A beginner’s guide to choosing wedding music

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The Club band play in configurations of between five and 10 band members. Fin Bradley is third from the right. He’s holding the trumpet. Image: Lillie Thompson

Choosing the perfect song to play as you walk down the aisle or have your first dance can be a daunting prospect. Sweet and romantic? Or funny and heartfelt? And what if you and your partner can’t agree on anything?

Selecting the right music for your wedding day is important because it helps create the overall atmosphere of your event and, hopefully, it will reflect the personality of you and your new spouse.

“Every wedding is different, so the music at every wedding should be different, too,” says Fin Bradley who runs Melbourne music and entertainment agency The Club.

“I don’t think we’ve ever played the exactly same set list at any event we’ve worked at in the four years we’ve been running – and it’s rare that we even perform the same song the same way!

“It’s about reflecting the couple’s personality – and gauging the crowd’s mood – and that changes from hour to hour, let alone from wedding to wedding.”

Fin, who comes from a family of musicians and has played trumpet and keyboard for more than 15 years, adds: when choosing music for your wedding, be it for your walk down the aisle or your reception song, it’s all about “choosing a song that is meaningful to both of you, perhaps a song that reflects your relationship, or a particularly memorable stage of your relationship.

“It doesn’t have to be what’s expected, it has to be what feels right to you,” he adds

Here are some of Fin’s best tips for choosing music that’s perfect for you and your wedding day.

Think outside the box

According to Fin, one of the biggest mistakes that brides and grooms make when it comes to choosing their wedding music is thinking they need to stick to what’s expected, rather than considering what music actually best reflects them as a couple.

Sure, Etta James’ At Last is a classic ditty for a first dance, but if Hey Ya! by Outkast is more your style, don’t be afraid to ask your band to play it for you on the night.

“Make sure you choose music that’s meaningful to you and not something you feel you should choose just because it’s a traditional wedding song,” advises Fin.

“If you like Elvis, then play a little Elvis and, if you’d like to play a certain style of song but aren’t sure how the audience will react to it, you could always ask your band to ‘tweak’ it a little,” he says, adding “you’d be amazed at what an experienced band can do with pretty much any tune!”

“We once played a jazz version of Kanye’s West’s Heartless which is quite an edgy, hip hop tune – and it sounded fantastic.”

It’s just one of a list of memorable tunes The Club has ‘tweaked’ to ensure maximum entertainment value for the assembled crowd – and they’ve also created some rather fun experiences for clients by sticking to the philosophy that, when it comes to music, even wedding music, you have to go with what you love, not what you think you should play.

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“We’ll always try to do something out of the ordinary at every wedding,” he adds.

“I remember one wedding where we even gotten the bride up crowd-surfing. We gave her a cowbell to play along with the band – and it was fabulous, one of the highlights of her wedding day,” Fin explains.

“We also regularly hold mini rap battles where anyone can get up can battle each other and, sometimes, we have the bridal party jump up on the mic and sing along.

“One of our favourite wedding party happenings is when the crowd is up for a dance battle:  everyone dances in a big circle and people get called in to show us their moves – and we’re always surprised at what moves they pull out!”

Consider the music you’ll have at different stages of the event

Your band or DJ will be able to help guide you through the kinds of music that is often played at different parts of your big day but, says Fin, here is a rough guide of what usually works and when.

Ceremony: The start of the ceremony is, typically, classical music, but The Club has also provided duos to sing contemporary pop and soul songs in the past, too. Often, the music is more sweet and down tempo. However, if there is a special song that you’d like to have played during this time, regardless of its genre, the person in charge of your wedding music should be able to re-interpret it to fit your ceremony, says Fin.

First dance: If you’re stuck trying to find the perfect song for this moment and you and your partner don’t actually have one song that is special to you both, start by looking at common musical genres that you both like, then go from there. You could also consider looking at songs with lyrics that you both relate to.

Keep in mind that regardless of whether or not you choose to hire a choreographer for your first dance, it’s a good idea to select something with a beat you can groove to.

Reception: We tend to do the bridal waltz and that comes after formalities, then we launch into the party music.

During the meals at the reception: Down tempo pop or jazz music often works during this time, to allow people to chat during the meals and enjoy each other’s company. It’s nice to keep it classy.

Dance music: It’s usually something that people know, maybe something by Earth Wind and Fire or Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. It’s multi-generational music as well. We won’t play a recent pop song that old people won’t know. It’s usually from an era that people know that vibe. We tailor our set lists and choose the songs we play carefully so that we have  a vast array of things that cater to all the generations that tend to be at weddings.

Create a do-not-play list if necessary

Most experienced wedding bands will have the insight to understand that playing explicit hip-hop songs or raging death metal at your wedding might not suit everyone’s tastes so generally, you should be able to trust your band with the playlist.

Fin usually sends the bride and groom a full playlist before their wedding so they can double check what songs will be playing on the night, but if there are certain songs that you don’t want performed, make a list of the songs and pass them over to your band.

Sing a song to the love of your life

If you’re brave enough, use your big day to get up on stage and serenade your new spouse.

“It can be quite moving and a moment to remember for the rest of your life,” says Fin, “but it needs to be right!

“If you’re thinking of unleashing your inner Frank Sinatra or Bruno Mars on the night, make sure you choose a song that you’re comfortable with,” advises Fin. “And if you want, you can ask your band for a rehearsal beforehand, too.

“After all, you want your new spouse in tears, happy tears, not the kind of tears you shed when your ears are bleeding!”

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