The wedding music you select is one of many big decisions you’ll make during the wedding planning stage. Aside from the carefully placed flower arrangements and big décor items, the music is one of the first things to greet family and friends and welcome them into your ceremony space. It’s also what ushers you in and out and plays you through the cake cutting to the midnight dancing. Needless to say, it’s important to find just the right pieces of music to set the tone for each wedding moment.
The good thing is, you have plenty of options when it comes to wedding entertainment and how you organize your wedding music. There’s an option to fit every budget and taste. It’s really just about what you envision for your wedding, how you want to entertain guests, and how much you’re willing to spend.
Entertainment Options and Costs
Live bands can cost anywhere from $1200-3000, depending on how many members are in the band and how long they’re scheduled to play. The pros of having a live band for wedding music, is that they can easily set the tone for the wedding, and get guests pumped up in a way that only a live band can. The con is that they’re likely to take up more space, so your venue will play a part in whether or not a live band can play. One thing you’ll want to keep in mind when looking for live bands is what variety of songs they can play and their style.
DJs are typically a less expensive wedding music option. A DJ’s rates can start from $530-1400. A DJ might not be as dramatic as a live band, but can provide a much bigger variety of music played by the original artist and aren’t as complicated to hire. In fact, 85% of all receptions have DJs.
College students looking for experience and credits can cost one-third less than a professional team. Of course, their lack of experience is a bit risky, but if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort to find a good group, it might be worth it. Hiring a student team is a good option if you’re on a tight budget but don’t want to go the completely free route for your wedding music.
Aside from being free of charge, being your own DJ gives you complete control over what’s played and when it’s played. You can create different playlists to take you from your grand entrance to cocktails to your first dance as husband and wife. You’ll definitely want to find a responsible family or friend to control the electronics and speakers the day of your wedding. Doing a trial run is crucial. Also, ask your venue managers what, if any equipment is available to use, like speakers and microphones and if there is an additional charge.
Many couples choose both a live band and a DJ. The band plays during the dinner hour and the DJ spins tunes for reception dancing. Hiring a band a DJ may seem like the expensive option, but going this route can actually save you up to 75% of the cost it would be to hire a band for the whole event.
As with most things, entertainment will cost less during the wedding off-season – October through March. Look to your reception site manager for referrals or consult family, friends, your church, cultural centers, local wedding magazines or online booking agencies. Meet with potential bands and DJs and ask questions like how many breaks they’ll take (and how long), what their overtime policies are, how many weddings they’ve played, backup plans and equipment, etc.
You’ll also want to watch a performance, whether live or recorded, to see if the band or DJ fits your style and what you envision for your wedding. Listen for sound balance, vocal style, musical style, and how organized the members are. Once you’ve hired your entertainment, give them a list of songs you’d like played during key moments. If there are songs you definitely do not want played, write those down and pass the information on to the band/DJ as well.
Music Options for the Ceremony
Ceremony music consists of preludes, processionals, and recessionals. The prelude music is light, mood setting, and played while guests are seated and waiting for the ceremony to begin. The processional music is played when the wedding party and bride enter. The same song can be used for each entrance or you can change it up and play a more dramatic song for the bride’s entrance. After the ceremony the recessional plays and is typically an upbeat song that accompanies the bride and groom as they exit.
Your ceremony venue will play a part in what kind of musicians and instruments will be used. Ask yourself what kind of ensemble you want and if there’s space within your venue to accompany them. Do you want a pianist, a harpist, an electric guitarist? Is the ceremony inside or outside? Does your ceremony site have music guidelines or sound restrictions? How will the sound carry and will 200 guests be able to hear the string quartet?
What style of music to play during the ceremony and those special moments, like the father-daughter dance, are ultimately up to you and the emotions you want to convey. Browse through your music collection for pieces you love, listen to samples of wedding music on iTunes, or visit individual artist sites.
Wedding Music Playlist
When you find the perfect songs, write them down and keep the list for future playlist inspiration. Here are some of the most popular selections to get you started.
Popular Prelude Songs:
Adagio for Strings (Samuel Barber)
Perfect Love (Sir Joseph Barnby)
Serenade (Franz Schbuert)
Storybook Love (Theme from The Princess Bride)
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Johann S. Bach)
Popular Processional Songs:
Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley)
Canon in D (Pachelbel)
Kissing You (Des’ree)
Clair de Lune (Claude Debussy)
Bridal Chorus (Richard Wagner)
Popular Recessional Songs:
Signed, Sealed, Delivered (Stevie Wonder)
Beautiful Day (U2)
Hallelujah Chorus (George F. Handel)
Ode to Joy (Ludwig Van Beethoven)
Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles)
Popular First Dance Songs:
At Last (Etta James)
Falling in Love With You (Elvis Presley)
It Had to be You (Frank Sinatra)
Let’s Stay Together (Al Green)
Unforgettable (Nat King Cole)
Organizing your wedding music may seem like a daunting task at first, but if you break it into small steps and treat it as a creative project, you’ll have tons of fun.