Wedding Song Checklist: Ceremony & Reception

Wedding Song Checklist: Ceremony & Reception

When it comes to your wedding day, there’s so much to arrange and get ready- not that we need to tell you that! Just like you need a checklist for the day of your wedding, you’ll also need one for your wedding music too! We want to help by taking you through the day of events with music so you’ll know what to expect. Follow our Wedding Song Checklist to help organize all the songs you'll need for your wedding. Bonus- we’ve listed the Top Wedding Reception Songs for each event (and look out for our "Wedding Tips"!) Planning out your music will be the easiest box to check off from your Wedding To-Do!

Bride and Groom twirling beneath a floral decorated pergola.

Wedding Ceremony: Walking Down the Aisle Music

The day you’ve been waiting for is finally here! It’s your time to walk down the aisle, profess your commitment, and live happily ever after. Choose music that celebrates this momentous occasion! Talk with your partner about the type of music you both would like for the ceremony. Consider both personal preferences and traditional ceremony melodies you may like to have.

Ceremony is set up in a wooden area with simple wooden pews and a decorated pergolaTaylor Hendrickson Photography

Wedding Prelude 

Before the ceremony starts, there will be some open time as everyone gets situated. The bridal party will be bustling around and guests will be finding their seats. Play some background music before the ceremony begins while everyone is getting ready. This will help relax and create the ambience for your wedding ceremony. In a traditional setting, soft instrumentals are usually selected. In a more open setting, couples may want a playlist of non-instrumental love tunes. Some popular choices are beloved Disney ballads or 50’s love songs. You’ll only need a selection of a few songs to play for about 15-25 minutes during this down time. 

Guests are seated in pews outside, waiting for the wedding ceremony to start.

Nina Francine Photography

Wedding Processional 

It’s time- the ceremony is going to begin! The background music will switch to play the wedding processional song. The couples’ parents, grandparents, and other special parties will proceed down the aisle. Following will be the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and flower girl and ring bearer. One song should allow enough time for the groups to reach their spots. The music could be a traditional instrumental, or a sweet melody. Some favorites of both are “Canon in D Major” by Johann Pachelbel and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole.

Wedding Tip: Walk Down The Aisle To The Perfect Wedding Processional Song

Ceremony is set outside in a woodsy area. The pews are made of wood and have tree stumps as support. Bridesmaid and Groomsman walking down the aisle. Nicole Marie Photography

Bridal Processional

Once the wedding party has found their places, there will be a brief pause. Awaiting the bride’s entrance, the music will switch and everyone will stand. A traditional bridal processional to use is Richard Wagner's "Wedding March- Here Comes The Bride". For something more modern, Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years" is a lovely choice. Find a song that is meaningful to you and your partner. Remember that this song will mark the beginning of a new chapter.

Bride and her father walking down the aisle. The ceremony is set up outside with beautiful greenery surrounding.Sarah Olfelt Photography

Unity Ceremony

A unity ceremony is something special the bride and groom can include in their wedding. It’s a symbolic gesture of their union. Examples of unity ceremonies are lighting a candle, planting a tree, and pouring sand into a vessel. Talk with your partner about whether this is something you both would like to include. Explore the activities listed or find one that feels meaningful for your relationship. Prepare one or two songs to accompany this treasured event.

Bride and Groom lighting a candle during their unity ceremony.

Wedding Shoppe Inc. Bridal Gown "Raelynn"- Rebecca Ingram | Sawyer Creek Photography

Wedding Recessional

After the couple’s marriage is officially announced, the newlyweds will begin to exit. Music will start up and the bride and groom will lead the way with the bridal party following behind. If in a traditional setting the couple may choose a formal wedding recessional song. If it’s an open setting, the couple may want to play a song that is special to them and reflects their relationship. This is YOUR moment! Find a special song to celebrate!

Bride and Groom doing a hip bump as they celebrate being newlyweds.Kiana Grant Photography

Wedding Music Playlists (Getting Ready, Cocktail Hour, Dinner)

Along with the formal times during a wedding to play music, there are also some less formal. These are the “in-between” times before the ceremony and during the reception. The song playlists can be more carefree because it’s not a focus of your wedding.

Wooden sign with various arrows, stating: " Vow Here", "Party There", "Love Everywhere"Shelby Taylor Photography

Getting Ready

There’s more to it than just getting ready for the day- it’s about hanging out with your friends! Enjoy this time and put together a playlist that both bridal parties can listen to. Have fun and be silly with picking out music- it’s just for you guys! You can also task a bridesmaid or a groomsman with this job. Tell them to add the newer hits and find your crew’s old-school favorites! If the day comes and making a playlist was forgotten, it’s okay- just go on Spotify and search for one already made. This music will surely elevate the mood and pump everyone up to get ready to celebrate! We can cheers to that!

Bride and Bridesmaids wearing matching robes and heart-shaped sunglasses, holding glasses of champagne.Ciara Grace Photography

Cocktail Hour/ Dinner

During cocktail hour and dinner, it's nice to play "background music" while everyone mingles and converses. If you have a DJ, you can ask for their suggestion of playlists they have ready for this section of the evening. Some weddings will play relaxed instrumentals and others may want jazzy 50’s tunes. Since this isn’t the “party time” music and everyone will be busy talking with each other, there’s no need to overthink it! Any music works just as long as it’s quiet enough so that your guests can comfortably chat!

Wedding Tip: 50 Songs For Your Wedding Dinner Music

Reception room set up with guests mingling during the cocktail hour.

Tessa June Photography

Wedding Reception

You just got married- it’s time to celebrate! The wedding reception is a jubilant occasion to honor the newlyweds. Put simply, it's party time! Much like the ceremony, your reception will have its own special moments. Find music that you and your partner will enjoy- and have fun, this is your time to shine!

Refurbished barn and building set up for a wedding reception. Twinkly lights drape across the side.Legacy Hill FarmCameron & Tia Photography 

Bridal Party Entrance Songs

Let’s get this party started! The bridal party will make an entrance to kickoff this celebration.  Following cocktail hour mingling, everyone will get seated for dinner. The DJ will play the bridal parties’ song(s) and announce their arrival. This is when the bridesmaids and groomsmen will make their way to the head table. Find a song with an upbeat tempo to liven up the room and pump up the energy! If you would like, the DJ can introduce all of the pairs as they pass by. This marks the beginning of the nights’ festivities and is meant to be fun and light-hearted. Some wedding parties will even do a silly brief performance. Feel free to talk with your bridal party to see if they have any ideas. There are no rules except to have fun with this!

The Top Bridal Party Entrance Songs:

  • “I Gotta Feeling” - Black Eyed Peas
  • “Can’t Stop The Feeling” - Justin Timberlake
  • “24K Magic” - Bruno Mars
  • “Party Rock Anthem” - LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennet
  • “Celebration” - Kool and The Gang 

    Bridesmaid and Groomsmen making an entrance into the receptionChelsea Jean Photography

    Newlywed’s Grand Entrance

    Now it’s your turn! This is your big day and everyone is here to celebrate you both! Once the bridal party has made their way to the head table, it’ll be your time to make a grand entrance as newlyweds. Everyone will stand and cheer you on as the DJ announces and welcomes you in. Many times a couple will do a cutesy move like a twirl, dip, and kiss! For this big entrance you’ll need to find a song that matches the excitement for your big day! It could be a pump-up party tune or a rocking-fun love song. Music tip: you can also continue the same song that the bridal party used! Either way, find a song or two that will be a fun jam to start the night!

    The Top Grand Entrance Songs:

  • “Treasure” - Bruno Mars
  • “I’m a Believer” - Smash Mouth
  • “You Make My Dreams Come True” - Hall & Oates
  • (plus use any songs from the bridal parties’ list!)

    Bride and Groom walking into their reception. The venue is a grand building with chandeliers and ornate wall structures.Penny Photographics

    First Dance

    Before you all can dance the night away, you’ll start the celebration with a first dance. This is a symbolic gesture the newlyweds share as they are starting a new chapter together. Of all the songs you need for your wedding, this is one of the most important. Find a song with a sentimental significance or one that would be meaningful for you both.

    The Top First Dance Wedding Songs:

  • “Somebody Like You”  Keith Urban
  • “All of Me” - John Legend
  • “Die A Happy Man” - Thomas Rhett
  • “Perfect” - Ed Sheeran
  • “Speechless” - Dan & Shay
  • “Can’t Help Falling In Love” - Elvis Presley
  • “All My Life” - K-Ci & JoJo

    Wedding Tip: Unique First Dance Songs & How To Pick Yours

    Bride and Groom having their First Dance.Whims and Joy Photography

    Father/Daughter Dance

    The father/daughter dance follows the first dance. This is a special moment for the bride to share with her dad. A song should be picked out that best represents their relationship and unique bond. This could be a slower song with a sweet message, or a more fast-paced swinging song that they can bop around to. The bride could ask for her dad’s input, or use a song that she knows would be perfect for them. This will truly be a treasured memory for the bride and her dad. 

    The Top Father/Daughter Songs:

    • "Isn't She Lovely" - Stevie Wonder
    • "My Girl" - The Temptations
    • "Brown-Eyed Girl" (Wedding Cut) - Van Morrison
    • "I Loved Her First" - Heartland
    • "My Little Girl" - Tim McGraw
    • "All That You Could Be" - Kenny Rogers

    Wedding Tip: How To Choose a Father-Daughter Dance Song

    Bride and her father doing a cute circle spin moving during the Father-Daughter Dance.Tonya Hjort Photography

    Mother/Son Dance

    Up next is the mother/son dance. As with the previous dance, this is a special moment for the groom to share with his mom. The groom could talk with her and find one together or his mom may have one in mind she would like to use. The groom could also pick out a song with a sweet message and surprise his mom. This will be a greatly cherished memory for the groom and his mom.

    The Top Mother/Son Songs:

  • “How Sweet It Is” - James Taylor
  • “My Wish” - Rascal Flatts
  • “That’s What Mamas Are For” - Chris Lane
  • “Humble and Kind” - Tim McGraw
  • “Letter to My Mother” - Edwin McCain
  • “The Best Part of Me” - Lee Brice

    Wedding Tip: 30 Mother-Son Dance Songs For Your Wedding Reception

    Groom and his mother doing a spin during the Mother-Son Dance.Penny Photographics

    Wedding Party Songs

    It’s time to party! Once the formal dances have finished, the dance floor will be open to everyone. The first song you pick is crucial because it needs to kickstart the rest of the party and energize the crowd! Sometimes it’s fun if the bride and groom have their bridal party join the dance floor first to get the night hyped up. Pick a song that would make you have to run to the dance floor!

    The Top Wedding Party Songs:

  • “Uptown Funk” - Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
  • “Don’t Stop The Party” - Pitbull ft. TJR
  • “Good Feeling” - Flo Rida
  • “Starships” - Nicki Minaj
  • “Let’s Get It Started In Here” - Black Eyed Peas
  • “Timber” - Pitbull ft. Ke$ha
  • “This Is How We Do It” - Montell Jordan 
  • “Shout” - The Isley Brothers

    Bride and Groom with a group on the dance floor

    Kiana Grant Photography

    Dollar Dance

    The dollar dance is a fun way for guests to shower the newlyweds with money. It’s also a way for guests to chat with the bride and groom one-on-one and give their well-wishes. For some family weddings this is a tradition and it is requested. For others, this dance might not be as common. The decision to have a dollar dance is up to the bride and groom and what they feel comfortable with. Just remember if you do decide to have it, to pick out at least two fun songs that are easy to talk and dance to!

    The Top Dollar Dance Songs:

  • “Superstition” - Stevie Wonder
  • “You’re My Best Friend” - Queen
  • “September” - Earth, Wind, and Fire
  • Groom dancing with a relative during the Dollar DancePenny Photographics

    Cake Cutting

    The cake cutting is such a sweet moment between the bride and groom! The more modern message of the tradition is that the couple will always support and care for one another. Although other desserts are trending, many couples still buy a small cake for them to cut together. This is a cute activity for the newlyweds to be playful with and the song should be just as sweet as the cake!

    The Top Cake Cutting Songs:

  • “No One” - Alicia Keys
  • “I Do” - Colbie Caillat
  • “Fly Me To The Moon” - Frank Sinatra
  • “Adore You” - Harry Styles
  • “From This Moment On” - Shania Twain

     Groom and Bride cutting their wedding cake.Nicole Castonguay Photography

    Bouquet Toss

    The bouquet toss is a tradition that the bride shares with all of the single and unmarried ladies. It’s meant as a fun way for the bride to pass on luck as the bouquet is said to represent good luck and happiness. Make sure to pick out an awesome girl power song for these ladies to dance to and get excited to catch the bouquet! The DJ will announce for the ladies to gather on the dance floor and the bride will throw her bouquet over to the crowd. It’s said that whoever catches the bouquet will be the next lady to be married. 

    The Top Bouquet Toss Songs:

  • “Single Ladies” - Beyonce
  • “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” - Cyndi Lauper
  • “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” - Shania Twain
  • Bride throwing her bouquet to a crowd of womenAnastasia Jet-Wondery Photography

    Garter Toss

    The garter toss is also a wedding tradition that coincides with the bouquet toss. It is for all of the single and unmarried guys. As with all traditions, it is a decision for the couple to make if they decide to include them, or put their own spin on it. The garter toss is meant as a silly romantic moment for the newlyweds as the groom retrieves the bride’s garter. Pick an entertaining song for the guys to gather on the dance floor and wait for the garter to be thrown. Again, it’s said that whoever catches the garter will be the next guy to get married. 

    The Top Garter Toss Songs:

  • “SexyBack” - Justin Timberlake ft. Timbaland
  • “Pony” - Ginuwine
  • ‘Let’s Get It On” - Marvin Gaye

    Groom wearing sunglasses, getting ready to throw the garter to a crowd of guysKimberly Williams Photography

    Closing Song

    As the end of the night is nearing, make sure to close out your wedding with some fun jams! For these last couple of songs, you’ll want to get everyone out on the dance floor. Pull out all of the stops and play a crowd classic. Pick a tune that everyone knows and can dance together in a group as they belt out the lyrics. These last couple songs of a wedding are always the most fun because it brings everyone together!

    The Top Wedding Closing Songs:

  • “Love On Top” - Beyonce
  • “Let’s Get Married” - Jagged Edge
  • “Fishing In The Dark” - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  • “Friends In Low Places” - Garth Brooks
  • “Wagon Wheel” - Darius Rucker
  • “Marry You” - Bruno Mars
  • “As Long As You Love Me” - Backstreet Boys
  • “Crocodile Rock” - Elton John

    Bride hanging out with a bridesmaid on the dance floor.Nicole Castonguay Photography

    Last Dance

     Make a big circle with your friends and loved ones out on the dance floor and rock this last song out! It doesn’t matter if it’s a love ballad or a crowd-rocking song, it’ll get everyone you know together for a group hug dance! As you all sway back and forth and yell the lyrics in unison, it’s the best way to end the night! You’ll feel the love in the room that came together just for your wedding. As the song ends, go into the middle with your partner and do a couple of those spins you’ve been perfecting! Everyone will cheer and clap as you take a final dip. 

    The Top Last Dance Songs:

  • “Piano Man” - Billy Joel
  • “Sweet Caroline” - Neil Diamond
  • “Joy To The World” - Three Dog Night
  • “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” - Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
  • “Don’t Stop Believin’” - Journey
  • “Livin’ On A Prayer” - Bon Jovi
  • “Sweet Caroline” - Neil Diamond 
  • “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” - Aerosmith

    Let’s Chat!

    We hope that this event song checklist helps you plan what music to play at your wedding! Also, please keep in mind that your wedding does not need to include all or any of these events. You can also always add any events that weren’t even listed! Your wedding is special- so make this day uniquely yours! Plan your ceremony and reception for what works for you and play songs that make you and your partner happy. Please let us know if our checklist and song recommendations have helped you! Happy Planning!

    Bride and Groom dipping for a kiss, surrounded by two rows of guests holding sparklers.Laura Ann Photography 

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