How to Choose Your Perfect Wedding Music

Wedding Music: How to choose between a band, DJ, or playlist

There are so many ways to express your personality in your wedding and music is no exception.  Plus, music can literally be used to entertain your guests.  It sets the tone for your wedding, so it is worth considering your options.  

Initial Thoughts to Consider

Unless you’re having a tiny wedding where you know all of your guests really well (including that their musical taste match yours), consider mixing it up a bit.  For example, if you and your fiancé are totally into metal music, by all means, include it!  Some people might think that metal and weddings don’t mix, but it is your wedding.  That being said, 100% metal the entire wedding might be a bit much for some of your guests, so take opportunities to include some other music for the sake of being good hosts.  That applies regardless of the type of music you choose, so don’t think I’m juts picking on metal!

If you want to include music your guests love, feel free to ask them for song suggestions.  You can reach out one-on-one or even just include a line on your RSVP cards like these.

Finally, live music and DJs are one of those wedding things where you may have friends who do that as a career or side gig.  Don’t just assume that they’ll provide the service for you.  Ask them!  Attending a wedding as a vendor is different than attending as a guest, even if they’re your friend.  So tell them you love their work and would love for them to do it at your wedding but totally understand if they’d prefer to attend as a guest.  And then respect their decision.  Also, if this is something they usually get paid for, plan on paying them their usual rate unless they absolutely insist otherwise.  Your friendship is important so don’t risk it by possibly making them feel you’re taking advantage of it.

What wedding music do I need?

Before diving in, know that you don’t have to have ANY music if you don’t want to.  And if you do want music but don’t care that much, don’t stress yourself out about it.  If you’re interested in seeing how to create a personality-driven music plan, read on.

You have a few options for the source of your wedding music that you can mi and match depending on the moments you’re planning.  These options are live music, hiring a DJ, or using a pre-made playlist on a device.

Some of the individual moments you might consider are:

  • Pre-ceremony background
  • Walking down the aisle (you, your fiance, family, wedding party)
  • Walking back up the aisle after the ceremony
  • Cocktail hour background
  • Reception entrance
  • Reception background
  • Specific dances (first dance, father/daughter or mother/son etc, last dance)
  • Dancing
  • Bouquet/garter toss
  • Cake cutting
  • Exit

Wedding Music Options

Live Music

Live music, whether for a specific moment or throughout the wedding provides an excellent opportunity for showing off your personality.  If you or your fiancé are in a band, why not perform a song a la Hep Alien on Gilmore Girls?  Or consider incorporating your heritage like my sister-in-law did when surprising my brother with a bagpiper as she walked down the aisle.  Trust me, those make for amazing moments for your guests to experience!

Live music can also be totally low-key and meaningful.  For example, my uncle is a pianist so he played beautiful music as guest arrived and took their seats before walking my cousin down the aisle.  

If you and your fiancé love going to the symphony, see if you can hire a few musicians to play during the ceremony.  Or a live band for the reception if you both love to dance in a specific style.  Or if you love show tunes at a supper club like my friends, hire your favorite performers to perform a few numbers during the reception.  Take what you love and see if you can work it into your live music choices.

Hiring a DJ

Hiring a wedding DJ can be a great way to outsource music if you want it but don’t want to worry too much about the details.  It is also a great option if you really want your guests to dance.  A great DJ can read the energy of the room and select songs to kick things up a notch and get people on the dance floor.  

Wedding DJs may also emcee the wedding so guests know when specific moments like cutting the cake are happening.  If they’ll be emceeing, you can also get them on board with who you want to give toasts and avoid opening toasts up to the floor if you don’t want that.

You can work in your personality with a DJ too.  If dancing is important to you, a DJ might be your best choice.  If your wedding has a theme, see if you can find a DJ who is game to dress up or perform in character that fits your theme.  And of course, you can get your DJ to play the type of music or specific songs you love.

Wedding Music Playlist

Selecting your own music can be as simple as hitting shuffle on your own music or playing your favorite Pandora channel or as complicated as separate playlists you’ve organized in order of the specific moments you have planned.  You can use your own music or pay for something like Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Prime Music.  

If you’re creating your own playlist to match specific moments of your wedding, I suggest finding someone to be in charge of the device you’ll use so they can make sure the right song plays at the right moment.  A way to make that easy is to create a different playlist for each moment.  So separate playlists for pre-ceremony background, your fiancé’s  entrance, family entrance, wedding party entrance, your entrance, exit, cocktail hour, reception background, etc.  Then everything is queued up to just hit play when the next moment is beginning.

Here are a few hard-earned tips from weddings I’ve attended who used this type of music:  

  • Do a test run with the speaker system ahead of time so you’re sure that you have all the cords you need.  We did this for our wedding and it took a few tries to get my parents’ outdoor speakers to work with my iPad on WiFi.  Much better to figure it out when there is plenty of time than rushing around the day of the wedding!
  • If someone will be in charge of the device and you have specific music for specific moments, either write extremely clear instructions for them to follow or do a test run at the rehearsal.
  • Make sure that for a playlist covering a big chunk of time has enough music included so that the device doesn’t move on to something else.  Baby Got Back began playing unexpectedly during a friend’s reception because the playlist wasn’t quite long enough. It was hilarious and made for a great story after the wedding even though I’m sure the couple were a little stressed about it in the moment.  It was also the inspiration for a square on Wedding Bingo.

The best part about a prepared playlist is that you can pick exactly what you want to hear for each moment.  This gives you a great opportunity to express your personality and reflect any theme that your wedding may have.  Your entrance music can be anything and some of the best I’ve seen completely reflect the personality of the person walking down the aisle.  One friend walked down the aisle to the theme from Top Gun.  If you knew her, you knew she was obsessed with that movie.  It made total sense even though it doesn’t seem very wedding-like.  My husband walked down the aisle to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which set the tone for our mostly Star Trek but generally sci-fi inspired wedding.  I’ll never forget the laughter and excitement of our guests as he walked in to it.  One of the early things we bonded over in our relationship was that we both grew up with the Chevy Chase vacation movies so we decided to walk back up the aisle as husband and wife to the Holiday Road song.

If you’re having a holiday or theme wedding, you likely have easy choices for songs to include.  Our Star Trek wedding took place on the 4th of July so we included quite a few patriotic songs, but you could include theme songs from the movie or tv show you’re theme is based on or other holiday music that fits.

Also think about songs that your guests will love.  What did you and your friends listen to in high school?  Every group seems to have that one song that can bring them back to their past.  Try working that in!  Maybe try playing songs from your parents’ or grandparents’ generation, or better yet, how about playing something they remember playing at their wedding?  It can be a lot of fun to DIY wedding music when you start trying to 

Also include your favorite songs or songs that are meaningful to you and your fiancé.  Think about “your song” if you have one or songs that make you think of each other.  Include your favorites even if they aren’t necessarily “wedding appropriate.”  

Whatever type of music you choose (or not!), your wedding should reflect who you both are.  That makes weddings extra meaningful and memorable.  Music just provides you one more opportunity to do this.

Before you go, save this post to Pinterest in case you want to refer back to it as you make your wedding music decisions.


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