An Officiant’s View of Ceremony Music

Centuries ago, the word dream meant “to dream” as we know it. Spelled d-r-e-m-e-n, it also meant “to make music.” The music a couple chooses for their wedding ceremony doesn’t simply entertain or provide atmosphere. The music calls everyone present to dream.

Statue of a beloved pet

Having officiated at more than a hundred weddings and written more than a hundred love stories, I’ve been trusted with more than a hundred dreams. Sometimes a couple’s choice of music might never be considered by another couple and yet be perfect for the couple who chose it. I’m reminded of the bride who had lived through more than her share of hardship. She walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of Florence + The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over.  Even without the lyrics, those who knew the music knew the bright future it symbolized for that bride.


Musician, vocalist, DJ Shawn Santanello of Massachusetts

On my show, Weddings with Zita , I’ve interviewed both DJs and musicians. I leave it to the professionals to advise couples about their overall choices since the venue, the weather, the time of day, power sources, sand, wind, water and other factors can influence decisions. My thoughts on ceremony music come from a different place. When I am asked, here’s what I tell my couples.



This part of your ceremony sets the stage for what is to come. Your choice of music can be classical, country, pop, music from a movie, or an original composition.  As a practical consideration, be sure to talk with your DJ or musicians to ensure the length of the music works well with the number of people who will process down the aisle and the length of the aisle itself.  Just remember that whatever you choose, this music opens the curtain to the ceremony. The music should evoke feelings connected with the words: Anticipation, Possibilities, Transformation, Magic.  Here are a few of my favorites.

 THE FEATHER SONG (from the Forrest Gump soundtrack)

HALLELUJAH ( Vitamin String Quartet tribute to Jeff Buckley / instrumental)

ONCE UPON A DREAM (from Sleeping Beauty / instrumental)



You are separating from the past. This is true even if the two of you have lived together for years. The wedding affirms your shared vision of the future. This part of the ceremony is best described with the words: Trust, Tender, Thoughtful, and Sacred, in whatever way you define that word.  A few of my favorites:

STORYBOOK LOVE (soundtrack from The Princess Bride)

CANON IN D (Pachelbel)

CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Elvis Presley / instrumental)

MARRY ME (Train / instrumental)

A THOUSAND YEARS (Christina Perri / instrumental – The Piano Guys)

ENDLESS LOVE (instrumental)



In the ancient world, a person’s ability to survive depended on being accepted by the community. In fact, a person labeled “tabu” meant he or she had been banished from the village, a fate worse than death. Community support was a key to happiness. In today’s weddings, that support is reflected in the recessional music.

Simply put, your recessional music as an audio version of your shared vision of the future. The transformation has occurred. Thirty minutes earlier, you entered sacred space as two individuals. Now you leave that space as a couple, united in a way that your family and friends recognize and affirm. You have the support of your community. This part of your ceremony is best described with the words: Happy, United, Welcomed, Transformed, Future.  Here are a few of my favorites:

YOU ARE THE BEST THING (LaMontagne / vocals)

STAND BY ME  (vocals)

HERE COMES THE SUN (Beatles / instrumental)

In my early conversations with every couple, I ask about the feeling they want their ceremony to convey. Responses span the gamut from sweet to solemn. What is universal is their desire to be seen as a couple. As you think about your ceremony music, remember that it will call everyone to dream. Your music is a gift to everyone who hears it.

About Zita

Zita brings “Happily Ever After” to life. She is a wedding officiant, ordained interfaith minister, a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant®, playwright and multipublished romance novelist. Through Moon River Rituals, Zita creates customized ceremonies for individuals, couples, families, and communities in CT, RI, MA, and NY. She is a proud supporter of marriage equality. To see her handfasting cords, visit and Zita also hosts and produces three television shows: Weddings with Zita, Page 1 and Full Bloom. Watch them on For information about Zita's writing, visit, Yes, she wears many hats
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