From the Ceremony to the Last Dance Choosing the Music
From the Ceremony to the Last Dance
Choosing the Music
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine your wedding. What you see is absolutely amazing… but what do you hear?
Music sets a mood, creates a memory and renews a spirit like nothing else on earth. Decide whether you want to use live or recorded music or some combination of the two. Live music is advantageous because musicians can instantly respond and change the tempo of the music. Pre-recorded music requires advance planning.
During the Ceremony
From the moment your guests arrive, the air should crackle with romance, glamour, sexiness, sophistication and pure delight. Whether you’re kicking things off with a string trio playing at valet parking, an army of 50 violins at the cocktail reception or a gospel choir at the ceremony, music creates the energy and controls the flow of the celebration.
While your guests begin to arrive, prelude music sets the stage for the ceremony. As they move toward the ceremony, be careful to choose pieces that maintain an appropriate energy level for every moment.
Next, processional music changes the mood and creates a sense of anticipation as the wedding party makes their way down the aisle. If the aisle is long enough, consider having a change in music just before you make your way down the aisle for your bridal walk.
If the aisle is on the shorter side, a music change may seem choppy; instead time your entrance to a natural break in the music or a change in its rhythm. Pause at the top of the aisle, take a deep breath and count to ten slowly.
Have the volume turned up a notch to heighten the feeling of anticipation, then start down the aisle to a favorite song–the sounds of a beautiful harp, a trio of flutes, the traditional Wedding March, Billy Idol’s White Wedding, whatever your preference. The pause adds a touch of drama to an important moment, and gives every guest the opportunity to turn and look your way before you float down the aisle to a song that will forever play in your memory.
After the exchange of I Dos, whether you’re moving on to cocktails or directly to lunch, dinner or just a killer party, the music should continue, and not merely for the recessional. You can use musicians to lead a congregation from one site to another, such as having your guests follow a band of mariachis from a ceremony in the sand to a cocktail reception around the corner.
If it’s a destination wedding, try to use live musicians who are local to the area: marimba players in the Caribbean, drummers in Africa, a marvelous opera singer in Italy.
There’s absolutely nothing inviting about walking into a room if it’s silent, especially for the first to arrive. So, be sure the cocktail area is ready to receive people as soon as the ceremony is over. The reception room should be as warm and welcoming as possible, with lights dimmed and of course, music playing.
If dancing sets are interspersed throughout the celebration, be sure dance music is playing when it comes time to dance and is projected at a level that’s appropriate for the energy you’re looking to create. When your guests are ready to hit the floor and everyone’s itching to dance, soft background music can ruin a good time.
In reverse, be careful about playing overly loud music while trying to dine and have conversation. It’s exhausting trying to shout and make yourself understood over loud music. When it’s time for the meal to be served, be absolutely certain that your music doesn’t compete with your guests’ conversations.
This is not the moment for Metallica’s greatest hits; the music should be purely ambient–instrumental sounds or jazz vocals, music that’s light and elegant. Whenever possible, it should be projected from small, properly spaced speakers set around the area. Do everything you can to avoid placing gigantic speaker stacks in the four corners of the room.
If you don’t have any real options in terms of equipment, at the very least ensure comfortable volume and remember that one sound level just won’t do for all circumstances. Create a musical cue sheet with the bandleader or DJ so they know what to do when.
While many events include dancing between courses, this start-and-stop approach doesn’t work nearly as well as dine first, party later. You don’t want to drag people to the dance floor when they’re just taking their first bite of their entrées.
A seamless meal is often easier on the caterer, which helps create a higher likelihood of success. We suggest serving all the savory courses without dancing, then getting the party going just before dessert with forty-five minutes to an hour of dancing. Break for the cake cutting, enjoy a little sugar rush and start again.
A few other words of nuts-and-bolts wisdom:
- Work only with professional musicians. Consider hiring a local entertainment company that represents myriad talent. Have them present a few options via CD so you can create a musical repertoire that best serves your tastes and music preferences.
- Live musicians should be in place and ready to begin twenty minutes before invitation time, allowing them to check their sound levels and get ready for the guests’ arrival.
- Work with a well-trusted sound company that will ensure every cable is long enough, that there’s no interference with the cordless microphones and that, if there is a sound-related disaster, the company’s onsite technician will be able to handle it.
- It’s absolutely critical to make certain all the musicians and sound staff share the same understanding of what you want, what you’re paying for and what will be delivered. This goes not only for the style of music; it also means giving the band or deejay specific lists of what not to play as well as a play-list of what you do want to hear. It’s your party; so if Pink Cadillac isn’t your favorite, scratch it off with a big red pen to guarantee it doesn’t appear in the repertoire.
- Last but not least, make sure your contract addresses every detail you can think of–not just band breaks and length of play, but their willingness to play overtime and at what cost. It’s very simple: spell everything out in writing. Twice!