When planning a wedding, music might be the last thing on your mind, but in a recent study, brides said that live music was one of the main things they wished they’d spent more money on, and was the #3 thing that made their wedding truly unforgettable (after the venue and photographer).
As a professional wedding guitarist with over a decade of performing experience, here’s my insider guide to picking the perfect wedding musician without breaking a sweat or breaking the bank.
Create your vibe
Your music and song choices have to reflect the vibe you want to create. For a traditional ceremony, opt for a violinist, string quartet, or a harp. For a more modern wedding, go for a vocal duo or instrumental piano or guitar.
A recent change in wedding trends is that less brides are choosing to walk down the aisle to traditional songs like Canon in D or the Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride), and instead choosing instrumental versions of songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”. Let your instrument and song choices be a reflection of your personality and who you are, not what you think wedding music “should be”.
Finding the right musician
There are a lot of websites that help you search for wedding musicians, but what you may not know is that all of these websites allow musicians to pay extra for premium placement in searches. So your top searches might not be the best musicians, but rather the ones with the biggest marketing budget.
When you’ve found a potential musician, look at their Yelp reviews and search for videos of them on YouTube. Also look at their website to see if they have any live public performances coming up and go see them perform live. And if they don’t have any public performances listed anywhere, take that as a red flag. If no one is booking them, there’s probably a reason.
You want to know exactly how you’ll feel when you walk down the aisle. That’s why whenever I’m talking to a bride-to-be, I always send them links to my YouTube channel and invite them to come watch me perform at Downtown Disney so they can get the full experience before booking me.
Sure, your best friend’s brother “can DJ”, and your 14 year old cousin plays the violin, but even when you’re on a super tight wedding budget, it pays to hire a professional. Live music transforms the atmosphere of a room, and the quality of musician you choose determines the kind of atmosphere you’ll have.
Also, a professional knows that a bad review can destroy their business, while an amateur could care less. Friend-vendors, or “friendors” as the wedding industry likes to call them, have the reputation of cancelling last minute, being difficult to communicate with and giving cringe-worthy performances.
The average cost for ceremony music in the United States is $500. If you’re trying to save money, try hiring a solo musician instead of a full band or booking directly with the musician instead of going through a wedding website or booking agency.
Read their contract carefully
If your musician doesn’t have a contract, that should be a red flag. Accidents happen, and you don’t want to be handling a lawsuit on your honeymoon. Look for additional costs like travel fees, whether you’re responsible for their parking, and any additional requirements that they need. Also see if they have a vendor insurance policy that protects you in case of accidents.
For reference, I charge 50 cents per mile for my travel fee, ask them to cover my parking and I provide a $1 million dollar insurance policy at no additional cost.
Curate the soundtrack to your wedding
There’s a lot to learn when planning music for your wedding. Here’s a standard wedding outline to help you get started.
Prelude While your guests are arriving, have your ceremony musician play some music to set the mood. Prelude music is also a cue to your guests that the ceremony will be starting soon and they should begin getting seated.
Processional The wedding ceremony begins with the bridesmaids, groomsmen, family, flower girl, and ring bearer walking down the aisle. Stick to slower songs so that they can walk at a slower pace, and make sure the musician knows who the last person in the processional is so that they know when to stop playing.
Bridal Processional Pick a song that’s meaningful to you as a couple and request your musician to play it. But remember, the goal of the music during this section is to be invisible and not draw attention away from the bride. If the musician does their job perfectly, you won’t even remember that there was music. Consider something soft, slow and instrumental.
Additional Sections If you have any special sections in your ceremony like a candle-lighting ceremony or a cultural wedding tradition, be sure to let your musician know to play background music during that time.
Recessional At the end of the wedding, walk out to a fun, upbeat song and don’t be afraid to dance a little as you walk out!
Cocktail Hour Often this is the same musician as the ceremony, which means that you can have a seamless transition from the recessional to cocktail hour music and it’s always cheaper than hiring two separate musicians.
Reception Here is where you want to transition from live music to a DJ. Choose a DJ that is also a great emcee and let him know what songs you want for your entrance, first dance, and parent dances. You can also choose to go with a live band for your dinner music.
Dance Party Do not hire a live musician for your dance party. You want a DJ and you want a great DJ.
Moses Lin is one of the most highly sought after fingerstyle guitarists in Orange County. His unique style of music is perfect for weddings, cocktail hour, private parties and more. For live music that is intimate and classy, look no further.
Moses’ repertoire consists of instrumental acoustic versions of popular songs. Unlike other live musicians who perform using online charts or music books, every song in Moses’ repertoire is a completely original fingerstyle arrangement. He takes familiar tunes and meticulously crafts arrangements in which he performs melodies, syncopated bass lines, chords, and percussive rhythms simultaneously on a single acoustic guitar. For a truly unique performance unlike any other, book Moses Lin for your wedding today!
Acoustic Wedding Music
Instrumental adaptations crafted just for you
Studio-quality audio recordings for your videographer