More than any other aspect, music will set the tone for your wedding. From your ceremony to cocktail hour to dinner to dancing, the music that’s playing will let your guests know the mood and how to respond accordingly. Also, songs played at significant moments will become the soundtrack to your wedding. These songs will recall special memories for you when you hear them later in life.
How do I choose music for my wedding?
Music moves your wedding from moment to moment. Try to pinpoint these moments (see “music moments” below for examples) and choose appropriate songs.
Keep the mood in mind for each moment. While some songs may be crowd pleasers on the dance floor, consider providing soft background music as your guests mingle.
Don’t be afraid of a little variety. For example, if you’re only into hard rock, you may have to make exceptions for slower tempos at times.
Give your musicians or disc jockey (DJ) the liberty to use their discretion. Rather than giving them a list of every song for the night, keep your requests to no more than 25 songs. This allows a professional to feel the mood and play songs to accommodate the atmosphere, which will escalate and calm throughout the reception.
Deliver a list of a couple songs or musical genres that you don’t want played that night, so you won’t have to experience any low level loathing at your wedding.
Decide whether guests can make song requests at the reception. With guest participation and a strong professional DJ/emcee, your wedding will be a fun, festive event enjoyed by yourself and your guests, that’s free to move with the spontaneity of the moment.
Consider your guests and set the tone. Will they feel comfortable with a conga line or prefer to sit and talk amongst themselves at the reception?
When do I need to book the ceremony and reception music?
Ideally, you should book your DJ, musician, or band six months in advance.
Should I hire a DJ or a live band?
If you have a specific style of music that you’d prefer to play consistently through the night, consider hiring a band or musician. But if you have a variety of music interests, a DJ will have thousands of songs at his disposal and the competence to blend genres smoothly.
Before signing a contract, you need to find out who is the best match for you and your groom. Ask questions about a DJ’s or band’s:
musical style and areas of expertise,
variety or range,
ability to emcee,
and upcoming performances/sample CDs to preview.
It’s okay to take personalities into account too. If a DJ or band meshes well with your personality, then it’s likely that you’ll work well together in preparation for the event and on your wedding day. The last thing you want to worry about at your wedding is if the temperamental guitarist isn’t feeling up to playing your song requests.
Finally, discuss your anticipated atmosphere with your musicians or disc jockey.
Do you want constant crowd involvement on the dance floor or calming background sounds as your guests chat at the bar?
Do you want them to interact with the guests?
Make sure that you and your music crew have a clear understanding of your expectations.
Don’t neglect their potential as an emcee. If you hire a professional DJ, you’ll have a trained professional to work with other professionals at your wedding (i.e. photographer, cake delivery, caterers, venue wedding coordinator) to direct the timing of all events while coordinating the appropriate music. Unfortunately, bands do not typically have training as emcees, so you would need to hire an additional event director for the wedding.
Who should be the emcee? Do I really need an “MC” at my wedding?
The emcee is vital, as he or she organizes the flow of your wedding. Typically the Disc Jockey will act as you Emcee or Master of Ceremonies. He or she will announce the grand entrance, toasts, cake cutting, first dance, order the tables will be dismissed for the buffet dinner, and much more. An emcee will get your guests’ attention for these important moments, as well as ensure they happen according to plan. For example, you won’t be left wondering where your father is for your special father-daughter dance; instead, an emcee will announce that it’s time for Dad to make his way to the dance floor. In a nutshell, an emcee gives you a worry-free and memorable evening.
With an emcee, you’ll need to go over a few details before the wedding:
Inform your emcee of the order of events.
Give your emcee a timeline, especially if you are on a tight schedule.
Let your emcee know if toasts are to be given strictly by the predetermined people (best man, maid-of-honor, parents) or if toasts by guests are also acceptable.
Go over the pronunciation of every person’s name who will be introduced during your wedding.
I’m thinking about just using my iPod or Laptop. How does that work at a wedding?
Unfortunately, iPod weddings rarely work. Yes, it will be cheaper, but at what cost?
The Perfect Playlist Can’t Judge the Mood:
Even the best variety playlist will not be able to get your guests moving the way a trained professional can. And even if you’re someone who can tell the guests’ mood and think of the perfect song to play next, you don’t want to spend your wedding rushing up to the speakers to hit the (>>) next button every three minutes.
No Emcee Equals Catastrophe:
Also, with an iPod at the helm, you’re left without an emcee. Who’s going to announce you at the grand entrance? Who’s going to orchestrate the toasts? When “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” starts to play, you’ll know it’s time to cut the cake. But your guests won’t. And you moving toward the cake table isn’t exactly going to turn everyone’s heads. Instead, a trained emcee can take the mic, redirect attention in seconds, use music strategically, and keep the atmosphere alive and enjoyable for you and your guests all night long.
Consider the Cost—Literally:
Much to brides’ surprise, the cost of a DJ is not much more than an iPod wedding. Think of all the cash you’ll have to spend for a good PA system, cables, stands, wireless mic(s), cost of equipment delivery and pick-up, iPod, iPod player, and new songs you’ll have to purchase to ensure a decent performance. Not to mention, do you know how to work the technology once it arrives at your doorstep? Frankly, the time, effort, and stress when technical difficulties occur aren’t worth the trouble for your wedding. Spend a little bit more for a professional, and receive a wealth of worry-free, well-organized, and outrageously fun experiences at your wedding!
What music moments do I need to choose songs for?
While your wedding may vary, here are traditional wedding music moments to keep in mind. Remember that while it’s important to choose songs for your most personal moments (like your walk down the aisle, grand entrance, and special dances), it’s also helpful to give your DJ or band the liberty to use their professional discretion.
Prelude (Guests’ Arrival and Seating)
Mothers’ Processional and Seating
Groom’s and Minister’s Processional
Bridal March (Bride’s Entrance and Walk Down the Aisle)
Ceremony Additions (These are optional events, like Unity Candle, Sands of Time, Rose Presentation, Dove Release, or Dedication Song.)
Recessional (Bride’s and Groom’s exit after being pronounced “husband and wife”)
Light background music allows wedding guests to chat while you take formal photos before your grand entrance.
First Dance for Newlywed Couple
Guests’ First Dance/ Party Starter
Garter Removal and Toss
Last Dance of the Night
For specific song suggestions, speak with your DJ or musicians. Also, start taking note of song names and artists that you like when you hear them on the radio or playlists. Most DJs allow your song decisions to be changed up to two weeks before your wedding.