Wedding Song Checklist: What Songs Do You Need For a Wedding?

Wedding Song Checklist: What Songs Do You Need For a Wedding?

According to research from Harvard neuroscientists, music can help the human mind form and hold onto memories. So, with the right wedding soundtrack, you can effortlessly recall your most treasured moments, making them last a lifetime.

The first step toward curating the perfect playlist is understanding which pieces you need to incorporate throughout your ceremony and reception.

We've created this wedding song checklist to help you plan the perfect soundtrack for your big day, ensuring every moment is filled with music that resonates with you and your partner.

From the emotional processionals to the celebratory last dance, our checklist covers all the essential components of your wedding day.

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Pre-Wedding Ceremony Song Checklist

Music sets the tone for the entire event and begins before anyone sees the bride! Before you can choose the music for special dances, determine what your guests will hear before the festivities begin. The right music builds ambience and excitement, creating a romantic atmosphere unique to your event.

We call this pre-ceremony music or arrival music. It's the soft, unobtrusive soundtrack that plays as guests take their seats. Aim for something soothing and calming to allow for greetings and conversation.

As a rule, we advise couples to choose about thirty minutes of pre-ceremony music to account for early guests, latecomers, wardrobe malfunctions, and all the other exciting, authentic chaos of a typical wedding ceremony!

Parent Entrance Music

As the ceremony begins, the music will shift to signal to your guests that something has started! When they hear the parent entrance music, they'll naturally shift in their seats and focus on the centre aisle.

Couples traditionally choose something sentimental as their parents or grandparents walk down the aisle. You may wish to ask them what songs would make them feel the most comfortable.

Bridal Party Entrance Music

After your parents and grandparents have taken their places, your wedding party will begin to file in. Many couples change up the mood here, shifting from the sentimental to the upbeat. Consider the walking pace when selecting this song, as your bridesmaids and groomsmen will be attempting to walk to the rhythm!

Bride's Processional Music

The last (potentially most important) pre-wedding song is the bride's entrance or processional. This signals a grand entrance, so try to choose something bold and unique.

Remember, the bride will be wearing her wedding dress and shoes for this big moment. There may be heels and a train involved. Consider practising walking to the music and, if possible, arrange for a rehearsal in the shoes you'll be wearing.

Wedding Ceremony Song Checklist

After everyone is in place, the ceremony can begin, and you'll need some different tunes to carry you through to "I do."

The ceremony is more structured and formal, and different faiths and traditions may incorporate different moments. If you're having a religious ceremony, check with the musical director at your venue to find out if they have an approved song list. They can also tell you which elements are traditionally underscored.

The Signing of the Register

The signing of the register is an essential component of your ceremony, but it's not the most exciting part. Many couples choose between one and three songs to entertain the onlookers as they take care of this quick bit of administrative business.


In some traditions, wedding guests sing hymns during the signing of the register. Other faiths may incorporate hymns during other sections of your ceremony. You may need to choose your hymns from an approved list or songbook.

Ambience and Underscoring

Music is an excellent way to create a romantic atmosphere during your wedding ceremony. Some couples ask performers to play quietly throughout as an ambient underscore to the proceedings.

Recessional Music

When you hear the recessional music playing, it means you're officially newlyweds! Choose something triumphant for your walk back down the aisle as husband and wife.

Wedding Reception Song Checklist

Once the official business is through, it's time to party! Your reception will include a combination of formal and informal musical moments. Choosing these special songs is one of the most entertaining parts of planning for your wedding reception!

Cocktail Hour Music

As the bride and groom, you might not get to enjoy the cocktail hour, but that doesn't mean it isn't important! It's a fun, unstructured time for mingling and getting a bit tipsy before the celebration begins, so provide some musical underscoring to keep things upbeat and build anticipation.

Bridal Party Arrival Song

Many couples choose to create a special entrance moment for the bridal party. This is usually an upbeat musical transition that signals to your guests that the fun is about to begin! At some weddings, the bridal party may perform a small dance (though this may happen after the first dance to "warm up" the dance floor).

First dance at wedding

The First Dance

After the bridal party's arrival, an emcee will announce the bride and groom. From there, it's common for couples to share a first dance. This can be a slow dance or a pre-choreographed dance and serves as the signal that the dance floor is open.

Father/Daughter Dance

The father/daughter dance often follows the first dance. It's a slow dance shared between the bride and her father or another important male caregiver. It signifies that he has "given her away" and tends to be a tear-jerker, so choose a song with a big emotional impact!

Mother/Son Dance

You may also have a mother/son dance at your wedding (or combine this with your father/daughter dance to create one emotional spectacle). Most couples choose a meaningful ballad for this portion of the evening.

Cake Cutting Song

The cake-cutting is a moment of levity during your ceremony, especially if you choose to feed each other (or smash the cake into each other's faces). You can choose a fun, upbeat song to underscore this silly moment.

Bouquet and Garter Toss Songs

The bouquet and garter toss are other light, traditional moments that call for their own musical accompaniment. If you have a favourite cheeky song, incorporate it here!

The Last Dance

The last dance signals your guests that the festivities are coming to a close. It doesn't need to have the same emotional impact as your first dance, as many guests take their leave long before this song plays.

Choose a slow song that helps wind things down. Consider it a "last call" before the wedding band packs up their instruments.

Planning Your Wedding Song Checklist

Your hypothetical wedding playlist is only a series of words on paper until it's in the hands of a professional. Before you finalise your music selections, you'll need to decide how you'll be playing the music. Often, couples hire a wedding band or DJ to ensure their event is vital, energetic, and pitch-perfect.

Some couples choose to mix and match. For example, they might include a live string quartet during the ceremony to add gravitas to the processional but hire a DJ for the evening to energise the dance floor.

Your song list will also influence the type of performers you hire, so it's good to think things through early on. For example, a jazz band is suitable for a swinging, roaring 20s-inspired wedding but probably can't play your favourite pop songs with fidelity.

A professional wedding musician or DJ will be familiar with the complete list of wedding songs needed and can help you finalise the perfect playlist.

Wedding DJ Song Checklist

Some couples have strong opinions about the music that the DJ or wedding band plays while guests dance during the reception. You may want to hand your DJ or band a "must play" or "don't play" list to ensure they meet your musical expectations. You can discuss this during an initial consultation before booking your act.

You're not responsible for choosing every song the band or wedding DJ plays, especially during this portion of your event. Instead, focus on the songs that will play during the critical moments and transitions during your wedding.

What's The Score to Your Love Story?

One of the most delightful aspects of planning a wedding is the element of choice and the opportunity for self-expression. Even two traditional weddings will look and sound entirely different. Use this wedding song checklist as a starting point as you curate the score for your unique love story.

Even the perfect playlist can flop if your wedding music is in the hands of amateurs—or worse, played through an iPod hooked up to a sub-standard PA system. Instead, hire a live, professional wedding band or DJ to handle your music needs. Reach out to Bands For Hire to book your act and watch the celebration go off without a hitch.