For the ceremony, music can be played while guests are being seated, during special parts of the ceremony and as the newlyweds exit the venue. Consider the overall tone you are trying to create for the ceremony, your theme and your venue. The soulful sounds of a single violin filling a small chapel in Boonville will add drama and emotion to an elegant winter evening wedding. That same violin, playing in a more Cajun style, changes the entire mood. Add a cello player and your St. Louis wedding just became a sophisticated, urban celebration. Many venues, both large and small, now have music systems which can play taped music. If hired musicians are beyond your budget, these systems will allow for any music you choose. Choose music which adds to your venue or your theme in meaningful ways.
Also, look to the special places in your ceremony for symbolic music. I once witnessed a gruff, stoic, Irish father unabashedly wipe tears from his eyes during one ceremony. His new daughter-in-law honored him by walking down the aisle to a surprise bagpipe accompaniment. The look between bride and father-in-law as she approached the altar won't be forgotten by anyone in attendance. Traditional music is fine, but let it reflect who you are as a couple.
The reception is an entirely different venue. There is no traditional music to follow and here you can let your imagination run wild. Look to your venue, your passions and your heritage for reception music. While you want your choices to support your overall theme, this is a celebration. If ballroom dancing is your style, make sure The Missouri Waltz is on the play list. Keep the more traditional dances, such as the newlyweds first dance and the bride's dance with her father in mind, but those dances can be done with a DJ or a salsa band. If you're passing finger foods and wine at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens for the reception, classical music is fine, but so is a DJ playing big band music.
When looking for wedding music, here are some general guidelines:
- Make sure your sites have all the technical necessities available. A band will need electricity, a cello player requires a chair and a DJ will need a place for his equipment. Ask your musicians what they need to make the music you love.
- If at all possible, play a selection of your music at the venue before the wedding. Acoustics can be a tricky thing, especially in a less traditional setting. Barns weren't designed for acoustical clarity and the wide-open spaces of a beach might make music impossible to hear for the guests in the back.
- Listen to your chosen band or DJ before you hire them. Your parents' idea of the perfect party band will differ tremendously from your own. What your cousins think of as classical music might not be what you had in mind. Agree on a play list of songs to avoid material you might find offensive or inappropriate.
- Get references and check them. Find out if the band needed a break every twenty minutes and left after two hours. A recent bride or family reunion planner will be happy to share great reviews or cautionary tales.