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How To Get The Right Wedding Music

Updated on January 13, 2014

Music. It’s a strange beast.

Jimmy Barnes wrote in his book Say It Loud that “Music can touch people at a primal level – evoking different emotions and triggering memories of particular places and times. Music is such a part of our emotional makeup – it can make you patriotic, it can make you want to fight, it can make you want to cry”… and he’s right, although we certainly won’t be focusing on the ‘fight’ part of his observation!

I'm sure you have a favourite song that takes you back to a precious moment in your life; without realising, it became part of the soundtrack to your life and story. That’s one of the beautiful things about music; it continues to speak to us long after the song has stopped playing.

Music For My Wedding - Because you want your wedding remembered for all the right reasons
Music For My Wedding - Because you want your wedding remembered for all the right reasons | Source

So how do people get music so wrong at their wedding?

There are a number of reasons how it can happen and whilst the following isn't an exhaustive list, you'll want to consider each of them carefully.

1. Not considering the demographic of your guests
Yes, you want all the special songs that make up the playlist to your lives performed at your wedding. They mean something to you and they speak the words of your story together more easily than you can.

But! What if that song is inappropriate for a wedding? What if you've misunderstood the meaning of the song and it’s about a dead boyfriend (“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion) and not about professing your unabashed love for each other as you thought! Worse still – what if you have a massive clash of musical tastes and both insist that ‘your style of music’ is included? Oh yes, these will make your wedding memorable – but for all the wrong reasons.

Music is subjective as is your guests’ enjoyment of it. Whilst it is your day, you do need to be mindful of the demographics of your guests and do your best to make it enjoyable for everyone. No one wants to see their guests leave early because they've heard “what music the band plays“.

L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole

L-O-V-E (Remastered 2004)
L-O-V-E (Remastered 2004)

This timeless classic by Nat King Cole is sure to be a winner at most weddings.


2. Leaving the song choices entirely up to the entertainer / DJ

Unless you know the DJ or band personally, or have spent months going to the entertainer’s gigs and other weddings; I never recommend leaving the entire music selection to any performer. This isn't meant as an insult to performers in any way as most are very capable at reading an audience. What I mean is; there’s still a pretty good chance that some of the songs they plan on playing at your wedding aren't suited to your tastes or those of your guests. And believe me – these ‘faux pas’ songs are the ones you'll remember!

If you’re looking for a ‘cardboard cut-out song list’ that everyone else is having, there’s a plethora of ‘top wedding song play lists’ available on the internet. There are some great songs listed but your wedding should be a reflection of you and so you and your partner should take the time to select the songs that are meaningful to you both. These are the songs that you should share with your chosen band or DJ.

I always recommend a short list that specifies the key songs for the formalities but also lets the entertainer know a little about your preferences. Entertainers don’t need you to select every single song to be played during the night (no one likes to be micro-managed!) but it’s very helpful if you can let them know:

a) Must play
b) Ok to play
c) Play these and you won’t get paid!

3. When ‘retro’ is just too ‘retro’

What can I say; I'm a fan of the 80’s and there were some amazing songwriters and equally amazing songs produced, but there comes a time in every girls life when ‘enough is enough’.

The song ‘Celebration’ used to be really good fun at weddings (in the 80’s), but it is (IMHO) getting a little ‘old-hat’ and I personally, would be happy to never be subjected to it at a wedding again – ever! Yes, it’s a fantastic song to get people up and dancing (if they've had a few drinks to combat the dancing nerves), but 80’s party tracks can be a little tiresome if you’re looking for something a little more ‘grown up’ and modern.

Disclaimer: Retro *has* made a comeback and I think that’s fantastic, but please don’t ask me to get excited about dancing to it for the thousandth time because I wore my knees out dancing to it in the 80’s

I digress… the truth of the matter is that unless you’re quite young, we’ve all celebrated many weddings in our life with friends and loved ones. We’ve sat together listening to the ‘same old same old’ music at each one and there’s almost an audible, unified groan when a tired old ‘retro’ track is ripped out by the DJ late in the evening to get people up and dancing.

Why not be different and breathe new life into your party tracks – a bit of funk or soul, or something different like ska (think: “The Best Things In Life are Free” which is currently aired as a TV advert for Freeview featuring our very own Pat Powell and the Melbourne Ska Orchestra). Just because one retro song seems to ‘work’ at weddings or everyone is having it played, it doesn’t mean that you need to have it too.

Be different – let your music truly reflect your uniqueness.

The perfect wedding song - "I Do" by Colbie Caillat

I Do
I Do

The song "I Do" by Colbie Caillat is one of the top 10 wedding songs; would you include it in your day?


4. Music style clashes

This topic is mentioned in point 1, but it’s important enough to be listed all on its own.

When music styles clash – you’re setting yourself up for a potential flop if you don’t manage it carefully!

I’ve had some unusual wedding entertainment requests land on my desk over the years; some have left me just scratching my head at how it could work. For example; a very unique couple had a clash of music tastes and it was always going to be difficult to blend the two harmoniously – he liked heavy metal and she liked Country. The bride insisted that the grooms family and friends knew what the grooms music tastes were like, and they accepted it and would be “ok” with it. (Hmmm…. What about her family and friends?)

What this couple was asking for was nearly impossible – they wanted the one band to play both genres, and expected their poor older relatives to sit through covers of Metallica and Black Sabbath as they wanted to ‘start the night off with a bang!’; it was unusual to say the least.

If you do have mixed ‘clashing’ genres that you absolutely must have at your wedding, there are options available with careful planning, and whilst it is your uniqueness that you bring to your day – you do want your family and friends to remember the celebration for the right reasons.

Lesson: Even though you might have your heart set on a particular style of music or band – consider your guests enjoyment of the night. Do you really want your older guests leaving before the end of your reception because you’re hanging to hear “Enter Sandman”?

5. When communication fails

Not being able to get in contact with someone is frustrating to say the least. In this fast paced world, we have an unspoken expectation to be able to contact anyone, at any time we choose. Our levels of frustration however can quickly become explosions of rage when trying to speak with your wedding suppliers and can’t get in touch with them!

Whilst you don’t need to be in constant contact with your wedding band, it is a great idea to openly discuss your needs with regard to communication requirements from the outset. For example: You could arrange for you or the band to call 3 months prior to your wedding, just to ‘check in’ and make sure you’re both on track and discuss any changes that may have occurred. If they’re learning a new song for you, you could also set up a time to chat about that.

Whilst you don’t need to adhere to a strict time-frame for speaking with each other, it is however important that the lines of communication are open and clear to avoid any misunderstandings or problems from occurring.

The same open communication should apply for the day of your wedding too. Entertainers will do their utmost to ensure the music will run as smoothly as possible based on your needs and requirements, but should they need to discuss something with you, it’s a great idea to have a relative or friend to introduce themselves as someone who can make decisions for you on the night. Providing an alternate name and the phone number of this person prior to your wedding will assist the entertainers greatly and help to alleviate any problems should they arise.

I’ve been to some gorgeous weddings of very special friends over the years and unfortunately in some cases, communication was clearly lacking. One couple in particular, relied heavily on the DJ choosing the entire song list and only gave him a list of tracks for the key moments. It was an epic fail.

The couple and DJ failed to communicate their needs clearly and the DJ ended up playing songs to cater for the older guests that even those older guests were fed up with hearing! The song choices were atrocious to say the least and guests sat firmly in their seats with looks of shock on their face – yes, it really was that bad (picture a tumble weed rolling through the desert).

If complaining friends weren't enough for the bride and groom, what really topped off the communication failure was the ‘hand across the throat’ gesture the bride made at the DJ (to stop playing the song); which was unfortunately misinterpreted by the DJ as a new dance move. She did well not to cry.

Remember: Communication is key!!

The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony' performed by a string ensemble will help to make your wedding day unique

© 2014 Music4MyWedding


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