Scottish Wedding Music

Wedding Ceremonies and Music

Wedding ceremony music, also known as nuptial music, consists of traditional, contemporary and classical selections whose moods and tempos are suited for the traditional wedding ceremony. Many are well known pieces such as the Wedding Marches by Wagner and Mendelssohn, which are synonymous with the wedding ceremony.

This, however, does not mean that traditional or other types of music cannot be substituted for certain nuptial selections. The chosen musicians will know a suitable selection and the guests are likely to recognize and associate it with the couples wedding ceremony. Consult with the couple about the selection required. Musicians are usually happy to increase their repertoire and can advise if a piece of music is suitable for a certain part of the ceremony.

In a Scottish wedding there are several options for using a solo bagpiper, at the Church, or the marriage ceremony, piping the bride in at the beginning of the ceremony and bride and groom out at the completion of the service. Also playing as the bridal party leaves the ceremony is customary. If using bagpipes as part of a wedding ceremony it is important to remember that it is physically difficult to play the bagpipe for a sustained length of time. A traditonal group, fiddler, string quartet, clarsach and piano etc can all be used as background music as and when required during the proceedings but the bagpipes are loud and definitely not background music.

The clarsach (small harp) is increasingly popular in Scotland for wedding ceremonies. It is a wonderful subtle background instrument for most parts of the ceremony. Sometimes clarsachs are employed too for background music during the meal.

For a religious ceremony it may be necessary to check with the clergy to find the limitations on material and instrumentation, if any. If the ceremony is to be held in a venue other than a church it is advisable to check out the acoustics, possible need for a PA and shelter, in case of adverse weather if an outside venue is chosen.


The Prelude is an interval of music starting 20 to 30 minutes prior to your ceremony. During the Prelude, your musicians establish the mood for your wedding. The choice of appropriate mood is entirely up to the couple, and they may wish to choose vocal or instrumental music to create it. For example a string ensemble playing violin concertos by Vivaldi will create an elegant mood, traditional musicians can create a relaxed and celebratory mood, an organist playing religious selections will create a religious mood symbolizing the importance of this day, a vocalist singing contemporary love ballads will create a romantic mood. Or perhaps it may be desirable for the musicians to provide a mixture of types of music creating a variety of moods.

Generally in the Prelude selections the music should not be dance orientated, and should be played at a volume that creates suitable background for light conversation, prayer or reflection amongst the guests as they wait for the ceremony to begin. The following traditional and classical works are suggestions only but can be very effective in creating various moods.


  • The Favourite Dram
  • Aran Boat Song
  • Huntingtone Castle
  • Sitting in the Stern of a Boat
  • Greensleeves - English version
  • Greensleeves - Scottish Version
  • New World Symphony
  • Pachelbels Canon Any Violin Concerto by Vivaldi. Rondo (Mozart) Air (from The Water Music) - Handel The Four Seasons -Vivaldi


  • Kumbaya
  • Leanabh an Aigh - Morning has Broken
  • St Anthony’s Chorale - Haydn
  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - Bach Handel’s Largo


  • Haste to the Wedding
  • O’ Carolan’s Concerto
  • The Nuptial Knot - Snaim a’ Phosaidh Brandenburg Concertos - Bach Hornpipe in D (from The Water Music) - Handel Rondo for Flute and Orchestra - Mozart


  • My Love is like a Red Red Rose
  • Ae Fond Kiss
  • Tiree Bridal song - Am Falbh Thu Leam, A Ribhinn Og?
  • Gradh Geal mo Chridhe - Eriskay Love Lilt - traditional
  • Eriskay Love Lilt - modern version One Hand, One Heart (from West Side Story) - Sondheim/Bernstein All I Ask of You (from Phantom of the Opera) - Webber Pavane - Faure

While the Prelude music plays, the ushers escort the guests to their seats. Playing a majestic work with a quick tempo can dramatically capture the guests' attention and announce the beginning of the wedding ceremony.


A typical church wedding begins with the entrance of the wedding party. Normally, the ushers lead the procession, followed by the bridesmaids, maid of honor, the ring bearer, and the flower girl. The music should enable the wedding party to walk comfortably in time down the church aisle. It could begin softly and increase in volume gradually until the bride's entrance. If the same selection of tunes is also used for the bride's entrance, there should be a noticeable increase in volume when she is ready to enter.


  • St Kilda Wedding (played as a march)
  • Highland Wedding 2/4 Pipe March
  • The Cameron Highlanders 6/8 March
  • Pibroch of Donald Dhu 6/8 March
  • The Piper’s Weird 6/8 air
  • Pachelbel's Canon (a very popular Processional piece).
  • Air on a G String - Bach


The bride's entrance is the most important moment of the wedding day. The music that is played greatly contributes to this lifelong memory. Its role is to announce the bride and focus all attention on her. The volume must be significantly louder than the music played for the attendants. With each step, the bride is assisted by the driving rhythm of the music.

Synonymous with the wedding ceremony is the Bridal March from Lohengrin (Here Comes the Bride) which will instantly proclaim the entrance of the bride. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba or the Trumpet Voluntary are other classical tunes to consider. Traditional tunes suitable may include O’ Carolan’s Concerto, Highland Wedding, St Kilda Wedding (played as a march). The tune Highland Cathedral is often played by pipers or fiddlers as the bride marches down the aisle for the ceremony and as she returns down the aisle with her new husband.


  • O’ Carolan’s Concerto
  • Highland Wedding
  • St Kilda Wedding (played as a march).
  • Bridal Chorus (from Lohengrin) - Wagner
  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheeba - Handel
  • Trumpet Voluntary - Henry Purcell
  • The Athole Highlanders (played as a march not a jig)


If desired, a selection or two may be played during the ceremony. Music can provide a short interlude before a reading. The selection could have a slow tempo and be played softly behind speaking or between parts of the ceremony. Traditional airs and vocal selections are very suitable. Often the couple will have particular personal requests of solos or hymns that they wish to be included in their ceremony.


  • Sittting in the Stern of a Boat
  • An Ataireachd Ard
  • An Gaol a Thug mi òg
  • Huntingtone Castle
  • Rowan Tree
  • Amazing Grace Panis Angelicas - Franck Ave Maria - Bach/Gounod

Hymns suitable for the ceremony

  • Aurelia (bridal hymn)
  • Holy Holy (hymn)
  • Love Divine (bridal hymn)


The end of the ceremony is usually marked by the bridal kiss or the announcement of the newly married couple. The bride and groom exit arm in arm, followed by the flower girl and ring bearer, the maid of honor and best man, and bridesmaid/usher pairs.

Music should now be majestic and played with a quick tempo.


  • Highland Wedding (march)
  • Lewis Bridal Song - Marie’s Wedding (march)
  • Murdo’s Wedding (march)
  • Far O’er Struy (slow march)
  • Merry May the Pair Be - Gu ma mear a charaid (reel)
  • Snaim a’ Phosaidh - The Nuptial Knot
  • Nut Brown Maid (march)
  • Westering Home (air)
  • Morag’s Wedding (strathspey) Ode to Joy (from 9th Symphony) - Beethoven Wedding March (from A Midsummer Night's Dream) - Mendelssohn


The Postlude begins after the Recessional. Since the music expresses joy it should be fast and triumphant (if there is a receiving line after the ceremony, music should be played until all guests have been greeted).


  • Stronsay Wedding (reel)
  • Kissing is the Best of A’ (reel)
  • Haste to the Wedding (jig)
  • My Love is but a Lassie Yet (reel)
  • I wish you would marry me now (reel)
  • Let’s Have a Ceilidh (polka)
  • Westering Home (air)
  • Stirling Castle (strathspey)
  • Newly Wed’s Reel
  • Buain na Rainich (reel)
  • Cutty’s Wedding (strathspey)
  • Trumpet Tune - Purcell Overture (from Music for the Royal Fireworks) - Handel Le Rejouissance (from Music for the Royal Fireworks) - Handel Suite in F Major - Handel


Sometimes the piper will pipe the bride and groom into the reception. Leading them to their table and then playing a selection of 5 to 7 tunes appropriate to the occasion. He may also stay and play for some of the dances such as the Eightsome reel and other Ceilidh dances to give the band a break. It is usual in Scotland to employ a band for the actual wedding celebrations after the meal. If it is a Ceilidh band it is worth asking to see if they can provide a “caller” to help guests with the dances they are not familiar with. “The Ceildh Collection” series of book has a good guide to the types of dances that would be required. There are four books in the series and the tunes are in “dance sets” with chords and ready made for celebrations.