It doesn’t matter whether you call yourselves music people or not, the music at your wedding is super-important. And a great band or DJ can take your wedding from fun to freaking fantastic faster than you can say, “Do you take requests?” Here are 11 tips for amazing wedding music.
Mistake 1: Dismissing the idea of either a band or DJ before you do your research.
This is your first music decision to make and it’ll narrow down your options by half. Love live music and have a bigger budget? A band might be your preferred pick. Have a tighter budget or dozens of songs you’d like played perfectly (in other words, exactly how they sound on the album)? A DJ could be your perfect choice. But don’t dismiss either because you think a band will automatically be out of your budget or a DJ will be cheesy.
Music Must: Do your research (start at ) and get recommendations from friends. You’ll see that there’s a lot of variety – from mash-up artists to barbershop quartets — among both types of entertainers.
Mistake 2: Starting the ceremony in silence.
Most guests will arrive around 20 to 30 minutes before the ceremony starts, but the wait will seem a lot longer to them if they have to wait around in silence. Book your ceremony musician to start no later than 20 minutes before you begin.
Music Must: Having music before and during the ceremony will also help signal to guests that it’s time to be seated or quiet by upping the volume or tempo.
Mistake 3: Offending your officiant with your ceremony music.
Getting married in a house of worship? When it comes to ceremony music, many churches, synagogues and other religious institutions have rules that will affect your choice of ceremony music, like prohibiting certain secular songs. It may be your wedding day, but unfortunately it’s not technically your church, so respect the regulations.
Music Must: It’s a good idea to speak to your officiant before you book musicians to play a classical version of The Beatles’s “All You Need Is Love” composed for your ceremony and can’t get your deposit back.
Mistake 4: Skipping a sound check.
Depending on your venue, there may be limitations (like power supply, sound amplification or time-of-day restrictions) to the type of music you can have. Even without regulations, it’s still a good idea to ask your venue manager what type of music typically works best for the space (for example, a soloist may feel puny in a grand ballroom, but it may work well for an intimate garden party).
Music Must: You should plan for your band or DJ to do a walk-through if they haven’t worked in the space before. While you might not realize that crashing waves could easily drown out a string quartet or trio of flutes, a pro can help spot and solve any tricky music situations with a sound check.
Mistake 5: Waiting until the wedding to meet your band or DJ in person.
Want to know exactly what your music might sound like in real life (rather than a recorded sample)? Take in a live performance. Ticking this box on your checklist can actually be a lot of fun. Go to a showcase if that’s an option. Grab your fiance, put on your best going-out outfit and make it a date night. While you’re there, notice not just the tunes but also how the band or DJ emcees, whether they take requests, and how well they get the audience going. If you can, talk to the DJ or bandleader at some point one-on-one or set up another time to meet face-to-face. This person will be your emcee, so you want to have an easy rapport.
Music Must: Make a note of the names of the particular musicians or DJs you like, so you’ll be sure to book the same exact people for your party.
Mistake 6: Forgetting to talk through the must-play songs.
Don’t assume your band or DJ is going to play every one of your favorites. If it’s a band, talk to them about this list before you decide to book; they may have to learn a song or two. For DJs, just be certain they’re open to your suggestions.
Music Must: If they’re missing a few of your favorites from their repertoire, ask whether there are any fees associated with adding them.
Mistake 7: Making it impossible for guests to hear each other.
Your reception isn’t the place for club-level volume. It’ll only frustrate your older family members and make it tough for them to talk to one another and enjoy the party.
Music Must: When going over your timeline with your DJ, make volume requests: Ask that it be low for chatting during cocktail hour and dinner (like instrumentals and soft ballads) and louder for dancing and the final song (“Livin’ On A Prayer,” anyone?). On the wedding day, ask a bridesmaid or your day-of consultant to keep volume on their radar and alert the band or DJ if there are any issues.
Mistake 8: Choosing a really long first-dance song.
You may do anything for love, but if you choose Meatloaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love” as your first-dance song, you’ll be swaying with your new spouse for more than five minutes (12 if you choose the album version!). Do a run-through and you may realize four minutes can feel like forever if you’re just rocking back and forth.
Music Must: A little choreography goes a long way, so you might decide to take a few lessons. Or, if your heart is set on a certain ballad, work with your DJ to cut your song down to a reasonable length or talk with your band about performing a shorter version.
Mistake 9: Leaving out a do-not-play list.
Sit down with your soon-to-be-spouse and go through your favorite songs together to create the must-play and do-not-play lists. If you decide to use a band instead of a DJ, give them plenty of time to review your picks, in case they have to add a song to their repertoire. Once you’ve handed over the lists, leave the rest up to the pros. And don’t micromanage (that’s why you hired them!).
Music Must: If your must-play list gets too long (say, more than 10 songs), create a third list. This can be more of a wish list of songs you’d like to be played only if your guests respond positively to them.
Mistake 10: Playing R-rated songs before the after-party.
You won’t be able to please everyone, but ask that your DJ or band keep it at least PG-13 during the reception. “Blurred Lines” — maybe. “Partition” — pushing it. When it’s just you, your college besties and adult cousins at the after-party, feel free to play the songs that weren’t appropriate earlier in the night.
Music Must: Beyond blatant profanity, really consider the song’s lyrics and meaning. There may be a very innocent inside joke behind your choice of “The B**** Is Back,” but most guests will be on the outside — including your cute little flower girl.
Mistake 11: Sticking to one genre.
You both may truly love ’90s grunge, but five full hours of Nirvana might drive some guests to leave early. You’re sharing this day with family and friends, so save your more obscure favorites for the honeymoon playlist and let your band or DJ play a mix of songs that everyone can enjoy.
Music Must: Give your parents a thank-you shout-out with Frank Sinatra’s “Chicago,” or Huey Lewis & the News here and there. Seeing them enjoy the night will be well worth a little Frankie Valli (and you know deep down you love the classics too!).