How to Choose Wedding Music
As a working musician who plays 40+ weddings every year, one of the questions I’m most often asked is “How do I pick music for my wedding ceremony?” The biggest thing I want engaged couples to understand is that wedding music is just as much a design element of your wedding as any other choice, from the linens to the flowers to the color selections to the venue itself. Wedding music can work together with any of those things to create a mood and an atmosphere that will have all your guests feeling like they’ve just walked into a perfect movie moment.
Here are some tips and tricks to get you thinking like a wedding music coordinator: 1. Think about the big choices you’ve already made.
Where will your wedding be held? What time of day is it? What type of attire have you selected for your wedding party, and what would you like your guests to wear?
If you are having a wedding at a religious venue, check with them about music. Many denominations actually have very specific rules about what is and is not appropriate to play within the constraints of a wedding ceremony. If they don’t, it’s still probably best to stick with more traditional selections. You could mix things up with a contemporary song as your recessional, but it’s really best to pick music that will match the grandeur and significance of your space and respect the traditions of the people who have come through the doors over the years.
If you’re having your wedding in a secular venue, you’re pretty much wide open as far as the types of selections you can make, but it’s still nice to think about things like the time of year, time of day, and level of formality of the event. Your music should augment, not clash with, these choices. In other words, a black tie ceremony might not be the right time for the Foo Fighters. A summertime garden party, on the other hand? Anything goes!
Photo credit: Mark Tioxon
2. Think about what you definitely don’t want to hear.
I realize that might sound negative, but when it comes to music, most people have much stronger opinions about what they don’t like than what they do! If your ceremony musicians can nix a few bands, composers, or a genre right off the bat, it actually really helps us narrow down and define what it is you might like. WHEN YOU PICK YOUR MUSIC FOR YOUR CEREMONY, you’re basically going to need four selections, although there are a few variables that might mean that you need one or two more or less than that. Typically, most of our clients select a piece of music for the seating of any important family members (mothers and grandmothers is the standard but we’ve seen it all), another for the bridal party, a third for the bride, and a fourth for the recessional. Don’t worry about the length of these songs. We can make anything as long or as short as you’ll need it. What you want to think is “slow-faster-big-happy.” 3. Slow-Faster-Big-Happy
After the prelude, we want to play something that’s going to be a contrast to what we’ve been doing so that your guests know that we’re going to get started with the wedding. Since we’ve likely been playing lighter selections until that moment, a tempo change to SLOW things down is the easiest way to do that.
For the family processional, you don’t want to pick anything that’s going to make someone feel that they’ve got to rush down the aisle, particularly if any elder members of your family will be processing. They should feel relaxed and elegant. Then, we can transition to something FASTER for your bridal party. Again, no one should feel frantic, but this is typically a more youthful bunch, so the contrast will work well with the demographic.
More than any other selection, your bridal processional should be something that just feels BIG to you—whatever that is! It could be your favorite movie theme, a time-honored classical selection like the Wagner Bridal Chorus, or a famous love song. This is your moment. Relish it with whatever selection that will make you remember it forever. Your recessional should be something that feels HAPPY! Lilting, joyful, expressive, exuberant, loving, and celebratory are all good adjectives to consider here. Your recessional should get the party started! I hope my article on how to choose your wedding music helps! Thinking like this will get you on the right path in no time.
Katerina Lewis is a freelance performer and teacher of viola and violin based in her hometown of Atlanta, GA. Katerina received a Bachelor of Music degree in music performance from Converse College in 2007. At Converse, she served as principal violist in the Converse Symphony Orchestra, held a contract with the Spartanburg Philharmonic and helped launch an international chamber music festival hosted by Converse in Grantham, England. Katerina then went on to earn her master’s degree in Music Performance at Georgia State University.
Since finishing graduate school in 2009, Katerina has worked as a substitute musician for many local symphonies, performed with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra each year as a section member and starting in 2012 as the orchestra's principal violist, and worked as one-third of one of the most sought-after string groups in the Atlanta area, Luna Strings.
Photo credit: Kelly Lane