Washington state is known not only for its intense rainfall but also for its lush forests that grow because of it. One such woodland -- a grassy clearing at the base of the Cascade Mountains -- is where Jennie Barna decided to get married. On a sunny, summer day, guests gathered next to a stream and watched her walk down a flower-strewn path to U2's "Beautiful Day." A beautiful day, indeed!
As a friend and guest at the affair, I thought the song seemed perfectly suited to the occasion -- and to the happy couple. Why go traditional if your wedding (or you and your groom) aren't mainstream folks? You don't have to! And this bride explains why.
"We didn't want … traditional … stale and old and overdone. We wanted to make [the wedding] unique in our own way," Barna says. "It's a joyous song. I had a lot of people say ours was one of the nicest ceremonies they've been to."
It's funny how we categorize things based on our perspective. To one person, "traditional" equates to classic and timeless. To another, the word takes on a pejorative meaning that's code for tired, unoriginal and cliché.
Where do you fall on this spectrum? It's helpful to know this before you start looking for that all-important song you'll walk down the aisle to. If you find yourself a bit outside of the mainstream (or miles from it), you may want to pick a fresh, unestablished song for your big entrance. This song will set the tone for the ceremony and give everyone a peek at your bridal style before the reception, so there's a lot to consider when choosing it.
Thinking Outside the Music Box
If you're like a lot of love birds, songs like the "Wedding March" or Pachelbel's Canon may not speak to your special relationship. Sure, they're classics. Generations of brides have chosen them for their processionals, and you'd be carrying on a time-honored tradition by selecting them, too. But do they set the tone for the journey you're embarking on together?
The song you choose for your walk down the aisle is an opportunity to articulate your love in a specific, personalized way. And playing music that complements your wedding's theme is another way to set the mood for the vows and the party to follow. Walking down the aisle barefoot and exchanging vows next to a rushing river? Saying "I do" in a forest with an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed reception to follow? Getting hitched in Vegas? These are all solid examples of weddings that deserve a special soundtrack.
And let's not forget the fun factor. Your guests will be expecting an organ or harpist -- your entrance will really blow them away when they hear the opening strains of a heavy metal anthem or even an a cappella choir.
Before you make your final selection, take a few things into consideration. Not everyone may share your enthusiasm for Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters." A little ditty off the beaten path may offend conservative relatives or friends -- and the ceremony site might have restrictions that limit your choice. Just remember that you're choosing a unique song to set the mood for the event, and part of being a good hostess is making sure that your guests are comfortable. Think about how your musical selection will be received. Accept the consequences, or pick something else.
It's tough to tell how your tastes or feelings may change years from now, but try to settle on a song you won't regret down the road (also good advice for whatever dress you choose for your bridesmaids!).
Have we convinced you to look beyond string quartets? We have a few song suggestions for you on the next page.
Picking a Piece for the Processional
Weddings are typically planned by the bride. It's not news that this milestone event tends to reflect her tastes, not her beau's. A formal, sophisticated affair featuring a trio of violin players during a seated dinner may very well show that the bride is fairly serious herself. On the other hand, a bride holding a bouquet of wildflowers as she saunters down the aisle to a reggae band rocking some bongo drums is probably pretty casual or playful in spirit.
Deciding on the right song can be overwhelming. Fortunately, it doesn't need to be. Instead of perusing a gluttony of songs you dig (and hoping one jumps out at you), try this. First, narrow your options. Only entertain ones that fit the tone of the overall celebration. Here are three easy tips to whittle your list. Choose a song that:
- matches the overall wedding tone
- holds meaning for you and your fiancé
- leaves guests in a wake of energy -- a vibe -- that carries into the ceremony itself, and builds anticipation of the reception
Whether you're going for sweet and sentimental or happy and celebratory, there's a song out there that will do your big walk justice. Keep in mind, there are a number of ways to modify the tune you want. You don't have to play the song performed by the original artist. Here are some ways to adapt it for a softer, gentler sound:
- Hire a performer to sing it live.
- Have a band play a bluegrass or acoustic version of the song.
- Ask your band to perform an instrumental version.
Here are 10 processional-ready songs that all get our enthusiastic stamp of approval:
- "Forever," Ben Harper
- "Forever Young," Bob Dylan
- "Happy," Bruce Springsteen
- "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)," Talking Heads
- "Walk with You," Dispatch
- "Home," Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
- "The Look of Love," Nina Simone
- "Love Me Tender," Norah Jones' version of the Elvis classic
- "Wedding Song," Tracy Chapman
- "Into the Mystic" or "Steal My Heart Away," Van Morrison