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What Is A Prelude At A Wedding? [All You Need To Know]

Ever wonder how every single element of a wedding comes together? Yeah, me too. One of those, in particular, I have been thinking about is the prelude. What is it, how long does it last, etc.? With a little research, here is everything you need to know about it. 

So what is a prelude at a wedding? The prelude at a wedding is the playlist of songs that are played during the time that the guests start to arrive at the wedding and get seated for the wedding ceremony. It usually lasts about 30 minutes and sets the scene and mood for the bride to come down the aisle. The prelude ends at the start of the procession.

There are so many parts of the wedding ceremony. 

Each has its own terminology and is considered a different component altogether.

It is, therefore, the combination of these different components that we get our ceremony. 

And then, there are the variables and preferences of each component.

The prelude is one of them; they can change from one wedding to the next.

So, let us now explore the fundamentals of a prelude so you know exactly what they may and may not entail.

That way, whether you are the bride or groom, in the bridal party, or even a guest – you can set your expectations and understand the process. 

How Long Is A Wedding Prelude?

The average wedding prelude is usually 30 minutes long, but it can be shorter or even longer than this. Nevertheless, 30 minutes is a good estimate as this is when guests will often begin to arrive for the ceremony. 

But of course, because some weddings are designed for the guests to come a little earlier – there are different length preludes. 

Here are some examples of how the prelude will work.

  • Entertainment hour. Sometimes a wedding will have guests come up to an hour early and have pre cocktail hour. This may be a light refreshment drink while happy and light-hearted songs play to set the mood. In this case, people may be getting reacquainted with each other and engage in casual conversation before the ceremony. 
  • Destination weddings. Sometimes destination weddings allow for longer preludes because there really is a different timetable for everything. Your guests may be helping do a little of the setup or just their early because it is a small venue like a rented house. In this case, the backyard might have music going all morning long in preparation for your ceremony. 

Really, the length of a wedding prelude is entirely up to the bride and the groom. 

And depending on where the bride and her bridesmaids get ready will dictate whether they hear it or not.

What Are Some Good Prelude Songs For A Wedding?

Traditional weddings will tell you calm music that is inviting, and peaceful make for good wedding prelude songs. However, there is no rule or requirement as to what you have to play. Nowadays, many brides and grooms opt for a mixture of music styles and types.

Something to keep in mind is that not all prelude wedding playlists are played via a music system.

Sometimes guitarists, violists, and pianists are used to perform live music as their guests arrive.

That is something that we are doing, for instance.

We have hired an independent solo musician to play our prelude songs during our ceremony.

And we’ll provide him with our favorite songs.

That is what good prelude songs are all about.

They should be those that mean the most to you and your partner. 

And are suitable, of course.

That being said, everyone needs a little inspiration from time to time.

So here are some categories and the best songs that fall in each for you to consider including in your prelude.


Traditional piano classics never get old when it comes to bringing in your guests. 

It sounds just as beautiful as your country club wedding on a sunny morning. 

Often classical music prelude playlists are chosen by the wedding organizers because of their experience. 

Although, this is not to say you cannot provide your own playlist.

Here are some classics to consider or that your venue may wish to play:

  1. Moonlight Sonata
  2. Claire De Luna
  3. The Swan
  4. Meditation from Thais
  5. To a Wild Rose

New School

Old school to some, new for others.

Either way, some couples decide that millennial music is the way to go.

I mean, I cannot think of a more appropriate artist than Taylor Swift as guests make their way to their seats. 

Or should we say shake it off as they arrive? 

  1. Lover – Taylor Swift
  2. Ho Hey – The Lumineers
  3. Yellow – Coldplay
  4. Halo – Beyonce
  5. XO – John Mayer


Country music brings that sunny warmth on your wedding day that everyone needs. 

Country music is the perfect type of prelude for a barn wedding or a country wedding in general. 

Plus, it’s becoming some of the most popular music all over the world. 

  1. You’re Still the One – Shania Twain
  2. I Do – Paul Brandt
  3. You Had Me From Hello – Kenny Chesney
  4. Like I Never Loved Before – Phil Vassar
  5. Then – Brad Paisley


Sometimes we just need a little Earth, Wind, and Fire. Or the Supremes? 

If you have some old-school Whitney Houston fans, then the old souls in the audience are sure to be pleased with this playlist. 

This is a little more upbeat than your classics but certainly brings everyone on a trip down memory lane. 

  1. September – Earth, Wind, and Fire 
  2. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
  3. Let’s Groove Tonight – Earth, Wind, and Fire
  4. What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tine Turner
  5.  Stop! In The Name Of Love – The Supremes

All of the above songs are just a guideline of popular song choices for the prelude.

But it really can be anything that a groom and bride want as long as it’s appropriate for the venue, theme, and also, the guests. 

What Is The Difference Between Prelude And Processional?

The prelude is the wedding playlist made up by the bride and groom that greets the guests as they enter for the wedding ceremony. On the other hand, the processional is the one song that the bride walks down the aisle to. 

Playlist vs. individual song.

That’s how you need to remember it.

Besides, if you are confusing the prelude and the processional for one another, then you are probably confused as to why you would be walking down the aisle to a 30-minute playlist. 

Thankfully you’re not! 

Relief right? 

That would be some really slow steps. 

The processional is that one special song. It can be a classic song that is popular across weddings or a unique custom-picked song. 

Lots of couples have “their song” for their processional.

While technically you can play whatever you want – the processional is something that you will want to spend quite some time thinking about.

Besides, it’s a special moment on your big day.  

How Many Prelude Songs Do You Need For A Wedding?

You need between 5-15 songs for a prelude, on average. Although, the total amount will depend on the type of music you are playing, the venue, and the duration of each song. 

For instance, if you go the classic route, these songs tend to be around five minutes apiece. 

In that case, you would be looking at around six to seven songs, just to be sure. 

In essence, a typical prelude ceremony playlist length is around thirty minutes. 

So, you need to do the math here.

Work out how many minutes your songs total at. And then, just ensure they meet or slightly exceed 30 minutes.

Alternatively, instead of looking to fill a time frame, some couples decide to pick their favorite songs together, and however many minutes the playlist is, dictates how long their prelude is. 

It’s the other way of approaching it.

Neither is right or wrong.

It comes down to preferences.

And you can make the prelude as meaningful or as relaxed as you want. 

Nevertheless, do stop and consider it.

A prelude is one of those special moments and something you can plan as a couple together. 

Otherwise, if it is something that you don’t particularly care about, then you can always give this task to your maid of honor or your wedding organizer. 

Nothing To Stress Over

There are so many things to stress over during the wedding that adding the prelude to that list is completely not necessary. 

If music is something that really resonates with you and your partner, then by all means, be a part of the process in picking out the prelude playlist. 

But if it is something you haven’t thought about, then don’t stress. 

It is merely a thirty-minute playlist for your guests, mostly.

Either you can choose an album, curate a playlist, or you can task this off to a bridesmaid or someone else. 

Oftentimes preludes are composed of classical songs.

There is a reason for this tradition; they work! 

But that does not mean you have to follow suit. 

You can handpick your prelude songs and play the music that actually resonates with you and your partner.

Perhaps use it to give the guests a little insight into you both. 

Within reason, of course!

Just remember that your prelude is different than your precessional.

Prelude = playlist

Processional = one song that the bride walks down the aisle to. 

The prelude may still be playing as the groom walks his mother to his chair, but the processional is when the groom is firmly in place waiting for his bride. 

The prelude sets the mood and is typically peaceful and calming – it quite often represents the wedding theme to some degree. 

And while a prelude is typically 30 minutes – it really can be as long or as short as the bride and groom want it to be.

Have other questions about what certain things are at a wedding? Then my following guides may be of help: