There are so many details that go into planning a wedding. Often, couples are not sure of when they should provide specifics for their vendors versus hand over the reins on decision-making.
We tell our couples to choose their processional and recessional songs if they'd like to (the songs that play as the wedding party and the couple enters and leaves the ceremony). However, for the rest of the ceremony and the cocktail hour, we recommend that you let the musicians select the music, within your chosen music style preference.
There's a significant amount of wedding music that the couple does not get to hear (30 minutes before the ceremony starts, and 60 minutes during cocktail hour while they take family and couple portraits). However, your guests will hear this 1.5 hours of music. It's our goal to make sure that your guests enjoy themselves while they wait, while still making sure that the music reflects your vision.
We recommend that you give the musicians some parameters, like a style of music, songs to avoid, etc., but then give them the space to work within those parameters. An old analogy is that when you order your wedding cake, you tell the baker the flavor you want, the colors you want, but you don’t give them a checklist of ingredients: it must have 3 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 4 tablespoons of vanilla, and so forth.
In the same way, rather than giving your musicians a songlist, instead let them know what ambiance you’d like the wedding to have. Your musicians are experienced and know how to give you and your guests the experience you're looking for.
In our experience performing at over 1,000 weddings, the weddings that guests enjoy most, those that end up being more fun, more organic, are not the weddings with a musical checklist, but the weddings where the couple lets the musicians do what they do best.
Musicians can read the crowd, adapt to the situation, and help create the right atmosphere for that moment.
We’ve had weddings where the bride’s grandparents started dancing and singing along to “Signed Sealed Delivered” and after the song ended said “More! More oldies like that one!” You want your musicians to be able to keep this magical moment going, following the mood of the group rather than following a checklist of songs that was written months ago.
We had a wedding where most guests were in their 20’s, and they broke out into an impromptu dance party during the cocktail hour, singing along to old One Direction and Taylor Swift songs. The bride hadn’t predicted that would happen, but fortunately she had given her violinist leeway to adapt to the music and play what people were enjoying. Her flexibility allowed this awesome moment to happen that the group of friends will always remember.
If musicians as a group share certain characteristics, it’s that they’re creative, they can improvise and think on their feet, and they seek the input of others to work together to create something amazing. That’s exactly the sort of person you want putting together the wedding music for your guests, right there on the spot.
When you return to the last few moments of your cocktail hour after taking photos, you want to be welcomed back by guests who are having a great time, feel comfortable, feel welcome, and feel included. They'll be ready to join you at the reception, celebrating the happiest day of your life.