Wedding Ceremony Music: 3 Things to Consider When Selecting Yours

When we were planning our wedding, I spent waaaaay too much time agonizing over the various music selections, especially those at the ceremony.  Is this song too fast for walking down the aisle?  Are these lyrics appropriate for a wedding ceremony?  Where should the pianist sit?  Oh how I wish I would have had a post like this one!  Today, our very own Steven Vance is giving you the scoop on wedding ceremony music and three things you need to consider when selecting yours!

From Steve…

Among the many other things you need to think about, you might not realize that there are a number of factors to consider when getting your wedding ceremony music right.  While it may seem like there are a million details, your musician or DJ can help you to make it absolutely perfect.  Before I get into them though, first things first…

What are the key ceremony music choices you’ll have to make?

The answers, in some order of importance:

  • The Bride's Procession – This is your big moment!
  • Bridesmaids’ Procession – If you want a separate selection from yourself.  For some very short aisles this may not be practical.
  • Mom's Procession – Again, if you want a separate selection from yourself but it may not be practical with some very short aisles.  Some combine the Moms and the Bridesmaids and then do a separate selection for the Bride.
  • The Recessional – This is at the end of the service and is usually bright and celebratory, announcing “Let's get this party started”.
  • Selection(s) During the Ceremony – You may want music for a Unity Candle Lighting, presenting roses to the moms, etc.  My recent favorite was the Unity Science Experiment.  This couple was right out of “The Big Bang Theory” and they turned two different colored chemical liquids into a unified third color when they combined them.
  • Prelude Music – A selection of 5 – 6 tunes as guests arrive to set the tone and create the atmosphere you want.

Now that you know what music selections you will have to make, here are 3 very important things you’ll want to consider.

1.) Indoor or Outdoor
Most sacred settings, like a church or synagogue, have built-in music and sound system options.  A lot of couples come to us because they want to limit or eliminate the organ.  Adding a violin, harp, flute, cello, guitar, or vocalist can enhance the music at your ceremony.  Make sure you know the music restrictions of your faith!  For example, the Catholic Church rarely allows any popular music to be played and Wagner's “Bridal Chorus” (“Here Comes the Bride”) is usually forbidden in the Jewish service.

In a hotel, club, or banquet hall, music restrictions are diminished but you will have to think about microphones for the officiant and musicians.  Many hotels have an A/V department but there is an extra charge for that service.  Your DJ may be able to handle this but be prepared to pay extra for the earlier set-up that would be required.  Some live music performers may be able to provide a mic into their sound system but most acoustic performers would not offer this option.

In an outdoor setting, the music and sound issues are the same but the key is access to power.  No power, no sound system.  Very few musicians or DJs offer a generator but that could be rented separately. You may not need sound at all outside if your guest list is small and your officiant has a strong voice.  My counsel is always better to have it and not need it than to later wish you had sound.

2.) Contemporary or Classical Music
Are you thinking “Canon in D” or “A Thousand Years”?  Bach and Beethoven or The Beatles?  There is no wrong answer.  As I mentioned earlier, in some settings there may be restrictions but you should try to get as close to what you envision as possible.  Generally, a DJ can provide virtually any song than be downloaded.  It's more complicated for live music.  Most classical favorites are readily available but, for example, a string ensemble needs to have an arrangement for that specific set of instruments to properly perform a piece.  Many arrangements you may have heard by the Vitamin String Quartet have not been published so they are not for sale.  Some ensembles can have an arranger work one up for an extra charge. Vocalists need some sort of backing, which could include organ, piano/keyboards, guitar, or a backing track.  Make sure you know the comfort level of your singer working with other musicians or with a track.

3.) Where to Set Up the Music
The obvious answer is where it can be best heard.  An important factor to consider is sight lines; the musicians need to see what is going on with the procession.  It may look easy in the movies but, believe me, it is not.  Generally, the best spot is toward the front where they can see the entrance area.  But in some spaces, being in the back can work, too.  If it's a huge church, often there is a choir loft but all of the guests – and you – are up front.  Putting the musician(s) at the front will allow the guests to enjoy hearing the music more and the visual impact of seeing the performers do their thing adds value.  A choir loft is extra tough if there is no organist or another person to cue them because they can’t see what is going on underneath them and they are trying to read music at the same time.

In an outdoor setting, you should keep them close to power – if they need it – and shade.  Remember, the musicians or DJ are out in the sun longer than anyone.  Besides them melting, the instruments are vulnerable to going out of tune and even risk serious damage in direct sunlight.

Hope you found this overview helpful but free to contact me if you have more specific questions.

BB here…

Thanks for the guest post today, Steve!  This guy knows his stuff!  To read all about what he can do (and it's a lot), head on over to the Burgh Brides Vendor Guide where you can ask him all your burning wedding music questions.

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