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Do Not Play: The 4 Wedding Ceremony Songs to Avoid

Traditional Music is Classic, But You Can Find Something More Unique


Wedding ceremony
Blend Images - Hill Street Studios/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

It might seem strange to name four classic, admittedly beautiful, and popular pieces of music as "three wedding ceremony songs to avoid." But have you ever loved a pop song until it got so much radio play that you couldn't stand it anymore? That's what's wrong with these pieces of music. They're used as wedding ceremony songs so often that they've become overplayed and common. And what bride or groom wants to be common?

The Four Most Popular Wedding Ceremony Songs

  1. Pachelbel's Canon in D
    It's terrible, but I literally have to bite my tongue to keep from groaning when this plays during a wedding. I've heard it far too many times, and though beautiful, it sounds like wallpaper to me. The worst is that couples using it often misspell it as Pachabel's Canon or Pakabel's Canon.

    It's popular because it's gracefully simple, instrumental, and memorable. As a canon, it builds gradually, helping to raise anticipation for the bride's entrance. Many couples have heard Pachelbel's Canon play at another ceremony and remembered it. It's a song that's appropriate for both church and secular weddings, and thus is often suggested by wedding planners. But it's overused.
  2. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
    This song might be so popular because it is so adaptable. Part of Bach's cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, it opens with a joyful yet reflective solo, and can be either instrumental or sung, by either a woman or a man. It can also be played fast – as Bach intended it – or slowly as is most commonly done today. Well known singers like Josh Groban, Renée Fleming, and the musical ensemble Celtic Woman have covered the song, and the Beach Boys song Lady Lynda is based on the tune, though not the words. So if your guests' first reaction isn't "I've heard this at SO many weddings," they'll at least think that it seems expected and unsurprising. They'll probably say, "Oh yes, I know this song." But they won't be complimenting you on your originality, or thinking that the music fits your personalities.
  3. Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin aka "Here Comes the Bride" by Richard Wagner
    Little girls hum this song to themselves when playing dress up and imagining their wedding day. It's been used in countless TV and movie weddings, and even more real life ones. Its ubiquity has made it iconic – there's no doubt you're at a wedding when you hear this song. So many brides choose it for their own processional march down the aisle – so many that it's tired. But this song in particular has even better reasons to avoid it: Wagner was an anti-Semite, and his work was frequently used by Hitler and the Nazis. Furthermore, in the opera Lohengrin, this song is sung to celebrate a very short-lived doomed marriage. That's not what you want associated with your wedding.
  4. Felix Mendelssohn's Wedding March from Op .61 suite for A Midsummer Night's Dream
    This is without a doubt the most popular wedding recessional used today. It was popularized when Queen Victoria's daughter used it in her 1858 wedding, and has been used in hundreds of films for the dramatic moment when the happy couple leave the altar as husband and wife. (Or husband and husband, or wife and wife.) That drama makes it familiar, and makes it expected.
Now that I've told you what wedding ceremony music to avoid, discover some unique and beautiful classical music for your wedding to use instead.

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