30 beautiful pieces of classical music for your wedding ceremony

9 June 2023, 17:58 | Updated: 5 February 2024, 16:39

From organ works to delicate pieces for string quartet – the most beautiful pieces of classical wedding music
From organ works to delicate pieces for string quartet – the most beautiful pieces of classical wedding music. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

From bridal choruses to rousing hymns, soundtrack every moment of your special day with the classical greats.

Walking down the aisle, signing the register, the first dance – at every stage of your wedding or civil ceremony, there’s an opportunity for sublime classical music to match.

Here are some pieces that have stood the test of time, peppered with a few more recent favourites, to help make the music on your special day as memorable and well-rehearsed as the speeches.

Read more: Singer’s surprise marriage proposal brings the house down at San Francisco Opera’s Tosca

Music before the ceremony

  1. 1. Bach – Wachet Auf

    The perfect prelude to the wedding procession. If you’re having a church ceremony, Bach’s ‘Wachet Auf’ is a great organ favourite to have playing out as the guests arrive.

    Bach - Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme BWV 645 - Zerer | Netherlands Bach Society

  2. 2. Vivaldi – ‘Spring’ (Four Seasons)

    Keep up the tempo with some sprightly Vivaldi and ‘Spring’ from his eternal Four Seasons. Or, for a more modern take, try Max Richter’s ‘Recomposed’ version.

    Read more: 10 of Vivaldi’s greatest pieces of music

    Vivaldi Four Seasons: Spring (La Primavera) Full, original. Youssefian & Voices of Music RV 269 4K

  3. 3. Mozart – Ave Verum Corpus

    You can’t go wrong with Mozart and this sublime work for organ and choir. If you have a string quartet playing, try one of the lovely arrangements for strings.

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Ave Verum Corpus

  4. 4. Howard Shore – ‘Concerning Hobbits’

    For something a touch more contemporary, Howard Shore’s ‘Concerning Hobbits’ from The Lord of the Rings is becoming a 21st-century wedding favourite. Filled with sweeping string lines which give way to that main, lilting waltz theme, its chipper tone makes it the perfect musical match for a room of eager guests.

    Read more: The 50 best film scores of all time

    The Fellowship of the Ring Soundtrack-02-Concerning Hobbits

  5. 5. Édith Piaf/Marguerite Monnot – Hymne de l’amour

    If you’re after some schmaltz, this transcription of an Édith Piaf song is a wonderful choice.

    HYMNE À L'AMOUR - Édith Piaf/Marguerite Monnot - Paris Tour Eiffel - Gautier Capuçon

  6. 6. Saint-Saëns – The Swan

    It’s popular for a reason; Saint-Saëns’ ‘The Swan’ has the perfect serene pace and sweeping melody to set the scene for your ceremony to begin. There’s a beautiful version out there for cello and harp duet.

    Yo-Yo Ma, Kathryn Stott - The Swan (Saint-Saëns)

  7. 7. Handel – ‘Alla Hornpipe’ from Water Music Suites

    If you’re after that majestic, sound-the-trumpets Baroque sound, you can’t go wrong with this timeless melody from Handel’s Water Music Suites.

    Handel Water Music: Hornpipe; FestspielOrchester Göttingen, Laurence Cummings, director 4K

Walking down the aisle

  1. 8. Handel – Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

    There are a few different musical directions you could take for the procession down the aisle. For something glorious and ceremonial, the majesty of Handel is always a great choice.

    Handel: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba | Academy of Ancient Music

  2. 10. Wagner – Bridal Chorus

    If traditional is what you’re after, it doesn’t get more so than the Bridal Chorus from Wagner’s 1850 opera Lohengrin, more popularly known as ‘Here Comes the Bride’.

    Vorspiel & Brautchor · Richard Wagner: Lohengrin · Kendlinger

  3. 9. Handel – Eternal Source of Light Divine

    Handel sets a steadier pace in this celestial piece, composed in 1713 to mark the birthday of Queen Anne. Meghan Markle had it played as she walked down the aisle in St George’s Chapel to marry Prince Harry.

    Read more: What music was played at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle?

    Eternal Source of Light Divine - G.F.Handel arr. Christian Forshaw

  4. 11. Bach – Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

    You can just picture heads turning up the aisle, as this piece of transcendent beauty plays out. Bach’s ‘Ave Maria’ is another lovely choice.

    Daniil Trifonov – Bach: Cantata BWV 147: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Transcr. Hess for Piano)

  5. 12. Pachelbel – Canon in D

    What could hail the arrival of the bridal party better than this all-time wedding favourite? Starting with just a solo cello, and ending in a blaze of violin virtuosity, Pachelbel’s Canon in D builds in intensity in time for the nearlyweds to meet at the altar.

    Pachelbel Canon in D Major - the original and best version.

  6. 13. Morricone – Gabriel’s Oboe

    Now a wedding favourite, Morricone’s ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ – also known as ‘Nella Fantasia’ – is the main theme for the 1986 film The Mission. It’s a wonderful choice for the procession.

    HAUSER plays 'Gabriel's Oboe' from The Mission by Ennio Morricone | Classic FM Live

Hymns (for a church wedding)

If you’re having a religious ceremony, hymns are a lovely way to break up the readings and exchanging of vows. Most church ceremonies will feature two to three hymns, to be sung by the congregation.

  1. 14. Parry – Jerusalem

    Not everyone in the congregation will be familiar with less well-known hymns, so picking a lively song with a simple tune will ensure as many people sing as possible. ‘Jerusalem’ by Parry is always a reliable choice.

    Jerusalem, from St Paul's Cathedral in London

  2. 15. Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer

    Suitably rousing, and with a wonderfully memorable descant-like interjection from the choir’s bass section, this hymn featured at the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine, in 2011.

    Charlotte Church - Guide Me Oh Thou Great Redeemer (Live From Jerusalem 2001)

  3. 16. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

    With its uplifting lyrics and rising melody, this much-loved hymn is like a warm embrace.

    Love Divine, All Loves Excelling | The Tabernacle Choir

  4. 17. How Great Thou Art

    If you’re having a church wedding, this would be a great choice right before the final blessing, reflecting the joyous mood of the congregation before the reception.

    The Mission / How Great Thou Art - The Piano Guys (Wonder of The World 2 of 7)

Signing the register

  1. 18. Fauré – Cantique de Jean Racine

    If you have a choir performing, how about Fauré’s choral classic for a contemplative and soothing soundtrack?

    VOCES8: Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Fauré

  2. 19. Rutter – The Lord Bless You and Keep You

    John Rutter’s angelic setting of the Priestly Blessing works perfectly for church nuptials.

    The Lord bless you and keep you - John Rutter, The Cambridge Singers, City of London Sinfonia

  3. 20. Franck – Panis Angelicus

    Soaring soprano lines and a recognisable melody to connect with the guests as the couple signs the register, you can’t go wrong with Franck’s famous setting of ‘Panis Angelicus’.

    Franck: Panis Angelicus (Stereo)

  4. 21. Elgar – Salut d’amour

    Sometimes the signing can take longer than a couple of pieces, and there are so many great pieces to choose from, it seems a shame to settle with one. Why not let the guests indulge in Elgar’s romantic melody, ‘Salut d’amour’?

    Min Kym plays Elgar's 'Salut d'amour' with Ian Brown

As the guests walk out

  1. 23. Mendelssohn – Wedding March

    Hooray! The betrothed are now officially wed, and now it’s time to sound the King of instruments and celebrate the happy couple with the classic ‘Wedding March’ originally from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    Mendelssohn: Wedding March / Abbado · Berliner Philharmoniker

  2. 22. Widor – ‘Toccata’ from Organ Symphony No.5

    If organ music is what you’re after, send your guests out of the ceremony with the high-spirited ‘Toccata’ from Widor’s Organ Symphony No.5.


  3. 24. Parry – I Was Glad

    Also a good option for the earlier procession, Parry’s ‘I Was Glad’ is all things regal and celebratory in its mood.

    I Was Glad

Reception music

  1. 25. Mozart – Divertimentos

    The musical fun doesn’t stop after the ceremony. While your guests eat, a bit of light music to accompany their meal will keep the atmosphere flowing. Mozart’s Divertimentos for string quartet work well here – their simple tunes won’t drown out the conversation.

    W.A. Mozart: «Divertimento» KV 563 / Veronika Eberle / Amihai Grosz / Sol Gabetta

  2. 26. Gershwin – Summertime

    A string quartet playing well-known tunes like Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ from his opera Porgy and Bess would be a hit as the evening progresses.

    Gershwin: Summertime ∙ Adina Aaron ∙ Andrés Orozco-Estrada

  3. 27. The Entertainer – Scott Joplin

    For something else a bit jazzy, try Scott Joplin’s ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ or ‘The Entertainer’.

    Scott Joplin - The Entertainer

  4. 28. Delibes – The Flower Duet

    The repeating refrains of this lovely soprano-mezzo duet, which has become a popular piece of incidental music over the years, will be familiar to most guests, without being a distraction from conversation. It would sound lovely played by a string quartet.

    Johannesburg Opera singers perform incredible duet of Lakme on TikTok

First dance

  1. 29. Craig Armstrong – Glasgow Theme (Love Actually)

    Some couples opt for a slow piece of romantic music, so why not take inspiration from film music, and the beautiful Glasgow Love Theme from Love Actually?

    Glasgow Love Theme

  2. 30. Tchaikovsky – The Sleeping Beauty Waltz

    For something more upbeat, you can’t go wrong with a waltz. Tchaikovsky’s graceful ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Waltz or Strauss’ ‘Blue Danube’ will both get everyone in a dancing mood.

    Tchaikovsky - Sleeping Beauty Waltz