Choosing Live Music for the Big day

Today Heidi with Moonwatcher Music joins us! Moonwatcher is a booking agency for live music and events, so this means Heidi has a lot of know how in this category. Every now and then we like to offer you planning brides something in the way of editorial advice, not just visual inspiration. One category that we have found to be a challenging one for many of you is entertainment! So today Heidi will give us some tips and tricks to booking and planning live music on your big day!


Music can set the perfect mood for your perfect day and live music adds a richness you may be looking for.  Typically you should consider music for five areas of your wedding:

Guests arrival: If you are planning a more formal affair, you will want to set the mood as your guests arrive.  This music should be light and cheerful, establishing a pleasant mood for those who have come to join in your celebration.

Popular options for live ‘arrival’ music are string quartets, jazz trios, harpists, acoustic guitarists, or pianists.

The Ceremony: For years to come, your grandmother will be recounting how beautiful you looked as you walked down the aisle.  Talk with the musician(s) about the style you would like and some specific suggestions.  You may choose something traditional – Bridal Chorus (“Here Comes the Bride”) & The Wedding March or Pacabel’s Canon – or you may want something more unique.

Here are a few less common, but beautifully appropriate, songs that you might consider:

  • Air on a G String (Bach) – String Quartet
  • The Prayer (Celine Dion) – Acoustic Guitar
  • You Raise Me Up (Josh Groban) – Piano
  • At Last (Etta James) – Jazz Trio
  • The Way You Look Tonight – Jazz Trio
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Harpist

The Dinner: Dinner music fills the room while your guests are enjoying dinner and talking about your beautiful ceremony.  The music for this setting should be subtle but appropriate.  Similar to the music you used for your guests arrival, you may consider something acoustic or perhaps a small group.  Be sure the musicians are positioned in the room where your guests can watch and enjoy them but that the volume is low enough that conversations can continue throughout the meal.  Be sure to talk with the musicians ahead of time, agreeing on cues for when they should stop playing for toasts, cake cutting, etc.

The Reception: It’s time to celebrate! The butterflies are gone and you are now beginning the rest of your lives together.  When planning your reception music, consider what type of reception you will be having.

If you are having a simple social affair with little to no dancing, then string quartets, jazz trios, harpists, acoustic guitarists, or pianists are beautiful options and can easily be tailored to your space and time requirements.

If you will be asking everyone to put on their dancing shoes, consider your guests and a music style that will fit the crowd.  Some options might include:

  • Rock/Pop band
  • Chamber orchestra for traditional ballroom dancing (waltz, foxtrox, etc)
  • Country band (line and country dancing)
  • Jazz Big Band (swing dancing)
  • Salsa Band (Latin dancing)

Often times, the music for the reception is either an expanded group of your earlier musicians or a different band altogether.  Talk to the musicians you are considering to see if they have options for earlier parts as well as the reception.

Once you have decided on the music style for your wedding, you will need to start talking to musicians.  Here is a list of questions and talking points to remember when interviewing potential musicians.


  • Do they have sample music you can hear?
  • Can they provide a list of references that you may call?
  • Be sure they can offer exactly what you are looking for (something quiet for dinner or dancing music for the reception)


  • What is their fee and for how long will they play for that fee?
  • If your guests want to continue enjoying the evening, will the musicians stay and play beyond the contracted time? Is there an additional fee for adding time?
  • Is there an additional fee for travel expenses?


  • Consider showing the musicians the venue beforehand so you can discuss where they will be playing.
  • Is there a point person at the venue whom the musicians can talk to about venue specifics?
  • Discuss when you want the musicians to set-up. (if you are planning music immediately following the ceremony, they will need to set up earlier in the day)
  • Is the venue set-up for sound?  Do the musicians need power? Will they provide speakers or are those items available at the venue?  Are microphones available at the venue?
  • Will there be multiple musicians/entertainment at the wedding?
  • If the musicians are playing outdoors, are there noise ordinances/time to consider?
  • If playing outdoors, will the musicians be covered (many instruments are sensitive to weather conditions – direct sun, rain, etc)


  • What do you want the musicians to wear (Formal Wear? All black? Wedding colors?)
  • Discuss / Provide a list of songs for specific times during the wedding or that you would like played sometime during the evening.

Like Christmas carols in December or the Star Spangled Banner in July, music is an integral part of any celebration.  Take the time to pick the right music for your wedding.  For years to come, every time you hear your wedding music, you will be reminded of that very special day.