Published March 30th, 2011

Planning a wedding means making many decisions. Some can be a little more stressful like who to include in your wedding party, who to invite for the big day and who should sit next to each other during dinner. And some decisions can be really fun — like selecting the music and melding different tastes into one harmonious mix that sets the tone for the day and shows your guests how much you care about them. So, as you ponder what music to include in your wedding keep these two thoughts in mind.

Select music that reflects you as a couple and that you both love. It should be personal and say something specific about you — a nod to culture, songs from your first date or music reminiscent of a favorite place you’ve visited. Second, don’t forget to consider what will be enjoyable for your guests. You want to create an environment that says something about you, but at the same time is entertaining for them and says that you care about their enjoyment and comfort.

I’ve helped many couples through the planning process and when it comes to music I like to recommend a certain rhythm to help the day flow smoothly. Each couple can customize this musical flow to their own tastes and to those of their guests. The most musically successful weddings we’ve held are hosted by couples who have really thought about the music and used it to enhance all the special moments that make up their big day.

One great tip we often suggest is to begin the celebration with a prelude period 45 minutes before the actual ceremony. It’s a nice welcome to your guests and creates a wonderful first impression. A live performance ensemble such as a string ensemble, acoustic guitar, harpist, solo flute player, bagpiper or violinist playing in the background as guests arrive is a great way to start things off.

It makes perfect sense for several reasons — budget and continuity — to have the same live performance ensemble play during the ceremony. If a bride has a certain song for the processional; canned music can always be integrated to achieve the desired result. During the ceremony, many couples also infuse personality by including a solo vocalist. This person can be a professional or a friend of the couple. Music is not traditionally played during the vow exchange. The recessional music should be performed by the same live group.

During the cocktail hour and the time leading up to dinner, sticking with an acoustic performance — whether it’s the same live group or you decided to switch to a pianist or jazz trio — is better because it lets your guests know their comfort and happiness have been considered. People are typically still socializing and chatting at this point in the day, so having a full band with a vocalist can overpower and distract guests, especially older ones or those who are hard-of-hearing. Acoustic background music is the perfect complement to dinner, but it should stop while toasts and speeches are being given, so everyone can hear and enjoy all those special moments.

As dinner comes to a close, we’re seeing a new trend integrated more and more just prior to open dancing. Couples are arranging a special five to 15-minute live performance. In some cases, these performances are tied to a couple’s cultural background. For example at a recent wedding, a bride, originally from Spain, thrilled her guests with a professional Flamenco dance demonstration. And at one winter wedding, a couple hired Irish Step Dancers to perform. These small touches show your personality and provide wonderful entertainment value for your guests. Plus the energy they create is often contagious — so when open dancing begins, your guests fill the floor!

Another trend many couples are embracing is performing a special or choreographed dance for their first dance. We had one couple take to the patio and perform a red hot tango. It was certainly a unique aspect of the day which wowed their guests while also showcasing their love and passion for each other.

If dancing during the reception is a huge priority, you should shift to a live band or DJ. Both have much to offer. Consult with your wedding planner and your friends to create a list and go listen to your top picks if possible. Most traditional bands can play all the classics (all the songs everybody knows from th50s, 60s, 70s and 80s). However, if you’re looking for a band that knows the classics as well as more modern music it may be more challenging to find one that can do it all, but it’s certainly not impossible. A qualified and experienced DJ will be able to play anything you want and can be a wonderful asset during the reception since they’re used to guide a group of people through an event.  Once you’ve decided on what you want for the reception, don’t wait to hire the DJ or band. Good talent gets booked fast, especially during the prime wedding season. Once you’ve secured your choice, it will be important to closely collaborate with them. Review their song lists and be sure to share with them any specific songs you want played. Clear direction about what you want is critical, particularly if you want to create a fun dance environment for your guests.

In the end, you’re sure to have a successful event. You want them to walk away saying that was the best wedding I’ve been to! You can do that by creating an event that includes music and entertainment that is as much about them as it is about you. If you do that, you’ve created a melodious mix!