Love notes part two
Choosing music for your civil ceremony

You may have already spotted part one of this post on incorporating music into a church wedding ceremony? As Civil Ceremonies are becoming more and more popular in Ireland, I thought it was important to explore the possibilities of this option also!  I really enjoy playing at civil ceremonies as there is huge potential for couples to inject their own sense of style and personality. As they are often shorter than church ceremonies, choosing music and readings help to create a sense of focus and highlight the significant moments as they unfold.

As it is not a religious ceremony you have a lot more freedom with the type of music that you can choose, though I know in some ways that can make your decision even more daunting! Many of the non-religious pieces listed in the last music post would be perfectly appropriate and suitable for a civil ceremony. But you don’t have to take the traditional or classical route either.

Think about the tone of your ceremony. Do you want it to be traditional and profound, light hearted and humorous, relaxed and edgy or maybe a mixture of them all? Your choice of music will immediately set the tone and create anticipation and atmosphere for your guests. The other thing I would recommend keeping in mind is the style and size of your ceremony venue. For example if your venue is quite small it may not be appropriate to go for the full choir and organ option!

There’s no right or wrong wedding music list. The most important question to consider with every aspect of your big day is does it feel like ‘you’? While tradition gives us inspiration and a place to start, every wedding ceremony should be unique and personal by blending your style, taste, personality and life experience with that of your other half.

I have listed my own personal favourites below, but don’t be afraid to suggest something a little out of the ordinary to your musicians, even if it doesn’t seem ‘weddingy’. Choosing songs or pieces that you love in ‘real life’ and that have significance to you as a couple will enhance the entire ceremony and bring back such special memories when you hear them again in the future!

Just remember to check with your registrar or solemniser if there are any particular restrictions to your musical choices. Depending on the type of your civil ceremony, be it a legal ceremony in a registry office, or approved venue, or an alternative wedding blessing, you may not be able to include religious hymns or pieces.

The running order of your ceremony will also vary depending on the type of civil ceremony that you have. I have outlined the common structure of a legal Irish civil ceremony and highlighted the sections where you could include music, but generally you have plenty of flexibility in terms of where music can occur, and can choose as much or as little as you feel appropriate for you as a couple.

Most ceremony musicians will play music as your guests are arriving at the ceremony. You can choose specific favourites, or ask them to play a selection of songs they feel would be appropriate to the setting. Most of your guests will be mingling and chatting at this point so it mainly serves as background music to create the atmosphere and anticipation.

  • Processional: As in a traditional church ceremony, the moment when the bride walks up the aisle is one of the most emotive and significant parts of the whole day. You want to choose a song that will set the tone for the rest of the ceremony, and also highlight the great adventure that you’re about to embark on!

Popular classical options:  Canon in D by PachelbelArrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel, Bridal Chorus by Wagner, Gabriels Oboe.

Popular traditional Irish options: Inis Oirr,  She Moved Through The Fair.

Popular Contemporary options: Somewhere over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo, Songbird by Eva Cassidy, Blackbird by the Beatles, Feels like Home by Norah Jones, Marry You by Bruno Mars.

  • Opening words of the Officiant.
  • The Giving of Marriage (Optional): Not all couples choose to have this part of the ceremony included, however it can be nice to have a short piece of music at this point to lead into the main part of the ceremony.

Popular classical options: Winter by Vivaldi, Air on G by Bach, Clair de Lune by Debussy.

Popular traditional Irish options: Tabhair dom do lamh, The Coolin.

Popular contemporary options: Make you feel my Love by Adele/Bob Dylan, The Blowers Daughter by Damien Rice, I Will by The Beatles.

  • Opening Prayer or Reading: Some couples choose to have a piece of music played quietly in the background as this is being read. However be careful that the music doesn’t over power or distract from the words and meaning of the reading itself. An alternative option would be to play a piece at some point between the first and second reading.

Popular classical options:  Lascia Chio Pianga by Handel, Pavane by Faure, Arioso by Bach, The Swan by Saint-Saens.

Popular traditional Irish options: Planxty Irwin, Lord Inchiquin.

Popular Contemporary Options: The Rivers flows in you/Bella’s Lullaby by Carter Burwell, God Only Knows by The Beach Boys, Once Upon a Time in the West by Morricone, The Voyage by Christy Moore.

  • Definition of Marriage.
  • Wedding Vows: Many couples opt to have a piece of music played after they have exchanged wedding vows.

Popular classical options: Meditation by Massenet, You Raise Me Up by Secret Garden, Cavelleria Rusticana by Mascagni.

Popular traditional Irish options: Woodbrook by Micheal O’Suilleabhain, Si Beag, si Mor, The Sally Gardens.

Popular contemporary options: One Hand One Heart by Bernstein, La Onde by Einaudi, Fields of Gold by Eva Cassuidy, The Blessing by David Downes, From This Moment by Shania Twain.

  • Second Reading.
  • Exchange of Rings.

  • Lighting of Unity Candle: A lovely opportunity to catch your breath and pause with some music before the final declaration of marriage.

Popular classical options: The Prayer by Celtic Woman, The Flower Duet by Delibes, Gabriels Oboe by Morricone, Nocturne by Secret Garden.

Popular traditional Irish options: Inis Oirr, The Butterfly, She Moved Through The Fair.

Popular contemporary options: True Colours by Cyndi Lauper, Better by Tom Baxter, Greatest Day by Take That, Come What May from Moulin Rouge.

  • Declaration of Marriage
  • Introduction of Newlyweds.
  • Recessional: You’ve made it! You get to walk out in front of all your family and friends for the first time as husband and wife. Normally I would recommend couples opt for something particularly special for them, or if you have no particular preference something that is upbeat and joyous suits the moment really well.

Popular classical options: The Wedding March by Mendelssohn, La Rejouissance by Handel, Water Music  by Handel, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel.

Popular tradtional Irish options: The Butterfly, O’Carolans Concerto

Popular contemporary options: All you Need is Love by the Beatles, One Day Like This by Elbow, A Moment Like This by Leona Lewis.

I hope these suggestions have given you some ideas for how to choose the right music for your ceremony. If you would like any more individual help or suggestions be sure to drop me a line here!

Sound of Serendipity are available for traditional church ceremonies and civil ceremonies and would be delighted to contribute to your special day.

Image Credits:

1. Brandon Kidd Photography | 2. K. Holly Photography | 3. Amy Carroll Photography via Once Wed | 4. Clayton Austin via Green Wedding Shoes | 5. Ello There on Etsy via Hi Fi Weddings | 6. John Robert Woods & Jessi Haack via Ruffled | 7. Ello There | 8. Ashley Rose & Jesi Haack via Green Wedding Shoes   

Posted in Music | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Love notes part two
Choosing music for your civil ceremony

  1. Hmm, I wonder what She Moved Through the Fair would sound like on a trumpet? Some friends of ours have agreed to play at the ceremony… Great ideas there, thanks for a great post.

    • Hi Jenny, I think she moved through the fair could sound great on the trumpet! My husband’s a trumpet player so I should probably get his expert opinion first but I think it could be simple and striking! All the best for the rest of the preparations for your big day!

  2. Caroline

    God only knows is The Beach Boys!

  3. Caroline

    Nice site btw

  4. Fiona

    Hi their I’m getting married next June civil ceremony and would like some suggesting for songs were both in our late 40 s I would like song bird walkin down the aisle would it be ok do u think ??

    • Ciara

      Hi Fiona, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! Song bird is a beautiful song and could be a lovely choice for your ceremony. I find it works best for voice and piano or guitar rather than strings so keep that in mind when booking musicians. I always recommend choosing songs that you love for any occasion or special songs that have meaning to you both. The wonderful thing about a civil ceremony is that you are free to choose whatever you wish for the music! Hope it goes really well, Ciara

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