feel Good" by James Brown as we leave the ceremony - like you, I wanted to start the party atmosphere as we leaving the reflective time of the ceremony. A good friend is playing a beautiful song on the grand piano during the service - "The Thief" by Brooke Fraser (YouTube it...awesome lyrics")
    Have no idea what to enter the reception to though, or what to have our first dance to - We have got a Jazz band playing at the reception (with a singer) - any suggestions for Jazz songs that would be good to dance to?
    My wedding is this August, in New Zealand.

    Thanks again for your post. Have searched the net many times for musical inspiration and was getting a bit sick of recommendations for Kenny G!


  4. Hi Gemma,

    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I just took a look at your music choices for the ceremony and they are absolutely brilliant! Just gorgeous songs - I am going to add them to my list because they are fantastic choices.

    In answer to your question, there are tons of jazz songs out there for you reception which work great with a singer. Here are a few jazz options for your for your first song and/or your reception:

    1. At Last - Etta James
    2. L-O-V-E: L is for the way you look at me - Nat King Cole
    3. Our Love Is Here To Stay - Ella Fitzgerald
    4. Dream a Little Dream of Me - Mamas and Papas (for a more modern take check out Zooey Deschanel's cover on you tube)
    5. For Once in My Life - Frank Sinatra

    These are some beautiful classic jazz tunes that I adore. However, if you are looking for more modern jazz options do check out albums by Diana Krall and Amos Lee (Sweet Pea is a pretty song and quite quirky).

    You could also pick a great Barry White song if you are looking for something a bit more upbeat. People love Barry White and his songs add fun, flavour and spice to a wedding reception.

    Let me know if you have any more questions. I am happy to help.

    Good luck!


  5. I've already had my wedding, years ago (and it was a quick one at the West Palm Beach registry - no songs) but to Grateful Bride to Be Who's Losing her Mind Over This, I just want to say that I started humming Here Comes the Bride as I read your comment, and started tearing up. I didn't even think of myself as a wedding type of girl, but that song gets me every time!
    As for the swing band option: both my sister & brother had them at their more traditional weddings, and it's fabulous. It really makes the wedding, in my mind - along with every thing else, of course. I love what you were saying, Amanda, about having three piece bands play more contemporary songs that you love - with a twist. I love the idea of them doing Beatles songs or just really, the music that was playing on the radio during the time that you met. How many times have you heard a song from college or high school and it brings back vivid memories of the boyfriend at the time? It's such a powerful Proustian moment.

    Good luck to GBtBWLHMOT, I'm sure it will be wonderful.

    - More or Less Happily Married, in London

  6. Some excellent advice here! If you want the opposite of good advice, you should listen to this story on NPR about the WORST songs heard at weddings:
    According to the story, guests judge the longevity of the nuptials by the music played... that adds a bit of pressure!
    At any rate, it is good for a laugh, as well as a word of warning.