The music for your wedding ceremony is one of the most important elements in creating the perfect mood that you desire for your most special day. A couple has many questions when planning wedding music. These include: What instruments or voices do we want? Who will play or sing? How do we hire them? How can we be sure that they will do a good job? What selections do we want for each part of the ceremony? (For that matter, for which parts do we need to choose music?) What are some of our choices for music for each part of the ceremony? For a couple without experience addressing these issues, these questions may seem to be overwhelming or intimidating. Hopefully, the following will help you address each of these questions step-by-step and will help to make these tasks as easy and pleasant as possible for you.
The first step is to decide which instruments or voices you would like to have perform for you. My group, Amati Chamber Music, has played weddings with any number of different combinations of instruments and voices--the possibilities are virtually endless. I suggest that you start by identifying whether you want anyone to sing. (We'll address the question of finding a singer later.) Once this question is decided, you can go on to select the instruments you like. If you have always imagined a certain instrument or group, go for it! If you don’t already have a clear idea in mind, you may be able to consider certain combinations (or even certain groups) that you hear at other weddings. If you haven't the first clue as to which instruments you would like, start by getting a CD (available at a discount or music store) that features a number of different instruments and combinations of instruments playing wedding music. This will help you narrow down the possibilities. Once you have a general idea of which instruments you would like, you can go on to finding musicians.
"Word-of-mouth" is one of the best ways to find excellent musicians or singers to perform for you. If you attend a wedding and like the sound of the music, be sure to ask the musicians for a business card. Referrals from other brides, wedding coordinators, caterers, or special events facilities can be invaluable. AtlantaBridal.com and similar websites are excellent sources of professional musicians as are the yellow pages (look under "Entertainers" or "Musicians"). Entertainment agencies can provide a variety of musicians though prices will typically be 10-30% higher than those charged by the performers directly. Places of worship may maintain contacts with musicians as well as provide singers, organists, and pianists who are employed there.
If you are having a wedding in a place of worship and do NOT wish to have the resident organist/pianist play, be sure to check on your financial obligation to that person--sometimes you will be expected to pay the keyboard player for a wedding whether s/he plays or not. In these situations, some couples choose to use the keyboard player as well as other musicians--either having the organist and other musicians alternate playing or having these musicians play together. If you don't regularly attend services at the place of worship where the wedding will occur, you might want to attend a service to hear the keyboard player (an unofficial audition). This person may also recommend other musicians who have worked there before.
The number of musicians most desirable for you will depend on several factors. The size of your wedding is one consideration--generally more musicians play for larger events. Budgetary constraints and prices of various groups will certainly be issues. Your personal preferences will, of course, be a high priority. On our Amati Chamber Music demo CD, we feature five different combinations of stringed and wind instruments in trios and quartets so that our clients will have several choices to consider. We offer other combinations of instruments as well (as do our colleagues in other groups).
As you decide which specific musicians will perform for your wedding, it is essential to hear them before you finalize your decision. Most professional musicians will be able to provide a demo with representative samples of their music. Less frequently, musicians will perform a live audition or enable you to attend their performance for another couple. This last option is difficult as most weddings are held in private locations. I personally do not feel it is appropriate for our potential client to audition us by attending (uninvited) the wedding of a stranger (who IS our client). The only time this really works is when we are playing in a public park or restaurant that is open to the public during the wedding. Feel free to ask for references from previous clients of the ensemble. Be sure you feel comfortable with the group's leader as you will be working closely with this person. Look for someone who listens to and is responsive to your wishes, has experience playing for your type of wedding, has expertise that s/he will provide to the extent that you desire, returns calls promptly, and is willing and eager to answer your questions.
After you have finalized your choice of musicians, you should expect to sign a contract and pay a deposit. This protects the interests of both parties involved. Content of individual contracts will vary but should include your name, group's name, wedding date, starting and ending times of music, total fees, payment schedule, cancellation policies, and any special requirements of the group. Be certain that all of the terms are acceptable before you sign. Occasionally we have clients request a contract, thus reserving a date with us, who we never hear from again. Please understand that requesting a contract represents a commitment between you and your musicians. Please treat the musicians with the courtesy you would expect: if you change your mind about hiring a particular group, let the leader know so that the group may accept other work for this date.
Before you begin to select the specific music for any part of your ceremony, check with the wedding site to learn if there are restrictions about the types of music allowed in the facility. Some places of worship have strict rules about types of music, instruments played, amplification, and composers. It is best to respect these restrictions and to be sure that each of the pieces of music you select is appropriate for the venue. Non-religious venues are less restrictive, but be sure to ask anyway to avoid possible conflicts and last-minute changes of plans.
Planning the ceremony and the music simultaneously is a logical and efficient planning strategy. Please refer to the worksheet that follows as well as the list of pieces to help you select music for each part of your ceremony after you have familiarized yourself with the parts of the ceremony.
The prelude or pre-wedding concert is a period of music performed as the guests arrive. It typically lasts from fifteen to thirty minutes and helps to set the mood for the wedding. The mood that is created is up to the couple and can vary from elegant, to ethnic, to religious, to romantic, to joyous and celebratory, and may include a combination of any or all of these. This music is usually relatively soft so guests may converse and greet each other as they arrive and find their seats. Frequently, our clients will choose a few specific pieces and some general styles of music to create the desired mood for the ceremony rather than selecting each individual piece for the entire prelude. Your musicians will have many ideas as to which pieces will create the moods you want.
Be sure to select someone other than a member of the wedding party to signal the musicians that it is time to start the processional music (a wedding coordinator is ideal for this task). The processional section of the music may include a special piece of music for the seating of parents and/or grandparents of the couple as well as any other special family member or guests who are seated just before the procession of the attendants. This is usually followed by a selection to accompany the arrival of the groom and all of the attendants (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearer, etc.). Immediately after the last attendant has arrived, the musicians usually will pause for a few seconds before beginning the special piece that heralds the arrival of the bride.
I suggest that you use no more than three selections for this part of the ceremony as any more changes will typically be less flowing and less smoothly connected. In our experience, we have played only one or two pieces for the procession of everyone for smaller wedding parties. It is nice for the bride to have her "own" music as it helps to make her arrival more dramatic. In general, the intensity and volume of the processional music increases from the beginning to the bride's music, but we have played for brides who like the effect of creating anticipation of their arrival with an understated (quieter, slower) piece.
Depending on the nature of your ceremony, there are several possible points at which you may wish to have music played or sung. These times include: a few minutes of meditation, an interlude between readings, during a candle lighting ceremony, during the sign of peace, a brief selection immediately following the exchange of vows, and/or during and after communion.
Following the last words or final event of the ceremony, the recessional music begins. This music is typically very upbeat, celebratory, and joyous and provides the musical accompaniment for the exit of the bride and groom and the wedding party.
The musicians play a few lively, festive pieces as the guests depart the ceremony area. As with the prelude music, let the musicians know what style of music you prefer if you do not have specific selections in mind.
Specific Music Selected:
General Mood desired:
General Styles of Music Desired:
Person to cue Musicians to start Procession music:
Seating of Grandparents/Parents
Any events prior to Bride's entrance (pull runner, close doors, etc.):
Should attendants' music continue during this event?
For which part or parts of ceremony?
Music selected for each part and cue for each part (what event or words immediately precede the musical selection?):
VERY LAST words or VERY LAST event of ceremony:
Last person to walk out to this piece:
Music Selected (2-3 pieces maximum or general style/mood desired):
The categories for each selection are NOT absolute. Pieces not selected for one part of the ceremony may work very well for another part. This list is intended as a starting place--your musicians will help you finalize your decisions and will guide you as to the appropriateness of each piece for each part of the ceremony. Not all selections will be playable by every instrument or every combination of instruments.