As far as wedding formalities go you don’t get much more formal than the ceremony. This is the part of the day where the official, legal and binding contract between the couple takes place. Certain words and phrases, by law, have to be said for the bond to be considered legal. Music is an important aspect of this for many couples. It can also be confusing. What is and isn’t allowed and, perhaps more worryingly for most couples, what is appropriate? In this article I aim to give you a guide as to how to pick music for your ceremony.

The great news is that, beyond the legal formalities, it is very much up to you how you choose to conduct your ceremony and it’s up to you what music you choose. Here are a few tips.

1. Religious ceremonies vs. civil ceremonies
The type of music you are allowed to use at your ceremony can be dictated by the type of ceremony you are having. If you’re having a religious ceremony led by a vicar or priest you will probably pick hymns. Many church leaders are comfortable with popular songs as well. The best advice is to speak to them and work out what works for all of you. A civil ceremony is different. If you choose to do this you will not be allowed any religious content. In some registrars’ cases this means no references to anything religious in your choice of music, readings or vows. The laws on this are a little subjective. Some registrars will not allow any mention whatsoever of anything associated with religion, including the word “God” for example even where the context of the song is not necessarily religious (example: God Only Knows by The Beach Boys). So if you’re having a civil ceremony do check the content of your music and speak with your registrar to see whether your songs are permissible.

2. Where will you need to have music?
When I am hired as a wedding guitarist and singer I advise couples to work with me to pick songs for the following parts of the ceremony:
* 1 song for walking down the aisle
* 3 songs for the signing of the register
* 1 song for the end of the ceremony
So 5 in total. You may have hired your musician to play as guests arrive. This could be up to 30 minutes of music. Again, you can specify what music they play but many musicians understand what atmosphere you’re trying to create and will pick songs that are appropriate.

3. Pick something personal to you
There really are no rules here. Pick something that is personal to your relationship, something you think is romantic or something that evokes a memory for you. My top tip here is also to check the lyrics of the songs you’ve chosen. I am surprised sometimes that people pick songs based on the atmosphere they create without listening to the lyrics. I had a couple once want me to sing Skinny Love by Bon Iver for their first dance when they hired me as a wedding singer. I advised them that this was probably not the best choice of song as it is about a very bitter break up and how the writer could possibly never love again because of the pain the relationship caused. They changed their minds. In the next tip I’ll give you an idea of some great songs you can use.

4. Some song ideas
Here’s a list of some songs that are great for ceremonies. This list only includes secular songs that would be suitable for both a church and civil ceremony. There are not religious songs here. However, I can suggest some Christian based religious songs if you would like to contact me.

1. A Thousand Years by Cristina Perri
2. Better Together by Jack Johnson
3. Make You Feel My Love by Adele
4. Photograph by Ed Sheeran
5. All Of Me by John Legend
6. Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran
7. More Than Words by Extreme
8. I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz
9. She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5
10. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard

Steven Heath is an acoustic wedding singer and guitarist based in Bradford, West Yorkshire. He splits his time between his family, teaching performing arts to young children and singing at weddings and events across the north of England and the UK. He is available for hire at your wedding or event. Read more about him by visiting his homepage.
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