Choosing Your Wedding Ceremony Music – Part 2: Civil Ceremony

Civil ceremonies are constantly growing as a proportion of all weddings in the UK. The good news is you can tailor your ceremony to your own order of service, which means you’ll be able to have more control over your ceremonial proceedings.

Civil ceremonies can now occur in any licensed venue and must be carried out by a government official or ‘functionary’. This means that your choice of venue will be much more varied – anything from a registrar’s office to a licensed beach! The only limitation to speak of is that religious themed songs or readings are not allowed – you’ll need a church ceremony if you’d like any of those.

Musically, there’s scope for pretty much anything of your choosing, aside from the restrictions of religious songs and hymns. Where church ceremonies would tend to feature more traditional music, civil ceremonies are often based around contemporary music. However, the choice is completely yours.

Here are some ideas for each of those categories:

Arrival of guests:

Incidental instrumental music works fantastically well to create the perfect welcome for your guests. A string quartet performing classical pieces will work fabulously in most venues, as will a harpist. The tone is set as soon as your guests arrive into the venue, so something elegant, bold and relatively formal will work a treat.

A pianist is also an excellent versatile choice for the whole of your ceremony. Always check if your venue has a piano – and try to utilise it if there’s one present. Even if your venue is piano-less, most providers will be able to organise a beautiful white or black baby grand piano to be hired into your venue, relatively inexpensively, too.

Bridal Entrance:

The traditional wedding music for the bridal entrance is the Bridal Chorus by Richard Wagner – also known as Here Comes the Bride.

The Bridal Chorus sounds fantastic played fanfare-style by a brass quintet, but will also sound wonderful performed by a string quartet, or even a pianist. Other popular classical choices are Trumpet Voluntary (J. Clarke), Trumpet Tune (Purcell), Canon in D (Pachelbel) and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Rachmaninoff).


Another option to consider is a solo instrument – perhaps a trumpet, harp or violin. Walking down the aisle is a spine-tingling moment and that type of intimate music can heighten the effect even further.

Brides often choose contemporary wedding music for the ceremonial entrance which adds a special personal touch. As a bride, you should feel able to customise every part of your ceremony to the highest degree – and professional musicians can create bespoke arrangements of any piece you’d like to have performed, delivering a truly unique experience for you and your guests.

For some contemporary wedding music ideas, you can check out some articles here, here and here.

Signing of the Register:

Signing of the register is an interlude that should take five to ten minutes in a civil ceremony – so your musicians should be prepared for this part of your ceremonial proceedings. This is usually a rare moment of informality as your guests are often chatting amongst themselves and standing up to take photos of the newly-wed couple.

You could pick any classical or contemporary pieces at this point – a montage of some of your favourites can deliver an elegant touch as the mood relaxes for a short period.


Bride/Groom Exit (Recessional):

The foremost traditional choice is the Wedding March by Mendelssohn – which sounds spectacular when performed by a brass ensemble or a string quartet.

Set your guests up for a wonderful drinks reception by giving them something amazingly uplifting and rousing to celebrate your marriage. Upbeat, energetic and celebratory – you’ve finally tied the knot!

There are some good classical-style ideas here and Hitched’s contemporary wedding music ideas here.

Exit of guests:

This background music should match the type of music played when your guests first entered the building – although you can lean towards more lively at this point.

This is your last chance to make a musical impression on your guests at your ceremonial venue and will set them up for the rest of the day to come.

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