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How Many Songs Do You Need For A Wedding? [For The Full Day]

Before you can sit down and start choosing your favorite songs to play at your wedding, its imperative to know how many you will need. Besides, its a long day and you have both a ceremony and reception to think about! Requiring such information, I spent some time researching what is typical and what makes sense to plan for.

So, how many songs do you need for a wedding? You generally will need around 90 songs for a wedding; 3-12 for the ceremony, 1 for the couples first dance and around 20 songs per hour for the wedding reception (with the average being four hours in length). Each song that is chosen should be appropriate and complimentary to the time in which it is played.

It goes without saying that the music you play at your wedding is very important. Both for the ceremony and the reception. It makes a big impression on your guests and also sets the tone for the mood, dynamics and atmosphere during the various parts of your day.

Besides, its an ideal and opportune way to put your stamp on your wedding; giving your guests an insight into your preferences and what you as a couple typically enjoy.

Let us now take a closer look at the songs you will need for your wedding in further detail.

We will also be looking at some of the best ways to choose your songs, so be sure to read all the way until the end to know exactly how to approach the music for your special day!

What Songs Do You Need For A Wedding?

You generally need three different types of songs for your wedding; songs for the ceremony, those for the important dances, and reception songs for the evening celebrations.

Of course, the songs you play during each one will be very different; in terms of style, tone and pace.

The first step is therefore to make that distinction between the wedding ceremony and the reception. Songs will need to be entirely suitable for each one.

That being said, the music for your wedding should be in accordance with the personal tastes and preferences of the bride and the groom. It should be a combination of what they personally like and those that set up the day accordingly.

Equally, the music should also align with the venue and any wedding theme; with songs that fit with the general formality of the day itself.

It is for this reason that songs can vary quite dramatically from wedding to wedding.

It is also why the ceremony is often associated with slower, more traditional classical music, whereas the reception is often filled with pop or dance songs.

Besides, the expectation and course of events are entirely different.

Nevertheless, when it comes to choosing songs; the guests whom will be in attendance should be considered, along with how you are looking to play the music to your guests.

Whether you are having a DJ, Singer or Live Band can all make a difference in what you will ultimately want to play.

How Many Songs Do You Need For A Wedding Ceremony?

Traditionally, a wedding ceremony involves 3 types of songs – preludes, processionals and recessionals.

Let us now take a closer look at each one:

The Prelude

The prelude is the moment shortly before the start of the ceremony, about 30 minutes prior.

During this time, the guests are still gathering and taking their seats.

The prelude music is quietly played at the background in the meantime. The playlist consists of lighter, slower and gentler music that is very subtly noticeable.

You can choose a small selection of songs. If we took the average song at 3 minutes in length, then you will have to prepare to play at least 10 songs to cover the 30 minutes.

Another idea is to select, for example, 5 songs and rotate them during the prelude.

You can also go for 1 song but this can get very tiresome for the guests who arrive early and listen to the same song for the entire duration of the prelude. Not advised!

Another option is to choose a classical music playlist, instead of songs.

Talking to your venue here is a good idea. They will likely have some suggestions or even playlists they can use.

The Processional

The processional is the part of the ceremony where the bridal party walk down the aisle, marking the beginning of the ceremony.

For example, the officiant followed by the groom, groom’s parents, bridesmaids, best man, etc.

Traditionally one song is played during the processional.

Again, your venue may be able to help you out here.

Either way, its a good idea to vary the music a bit from the prelude so that your guests are aware the ceremony is about to commence!

The Recessional

The recessional occurs at the end of the wedding ceremony itself.

This is when the bridal party walks down the aisle to leave. They do so in the same order as the processional, but in reverse!

So, using out previous example:

Best man, bridesmaids, grooms parents, groom, officiant…

Again and traditionally, one song is played during the recessional.

Besides, people tend to leave the ceremony faster than they come in.

How Long Should A Walk Down The Aisle Song Be?

Generally, a walk down the aisle should not take more than 3-4 minutes. The song also should not be longer than this.

To find out precisely the length of your walk, consider a couple of things:

  • The length of the aisle – every venue is different and some aisles can be longer and shorter than others. It goes without saying that the longer the aisle, the longer the walk. Its a good idea to rehearse the walk, at the venue if at all possible, and time down the minutes you need.
  • Personal pace – test the aisle by going up and down a couple of times, finding a comfortable and normal pace for you.
  • The length of the song – try walking with the song playing in the background. This is the best way to align the lyrics and your pace.

All and all, the whole walking-down-the-aisle-with-a-song should not be more than 3-4 minutes.

Anything longer will soon get quite tedious for everyone involved, and your guests may start feeling restless!

How Many Songs Do You Need For A Wedding Reception?

You will need around 20 songs per hour for your wedding reception. So the average wedding reception that goes on for 4 hours will need 80 songs.

Of course, this is just an estimate and will depend on the length of the songs, of course.

But if we assume that a song is between 2-3 minutes on average – this means that around 20 songs can be played in an hour (20×3).

You then would need to calculate against length of the reception. So:

Length of ReceptionSongs Required
3 Hours60
4 Hours80
5 Hours100
6 Hours120

Either way, it is important to keep the music flowing throughout the whole reception, and plan accordingly.

You’ll also need to consider some of the special dances – with appropriate songs designated for each:

  • Wedding party grand entrance song,
  • Bride and groom’s entrance,
  • First dance as a couple,
  • Father Daughter dance,
  • Mother Son Dance,
  • Wedding Party dance,
  • Cake cutting,
  • Garter toss,
  • Bouquet toss,
  • Last song of the night

Not all of these are required, but some of which are very traditional and will be somewhat expected by your guests.

Take for example the father of the bride, daughter dance.

How Do You Choose Your The Music for Your Wedding?

Choosing the music for your wedding should be a fun process. Although you do have a few different things to consider.

So, it is advised to keep the following points in mind:

Figure Out The Basics

First of all, decide how many songs you will need.

Think about how long your ceremony will be and the individual elements e.g. the processional.

Consider how long your reception will be and if you are you going to have any special dances etc.

Consult With The Venue

It is possible that some more conservative venues will not allow any kind of music, or will have strict rules on what can be played.

Some of them may have a list of specific traditional or religious songs you have to choose from, whereas others may require only music that has no lyrics.

Find out the rules, if any, and take it from there.

Consider Special Moments

Both the bride and groom should take the time and think of some of the special moments that they had together: how did you feel? Was there any music around? Which was the hit that year?

Music from a concert you went together to or an artist you both love may also be excellent options.

Choose A Theme

To make the process a little faster and easier, consider a common style of songs.

For example, you can go for all pop, rock, 90s, 80s, love songs, etc.

What Atmosphere Do You Want To Create?

You want your reception to be the best party for you and your guests.

Take a moment to think what atmosphere and what feeling you would like to create – slow, romantic love songs are great but they do not necessarily create a great party.

Would you like your reception to be more upbeat, techno, instrumental, hard rock, jazz, etc.

The Age Of Your Guests

It may be a good idea to consider the average age of your guests.

Your immediate family like parents, grandparents, etc. are one thing but if the rest of the guests are predominantly in their 20s or 30s you might want to consider neutral music that everyone will be able to relate to.

If your budget allows it, you can hire a professional band or a DJ to take care of the music at your wedding.

In fact, parties are much better and more fun with live music.

Even if you go for this option, you will have to discuss with the band/DJ the style of music you prefer and set up at least the 10 main songs for the special dances and the wedding ceremony.


To make the process a bit easier, here is a list of the 10 main songs that you will need to consider for your ceremony and reception:

  1. Prelude,
  2. Processional,
  3. Bridal Processional.
  4. Recessional.
  5. Reception Entrance,
  6. Couples First Dance,
  7. Father Daughter dance,
  8. Mother Son dance,
  9. The Party Starter,
  10. The Last Song.

Every other song will be for the reception celebrations.

When you consider that an average wedding reception lasts for 4 hours, you’re going to need in the vicinity of 80 songs (based on the calculation of 20 songs per hour)

All in, including both the wedding ceremony and reception itself, is around the 90 song mark.

When you make your selections, be sure to think about any venue requirements, wedding themes, associations, the age of your guests and personal preferences.

And remember, try to enjoy the song selection process. It should be a lot of fun!