If you want a wedding with a festival feel, or a party-perfect atmosphere, live music is a must. There are many options, from bands and tribute acts to string quartets and opera singers, but what essential info do you need to make the right musical choices?
We asked two experienced performers for their expert advice, so your wedding soundtrack is spot on.
What does live music add to a wedding?
“A live band provides a personal and interactive element,” says Matt Strafford of the Matt Strafford Duo. “If it’s a flexible band, willing to work around you with regard to timings and song choices, then you’re onto a winner. Most function bands can adapt their style to suit your taste.”
What are the most important factors a couple needs to consider when booking live music?
“Obviously budget,” says Liz Heyes from Rondino Strings. “But more money doesn’t necessarily make for better quality musicians. Budget-conscious couples should shop around, and it’s often better value to book groups directly, rather than through an agency.
“Book musicians early, at least six months before the date, as certain times of year get very busy. Most groups charge by the hour — find out if they charge for travel and travel time too.
“And consider the set-up at the venue: the majority of groups will play outside for summer weddings, but a shaded area is appreciated. Direct sunlight (and rain) is not good for expensive instruments! And if your ceremony room or reception is small, it’s worth considering a trio or duo.”
What kind of music works best at a wedding?
Having a huge range of music, from Motown and soul through to modern day pop and rock, is the key, according to Matt. “Have something that everyone can enjoy,” he advises.
“I like to play light, popular classical music as the guests arrive,” Liz says, “moving on to jazz and pop during the drinks reception, but the genre is up to the bride and groom.”
Can the couple work with an artist before the event, creating a dream
“We provide our full song list,” says Matt. “It’s an ever-growing list with over 120 songs to choose from. Couples can pick their favourites and we can learn up to four new songs for them.”
Liz also sends couples a list of the group’s repertoire. “I ask them to choose one piece for the bride’s entrance, two for the signing of the register and a lively, upbeat piece for their exit. Couples tend to leave the rest up to us to create the right atmosphere.”
What else should a couple bear in mind before they book?
“Songs or pieces with religious connotations, such as Schubert’s Ave Maria, are not allowed at a civil ceremony,” Liz warns. “An experienced group will be aware of this rule and suggest alternatives.”
Matt says you should make sure a band is responsive and helpful: “I’ve met wedding bands without any customer service skills — their excuse is that they’re musicians not businessmen. That’s no excuse. It’s our job to ensure that the bride and groom are completely happy and confident that they’ve made the right decision by hiring us.”
To help you choose the music for your wedding day, here’s a rundown of 10 of the most popular options:
- Book a band: look for groups with wedding experience and ask for a demo (or check out their YouTube channel) and testimonials before meeting them.
- Go A-list: wow your guest with a celebrity act — a company like Firebird Events can secure a former X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent contestant, for example.
- Pay tribute: if you have a favourite popular band or artist, like The Beatles or Elvis Presley, find out if a tribute act is available.
- Classical delight: a string quartet or harpist is a romantic option — and ideal if you want live music during the ceremony or wedding breakfast.
- Country cabaret: if you love country music, or can’t resist a céilidh dance, you could theme your wedding around the music and book a country or céilidh band as the centrepiece.
- Opera opulence: an experienced opera singer adds lots of drama to your day and will delight your guests.
- Heavenly choir: the US show Glee, and the phenomenal success of the Military Wives, made choirs mega-popular — find out if your local choir is available to perform at weddings.
- Get down with a DJ: a good wedding DJ can act as a master of ceremonies at the evening reception as well as playing your favourite tunes.
- Karaoke kings and queens: hiring a karaoke machine (or karaoke DJ) is a great option if you want a fun day, really involving your guests in the entertainment.
- DIY: to keep costs down you could prepare your own playlist, using the hitched.co.uk wedding songs section for inspiration. And why not ask your guests to fill in their favourite song on the RSVP? That way, everyone will hear at least one song they love during the day.