Music You Need To Have (and some you don’t)

When you’re planning your wedding, it can seem like there are a lot of songs that you need to choose, and you might be thinking ‘how many songs do I need to choose and how do I decide which songs to include?’

In this post, we’ll look at the parts of your wedding where you should choose music, the parts where you don’t have to and everything in between.

First, let’s look at the places where you should choose the music that is played.

Bridal Waltz

If you could only choose one song for your whole wedding, it would be the bridal waltz. The bridal waltz is a dance that the bride and groom share together as a newly married couple. It is a very intimate and special moment. If you have a song that it special to you as a couple, then that could be the perfect one. Or perhaps there is a song that really resonates with you for some reason. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s music that is important to you as a couple. While most people choose ballads (slow, romantic songs), couples occasionally choose more upbeat or quirky songs, based on what is special to them.

Band vs iPod.

There are some parts of your wedding where music should be played by the band and some where using an iPod is a good option too. The bridal waltz can be  performed by the band or played on an iPod. Both can work well. In short, having the song played live by the band is probably more intimate, for reasons that are obvious – people can see the band performing, there is a live atmosphere, the band can react to what is happening on stage and in the room. It also gives the song a bit more of a personal flavor – it is being performed by your band, for you.

Sometimes, however, couples prefer to dance to the original recording, so an iPod is used. This can be for a number of reasons. Some couples go to a lot of effort with their first dance. They practise a choreographed routine, which is always a nice touch and a nice surprise for the guests. If a specific dance has been practised to a specific recording, it can sometimes be wise to stick to the original recording on the night, as the recording won’t change, and the sense of absolute familiarity can be important.

Other times, couples simply would prefer to hear the original recording because they are particularly fond of that specific recording and just want to hear it as it is in its original form.

Can Bands Play Any Song?

One question you might be asking yourself is, can the song that I want to use be played by a band. Generally speaking, the answer is yes. Most songs have a melody and basic musical elements that can be performed my most bands. The important thing to remember though is that it will be a version of the song, not an exact replica. For example, the original song might have a trumpet in it. Even if you have not booked a trumpet player as part of the band, the trumpet part can usually be played by another instrument, to great effect.

There are of course, some songs that don’t work quite as well with a band. Songs that have rapping or are heavily electronic in production (think dubstep, gangnam style etc.) don’t work as well with a band. At the end of the day, it’s something that you can discuss with your band leading up to the day. They will be able to offer insight as to how well the song will work as a band vs being played on an iPod.


Wedding ceremonies are better with music. The music is never the feature here (it’s all about the bride and groom), but it’s a great enhancer of atmosphere and emotion. There are three parts where music is important but before you decide which songs you would like during the ceremony, you need to think about one thing.

Choose Your Vibe

So here’s the part where we tell you that you need live music for your ceremony too, right? Well, not necessarily. We believe that every reception should have a band of some sort. The reception is a celebration and a party and a good band brings everything together. There is just no substitute for a great band playing great music while everyone dances the night away.

Ceremonies are a little bit different. While music is important, it is not the focus point. The question you need to ask yourself is, what vibe do I want?

The best way to decide what to get for your ceremony is to imagine the ceremony as it will be (the setting, guests, etc) and try to see and hear how you want it to be. Do you want a string quartet to be serenading? Would you like to hear a recording of your favorite song? Would you like a live singer, with a piano accompaniment? There is no right answer. An iPod through speakers, playing the songs that you have specially picked out could also be perfect. The music at the ceremony plays a different role than at the reception, so you first need to choose what you want. Budget can also affect the type of music you choose to have at your ceremony. Most bands charge separately for the ceremony and reception (although most bands offer heavy discounts when purchased together). Some couples want completely different bands for their ceremony and reception.

Once you know what vibe you’re after, you can choose music.

3 Songs To Choose

There are three times when music can and should be heard that you need to think about. These are:

  • Walking down the aisle
  • Signing of the register
  • Finale/Exiting

Ceremonies, just like receptions, can vary, especially depending on different religious and cultural specifics, so you might wish to add extra music for other parts that aren’t included here, but generally speaking, all ceremonies have these three things.

The songs you choose can depend on the type of music that you choose (iPod, string quartet, vocal/piano duo etc.) which is why it’s important to first think about the instrumentation that you want.

If you have chosen to play music through an iPod, then you should choose the songs that you want played during these times. Ballads are popular for ceremonies. Think of slow, emotional, yet positive songs about love, hope and friendship. It’s impossible to say which songs are be right for you, but here are a few tips to help you choose:

Walking Down the Aisle – This is the grand opening of the ceremony. You want music that is moving, emotional and powerful.

Signing of the Register – This is a moment of reflection and celebration. The bride and groom have just said their vows and there is a positive, yet still emotional feeling in theair. The music here could be more upbeat, yet still slightly reflective.

Finale/Exiting – This is where the bride, groom and bridal party leave the ceremony area and the guests start to mingle. It’s a very celebratory moment and the music should reflect this.

This is a general guide only. If you have chosen to hire live musicians, they might have specific pieces of music that they recommend at certain points of the ceremony, especially if you have hired instrumental music (music without vocals). If you have chosen to have a singer, they may be able to recommend songs. Whatever the case may be, make sure you communicate before hand, so that everyone is on the same page.

If you want music played through an iPod, make sure there is someone in charge of playing and stopping the music. Also make sure that the venue has a PA that music can be put through (or organise for someone to bring a portable one).

Places Where You Don’t Need To Choose Music

We’ve covered the parts of your day where you should decide which music you want played. There are other times, mainly at the reception where music should be played, but choosing specific songs isn’t as important. These are:

  • Bridal Party Introductions
  • Throwing of the bouquet and garter
  • Goodbye circle

These are the parts where music is important, but choosing music isn’t necessary, unless you have something specific in mind. The band will have standard songs that they play that are proven to work well at these points, so it’s one less thing for you to think about. You can of course choose which music you want in these places if it is important to you.

What About The Dance Sets?

People often ask about the music that will be played throughout the night, as they want to make sure that great music is played for everyone to enjoy. While it’s a good idea to make sure the music in general is to your liking, we have found that it’s best not to get too picky with each song that is played. A good band knows how to gauge the audience and choose songs accordingly. As much as the wedding is about you, it’s worth remembering that if the guests are having fun, you’ll be having fun too. Occasionally, couples think that they need to decide on every song that will be played throughout the night. This can make things rigid and stale. If you have chosen a good band and have given them a few guidelines as to the music that you like, you should be able to let them do their thing which will allow you to focus on enjoying the night.

A good way to make sure that the band understands the music that you want is to request a few songs that you would like played. These can be songs already in the band’s repertoire (ask them for their song list) or it could include a few songs that they haven’t performed before. Most good bands are prepared to learn a few songs if needed.

It’s also worth looking through the band’s song list and seeing if there are any songs that you don’t want to be played. You don’t have to do this, but since it’s your wedding, you don’t have to hear songs that you don’t like. By giving the band an indication of songs that you do like and don’t like, it’s much easier for them to get a better indication of the vibe that you’re after. This is much more effective than trying to pick every song.

We’ll talk a little more about choosing a band and how to communicate with them in the next post.


Here is a video of Connotations performing ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ by Alicia Keys. This is a popular ‘bridal waltz’ song. It’s also a song you might consider having at your wedding ceremony. Don’t forget to get in touch with us so that we can invite you to a free, live showcase.