Wedding Music 101, From Prelude to Last Dance
Here’s everything you need to consider as you choose your wedding music.
Whether you will have a band or DJ on your big day, choosing your wedding music will be a key part of the planning process. Your once-in-a-lifetime special day deserves the best soundtrack, so use the wedding music selection process as an opportunity to make your dreams a reality.
The first step in the wedding music selection process is deciding between a band and a DJ, but there are a few key considerations:
- How much do you want to spend on music?A band is usually more expensive than a DJ
- Are there any electrical or space limitations at your venue?A five-piece pop band with multiple amps, mics and electric guitars could blow out the power at an older venue, so be sure to communicate with your venue manager to see what the space can accommodate. Ask if couples usually have a band or DJ and get technical and equipment specs that you can discuss with your music professional.
- Does your venue provide equipment?Your band or DJ will have some of their own equipment but may need a platform/stage, electrical cables/extension cords, mic stands and other items.
- How are the acoustics at your venue?It would be hugely disappointing to hire a band and have their music sound flat because of bad acoustics, or for a too-small space to be overwhelmed by a loud group. Talking to your venue manager will help you get a sense of what will sound best in your space.
- What kind of vibe do you want to create?Consider the type of guests who will be attending, your theme (if any) and the kind of music that will be appropriate for your venue (e.g. you probably don’t want only a gentle harpist playing at a blowout bash).
Your Wedding Timeline and Special Songs
Once you’ve decided between a band or DJ, it’s time to start plotting out your special songs! Here’s a typical wedding-day timeline and the moments that require specific tunes:
- Prelude: Music that plays as guests are arriving and finding their seats. Usually fairly subdued.
- Processional: The wedding party’s entrance. Choose classical music for a formal wedding or a song you love for a more offbeat vibe!
- Bride’s entrance:Can be traditional or modern—your choice!
- Recessional:An upbeat, celebratory song that sets the tone for the rest of your day.
- Cocktail hour:These songs can be upbeat (but shouldn’t pull people onto the dance floor just yet!) or a bit more low-key. Just don’t put your guests to sleep—keep the energy of the day moving.
- Wedding party’s entrance:Your wedding party and parents arrive at the reception. Choose songs that are fun and get people excited and energized.
- Newlyweds’ grand entrance:This is the first time your guests are “officially” meeting you as a married couple, so pick a song that makes you happy and gets you excited for the reception.
- First dance:If you know “your song,” dance to it!
- Mother-son, father-daughter and other family dances: Whoever you’re dancing with, decide on the mood of your two-step: will it be intimate and emotional, fun and choreographed or just plain silly
- Dinner:Your wedding music professional will take the lead on this, but these songs should be low-key and allow guests to mingle, nibble and chat.
- Dance party:Your DJ or band can help you figure out the kind of vibe you want to create but be sure your first song is one that will get guests onto the dance floor and excited to party. Choose something that most people will know—Motown and funk are great options.
- Cake cutting:Many couples go with a “sugar” or “sweet” theme here
- Bouquet/garter toss:Don’t be afraid to get a little risqué!
- Slow songs:Let your band or DJ know if there are any specific, romantic songs you’d like to hear during the reception. Perhaps some first-dance options that didn’t make the cut?
- Last dance: A celebratory song that lets guests know the night is done and thanks them for being a part of your big day.
Your DJ or bandleader will likely put together a “script” for the day that lists your special songs; when they should be played and what the emcee should say to introduce the moment. Go over the script with your wedding music professionals well before the big event; provide a pronunciation guide for the names of groomsmen, bridesmaids and parents.