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  • Writer's pictureMolly

Wedding Songs - Traditional vs Popular

Updated: Oct 18, 2017

Some bride's know exactly the piece they want for their bridal party and their own walk down the aisle, and some don't. Either way, it's my job to help in guiding them to the perfect piece for their special day. The highlight of any wedding is the bride's entrance (along with the 'I do's' of course), and so having the perfect piece is something that bride's often stress about. I'm here to hopefully take some of that stress away and help my bride's through the process.

One of the first questions I ask is what feeling the couple is looking to capture for their wedding day. Do they want it to be relaxed, energetic, elegant, unique, or all of the above? The answer tends to draw me closer to what they're looking for (or if they have no idea and need to be led a bit). This then guides me to recommend either traditional or popular song choices for the ceremony. Today I'm going to talk about purely processional options (recessional will be for a future post), both for the bride's entrance and for the bridal party.

One of the questions I'm often asked is whether modern popular pieces can be played on the harp. Rest assured most (and I say most as a disclaimer purely) modern popular pieces can be played (and sound great) on the harp! I've gotten requests from The Beatle's to Imagine Dragons and most everything in between.

On left you'll see I'm all set to play a lovely rendition of Bach's Arioso, an example of one of the more traditional pieces I play. Although not as traditional as ' Here Comes the Bride', it's more of a middle ground between that and an Imagine Dragon's rendition.

I like to play two to three pieces for the processional part of a wedding ceremony. My inclination is always towards two selections, one for the bridal party (bridesmaids/groomsmens, flowergirls/ring bearers etc...) and another for the bride's entrance. The reasoning behind is that it often feels less 'busy' for the guests. I've listed my favorite pieces into two lists below of traditional and popular. With the exception of the two bridal marches in the traditional list, any of these can be used for either the bridal party or the bride's entrance.

Top Traditional Processional songs are:

  • Here Comes the Bride - Wagner

  • Bridal March - Mendellsohn

  • Canon in D - Pachelbel

  • Ave Maria - Schubert arr.

  • Bach - Jesu Joy of Main's Desiring

  • March 'Occasional Oratorio' - Handel

Top Popular Processional songs are:

  • Can't Help Falling in Love - Presley

  • A Thousand Years - Perri

  • River Flows in You - Yiruma

  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Brother Iz rendition

  • Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles

  • Fireflies - Owl City

I could list a hundred more, but I thought I'd confine myself to my top six! There really is no right or wrong answer. However, for the modern popular selections there are pieces that are more tailored to the feeling that a processional warrents than others. As a musician, it would be my job to work with the couple if their popular music request was not one that could work. Typically the perfect choice for the couple either showcases their uniqueness or evokes the feeling they are looking for. Below I've compiled a short list on some reaons for choosing between traditional or popular pieces for the processional.

Traditional :

  • Recognizable - Songs like 'Here Comes the Bride' or 'Canon in D' alert guests to stand for the Bride's entrance.

  • Nostaglic - This lends itself to the same reasoning as being recognizable. Often traditional songs have a larger emotional impact on the family members and guests, as these are songs they expect and grew up with.

  • Elegant - There is a timelessness that goes along with traditional selections. These pieces are gorgeous and will never go out of style.


  • Personal - The options are nearly limitless. As such the couple can choose a song that is extremely personal to their own relationship.

  • Surprise - There is always an element of surprise when your guests hear a modern and unexpected song as the processional. I recently played the theme song from Jurassic Park for a wedding much to the entertainment of the wedding party and guests, smiles were everywhere!

  • Unique - By choosing your own unique popular song, there is little chance you will hear it played at another friends wedding.

Using the criteria above Traditional and Popular pieces can be used to enhance the feeling any couple want their wedding to evoke. This post is not meant to debate traditional vs. popular, both selections have wonderful qualities. The choice is more about what is important to the couple, and what they want to convey for their special day.

I hope this post helps some in their endeavoring to create the perfect backdrop for their wedding!

Again, there is no wrong answer, and a good musician can work with most any piece.


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