Aisle be there: The personalized wedding march

Story highlights

Many stick with traditional options like the "Bridal March" for their walk down the aisle

Others choose artists and songs that reflect their relationship

It isn't always a parent accompanying their child down the aisle

Some choose a sibling, other relative, pet or a solo stroll

CNN  — 

You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe years, planning this day. From the moment that one (or both) of you said “Yes!” it’s been a whirlwind of wardrobe fittings, seating charts, cake tastings, envelope stuffings, raised glasses and perhaps a teary meltdown or two.

Now all that stands between you and your soon-to-be lawfully wedded spouse (who is looking more gorgeous today than ever) is a few yards of aisle. And all of a sudden, that seems like the longest walk of your lifetime.

Even those of us who are hazy on some details of our wedding day recall exactly how we got to our beloved’s side, and who accompanied us there. Whether it’s expressed in a beloved song, an unconventional companion or creative transportation, the long trip down the aisle is an opportunity to make your wedding day unique.

For many people in the Western world, Richard Wagner’s “Bridal March” from the 1850 opera “Lohengrin” is the music by which the great stride occurs. Those getting married in the Roman Catholic Church (which doesn’t cotton to the inclusion of secular music in a religious ceremony) aren’t presented with a suite of approved music, but according to a quote often attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo, “He who sings prays twice.”

Accordingly, the happy couple is asked to consider a few criteria from Catholic catechism in making their song selections: three principal criteria: beauty that is expressive of prayer, participation of the assembled (everybody sing along!), and solemnity befitting the occasion. That considerably slims down the songbook, but hey – there’s always the reception.

For the rest of us, the world is our jukebox, and that can be a daunting decision. It’s a moment that sets a tone for the ceremony, the crowd and possibly even the marriage itself.

A video from the wedding procession of Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz went viral in 2009 and has been viewed more than 84 million times on YouTube since. The “JK Wedding Entrance Dance” – which was later recreated by characters in an episode of the sitcom “The Office” – involved members of the wedding party dancing down the aisle, followed by the tumbling groom, and eventually the beaming, bobbing bride.

Sales of their processional song, “Forever” skyrocketed as the video’s popularity soared – but the perception of the artist, Chris Brown, came crashing back down to Earth as allegations of abuse against his on-again-off-again girlfriend Rihanna surfaced. Heinz and Peterson took action and set up an initiative for donations and ad dollars to be contributed to the Sheila Wellstone Foundation, which works to end domestic violence. According to an update on the couples’ website, as of August 1, 2013, $47,641 had been raised for the cause.

But it’s a rare couple that undergoes that sort of musical scrutiny. For most, song choice is a deeply personal decision, based on shared experiences, values, the ceremony’s aesthetics and old favorites – and it’s plain old fun to engage in.

For Sandy Fong-Navalta, that song was “All I Ask of You” from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” strummed by a harpist as her 10-year-old niece, Sumiko, accompanied her on the walk.

Fong-Navalta explained, “My father died in 1989 and the thought of getting married and walking down the aisle alone always terrified me. I swore to myself I would never, ever get married. But, when I met the love of my life in 2005, my fears were replaced with love and trust.”

The song still brings tears to her eyes whenever she hears it, Fong-Navalta said.

“Say you need me with you now and always. Promise me that all you say is true. Love me, that’s all I ask of you. Then say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime. Let me lead you from your solitude. Say you need me with you here beside you, anywhere you go, let me go, too. That’s all I ask of you. …”

Tiffany Barry found a more raucous reflection of her path to the altar in the Nine Inch Nails song “La Mer.”

She explained, “Because of a nasty divorce between our parents, my brother and I really raised each other growing up. Because of this, I felt it fitting that my brother, two years younger, escorted me to the aisle where I then walked by myself to my waiting husband.”

The song, which is in a more melodic style than bandleader Trent Reznor’s usual industrial style, featured lyrics (which translate from the French to “when the day comes, I will become the sky and the sea, and the sea will come to kiss me, for I am going home, and nothing can stop me”) that Barry felt were “a perfect marriage of music and meaning” and embodied her feelings toward her husband, who was raised near the sea.

“Through marriage we were becoming one and creating our home,” she said.