Perhaps you’ve had a dream song picked out in your head for one wedding moment – like your first dance with your partner, or your father/daughter, or mother/son dance – but what about the rest of the wedding? Music sets the tone for your guests, and it’s important to dedicate some time to think through the perfect vibe.
Ask your venue about restrictions.
This can be technical or lyrical. Some traditionally religious venues might have requests for songs or words to avoid, so it’s best to ask up front if there are any restrictions. On the technical side of things, if you’re envisioning a stereo or a DJ plugging in equipment, it’s important that there are enough conveniently placed plugs to allow for all of those electric needs. Many venues can run power cords to parts of the room without plugs, but again, it’s best to ask about this upfront as it might affect your layout or whether you opt for live vs. recorded music.
Do I want live or recorded music?
This can either be a budget question or a personal preference. For the ceremony, a live band may be a little pricier than a playlist from a phone, but musicians can perfectly time the music to the beginning and end of a processional, creating an intentional feel. However, a trusted friend or relative manning the Bluetooth and a few practice runs for timing on recorded music can also work out in a charming way. PRO TIP: choosing an instrumental song for your processional will allow you to cut off the song when you get down the aisle without creating a jarring effect by cutting off a lyric in the middle of a sentence.
Your ceremony and reception set-ups don’t have to be the same! It’s important to consider whether the ceremony and reception are in the same space or different rooms/venues. If the same, one live band or recording set-up might suffice for the whole event. If different, you might need to pick another music option so that each space can be pre-set or allow enough time between the ceremony and reception for your recording equipment to be moved or for a band/DJ to break down and set up in the new space. If opting for the latter, you can take bridal party pictures in between to allow a delayed start to the reception, but be aware that the equipment would then have to be set up while your guests are waiting in the reception room unless you have a separate holding space where people can mingle. If this is the case, consider having the waiting area be set up as a cocktail or appetizer zone so that your guests don’t get disgruntled waiting on pictures, and make sure there is still at least a little bit of seating for any guests who may not be able or want to stand that long. If possible, we’d recommend pre-setting music in each space to keep the flow of the day as smooth as possible.
How many songs do I need to pick?
Traditionally, you need at least two processional tracks, one for the bridal party and one for the bride. If both partners are walking down the aisle separately instead of one waiting with the officiant, add one more processional song. These tracks are often instrumental to make it easier to adjust to the speed of walking and the length of the aisle.
Congratulations, you’re married! This song is often a little more upbeat than the processional and can be longer because it needs to last long enough for the entire bridal party to exit the room. Lyrical vs. instrumental is less critical here because the end of the song usually blends into guests getting up to transition to the reception space, so there’s less risk of an awkward cut-off in the middle of a word.
This is optional. Often, a DJ or band member will announce through a microphone that the bridal party is entering the reception, and you may or may not choose to do this to music.
The first dance of the night as a married couple. Make it memorable, and pick something meaningful. The benefit of a DJ or band instead of recorded music is that there is an actual person who can adjust and roll with the punches in the moment if you think you want a full song and change your mind.
If you want traditional father/daughter and mother/son dances, pick something meaningful to both parties and consider whether you want to sway to the music or make choreographed moves, which will affect whether you need a slow or fast pace. It’s also important to note that when everyone else in the room is still, and you are dancing, suddenly a three-minute song can feel like an eternity, so consider deciding ahead with your DJ, band, or Bluetooth operator if you want to cut it off after a certain number of verses.
You don’t have to handpick every song for your reception if you have a DJ or band, but make sure they know the genre of music you like and if you have any must-play or absolutely-do-not-play tracks (or words). You can request their proposed playlist ahead of time so that you can approve it if you want. If you’re opting for a recorded playlist, a great way to ensure it’s a crowd-pleaser is to include a space for song requests on your RSVP cards or wedding websites so guests can help pick! This is an excellent way to save a little work for your already busy self and to guarantee that the night is a crowd-pleaser.
Now, get ready to dance the night away!