The Ultimate Wedding Music Guide

Bride and Groom first dance to their wedding music!

Photo: Bella Bridesmaids Shreveport/Erin Wilson


Music touches our emotions in a way nothing else can.

It tugs at the heartstrings and moves us to tears.

It gets us dancing and laughing and makes us feel powerful and energized … ready to take on the world.

It takes us places that words — or other ways of communication — can’t. 

Many people dismiss the importance of music at their wedding, which is unfortunate. But, thankfully, that won’t happen to you; you’re here!

Here, we’re tackling all things wedding music, from live bands to DJs to killer playlists.

There’s nothing better than seeing people let loose and enjoy themselves on your big day. Music is the key to bringing that vision to life.

 

Choosing Your Themes & Setting the Mood


 bridesmaids in navy dresses smiling with bridePhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Atlanta/Haley Birdsey


Music enhances each special moment and can add that extra touch to the theme of your big day. 

Here are some ideas on how music can play into each significant aspect of your special day:

 

The Rehearsal Dinner

 

Why not kick the rehearsal dinner up a notch by including some tunes? 

No need to hire a full orchestra or mariachi band. A simple playlist on your smartphone connected to a speaker via Bluetooth will do.

You can choose something mellow and low-key. If you don’t want to take the time to fuss over it, ask your bridesmaid who prides herself on her love of all things music. Tell her the vibe you’re going for, and let her run wild on Spotify, building an absolute fire playlist. 

What bridesmaid doesn’t want the honor of piecing together the perfect playlist for her BFF?

 

The Pre-Wedding Ceremony

 

Ok, so chances are, you won’t be around to experience this. Instead, you’ll be busy slipping into your dress and making all the last-minute adjustments. But, hey, you can still picture it. 

Think about it: What do you want their first impression to be as your guests start to filter into the venue?

 

What Type of Music Should You Choose for the Wedding Ceremony?

 

The music you choose will likely depend on your wedding theme.

Take the cottagecore aesthetic, for example. Hiring someone to pluck melodies from the strings of a harp or play one of Handel’s tunes on the violin would be the perfect accompaniment to that theme.

A pianist would be great too. After all, there are so many different styles of piano and piano music.

You also can’t go wrong with a violin or acoustic guitar player. Either would be the cherry on top of a rustic or country-themed wedding.

 

Going the Playlist Route? (Good Choice!)

 

If you opt for a playlist instead, consider your guests. What are some classics that everyone knows and loves? Songs that transcend generations and let everyone know they’re about to be part of an incredible celebration?

Some people feel awkward when they first arrive at a social event, especially if they don’t know anyone there. So hearing their favorite artist or a jam they’re familiar with is a way to make them feel more at home from the first note. Well, that, and a glass of bubbly, of course.

If you’re thinking Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Elton John, and um … Taylor Swift? Great! Mix in some Americana, some country … whatever music sets the tone. 

Now, obviously, if there are children or those with delicate sensibilities present, you’ll want to be more careful about your song choice. 

Curate your list so it doesn’t contain anything inappropriate or offensive. (i.e., You might want to go easy on the DaBaby and Cardi B songs unless you can find the PG version.)

 

Check out our articles about wedding themes & aesthetics:

 

The Wedding Ceremony


 wedding ceremonyPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Los Angeles/Cristiano Ostinelli


For many brides, this is the moment. 

This is your time to shine.

Your guests will be craning their necks to see you. Your best friend (and soon-to-be-spouse) will be standing there in absolute awe. The music you choose to walk down the aisle towards your “I do” matters.

 

You Can’t Go Wrong With the Classics!

 

On a good day, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole will make a grown man cry.

Or, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Can you imagine? Those lyrics. You, gliding toward your future spouse in your wedding gown, seeing your beaming bridesmaids, all the guests – all these people you love who love you, too?

If you’re in the mood for something even more traditional, you can’t go wrong with “Canon in D” by Johann Pachelbel.

One way to select the perfect song is to consider the aesthetic and the mood and go from there.

Another moment worthy of music is the signing of the marriage register; many select “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire” by Bach. After that, as you make your way back down the aisle arm and arm with your new husband or wife, “Wedding March” by Mendelssohn is another popular go-to.

 

How To Get Music at Your Wedding Ceremony

 

One way to play these pieces is to connect a smartphone to a sound system. Another way to set the mood is by hiring a string quartet. Or a single musician who’s good enough to carry the tune – and all the emotion that accompanies it – solo.

Unsure where to find such a musician? Check online. You can also ask around at church or scout around your local high school or college.

 

Read our fab article on 21 Best Songs to Walk Down the Aisle to.

 

The Cocktail Hour 


 close-up of a tray of wedding cocktail hour treats, mini donuts with milkPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Chicago/Jeremy Harwell


Ah, cocktail hour. Everyone has the warm and fuzzies after witnessing your nuptials and are ready to celebrate with the newlyweds. During cocktail hour, guests like to mingle and gush about how gorgeous you look (obviously!) and how beautiful the ceremony was.  

For this moment, you don’t want the music to be too overpowering or dominant.

Choose something fun, something jazzy perhaps, or a song sung in another language, even. A little Nat King Cole and some Etta James tossed into the mix are great. You want the music to infuse energy onto the moment, building anticipation of what’s right around the corner …

 

 Be sure to keep track of all your music choices in your wedding planner. Don't have a wedding binder yet? Check out: How to Make a DIY Wedding Binder Planner

 

The Wedding Reception


 bridesmaids surrounding bride and groom in a car before wedding receptionPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Long Island/Matthew Adam Photography


Here’s the part where you can finally let your hair down and celebrate. Dance, laugh, and share in the beauty of this moment with your love and those you hold dear.

So obviously, the reception needs a soundtrack that can live up to that task.

There’s nothing better than a reception with a lively dance floor, and if that’s your goal, we got you – we’ve got secrets to success as far as that’s concerned.

Ready?

 

It’s All About Starting the Party Off Right

 

You want to start off strong but not too strong. You don’t want to waste the killer hits by letting them loose during the warm-up phase of the reception. Initially, most people will still feel a little hesitant about letting their moves loose on the dance floor. 

You need to woo them, lure them there, and once they’re dancing, keep them there. No one — and we mean no one — can leave the dancefloor when Michael Jackson, Beyonce, or anything with a hip-hop vibe is playing.

Of course, toss some slower songs into the mix too. After all, it would be cruel not to grant your guests a moment to catch their breath and hydrate. 

What are your favorite songs to dance to? 

We’re sure you and your bridesmaids have had many dance parties and many memories associated with certain songs. If so, add them! Your guests will love watching you take over the dance floor with your squad.

And speaking of taking over the dance floor, some other important moments require the perfect song.

 

The Oh-So-Sweet “First” Songs


 

 bride and groom first dance songPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Shreveport/Micahla Vaughn


There’s the father-daughter, mother-son dance, and the first dance songs. Of course, you can’t go wrong with “Perfect,” by Ed Sheeran and Beyonce, for the first dance song. If you’re looking for first dance songs for a country-themed wedding, here are 37 Old, Classic, and New Country jams to choose from.

Then, there’s the father-daughter dance. Perhaps there’s a song you and your dad hold dear, something he popped into the CD player anytime he took you somewhere in his old truck.

A song that always reminds you of him.

 

A Tip for Sprucing Together the Perfect Playlist

 

Don’t forget to infuse the song list with music that spans all eras. Everyone loves The Beatles, and there’s nothing better than a multi-generational dance floor. Toss in some romantic songs and some love songs. 

There’s no doubt the other couples will likely get caught up in the moment. They’ll remember how special their wedding day was and stare into each other’s eyes as they hold one another and sway to the music.

 

Plan a Memorable Exit


 Bride and Groom making a memorable exit from their wedding receptionPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Cleveland/Jenna Therese Photography


And lastly, prepare for when the party winds down. You newlyweds need a song to make your grand departure as you head off to happily ever after with the wedding processional in tow.

Remember, the songs you choose will be songs that will hold meaning for the rest of your life. So, select songs that you love and are significant.

 

A Live Band, a DJ, or a Rockin’ Playlist? 


 Black and white image of a bride and groom leaving their wedding celebrationPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Birmingham/Shelley Foster


 

Oof. How to choose?

We’ll go over the pros and cons of each so you can feel more certain about the option you choose.

 

Live Band 

 

First things first, a live band is impressive. If you find the right one, you can go over your song list beforehand. 

Is their specialty playing as a wedding band? If so, they likely have a library of popular wedding songs that they cover and probably know all the best wedding songs. Additionally, they may be willing to learn an extra song or two if it’s meaningful to you.

When auditioning bands, ask if you can come to one of their rehearsals. Or, at the very least, make sure they send you video footage of them playing live.  

When viewing the footage, don’t forget to check out the audience: are they receptive to the music? How does the band sound onstage? How do they engage with the audience?

 

The Pros of Hiring a Live Band

 

The energy provided by live musicians is sure to elevate any party. If the band is fun, upbeat, relaxed, and willing to banter a little onstage, they are sure to get people laughing and dancing. 

Maybe you sing a little too! If so, who wouldn’t love to see you onstage with the band, serenading your groom? Can you imagine belting out “At Last” by Etta James? Or if the groom’s a singer, he could croon “All of Me” by John Legend. What a treat.

 

The Cons of Hiring a Live Band

 

A live band can be expensive. Also, depending on where you hold the reception, the space may not be conducive to live music, and the acoustics may be off.

A band probably doesn’t have the versatility to cover all the wedding party songs; you may just have to stick to the set of tunes they know.

 

A Wedding DJ 

 

wedding DJ is another fun way to get the party going. DJs typically have a vast song library and are well-versed in all the popular wedding songs. DJs are great at bringing energy and enthusiasm. 

They also own the overall “let’s have a good time” feel to whichever occasion they’re hired to take it up a notch for, which includes your special day.  

 

The Pros of Going With a Wedding DJ

 

The right DJ is great at reading the room. They will take your suggestions and can toss in a few hits of their own. They are usually energetic and can act as an MC to direct guests from one activity to the next.

 

The Cons of Going With a Wedding DJ

 

DJs have a price tag, and you’ll likely pay more for a good one. So do your due diligence: a good DJ has the power to take the party to the next level. A bad DJ has those same powers — except in reverse.

 

A Playlist Full of Bops

 

There’s nothing humble about a playlist. If you’re a music fan, you’ll have no problem coming up with one of your own.

In fact, your bridesmaids would probably love to add a few of their favorite tunes to your wedding playlist. If you need some inspo, check out this article chock full of classics.

 

The Pros of Choosing a Wedding Playlist

 

If you’re into more indie-type music or have a boho vibe, you probably are bursting with lesser-known but equally great musicians you’d love to showcase. Of course, while mixing in a little Bruno Mars and Christina Perri (“A Thousand Years”). 

Putting together a playlist puts you in control. 

Bonus: you can share your wedding playlist with guests who enjoyed it.

 

The Cons of Choosing a Wedding Playlist

 

One of your guests may get the urge to play DJ and add that heavy metal song they love to pump themselves up with at the gym. Or there may be technical issues.

Prepare for everything that could go wrong. If you’re using a smartphone, silence any text or incoming call notifications. Make sure it’s charged, and there’s a charger nearby. Ask one of your younger tech-savvy cousins to be technical support. 

If anything goes wrong, you don’t want to be the one hunched over a tangle of wires, the train of your dress picking up dust bunnies that formed in the 90s and have lived undisturbed for decades in a rarely frequented corner of the reception hall.

 

Shopping for the perfect bridesmaids’ dresses to match your wedding aesthetic? Find bridesmaids’ dresses near you with our store locator!

 

Conclusion

 

We hope you feel inspired and have a bunch of ideas about what you’d like to do. And, oh yeah. Don’t forget to ask your fiancé for their input too!


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