Music has the power to alter mood and emotion; to create ambiance and
unite. Choosing your wedding musicians can seem a daunting task,
with a wide variety in musical styles and performance techniques, how do
you choose a performer or band than will best suit your occasion? Our
author has played at hundreds of wedding celebrations; each one unique
yet sharing some common threads; here’s her advice for choosing the
right musicians for your special event.

1. Decide on when you want music to be played on your wedding day.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Before the ceremony – as guest assemble in the ceremony venue.
  • The ceremony – as the Bride enters the ceremony venue, the lighting
    of unity candles, signing the register and as the newlyweds exit the
  • The cocktail reception – as guests clamour to congratulate the
    newlyweds, as the photographer get underway and as the happy couple and
    their guests begin to relax into the celebrations of the day.
  • During dinner – ambient background music is the perfect choice.
  • Following the speeches and formalities – music at this point signals
    the end of ceremony and the beginning of evening celebration.
  • At the evening reception – as the day/evening progresses it is
    traditional to switch from ambient music to party entertainment either
    through live music or more commonly a DJ.

2. Define your wedding day. Are you having a religious
ceremony, perhaps a church wedding? Some wedding venues, especially
churches, are particular about what music they will allow at their
venue, so check first with your celebrant. Is yours a modern wedding
with a less formal and/or non-religious focus perhaps in a hotel,
abroad, on a beach or registry office? Many modern wedding have a
balance of both, a religious ceremony followed by an informal, relaxed
celebration. Ok, now you’ve decided when you want music to be played and
what types of music might be appropriate, let’s move on.

3. Choose your songs. Choosing your wedding day music
can seem a daunting task. How do you express your emotions without “over
doing” it? How do you respect the musical preferences of 2 or 3
different generations? Opting for acoustic music can often help to
bridge the gap between intimate ambiance and modern music. The
popularity of acoustic music has increased dramatically in recent years
with artists across the globe and from all genres finding beauty in
abridged expression and produced their intimate offerings. Acoustic
music has the power to simplify even the most complex music and deliver a
fresh, modern and understated version of your favorite songs. Acoustic
musicians are highly talented, they have to be, after all there’s no
big backing sound for them to hide behind! Acoustic wedding music brings
a relaxed and unique ambiance to your wedding day without overpowering
it; remember it is YOUR day, not the musicians showcase! For more help
on choosing your songs, see the article called “Choosing your wedding
day songs” on wikiHow.

4. Short list your musicians.

Choosing the right style:
Acoustic music is extremely popular for weddings because it is
unimposing and subtle, can be adapted and is flexible. Other popular
styles include Classical or Jazz music played on a piano/keyboard or by
string musicians. More traditional ceremonies might opt for a solo
soprano or tenor singer. When short listing musicians you should have a
clear idea of the styles of music they offer and a detailed set list,
sometimes called a repertoire. TIP: a larger repertoire usually
indicates a more experienced artist(s). It is not unusual for very
experienced musicians to have more than 300 songs available and these
should cross a diverse range of musical styles.

  • Opt for a professional: Professional musicians should have a
    detailed website; they’re professional business people! A professional’s
    website should include the following information: images of them
    playing live, audio samples of their music and maybe even video samples
    of their live performance. A detailed set list so that you can see what
    music they currently play. A simple method of contact.
  • Where and when they work – professional musicians are full-time and will often travel far and wide to get to your wedding!
  • Check out their level of experience – how many wedding have they
    performed at? Weddings are unique and often a musician has to quickly
    move from one venue to another – wedding celebrations take a great deal
    of planning and organisation for the musician – experience matters!
  • Searching for musicians: The web is the best place to search for
    professional musicians. Use a reputable search engine to help you. Say,
    for example, you have decided that you want acoustic wedding music and
    you’re getting married in the Algarve – search wedding music Algarve or
    maybe acoustic wedding music.
  • View websites, not forgetting to use the pointers above to help you
    assess whether you’re dealing with a professional musician or not. *
    Once you’ve found musicians’ websites use this checklist: How many songs
    and song styles match well to your song choices? Will the musician(s)
    learn a song especially for you? AVOID ones that won’t. How long do they
    play for? Weddings are unique and musicians often played extended sets –
    let’s look at this point in more detail: Say, for example, you want
    music at your ceremony, at the cocktail reception and through or after
    dinner, it is very unlikely that the traditional sets of 2 x 45 minutes
    will suffice. AVOID musicians who stipulate that they play 2 x 45 minute
    sets! In the example above you would need up to an hour at the
    ceremony, 60-90 minutes at the cocktail reception and 60-90 minutes
    during or after dinner – that’s up to 4 hours for the musician; which is
    why the experienced musician has such a large repertoire! Tips for
    assessing audio and video examples of a musicians work: AUDIO: do audio
    samples fairly represent the music that can be delivered? For example:
    say you’re viewing the website of an acoustic duo – does their music
    sample have instrument sounds that wouldn’t be appropriate on your day –
    a drum machine in church! VIDEO: Does the website show video samples of
    the act playing live?(TIP: avoid musicians who position themselves in the front line of your
    wedding ceremony. This is YOUR wedding day and you should be the primary
    focus – not your wedding musicians! YOUR day should not be a talent
    showcase for the musician – ceremony musicians should always be situated
    at the back of your ceremony venue and not be seen using the alter as a
    stage area!)

5. Contact your shortlisted musicians.

information should be readily available on a musician’s website. Give as
much detail as you can to ensure you get the most appropriate advice.
Minimum information should include the following: Date of wedding
Wedding venue with full address Time of wedding (musicians need to be at
your venue at least 1 hour before you arrive to set up and sound check)
When you want the musician to play and for how long. If you have a
special request – make sure that they will be able to perform it. How
many guests.

  • TIP: not all musicians have suitable equipment for large venues!
    Don’t be afraid to ask the musician what equipment he has and check the
    suitability for your venue or wedding party size. Are references
    available from previous clients?

6. Make your final choice. Make sure you are happy with
your selection. Some people prefer to talk in person with a musician –
it helps to build understanding and confidence. Prices vary – expect to
pay a good duo around £250-£300 for a ceremony only. £450-£550 for a
ceremony & cocktail reception and £700 – 900 ceremony, cocktail and
either dinner or after dinner music.

7. Keep in contact. Ask for a full set list. Select your
songs. Discuss any special requirements. TIP: Leading wedding musicians
have played at lots of weddings. Their experience is valuable and
readily available. Ask for help and advice when choosing your music.


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