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11 Jul Choosing the best wedding piano music for your big day

As a professional wedding pianist, I am often asked the same two questions by my wedding couples:

  • How does the music work across the various sections of a wedding day?
  • I’m stuck for music choices, can you send over some suggestions?
In this post, I’ll aim to answer both of these questions without simply writing a huge list of potential wedding piano music – you can find this in my repertoire. Instead, I’m going to walk through the various types of weddings, as well as the different sections of the big day. I’ll propose some examples of what I personally think works beautifully on the piano.

Much of my repertoire has been developed in tandem with brides and grooms. Music is incredibly personal, and never more so than at a wedding. As such, I feel it is important for couples to have music that resonates with them at their wedding ceremony. That being said, here are my suggestions.

Guest arrival

This isn’t about guests pulling into the carpark and mingling outside. In wedding music terms, the guest arrival is when guests enter the venue and take their seats for approximately 20 minutes before the bride is due to make her entrance. The piano music during this 20-minute period is usually delicate and pretty, without being too upbeat and energetic. In other words, the tone is in keeping with the fact that a ceremony is about to take place.

Bryan’s top five music choices for the guest arrival:

  • Turning Page – Sleeping At Last (The Twilight Saga)
  • Fields Of Gold – Sting
  • She’s A Star – James
  • Part Of Your World (The Little Mermaid, Disney)
  • River Flows In You – Yiruma

Wedding ceremony

Civil ceremony

You’ll typically have one entrance song when the bride enters the ceremony room and walks down the aisle. There will then be two or three songs during the signing of the register – depending on how long the registrars take to conduct this. Finally, there will be one piece of music at the exit – usually up-lifting.

An important point to remember about the wedding music list at a civil ceremony is that the songs cannot be about anything religious. This is the case for both lyrical and non-lyrical music.

Most of my top five piano music choices for the bridal entrance come from actual bride requests. They have become firmly embedded in my permanent repertoire ever since:

  • You and Me – The Wannadies
  • Canon in D – Johann Pachelbel
  • Hoppípolla – Sigur Ros
  • I’m Kissing You – Des’ree
  • Welcome to Jurassic Park – John Williams (Jurassic Park)

Top five piano music choices for the signing of the register:

  • Married Life – Michael Giacchino (Up, Dreamworks)
  • Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol
  • Make You Feel My Love – Adele
  • The Book Of Love – Peter Gabriel
  • Close To You – Carpenters

Top five piano music choices for the bride & groom exit:

  • Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac
  • Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
  • Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
  • It Must Be Love – Madness
  • You’re My Best Friend – Queen

Church ceremony

The main difference between a church ceremony and a civil ceremony is that, in addition to all the pieces of music in the civil ceremony, you will likely have some hymns as part of your church ceremony. All you need to do is agree with your vicar which hymns you’d like. I’d suggest asking your pianist to play the hymns in such a way that everyone can join in.

Top five hymns for a church wedding ceremony:

  • Jerusalem
  • Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer
  • Amazing Grace
  • The King of Love my Shepherd is
  • O Perfect Love

Humanist ceremony

Humanist ceremonies can involve a mix of hymns and the standard pieces you get in a civil ceremony. The key point about humanist ceremonies is that the structure and length can vary, depending on the style and approach of your Celebrant.

Drinks reception

Drinks receptions always follow the wedding ceremony. Relieved that the formal proceedings are now over, there’s a subtle shift in everyone’s mood as they begin to start the party. It’s the perfect time for some joyful, upbeat, swinging jazz standards. A perfect accompaniment to the clinking of champagne glasses!

 Top five piano music choices for a wedding drinks reception:

  •  L O V E – Nat King Cole
  • Cheek To Cheek – Frank Sinatra
  • When You’re Smiling – Dean Martin
  • As Time Goes By – Billie Holiday
  • I Get A Kick Out of You – Cole Porter

Wedding breakfast

If you have booked a wedding pianist for your big day, something you may not have considered is that you’ll need an appropriate song to be played as you enter the wedding breakfast room – to the rapturous applause of your guests!

As the wedding breakfast starts, the piano music will reflect the atmosphere in the room. Think subtle and soothing – nothing too exuberant. However, by the time dessert is being served, your wedding pianist will likely be going with the flow and rolling out the classic sing-along tunes. This is when your pianist will be secretly hoping that the entire room, not just the tables of guests in the immediate vicinity, joins in. 

Speeches are really the only place in the wedding breakfast where your wedding pianist won’t be playing. Unless of course, the groom or father of the bride has a secret musical speech up their sleeve! Speeches can happen at any time during the wedding breakfast – at the start, in the middle, just before dessert, or right at the end after dessert. Just be sure to discuss this with your wedding pianist, so they can be prepared. The last thing you want is for your pianist to interrupt a speech with an impromptu sing-along tune!

See below for my top five piano music choices for a wedding breakfast. Note that the music will ramp up in terms of energy as the courses progress!

  • You’ve Got A Friend In Me – Randy Newman (Toy Story, Pixar)
  • She’s Electric – Oasis
  • Rather Be – Clean Bandit (Ft. Jess Glynne)
  • Hero – Enrique Iglesias
  • Englishman In New York – Sting

Creating a playlist for your Drinks / Wedding Breakfast

If you’d like to get involved in the playlist for your drinks reception or wedding breakfast, I recommend:

  • Copying my repertoire into a Word document.
  • Boldening any songs you absolutely love.
  • Striking through any you don’t like.
  • Leaving the rest. The wider the selection I have to work with, the better as it means I can adapt quickly and flexibly to the vibe.

Wedding piano music for everyone

The key point to remember about wedding piano music, is that your pianist will be constantly adapting to suit the atmosphere and vibe at different parts of the day. This is particularly true at drinks receptions and wedding breakfasts, where wedding pianists generally have free licence to play what’s in their best judgement. They should be picking out the most appropriate songs from their repertoire to best support what’s going on around them. 

My final tip is to try and avoid getting too prescriptive about the music at the drinks and meals. For instance, I’ve had requests such as “we only like tracks by Calvin Harris and Beyoncé – don’t play anything as old as the 80s, 70s, 60s”. The problem with this is that unless your wedding guests solely comprise of your university mates, your Uncle Jack and Auntie Jane will be missing out on some classics. Every wedding piano music repertoire should feature a range of crowd-pleasers that everyone can enjoy.

For more information on wedding piano music, or to make a booking enquiry, get in touch at [email protected] or drop me a line at 020 3637 2379.

Photo credits: Hayley Bray Photography. Photo taken at Wotton House Hotel, 2019.

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Bryan Edery – Wedding Pianist

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