Wedding Wednesday: Music

***We’ve been wedding-series-posting our faces off over here, so in case you missed anything from the past few weeks, go here!   Then pat yourself on the back for your wisdom and forethought.


Hi wedding planning people!   The past few weeks have been very wedding decor- oriented, but this week we’re going to talk about wedding music.

Typically, you’ll have two types of wedding music: ceremony and reception.  Instead of doling out advice from the onset, I’ll tell what we did in our wedding — what worked, what didn’t work — and then I’ll talk about the economic effectiveness of these choices.

First, ceremony music:  Before Josh and I decided what we wanted in terms of music, we first talked about what we didn’t want.  From the start, we decided that we didn’t want organ music (honestly, I can’t stand it) — which worked out fine anyway since our venue wasn’t a church and didn’t exactly have an organ at their disposal.  They also didn’t have a piano, and we were pretty sure we didn’t want an electric keyboard for the ceremony (we actually used one for the reception, but more on that later).  We also decided to cross off a DJ and the iPod playlist idea — we just really wanted live music for this particular part of the wedding.  Eventually we decided strings would be the best option (and good string music?  I mean, c’mon).

Josh and I were both music (and theatre) majors, so we tend to hedge on the picky side of the spectrum when it comes to choosing instrumentalists.  However, we knew we were on a budget and we couldn’t exactly afford a full-blown orchestra (and it’d be too much anyway).  After searching on gigmasters and other websites, we found a great (and affordable) group, all of whom are professional, active musicians in the Southeast.

We did a little price negotiating, did a lot of song research, settled on a few selections (we even paid them a teeny bit extra to make a strings arrangement of the jazz standard “In the Mood”), and that was about it.

by jk Dallas Photography

Looking back, while I think they were great musicians and very affordable, I would do things differently today.  Though I was distracted by the fact that it was my wedding day, I still listened while waiting to walk down the aisle and what struck me was their lack of familiarity with our music selections (and our choices are very well known ones, so this is a little bizarre).  In fact, for one of those songs they looped the same part over and over (and over) again.  And I know they weren’t stalling because there were entire sections that they didn’t play at all.  In fact, I was about to turn into a Bridezilla and say something, but fortunately, I chillaxed and just decided “whatever.”  In the end, I’m probably the only person who cared, but still… if I were planning my wedding today, I would do things differently.

What would I do, you ask?  I would re-visit the iPod playlist idea, but instead of the usual wedding ceremony choices, I would pick some of my favorites from the Vitamin String Quartet.  For those not familiar with them, they are an amazing group of musicians who do string covers of popular songs.  They do a lot of top 40, but they’ve also gone through the songbooks of a lot of other classic bands like Queen, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.  (Their versions of “Yellow,” “Fix You,” and “Beautiful Day” are some of my favorites.)  It might sound a little hokey — like an opera singer attempting “All the Single Ladies” — but I assure you, their interpretations to all of the covers they do is always fresh and exciting.  Honestly, I’m CRAZY about them.

And going the iPod playlist route would also have been a lot cheaper — free, in my case — since the theatre department at our Alma Mater graciously loaned us their sound equipment for the reception…  Ah well, that was before I discovered VSQ and before I’d heard of Pandora radio (which is where I usually make my new music discoveries nowadays).

And still, I make complaints about the way our musicians handled our song choices, but in the end, their stringed version of “In the Mood” for our recessional was spot on, so I wasn’t really too upset.  :)

Okay, reception music time.  I know that a lot of folks out there will set aside a chunk of their budget for a DJ or a band, and I could sort of understand that (to a point) if they were having an evening wedding and /or alcohol, as both of these go hand in hand with raucous spirited dancing.  But you may remember (from this previous post), that we had a dry, Sunday morning wedding (don’t judge, just read the previous post).

And honestly, though I go through phases where I fancy the top 40/typical dance music, this just wasn’t something that Josh and I were interested in at the time.  And if we had had an outdoor wedding (in an appropriate outdoor month, i.e., not January), we probably would have hired a bluegrass band and called it a day.  But this wasn’t really appropriate to our setting, so we voted for jazz music (you hardly had to twist our arms — we happen to both love jazz).

by jk Dallas Photography

As I mentioned in the ceremony music section, the technical director from our Alma Mater had very generously let us borrow the sound equipment so that we could plug an iPod in and just play a big ol’ long playlist (our awesome friend, Mack also kept tabs on the iPod, faded the sound in and out when we had announcements, things of pageantry, ya know).

The jazzy jazz playlist played while folks trickled in and got their food, but once the general crowd was seated, out came our showbiz friends (I just broke my own personal promise of never using the word “showbiz” in earnest… Ew).

by jk Dallas Photography

Prior to the wedding, we had asked some of our friends who sing if they wouldn’t mind dong a song or two at the reception, preferably a jazz standard or something equally classic and low key (so, no Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson).  They all agreed, and thanks to their generosity and talents, it was one of the highlights of the reception — people still talk about it, and that was almost four years ago!

by jk Dallas Photography

We arranged our singer friends into about three 20-minute sets of music, with a little time in between for the usual reception stuff (garter and bouquet tosses, father-daughter and mother-son dances, cake cutting, etc.).  When our friends weren’t singing, we relied on the iPod jazz playlist for ambient music.  Purely to the credit of our enthusiastic friends, ambient music soon turned into dance music, which soon turned into amazing picture opportunities.

Go go gadget dance pictures!

by jk Dallas Photography

by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

Yeah, and that’s without them being liquored up!  I was impressed.

Like I said, our music choices were mostly low key classics, but we did venture out a little for the bouquet toss (“All the Single Ladies”) and garter toss (I don’t remember, it was something top 40).

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

So for what we paid for in ceremony music, we definitely made up for in reception music costs (free!).  Yes, we were super lucky to have the connections we had and an amazing pool of talent at our disposal, and they really helped make the reception.  But even if you don’t have a theatre department or free sound equipment available to you, there are still inexpensive ways to do these things without forking over thousands for a DJ.  Ask friends — maybe someone you know has this kind of equipment already — or maybe they know someone who knows someone?  You may be surprised!

How about you?  Any ideas for inexpensive ceremony or reception music options?  Or free ceremony or reception music options?  (We like free.)  Share!

Check out the previous posts in this series…

Setting a Date

Finding a Venue

Picking a Caterer

Saving on Invitations and Save-the-Dates

Photography & Videography

Bridesmaids’ Dresses

Wedding Flowers

Ceremony Decor

Reception Decor

5 thoughts on “Wedding Wednesday: Music

  1. For mine and Brett’s wedding we went with a DJ but he was only $1000 and did both the ceremony and reception. We toyed with the idea of an iPod playlist but since we still would have needed someone to MC our evening reception and rent the equipment, we decided the most cost effective (and least stressful) way was to hire a DJ.

    For ceremony music, we totally used Vitamin String Quartet! They are amazing and we love almost everything they cover. We also mixed in some of my favorite classical pieces as well as instrumental selections from our favorite movie soundtracks. We told our guests about it in the program and some of them tried to guess what movies they were later, which was pretty fun :).

    We really liked beig able to customize our playlist with the DJ. The company we used (Lethal Rhythms) even had a playlist online where we could input what songs were a must and what songs we never wanted him to play no matter how many people requested them :).

    For what we got for the price, I’d say we got a great deal!

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