How To Choose Music for your Wedding

Wedding music

Weddings have a lot of moving parts. We’ve got to coordinate the venue, the guests, the food, the decor, as well as all the details that make the day feel thoughtfully crafted. There are a lot of things to take care of when planning a wedding, but few of them dictate the direction of the ceremony and reception, like the choices we make with our wedding music.

Let’s look at the must-haves. Of course, we want to include all our favorite dance jams to keep the floor jumping. Most of us like to add in some of the songs that get our parents and grandparents excited. We also want a few of those songs that are primed to bring on the water works. Choosing a good balance of upbeat, nostalgic, and romantic tunes will give the party fuel, and it will also give guests ample time to rest and reflect on love.

So, how do we pick music that works on all levels?

Selecting great wedding music

Learning how to pick wedding music is a little bit of an artform. You’ve got to balance songs that the couple can’t live without with the crowd-pleasers that will keep guests from going home early. Luckily you don’t have to do all this on your own. An experienced wedding DJ or band will already know the ins and outs of playing a great wedding. What you’ve got to focus on is the big songs that kick in at key moments.

The processionals and recessional

A wedding begins as simply a bunch of people milling about until the procession begins. Instead of asking yourself, “how many processional songs do I need” ask yourself, “what songs start my ceremony off on the right foot?”The songs you choose for your processionals will showcase the personalities of the wedding party and set the tone for the rest of the evening. Choose songs that do just that. 

If you want a grand event that showcases sophistication, you can go with the classics. Canon in D is as popular as ever. If you’re a fun loving couple who are looking to facilitate a loose and free feel, maybe choose something a little more upbeat and funky. Cultivate the atmosphere you want for your ceremony.

When the ceremony has finished, the recessional is the physical and emotional transition from the ritual to the reception. Let your guests know what to expect from the night ahead of them. Again, let your personality shine here. 

The first dances

Great choices in wedding music are also important during the first dances. We may want a sappy song to get the tears flowing during the daddy daughter dance. Maybe the couple’s first dance song tells their story to a T. These are big moments in a very memorable day, so make sure you choose something that exemplifies the bonds you share.

The ceremony and dinner

Choosing the right wedding ceremony music order can transform a disjointed grouping of songs into a cohesive unit. During times when people are focusing on the ceremony or eating and conversing, it’s best to go with low key or jazzy music. Ceremony music that is too upbeat or driven by vocals will distract from the reason you brought all these people together in the first place. 

During dinner, most people like to chat with the people at their table. They may be seated with people they haven’t seen in awhile. They may also be busy making new friends. Keeping things chill during dinner allows them to enjoy their meals and company without shouting through mouthfuls of that delicious dinner you’ve decided upon.

Songs with strong emotional ties

We’ve all got songs that mean a lot to us. Maybe we connect with the lyrics. Perhaps the melody moves us like nothing else in our lives. Music is a very powerful medium, and picking the songs that mean the most to us makes our wedding day so much more memorable.

The live band advantage

Going with a live band over a DJ offers some distinct advantages. First and foremost, a live band is able to tweak songs, so they play better to the audience and more closely match the musical preferences of the couple. They can play jazzy versions of hip hop songs, and they can play crooning acoustic versions of hard rock songs. Whatever makes a song fit the theme.

They can also interact with the crowd in ways that are very hard for DJs to match. A great frontman or woman engages the crowd and keeps things fun and exciting. You’ve just gotta make sure you pick the right band.

Picking the band

Just because your best friend has a great band doesn’t necessarily make them a natural choice to play your wedding. Do you really want them missing out on all the fun with you and the rest of the crew? 

Playing a wedding is far different from playing most other gigs. A wedding band must know a wide range of typical wedding songs that span generations if you want to make sure your guests all have a great time. They should also be able to slip into slower songs for the times throughout the evening that don’t call for party songs. We’re looking at you, the ceremony, and dinner.

To be sure the band you choose has the right sound and style for your wedding, make sure to see a performance beforehand. You can see a video of another wedding they played, slip in to peek at a wedding they are playing during your planning phase, or request a live audition. This way, you won’t be caught off guard on the big day. 

The wedding DJ

Depending on the evening you’ve got planned, a live band doesn’t always fit the event, the venue, or the budget. A band will require a lot more space in the venue than a wedding DJ. Probably even a stage. A live band will also typically run in the $4k to $6k range and can go a lot higher if you want a specific band or one with many players and singers. On the other hand, the average price for a wedding DJ is around $1k. It’s a big difference. There are some real considerations when making the choice, but rest assured, going with a DJ can be a great one.

The variety

While most wedding bands are versed in many different types of wedding music, they simply can’t provide the variety you get with a DJ. A veteran wedding band may know a couple hundred songs and be willing to learn a few of your must-haves, but a DJ likely has tens of thousands of songs at their disposal. If a very wide variety of traditional and nontraditional wedding music is important to you, a DJ is much better equipped to deliver.

Guaranteed hits

Knowing how to play a song isn’t the same as knocking it out of the park. When we really like a specific version of a song or the way a particular singer emotes, we can quickly become disappointed if the band blows our favorite song. Going with a DJ takes that possibility out of the equation.

Other music essentials

Selecting your wedding band or DJ is only part of getting the music you want. Even the best wedding music list doesn’t deliver if you don’t set it up for success. If you want the music to sound as good as you imagine it will, there are other details to take care of.

The sound system

The music can only shine as bright as the system that’s amplifying it. If the venue you’ve chosen has a house system, it may feel like you are getting something for free, but if the system isn’t up to par, you may be disappointed with the sound. Make sure the band or DJ knows what they’re working with, and find out if you need to get any additional or alternate equipment.

Give the band your wedding songs list

Once you’ve made your decision between the band and DJ, make sure to give whomever you choose a wedding song checklist that includes both the must-haves and the absolute no no’s. As much as you want to make sure you hear your favorites, it’s equally important to let them know which songs make you cringe.

Music is what sets great parties apart from decent ones. Wedding music is so important to the success of a great wedding. It should be on the forefront of your mind throughout the entire planning phase. If you’ve got a soundtrack for putting the event together, you can be sure the soundtrack of the event is everything you want it to be.

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