To make sure each part of your ceremony appears distinct to your guests, you might like to alter the music in accordance with whichever phase you're moving into. Not only will this strengthen the thematic nature of each musical setting – it will also serve to prompt your guests that something new and different is happening. Here, we've separated a typical wedding ceremony into sections, and outlined which kind of wedding music and which kind of performer(s) would suit each one best.
Before your wedding begins, you're going to want to set the tone for the rest of your ceremony as your guests filter in and find their seats. Remember – first impressions last! While you're probably going to want to save the more exciting, upbeat music for later on (definitely for a few drinks later), you still have quite a lot of scope here for choice. Try to avoid choosing completely different music from the rest of your playlist for this preliminary period – you do want some semblance of unity in the soundtrack to your union, after all. But don't feel obliged to stick to pre-recorded tracks of whispered vocals accompanied by barely audible piano – unless, of course, this ties into your overarching theme, and you plan to have piano and vocals of varying degrees of intensity to underpin each magical moment. Feel free to branch out into other genres – if, for example, you've hired a jazz band for the evening, you could ask them to play something light to welcome people into the room, or even for the pianist or guitarist to play a solo set. Just choose the kind of music that represents whatever theme of wedding you've opted for, be it traditional, modern or vintage, then take it down a peg or two – it'll really build the anticipation for what comes next.
When those doors at the back of the room finally open, and a parade of enchanting bridesmaids begin to float down the aisle, each pair of lungs in the room will intake a sharp breath of air they won't be able to release for a good minute, for these bridesmaids signify perhaps the most iconic moment of any wedding – the appearance of the bride herself. This is, for many, the moment that their entire relationship – or even their entire life – has been leading up to, so it's imperative that the music is chosen and executed with the due diligence such a milestone would merit. A traditional – and still highly popular – piece for this moment is Wagner's Bridal Chorus, although the elegance and gravity of Pachelbel's Canon in D and Beethoven's Ode to Joy have earned them a similar position in our hearts as pieces that really emphasise the enormity of this pivotal procession.
The music you choose for your wedding recessional should be joyous and upbeat – after all, you have just witnessed something truly wonderful. If you play your cards right, the shift in tone from your emotional processional music to your livelier recessional music will suggest to your guests that it's time to move on. You want the overall message to be thoroughly positive, so some suggestions might include 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams, 'Beautiful Day' by U2 and 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' by Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. It might help to think of this like the end credits of a rom-com, or the end of a race you've just placed first in – in which case, maybe Vangelis' 'Chariots of Fire'?
The first dance is second only to the exchanging of the vows on the leaderboard for Most Romantic Wedding Moments. Like the vows, the first dance is highly personal, peculiar to you as a couple, and is a chance for you both to show everybody what you mean to each other. There are tons of lists suggesting first dance songs if you need a little inspiration, but above all else you first dance should be to a song that really means something to you. Other factors to consider are the length – you don't want to keep your poor guests waiting as you dance through an entire 13-minute ballad – and style – keep it sweet and upbeat; after all, this is a positive experience for everyone, and you're going to want to get them all in the mood for dancing too, because as soon as your first dance song ends, it's their turn!
Once you've had your moment in the spotlight, the dance floor is officially open for business! Choose an unmistakable floor filler for the first number, as you want to make it clear to your guests that now's their time to shine. You're going to have to think of something upbeat and well known, so the charts are often a good place to start (unless you're a proud alternative rocker). That, or the classics. There's always a risk of cheese at a wedding, but if you're going to be forgiven for playing 'I'm A Believer', 'Dancing Queen', 'Celebration', 'Build Me Up Buttercup' or 'Summer Of '69' anywhere, it's here.
Once all the traditional stuff's out of the way, it's time for your guests to celebrate your marriage by honouring the oldest tradition of them all: drinking and dancing! This section, in contrast to the meticulously planned segments that precede it, is often something of a free-for-all – it's here that your live wedding band or DJ will expect to have the most requests blurted out to them, and it's here that they'll be most likely to agree to them. If you have enlisted a band to entertain your increasingly merry guests well into the night, please alert the band and advise the guests to keep their requests within reason. A rock band is just as unlikely to want to play 'Moon River' as a jazz band is 'Master of Puppets'. At the end of the day, save for any sound limitations or licensing issues, a lively DJ set brimming with all-time classics or a band finally able to let the last of their hair down would be perfect. The key elements to be conscious of here are: energy, fun and joy.