First a quick definition: the “processional” song is the music that’s playing once the ceremony begins, and the various groomsmen and bridesmaids are walking down the aisle. The bride may make her entrance to this song, or she could have her own music (“Here Comes The Bride” being the obvious choice.)
Picking the perfect processional song is not that easy. Most people will go for any song that has special meaning to them as a couple. That’s a good start, but remember that you won’t be the only ones hearing it. You need something that will resonate with your whole guest list, something that will please your snooty, music-nerd cousin as much as your elderly grandmother.
Your processional is not just symbolic. It’s also practical. Remember that your entire wedding party has to walk to this music. You need something brisk enough to get them to the altar relatively quickly, but slow enough they can maintain some sense of dignity.
Confused yet? Relax: we’ve lined up 11 Plunge-worthy songs for you to consider, along with some pros and cons for each.
Dream A Little Dream of Me – Various Artists
“Dream A Little Dream of Me” keeps things upbeat without being too peppy, and stays romantic throughout without dipping into eye-roll inducing sappiness. There are plenty of versions to choose from: the cocktail cool Doris Day, the optimistic folk vibe of The Mama’s and The Papa’s version, or the easy swing of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, to name a few.
Pros: Excellent tempo for walking down the aisle–not so quick the bridesmaids will feel rushed, but not so slow the guests will be checking their watches.
Cons: Not great for those who are concerned with looking current.
Tonight Is So Right For Love – Elvis Presley
“Can’t Help Falling In Love” is the an obvious choice for a track from the King–along with “Love Me Tender,” “Loving You,” and “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.” We’re going to go with something out of left field: “Tonight Is So Right For Love,” from the soundtrack to GI Blues. This early ‘60s Presley joint has a jittery impatience that perfectly fits the happy anticipation of a bride and groom about to say their vows.
Pros: Lyrics like “Who’d believe that we’d be here/ So near to paradise” fit the occasion perfectly.
Cons: Those back-up vocals are a bit much.
Baby You’re A Rich Man – The Beatles
If you and your bride are more of a classic rock couple (or if you just want to throw a bone to your dad), the Beatles are an obvious choice. Most people go with romantic standards like “Here Comes The Sun,” “Here There And Everywhere” or “Something,” but we’re pushing for the relatively obscure “Baby, You’re A Rich Man.” It’s kind of trippy, but it’s all about celebration, which seems as good a way to start a wedding ceremony as any.
Pros: Sets a good walking pace, which makes it ideal for larger wedding parties.
Cons: Not terribly romantic; might trigger acid flashbacks in your older relatives.
Strawberry Swing – Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean’s 2011 cover of this lilting Coldplay song comes with a real romantic vibe (though you might have to fade before that alarm clock at the end). The pace is quick enough for a good walk, without forcing anyone to trot.
Pros: It sounds like the start of something momentous and exciting.
Cons: Some of Ocean’s added lyrics, which include atom bombs, a dying world and instructions to “Cry, cry, cry, even though that won’t change a thing.”
Richard Wagner: Siegfried’s Funeral March
Wagner is no stranger to wedding entrance music, his “Bridal Chorus” from Lohengrin is the original version of the most famous wedding song of all: “Here Comes The Bride.” But we prefer this more epic piece for your grand entrance. Wagner knew epic (he wrote “The Ride of The Valkyries” after all). This moment from Siegfried’s Funeral March will mark your entrance with pure swagger, like a Viking king riding back to his mead hall in triumph.
Pros: Unforgettable–literally. This choice is so dramatic and ridiculous your guests will be talking about it 30 years from now.
Cons: Not great for Jewish weddings (Wagner was anti-Semitic to the extreme. He makes Hitler look like a Yeshiva student in comparison)
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) – the Beach Boys
One of the most classic love songs out there, off of one of the most beautiful albums ever, “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” is a gorgeous song that will let your wife know you’ll always be there for her (and let you know the same).
Pros: A lovely sentiment, perfectly expressed.
Cons: Slow as hell. It will take you 25 minutes to get to the altar. Also, some might think you’re telling your bride to shut the hell up.
Beautiful War – Kings Of Leon
This great song about the hard road to true love, comes with a great break near the last minute that is a perfect lead in for the bride to start her walk down the aisle.
Pro: Uplifting, earnest, feels like the right kind of way to celebrate the moment.
Con: You’d need to practice the walk, and the double time bass line may make certain members of your wedding party sprint down the aisle if you don’t tell them to only pay attention to the steady drum beat.
No One Like You – Best Coast
A slower, more romantic modern song. If you don’t want to walk down the aisle to this one, you’ll definitely want to save it to dance to (and maybe even for the first dance).
Pros: Will make you seem hip and retro at the same time.
Cons: It’s in waltz time, which is traditional for processionals, but can lead to that embarrassing start-stop way of walking. And you know someone is going to mess it up (that someone is you.)
Happy Together – The Turtles
While people might think of The Turtles as a one hit wonder, their one hit sure was a good one. “Happy Together” is a fun, romantic song it’ll make for a great entrance to the ceremony.
Pros: Subject appropriate, sunny and generally optimistic, always a plus at a wedding.
Cons: This one has been on a lot of ads for “Golden Oldie” collections, so you risk looking a little too retro.
Young Folks – Peter, Bjorn, and John
Catchy, a little funky, once annoyingly hip, but enough time has passed for it to be tolerable again. Lyrically, this is a song about two people falling in love, and not caring about superficial things like style or age–so it fits the occasion perfectly.
Pros: Quick enough to get everyone to the altar briskly, but not so quick that Uncle Joe trips over his shoelaces.
Cons: Could be insulting to anyone Asian, as the main theme is basically the old racist “Oriental riff” used to represent Chinese people in cartoons.
The Ceremony – George Jones and Tammy Wynette
This one is pretty literal, as this classic country power couple sing their vows in a musical recreation of a traditional wedding ceremony.
Pros: George Jones and Tammy Wynette, who had two of the most beautiful voices of the 20th century.
Cons: George Jones and Tammy Wynette, whose marriage ended in alcoholism and divorce.
— Evan O’Donnell and Jon Moskowitz