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Outdoor Music for your Ceremony | Vermont Bride Magazine
Photo by Daria Bishop Photographers

What could be more romantic and inspiring than to be married under the open sky, with lush green (or vibrant red, orange and yellow) surroundings, breathtaking mountain views in the distance, surrounded by wildflowers and feeling at one with the natural Vermont beauty around you? I love outdoor weddings. In my youth, avid hiker that I was, I envisioned being married on top of Camel’s Hump. But, as a musician, I’ve seen the fear and trepidation that the simple words “outdoor wedding” can sometimes cause for my fellow musicians. 

What do you, as a wedding couple, need to know about live music as you plan your outdoor ceremony? 

First, it’s fabulous to hear live music wafting over the grounds, blending with the wind and the birds and the scenery to create that amazing and unique sound and feeling you’re craving. It’s all generally very manageable, and most musicians are willing to play outdoors. The key is clear communication up front with your musicians.

Second, if your musician doesn’t bring up the question of their needs for protection of their instrument from a variety of weather-related possibilities, you should double check weather details with them to make sure you’re not in for a last minute surprise. 

I’ve heard many stories from both perspectives. The most common story goes roughly this way: “It rained. The musician played in the (garage; house; inside the Inn; you pick) and could not be heard from the ceremony site.” I’ve heard versions of this one from both the musician’s perspective and the bride’s perspective, and concluded that communication prior to and included in the contract about the conditions under which the musician will play outdoors are absolutely critical to avoid panic for musicians and terrible disappointment for the wedding couple. 

Some other stories and experiences along these lines that may be helpful in understanding the situation from both sides:

  • The father of the bride happens to see the violinist for the quartet a few days before the wedding. She casually mentions “You know we can’t play in sun?” Dad’s to-do list in the final days just got a lot longer with tracking down a tent.
  • The shade from the gazebo gradually moves out of the gazebo by the beginning of the 5:00 ceremony on a 95 degree day. The harp goes out of tune and musicians panic that the glue holding the instrument together will begin to melt away, potentially shortening the life of the beloved $30,000 instrument.
  • The oboist frantically warms the outside of her instrument with her hands to equalize the temperature between the 58 degree air outside of the instrument and the 98.6 degree air going in to prevent her $8,000 wooden instrument from cracking. 
  • I see beneath the well-rehearsed calm exterior to the pit of stomach reaction of the cellist, holding his $20,000 instrument, when told by the groom: “Yes, we lucked out with the weather, but we would have been outside even in a thunderstorm!”
  • The wind picks up, and the music on the stand blows out of view during the recessional, stopping the music. Experienced outdoor musicians usually clip down the music to the stand ahead of time, and hold the base with feet or wire loops in the ground and around the base, combined with feet. If your musician hasn’t discussed weather ahead of time, they may lack this type of outdoor wedding experience. Then again, strong wind may not be manageable for anyone. 

If your musician doesn’t mention weather, this doesn’t necessarily mean all will be well - different people have different assumptions about what is considered acceptable weather for making the choice to move indoors. Sometimes musicians may assume one thing while the wedding couple may not have thought about it, but would choose to be outdoors even if weather conditions are what a musician would simply assume would be unacceptable. So be sure you know what the musician is expecting and make sure it works with what you’re hoping for - and  be prepared for some “unpredictable as weather” moments in all aspects of your outdoor wedding planning. 

Here’s a list of weather conditions to discuss with your live musician to clarify their needs and your desires, and how to best ensure that everyone will be at their best on the day that counts. First, consider the listed possible weather conditions below and discuss with your partner under what conditions you would really want to stay outdoors. Next be completely up front with your musician about your interests and make sure they let you know under which conditions they might not be able to stay out in the open. And finally, discuss whether protection from the elements is something that you’re expected to provide or whether the musicians may provide some sort of protection, and specifically what conditions would ensure that they could provide that safely. Weather concerns for musicians may include: 1) rain - heavy, light, sprinkle or potential; 2) direct sun; 3) temperature - low or high; 4)wind conditions; 5) additional moisture (from wind, shade tree, leaking gazebo, even after the rain has stopped). 

Most of the weddings I play are outdoor weddings. And most experienced wedding musicians will bring up weather concerns or stipulations and be clear and up front about their needs. With proper communication and precautions taken, during the late spring, summer and early fall, the exquisite experience of live wedding music wafting through the great outdoors is normally quite manageable in Vermont!

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.


Choosing Ceremony Music | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Steve Holmes Photography

You can perfectly envision the moment you’ll begin the walk down the aisle and into your new life.  The perfect location, gorgeous dress, the flowers. Now even the flower girls have completed their walk down the aisle, and the music stops. Your processional has begun.

It’s the moment you’ve dreamed of for so long, finally here. What music will usher you down the aisle to the love of your life? What will he be feeling when he hears the music? 

There are so many choices for today’s couples. While many make traditional music choices for their ceremonies, for twenty-first century weddings, just about anything goes. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the choices, here are a few thoughts to help you find the direction that’s best for you, to make the ambiance of your most special moment truly memorable, and truly personal.

First, are you a person who likes tradition, or someone who likes to forge new ground? Does a wedding without Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” at the end feel like a birthday without singing “Happy Birthday”, breakfast without orange juice, or Hanukkah without latkes? I know some who hate the song “Happy Birthday”– and can’t stand the thought of the popular wedding choices at their wedding. But for some they are as dear as “Silent Night” at Christmas time, as comforting as a “welcome home” hug, and as full of anticipation and excitement as a child’s birthday wish coming true. 

If you’re a tradition lover, your choices will be relatively easy. The vast majority of couples choose the Mendelssohn “Wedding March” for the recessional (Click the following link for a basic description of wedding music terms like “recessional”). In my experience, the most popular choice for the bride’s processional is the Pachelbel “Canon in D.” The second most popular choice is the traditional Wagner “Bridal Chorus” (“Here Comes the Bride”). I have played some weddings where both are played: the Pachelbel  Canon for the wedding party and the Bridal Chorus for the bride. 

Just about everyone wants music that’s joyful and lively for the recessional, so that’s an easy place to start.  Here are a few alternatives to Mendelssohn you may wish to consider: 

  • “La Rejouissance” from “The Fireworks Music” by Handel
  • “Trumpet Tune” by Purcell 
  • “Trumpet Voluntary” by Clarke (also called the “Prince of Denmark’s March”)
  • “Gigue” from Suite #3 in D Major by J.S. Bach
  • “Allegro” from “Spring” from “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi
  • “Hornpipe” from “The Water Music” by Handel

The list above works well for almost any instrument combination, and all are popular choices. Of course, some couples might choose a popular tune, a show tune, a hymn, or maybe a Celtic or Jazz piece – you name it! Here are a few truly alternative examples I’ve experienced:

  • “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schonberg
  • “Carolan’s Concerto” by Turlough O’Carolan
  • Medley of: “One Hand, One Heart” from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein,  “And This is My Beloved” by Robert Wright and  George Forrest,” “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” by George Gershwin, and “All I Ask of You” by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
  • “Hallelujah Chorus” from “The Messiah” by Handel
  • “Everyone” by VanMorrison
  • A medley of traditional Scottish tunes played by the bride’s grandfather on bagpipes
  • “Get Happy” by Judy Garland
  • “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
  • “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay


Choosing Ceremony Music | Vermont Bride Magazine

I hope you get the idea about how numerous and varied the options are! You’ll definitely want to check with your musicians to confirm that your choices are workable for their particular instrument combination. Your musicians may have additional ideas as well. There are too many options to list here, and many work well for some instrument combinations, but not for others, so do be sure to talk about your thoughts early in the process with your musician(s).

The bride’s processional is probably your most important musical choice. The first question: would you like your processional to be of the fanfare variety (like the Wagner “Bridal Chorus”) or the flowing variety (more like the Pachelbel Canon)? Do you fantasize a regal and stately entrance following a trumpet style musical introduction? Or do you prefer the simple but elegant glide?

Here are some processional possibilities that work well for virtually all instrument combinations. All are workable for either the bride or the wedding party:

Regal, fanfare style processional suggestions:

  • “Trumpet Voluntary” by Clarke
  • “Trumpet Tune” by Purcell 

More flowing processional possibilities:

  • “Air” from “Water Music” by Handel
  • “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J.S. Bach
  • “Sheep May Safely Graze” by J.S. Bach
  • Theme from “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven

Below are a few possibilities that I’ve experienced that are more uncommon:

  • “Carol of the Bells” by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych, for a December wedding
  • “Leezie Lindsay” traditional Scottish folk song
  • “Meditation” from “Thais” by Jules Massenet
  • “If We Hold On Together” from “Land Before Time” 
  • “All I Ask of You” by Andrew Lloyd Weber
  • “Sinfonia” from “Cantata 156” by J.S. Bach

Choices for music in the middle of the ceremony vary much more than processional and recessional choices. You may wish to ask a religious leader or your musicians for specific additional recommendations. Many of the pieces listed as processionals could also work well here. Below are a few additional pieces I’ve found to be popular for such a moment:

  • “Simple Gifts” 
  • “Amazing Grace”
  • “On Eagle’s Wings” by Michael Joncas
  • “The Rose” by Amanda McBroom
  • Virtually any hymn that fits the mood 

And a few others that I’ve experienced:

  • “Fannie Power”  traditional Celtic tune
  • “Sarabande” from Partita for Solo Flute by J.S. Bach
  • “Sicilienne” from Sonata in E flat for Flute and Piano by J.S. Bach

It’s my view that the most important elements of planning music for a wedding are: 

  1. Consider whether there’s a special piece of music – a tune, a song, a classical piece – that resonates with you and/or your partner, or that has special meaning for a family member or friend. If so, work with your musicians and your officiant to include that music in some way in your ceremony.  A special tune on your wedding day may put a hum on your lips and in your heart, and in the hearts of friends and family, for many years to come!
  2. Ask advice from the musicians you’ll be working with. They may be able to easily guide you toward music you’ll love that works well for their particular combination of instruments. They will also be able to discuss with you whether a particular piece of music would not be ideal in the instrument combination you’ve chosen.
  3. Be aware that the music establishes the background feelings that will color your ceremony and your memories. Select music that resonates for you in the way you’ll want to remember forever.

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.


The first prominent use of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, from the Ballet “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” was for the wedding recessional Princess Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (pictures below).  In my experience, this remains the most popular wedding recessional today.

 Choosing Music for your Processional | Wedding Resources, Ideas, and Tips | Vermont Bride Magazine


For those of you who don’t summon the tune to mind at the mere mention of the title, or who just enjoy listening, here’s a video of the Berlin Philharmonic playing this popular piece:



Many people associate this piece with the organ – here’s a magnificent organ you might enjoy:



Now that you all know what music I’m talking about, you’re probably thinking either A) yes, definitely – it just wouldn’t feel like a wedding without walking back up the aisle at the end of the ceremony to that music! OR B) Ooh – no – I think that’s a little TOO traditional for my taste! Or perhaps C) hmm… maybe – what are the other choices? 

One thing to consider is that some religious denominations do not consider the Mendelssohn Wedding March to be appropriate at a sacred service, due to themes within the story line of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” 


The basic storyline of the play and the ballet is a comedy which involves love potions, magic spells, and misplaced passions, but in the end, couples reunite and wedding festivities ensue for three happy couples. 

So if you are having a religious ceremony, particularly a Catholic ceremony, you will want to discuss this option with your priest, minister or other officiant. Other than the potential religious conflict, primarily for some Catholic weddings, it all boils down to your personal preference, and your personal tendency toward tradition or toward more unique and personal choices.


Choosing Music for your Processional | Wedding Resources, Ideas, and Tips | Vermont Bride Magazine


If your response to the above was “What are our other choices?” then you’re in luck, since the options are many. A few alternatives I’ve found to be popular: “Rejouissance” from Handel’s Water Music; “Allegro” from Vivaldi’s Spring; or from a different angle: the Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand;” or Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.” And for those of you who would specifically prefer something that NOT so traditional, well, the sky’s the limit! Just keep in mind that in most cases you’ll want music that’s upbeat and celebratory as well as easy to walk to. Please check back – I’ll be posting an article on recessional alternatives soon, with more thoughts and additional possibilities I’ve experienced – both popular and VERY unique! 

Meanwhile, I thought that you might enjoy this little a cappella rendition of the Mendelssohn – particularly the non-traditionalists out there!


 Choosing Music for your Processional | Wedding Resources, Ideas, and Tips | Vermont Bride Magazine

Many thanks to Angel B. at for sharing the photos of Princess Victoria’s wedding festivities above. 

Lisa Carlson is a flutist offering ensembles for weddings and other occasions in duos, trios, quartets in a variety of instrumental combinations, and staff wedding music writer for Vermont Bride Magazine. She also maintains a private flute  studio in Montpelier, Vermont, in addition to teaching flute at Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and online. 


“Oh yes that would be great!” or, more commonly, “NO WAY!” are typical answers I receive to the question of using Wagner’s Bridal Chorus for the bride’s processional. Very few people are undecided about having this piece, commonly known as “Here Comes the Bride” or occasionally “Wedding March” (not to be confused with the popular recessional “Wedding March” by Mendelssohn), at their wedding. I’d like to share some thoughts and video clips that might just switch some opinions one direction or another, so hold on, because although you’ve heard this tune before – probably many times, your thoughts on this piece of music might just do a few backflips!

First, let’s start with this gorgeous and unique rendition of this popular processional:


So if you were on the “No Way!” end of things, I suspect there’s a chance that if you listened to the above you may be second guessing yourself. Now, don’t get too set on that choice too quickly though, since I haven’t started the con argument yet, but I just thought I’d allow a moment to enjoy the beauty of this music. On that note, here’s the original, as Wagner composed it, for your enjoyment:



So – Wagner’s Bridal Chorus can be really lovely, and the words are quite lovely as well – here’s the English translation of the first verse, as provided by Wikipedia:

Faithfully guided, draw near

to where the blessing of love shall preserve you!

Triumphant courage, the reward of love,

joins you in faith as the happiest of couples!

Champion of virtue, proceed!

Jewel of youth, proceed!

Flee now the splendour of the wedding feast,

may the delights of the heart be yours!

This sweet-smelling room, decked for love,

now takes you in, away from the splendour.

Faithfully guided, draw now near

to where the blessing of love shall preserve you!

Triumphant courage, love so pure,

joins you in faith as the happiest of couples!

Wagner’s Bridal Chorus was first used as a wedding processional at the wedding of Princess Victoria, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince William Frederick of Prussia in 1858 (pictured below). It was the standard for the bride’s processional through most of the 20th century, and remains popular today. 

 Your Processional: Wagner’s Bridal Chorus – Yes or No? | Vermont Bride Magazine

So some of you may be thinking “Wow! Yes - let’s use Wagner’s Bridal Chorus for our wedding!” Others are surely NOT convinced – and I will now assert that there is in fact potentially good reason to avoid this piece.  So now for the cons.

First, there are some religious traditions which do not allow the Bridal Chorus, commonly Catholic and Lutheran weddings as well as some other Christian traditions, due to thematic material in the opera from which it came. Second, Wagner was terribly anti-Semitic, and in fact Hitler was a great fan of Wagner’s music. If you will have Jewish guests at your wedding, you may wish to think twice about using any music by Wagner, particularly this piece, which does have connotations for many Jewish guests. Rumors circulated at one point that this piece was selected to accompany the march of concentration camp residents to the gas chamber during World War II. It appears that this has not been validated, but it’s difficult to separate this piece from that image once the thought has been circulated.  

Also, although Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, and his music, are beautiful, and the words to the Bridal Chorus seem very appropriately beautiful for a wedding, the opera itself is a tragedy, ending with the death of the bride and groom before their marriage is consummated. 

When I was in elementary school, my brothers always sang “Here comes the bride, big fat and wide, here comes the groom as skinny as a broom.” I suspect that’s often reason in itself to NOT choose this piece for your wedding. And finally, some couples simply wish to go off the beaten path for their wedding music choices. And THAT may be the ultimate question – are you a traditionalist? Or do you like to do things a little differently? 

My take on that is: It’s your wedding, you know who your guests are, and it’s your choice, perhaps with input from your officiant. I hope this article has you thinking from a new angle! My hope is that that will help YOU to refine your choices of what will make your wedding feel like your own!

Many thanks to Angel B. at for sharing the photo of Princess Victoria’s wedding above. 

Lisa Carlson is a flutist offering ensembles for weddings and other occasions in duos, trios, quartets in a variety of instrumental combinations, and staff wedding music writer for Vermont Bride Magazine. She also maintains a private flute  studio in Montpelier, Vermont, in addition to teaching flute at Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and online.


Vermont Bride Lookbook No. 6 | Vermont Wedding Inspiration | Digital Edition

When we hatched the idea to publish a bi-annual, digital lookbook, we realized that it was not an entirely new idea. Of course the term "lookbook" has been used in the fashion industry for a while, and there have been other wedding magazines that have published digital versions of their magazine. But we wanted to do it better. And we wanted it to have more. More inspiration, more real weddings, and more resources for our readers. The Vermont Bride Lookbook goes beyond being a traditional "lookbook", which typically features images only and very little text. It is truly a digital version of our print magazine, with all of the same great content and information.

Vermont Bride Lookbook No. 6 | Vermont Wedding Inspiration | Digital Edition

Vermont Bride Lookbook No. 6 | Vermont Wedding Inspiration | Digital Edition

The true beauty of it is that it is digital and free. It is accessible to anyone with the internet and viewable on all devices, from desktop computer to smart phones. You don't have to live in Vermont or New England to get a copy. You don't have to order one or drive to the store to buy it. And it is available to view months, even years, after it originally is published. You can pin any of the images inside of it, or email a link to your florist or venue. Share it on Facebook or Twitter too! And if you see a wedding professional inside that you want to find out more information about - just a click of your mouse and you can contact them or view more information about them.

Vermont Bride Lookbook No. 6 | Vermont Wedding Inspiration | Digital Edition

So, without further adieu, we are excited to release Issue No. 6 of the Vermont Bride Lookbook today! You can view it on our Lookbook Page, as well as check out all of the past issues of the Lookbook. Issue No. 6 has beautiful, fresh inspiration - romantic, modern, rustic, and vintage - we cover it all. The pages are full of bright colors, perfect for a late-winter pick-me-up. And the cornerstone of our publication - the resources and information to help you find the best Vermont wedding vendors. From photographers to florists, from caterers to registries. Plan your honeymoon, find a musician, and locate the perfect setting for saying "I do".

Vermont Bride Lookbook No. 6 | Vermont Wedding Inspiration | Digital Edition

And of course the Lookbook would not be complete without our real wedding features. We hand picked nine celebrations from all over the state, featuring different styles and themes, so you can see how it all comes together in the end. Get your creative juices flowing and start planning something amazine. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together!