Wedding Ceremony Music and the Ceremony Format



Music is performed during this portion of the ceremony as your guests walk into the ceremony area, whether it is a church, temple, outdoor garden, banquet facility ceremony area, or other location. Usually, this is soft background music, and popular instruments are the piano, violin or guitar, or some combination of those instruments (i.e., like piano and guitar/violin). The music should have the effect of setting the dramatic scene so that your guests know that the ceremony is about to begin.

General Processional:

Music as the bridal party begins the walk down the aisle.  Most of the time, the groom’s wedding party, along with the Officient, are already in place at the spot under the canopy or some other designated area. This is not always the case, but I would say it is true in 80% of the weddings that I do.

Bridal Processional:

As I experience so much these days, it has become fairly common to do away with the traditional “bridal march” and instead play music that is more meaningful to the couple. e.g.” Groovy Kind of Love – Phil Collins”, “I’ll Stand By You – The Pretenders”, or hundreds of other appropriate wedding ceremony music selections. This is an in-depth topic that really deserves some additional thought, and I promise I will dedicate another blog post to specific ceremony songs.

Your best bet is to talk to a seasoned wedding music professional who performs lots of ceremonies.  He or she can give you ideas that have worked well, as well as discuss song selections that have not been so successful for one reason or another.  Feel free to give me a call anytime to discuss…I would be more than happy to talk about it with you.


Traditionally, music played just during the lighting of the candle, the sand ceremony, rose ceremony, or some other customary practice during the main portion of the ceremony.  Many times, a vocalist performs during this time, and it can be a wonderfully dramatic portion of your ceremony.  I often play the piano and accompany one of my female vocalists for a song chosen by the bride and groom.  This really adds a touch of drama to the process, especially if your wedding ceremony music is special to you and your fiancé.


Music is played as the newly married couple and the wedding party exit the ceremony area, whether it is a church, temple, or other venue. This is almost always a very upbeat musical selection, and can be traditional or contemporary.  This is one of the most important portions of the ceremony, as it really serves as the end of the beginning of the day of celebrating two separate lives combining into one, loving couple.


This is the exit music played after the bride, groom, and wedding party have left the ceremony area, and when your guests begin leaving the ceremony area and proceed on their way to the cocktail or reception area.  There are many song selections appropriate for this portion, and should be upbeat and happy giving the final musical finale on the wonderful journey you are now going to take with the love of your life.

Arnie’s Final Comments:

I typically suggest to couples that they should think about their wedding ceremony music and format as far in advance as possible so they can have a perfectly tailored wedding to their exact specification.  Usually the officiant will go over the wedding ceremony and the music only a couple of weeks before the wedding date, which does not leave a lot of time for the bride and groom to think about the song selections that mark their special day.

It’s always better for you to be able to choose your music rather than to have someone else choose it for you.  Be sure to talk with a professional musician who has significant experience in this area and you will always be the wiser.

NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams at Phillippe's in Manhattan-75 x 75

Christmas Party Entertainment – Some Great and Unique Suggestions

If NJ Christmas party entertainment is what you are looking for, you have several choices.  Are you going to be throwing a Christmas party in New Jersey, New York, or Philadelphia this year? If you are, you want to absolutely make sure that your Christmas celebration is going to provide you with all the ‘trimmings’ that you could ever want, musically speaking.

After all, it is often that live piano music for your New Jersey Christmas party is going to make the biggest impression with your guests. This is true, regardless of whether you are looking in metro New York/New Jersey for holiday party entertainment, or for that matter, if you are looking for any other type of holiday party entertainment, like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or any other celebration where you want your guests to enjoy music and have a memorable time together. Here are some things to consider to make sure that the evening is flawless when choosing your live music entertainment.

One of the first things that really needs to be considered is the specific type of live music that you decide on. A live pianist for your holiday party is really going to be difficult to top. Often, a talented piano player can provide you with all the music necessary for your NJ Christmas party entertainment in order to make the the evening go by very smoothly and memorable for you and your guests.

There are also times when a pianist can provide you with additional musical Christmas party entertainment for the celebration.  For example, New Jersey pianist Arnie Abrams can provide you with the holiday music necessary for your Christmas party, and at the same time, Arnie can also provide you with additional musicians and even vocals if you like. Arnie has musical artists that he works with on a regular basis, so it is a very comfortable choice for you to make.

Here is another item to think about if you do hire a NJ pianist for your NJ Christmas party entertainment.  Are you going to be providing the tuned acoustic piano for your musician or is he going to need to bring his own keyboard and sound system? If he is going to be bringing his own equipment, it is absolutely necessary for you to check into the type of equipment that he has. You want to make sure that the keyboard that your pianist uses and the sound system that goes along with it can provide the optimal sound that is necessary for your holiday celebration and your specific situation.

Of course, everybody that throws a Christmas party in New Jersey, Philadelphia or metro New York City who expects great entertainment, is going to want to have some type of Christmas carol sing-along during the evening. A sing along involves those songs that are familiar to everyone and it tends to be a real crowd favorite.   Your pianist should have the lyrics for your guests, if possible, and that really makes for a fun evening of holiday joy!  At the very least, your Christmas party musician must offer this service.

You need to keep in mind, however, that just because the crowd is going to enjoy some holiday songs at one point in the evening, that does not necessarily mean that they want to hear them over and over again throughout the night. Make sure that you choose the the pianist who has a large repertoire of music that will make your party terrific for people of all ages. Arnie Abrams can play over 600 songs by memory (no sheet music needed), and they are the songs that are generally recognized by anybody in an audience.

These are a just a few things that you need to consider when hiring a New Jersey pianist, and certainly is not something that you should just ‘throw together’ for your holiday party as a last minute afterthought (although I do have a nice selection of piano players on my staff who are available for last minute bookings).  With the right choices, however, your NJ Christmas party entertainment is going to go off without a hitch and everybody will have a great and memorable time.

NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams at Phillippe's in Manhattan-75 x 75

Planning Your NJ Wedding Music Yet?

It’s January, your wedding is in May, and you are now at the crossroads of thinking about the New Jersey wedding music.  You are convinced you are going to use a DJ for the reception because you think that is the least expensive route, and you felt you probably can’t afford live music, so you’re not even going to explore the possibility.  You also know that you would like to have some live music but you do not know who to call or where to start.

This is the scenerio of more couples that you may think. I speak with them on a daily basis.  Let me give you some cheap advice (uh oh…I’m glad he didn’t say ‘free’ advice) on what to do.

Google a few local New Jersey DJ’s on the internet and check out their sites.  There are millions of them (well….924,000 to be exact, according to Google at this writing).  Check out the first AND second page of Google, because, you really want to make the extra effort to make the right decision here.

See if their websites are professional looking.  Look for testimonials and/or reviews.  See how often their names pop up when you Google their names directly in Google’s search field.  Pick 2 or 3 (or more) that you think you can imagine providing the music and entertainment and contact them for a quote. Anyone who answers your inquiry within 12 hours is fair game…throw the others out, since they don’t feel that they need to earn your business.

Then Google a few local New Jersey pianists (or guitarists or violinists or other musicians) and do the same.  There are not nearly as many.

Just like you did with the DJ’s, see if the musicians’ websites are professional looking.  Look for testimonials and/or reviews.  See how often their names pop up when you Google them directly in the search field.

From their sites and online presence, pick 2 or 3 that you could imagine having them perform for your ceremony, cocktail hour, rehearsal dinner or reception.  Check out their sites, their talent levels and their offerings, and contact them for a quote.  Once again, only consider the ones that answer your inquiry within 12-hours.  Essentially, go through the same routine you did for the DJ.

Grab a piece of printer paper, list your possible DJ’s and musicians along the top row.  On the left side of that same sheet of paper, make columns and list each of the cost (both DJ’s and musicians) in the first column, professionalism in the 2nd column down, talent in the 3rd column down, and ‘perceived personality’ (you REALLY do not know this, which is why it is perceived) in the 4th column down, on-line reviews in the next column, and on-line presence in the last column (you can add as many parameters to this matrix as you like…these are just ones I can think of as being the most important at this writing).

Now, pour yourself a glass of wine (I’m shocked if you had not done so already) and think about what you and your guests will remember and enjoy about your wedding day.  The venue.  The food.  And the music.  OK, we can add your wedding dress, since you spent a bundle on it.  Look at the cost differences (if any) for the music choices, since I understand perfectly that alone can be a very strong factor….I’m not living in a bubble and I am in the same boat as everyone else.

  Best DJ  #1 Best DJ  #2 Best Pianist #1 Best One Man Band Best Piano Player & Female Singer Duo






Professionalism (5=best, 1=worst)






Talent (5=best, 1=worst)






Personality (5=best, 1=worst)






On line reviews (5=best, 1=worst)






On line presence (5=best, 1=worst)












You may be shocked to find that you can have the NJ wedding music exactly how you want it.  You may opt for live music for the ceremony and the cocktail hour, and go with a DJ for the reception.  Or, you may wish to have live music for the entire day.

Keep in mind that if you are having a smaller or more intimate wedding, you may not need a 10-piece band, and a soloist, one-man band, duo, trio or quartet may just do the trick.  There are some very talented NJ duos, trios and quartets out there who are versatile enough to do a wedding, and the cost can be comparable (or less) to a DJ.

But also keep this in mind.  Live music is live, and nothing else compares to it.  You know it and there is no sense debating it.  And everyone knows that live music vs. recorded music is MUCH different.  Not better – but different.

But if you are looking for a playlist for your guests to dance to nonstop and keep them dancing, maybe a DJ is the way to go.  The live band only knows a few hundred songs that they will perform at your wedding, while the DJ can cue up literally thousands of songs.  DJ’s will play all of the dance music you want and more.  But you know as well as anyone else at your wedding knows….it is not live (it’s Memorex….well, sort of…actually, literally).

Whatever you do, o-bride-to-be, conduct the quick research that I outlined above (it won’t take you long at all), and you will at least have investigated your options and will be happy in your heart that you made the right decision.  After all, it’s your special day and it’s your NJ wedding music.

NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams at Phillippe's in Manhattan-75 x 75

Choosing Your NJ Wedding Ceremony Music

I don’t have to tell you…there are so many different decisions that need to be made when you are planning your wedding day, and this is also true of the nj wedding ceremony music that will be played for the ceremony itself.  I happen to be one of the busiest wedding pianists in the metro NY/NJ area, and I talk with brides-to-be almost every day about this very topic.  I also perform lots of different types of ceremony music, so I thought I would share some ideas with you from conversations with brides just like you.

While it is certainly possible for you to go with musical selections that are traditional, many brides wish to include their own personal ‘likes and dislikes’ for this very important music that will be played and remembered for years to come. After all, these are songs that you will look back on and remember one of the most important days of your life. Choosing your nj wedding ceremony music, therefore, requires a little careful thought on your part.

One of the first things that you can do which will help you in choosing your music is to think about the surroundings of the occasion itself. For example, an outdoor beach wedding would give you a lot of flexibility as far as the music you are able to use, while a wedding held in a more traditional location like a church would probably give you fewer choices. By matching the style of music to the style of the occasion, you will help to make the walk down the aisle something that seems to fit together seamlessly.

Your wedding pianist can provide a number of different song selections for your New Jersey wedding ceremony music. At times, this is going to be a list of traditional or classical music that can easily be played by a wedding pianist. If you’re going with something out of the ordinary, however, you will want to make sure that you give the musician your overall plan early on in order for him to be able to prepare adequately and well in advance for the occasion.

You can also ask your wedding musician for suggestions on what types of music to play before and during the wedding ceremony. At times, your musician may be able to give you a general idea of the types of ceremony music that are usually played at your type of wedding. An experienced musician should be able to give you specific suggestions, and even help you to think along the lines that you may not have considered before. It’s always good to think ‘outside the box’ to begin to envision how your ceremony will play out.

Don’t overlook the importance of choosing your NJ wedding ceremony music wisely.  Not only is it something that will set the tone for this special day of yours, it is also something that will be remembered for many years to come by many people, most importantly, you and your fiancé.  Here is a list of wedding songs that may be appropriate for many wedding ceremonies.

NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams at Phillippe's in Manhattan-75 x 75

Biggest Questions When Choosing Your Wedding Ceremony Music

Is My Wedding Ceremony Music Important?

Your wedding ceremony music plays a key role when organizing the details for your wedding day. The wedding ceremony music is so very important because, prior to your entering that wonderful place to be joined in matrimony, the music simply frames the ceremony, and provides the backdrop for the next 30-45 minutes. Giving some thought to the live music prior to exchanging your vows, can add unique excitement and charm to the entire process, and based on my 20+ years in the wedding business, I have personally witnessed it to be extremely rewarding for new couples.

Religious or Liturgical Wedding Ceremony Music?

If you are going with a religious wedding ceremony, selecting the wedding music can be especially challenging since the church usually has standards regarding your choices. For example, there may be a vocalist or even a choral group that will be singing the hymns prior to your processional. The church may also have guidelines for music, and some houses of worship only permit the ‘house organist/musician’ to perform.

Many times the couple will hire me, and later, find that the house of worship has informed them that they have to use the ‘hose musician’.  I know, from experience, that this rule can be stretched a little, and I usually have no trouble getting permission to perform as the pianist.  As the performing musician, at the couple’s request, I often interface with the church music directors, ministers, priests, rabbis, cantors, and other officiants, to “clear” the music selections with them.

Nontraditional Wedding Ceremony Music / Civil Wedding Ceremony Music?

If you don’t want to or need to stick with traditional or religious guidelines, you can choose your wedding music by talking to the officiant, music director, or a professional musician like myself, who has the required experience in performing for wedding ceremonies. The key is to make sure that the music you select is appropriate and that it will be suitable to the tone of the service that will be conducted. As mentioned, I have compiled my own guide to selecting wedding ceremony music, which I would be happy to provide to you…just email me at

If you and your fiancé decide to have a civil wedding ceremony like an outdoor garden wedding or one at your reception venue, there are a wide range of musical styles for you to choose from for your wedding ceremony music. You can select romantic music, conservative jazz, mild R & B, modern love themes, traditional folk tunes, and other romantic kinds of music that may possibly match your style. Aside from this, you can also hire a live musician to perform during the ceremony and not feel limited to a choral group and church organist.

Wedding ceremony music is integral to the overall character of your ceremony. That is why you really should take some time in deciding which music to select. Your wedding ceremony, whether it is religious or civil, will be much more memorable if the wedding ceremony music is chosen by you rather than for you.

I always recommend that brides talk to a professional to bounce around ideas about their wedding ceremony music. I have been doing this for over 20-years in the metro New Jersey/New York region, and am always happy to discuss this with couples.  Feel free to give me a call anytime at (732) 995-1082, or shoot me an email.

NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams at Phillippe's in Manhattan-75 x 75

Important Issues when Choosing Your Wedding Day Music

More and more brides are asking me if I can play their favorite song for their wedding ceremony processional, or for the wedding party’s processional, or even for the recessional portion, instead of the typical wedding music that their parents had for their wedding.

I wholeheartedly say YES…ABSOLUTELY YES!

It is your day and you should be able to have the music that you love, which may not be the traditional music that your parents loved.

To assist couples with a couple’s  music selections, I compiled “Arnie’s Wedding Ceremony Music Guide“.  It consists of a great many songs that would be appropriate for most any wedding ceremony….traditional AND nontraditional.  For a partial list of songs, check out Arnie’s Song List.

You know, those classic songs that everybody loves.  Like “All I Ask Of You“, from Phantom of the Opera, and “Endless Love“, by Lionel Richie, and the theme from “Ice Castles“.  The ones that are timeless and that everyone knows from 20-80 years of age.

I painstakingly went through the lyrics from each of those songs, just to make sure that they didn’t describe the girl who left her guy for some other dude, or visa versa. (By the way, my wedding music guide is available free just for the asking – just send me an email or call me at 732-995-1082.

But sometimes you have a song in mind that is not so popular, and you and your fiance REALLY love it.  It’s your song and nobody else’s.  Since I play primarily by ear (I do, of course, read music, but typically no sheet music is needed), I can learn it after just listening to it a few times.

So don’t feel that you absolutely need to have the traditional wedding music if you want to make your ceremony more personal and memorable. Your favorite songs can frame one of the most important days of your life!

NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams at Phillippe's in Manhattan-75 x 75

How To Choose Your Wedding Ceremony Music

Choosing your wedding ceremony music can be a fun experience.  Wedding season is here in the great Garden State, and, as I normally experience at this time of the year, I am getting lots of calls lately from brides about how to choose the music for their wedding ceremony.

Selecting your wedding music is obviously so very important because the music is what you and your guests will remember for a long, long time after the big day.

Here are a few tips on how to choose your wedding ceremony music:

When thinking about songs for your wedding ceremony, you just want to make sure you select music that is what I call ‘wedding appropriate’, and use songs that you would not mind listening to in 20 or 30 years.  This is especially true if you intend to record your music selections for your guests as a special keepsake wedding favor, which is something unique that I offer for my clients.

Songs that are wedding appropriate are the ones that are suitable in terms of the music AND their lyrics.  For instance, there are many songs that have beautiful melodies.  But, if the lyrics to those songs involve a guy losing his girl to some other guy, or a girl who falls in love with her guy’s best friend, you’ll want to avoid those at all cost.  I know this sounds like common sense, and it is to a great extent, but I run into this issue quite often, and sometimes have to bring the couple getting married a dose of reality regarding their music selections.  And certainly often enough to bring up in this blog.

Keep in mind that many of the songs you may choose for your wedding ceremony can be interchangeable with different portions of your wedding ceremony.  For instance, some songs can be commonly appropriate for the Prelude (10-20-minutes prior to the ceremony while your guests are being seated) as well as the Interlude (any portion of the General Ceremony).

Some tunes can be done for the Processional (segment that heralds the beginning of the ceremony), as well as the Interlude, and the Recessional (portion that completes the ceremony).  But also remember that some songs are specifically designed for certain parts of the ceremony as well.

Common sense plays a big part here, and you should relish the process to enjoy choosing the songs that you and your fiancé really desire for your wedding music.  After all, it’s your day and no one else’s.

Talking to an experienced music professional while you choose your wedding ceremony music is always a great idea.  Pick his or her brain for music recommendations and you’ll always be the winner.  People call me or email me on a daily basis to bounce ideas off of me.  I even have a wedding ceremony music guide available.

Taking care of your wedding ceremony music choices early in the process will give you one less thing to worry about for the big day!

NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams at Phillippe's in Manhattan-75 x 75

Welcome to the NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams Blog

I am reopening my new live music blog and dedicating it to anyone who enjoys live music for weddings and other celebrations and events, rather than the pre-recorded stuff.  If you would like to post a topic or if you have a question that is related to live piano music, live instrumental music, or live vocal music, please feel free to fire away a post. Don’t be shy…we’re among friends, and that is what this blog is all about.

I am also open to guest posts if you are in the music industry, or would like to lend your experience to my readers on live music.  All I ask is that you please keep it on topic to live music topics that you think my readers would appreciate.  Musicians are always welcome encouraged to post, especially if you have experience in the wedding industry or do live performances.

Topics can include any of the items with which I am familiar.  Those include

  • live piano music
  • live performances for all instrumentals
  • live wedding ceremony music (traditional and nontraditional wedding music)
  • cocktail hour music
  • portable musical equipment recommendations and reviews
  • outdoor weddings and venues
  • NJ beach front weddings
  • destination weddings
  • indoor weddings of various venues
  • civil union ceremonies
  • same-sex marriage topics as they relate to the music
  • bridal or baby showers
  • music for birthday parties
  • anniversary parties and sing alongs
  • holiday parties
  • music for corporate events
  • music performed at restaurants
  • other events and topics that involve live music.

I have been a professional pianist for over 20 years performing at hundreds of different venues from Buffalo to Maryland.  If I can’t answer a question, I’ll either direct you to a person who can, or I’ll find out the answer and get back to you.

I’m looking forward to your questions and comments, and thoughtful input.  And thanks again for stopping by the NJ Pianist Arnie Abrams blog.