The Woodland Events Blog

  • Todd Harper

Is Live Wedding Ceremony Music Worth the Investment?

There are so many considerations and decisions to make as a couple when planning your wedding. Most couples spend the majority of their planning energy on the reception, but how you decide to personalize the wedding ceremony is just as important! There’s plenty to consider: choosing your officiant, selecting your readings, deciding how to layout the guests’ chairs, deciding what music to play, and more!


One of the most common questions Woodland Events couples have while planning their ceremonies is whether they should use a DJ or live musicians for the music. Today, I’m excited to be teaming up with Alia from Boom Island String Quartet to write our first ever collaborative blog post all about why you might consider using live music at your wedding and whether it’s worth the investment! (TL;DR - It totally is!)


A versatile and engaging wedding ceremony experience

Hiring live wedding musicians sets a beautiful tone for your wedding day and provides an elevated experience for your guests from the moment they arrive.


Prelude music sets the scene for your wedding day when your guests begin to arrive. Guests not only hear the music; they see the musician, make eye contact with them, and maybe even approach them to say the prelude sounds lovely. The prelude music typically lasts between 10 and 30 minutes before the ceremony begins. I (Alia) distinctly remember a wedding I recently attended where the couple had hired a guitarist who played beautiful instrumental covers during the prelude. Nothing can compare to live music setting the mood for your special day!  


Live musicians provide great versatility for the wedding processional. If you’re using pre-recorded music, you have to try to have everyone in the wedding party pace their entrance so that you arrive at the front before the song ends. This might sound easy enough in rehearsal, but on the day, this will be the last thing on your mind as you walk down the aisle. Live musicians can time music to the processional on-the-fly, by cutting or repeating sections of the piece as necessary in order to end in a logical place with a musically satisfying ending. It’s like a film score to real life.


After the ceremony ends, your guests will typically be ushered out. Especially with weddings occurring amid COVID-19, wedding guests are being dismissed at a slower pace after the ceremony to ensure social distancing. Continuing live music during the postlude allows your guests to continue being entertained rather than counting down the minutes until cocktail hour. 


There’s a musical ensemble fit for every wedding vibe!

Some instrumental options that can be dressed up or dressed down based on how formal your wedding is are solo piano or solo guitar. These instruments are a great fit for both classical, contemporary, or a mix! Pretty much any of your favorite songs can be adapted to solo piano or guitar.


Another option I love but don’t see very often is the harp! This is an especially good fit for elegant or formal weddings, but don’t hesitate to ask a harpist if they have contemporary songs in their repertoire. 


If you are looking for music with lyrics, vocalists work well for prelude music, special ceremony music, and postlude music. Vocalists do not typically perform during the processional due to the logistics required to cut the song short or repeat sections of the song as needed. If you are planning a religious ceremony with congregational songs, I definitely recommend hiring a vocalist to lead everyone in singing.


I am biased, but absolutely encourage everyone to consider hiring a string quartet! Many folks assume that string quartets only play classical music. While this is certainly the case for some, a majority of string quartets in the wedding industry are versatile and can adapt any genre! The artist Vitamin String Quartet has been performing covers of popular songs for the last 20 years and are a great example of how string quartets can span R&B, pop, country, classic rock, and more. Check them out here!


Consider the logistics

Todd here! Live music in a ceremony is incredible for all of the reasons Alia mentioned above and I absolutely love working with live musicians as they create that “film score to real life”. Don’t tell my clients who opt for pre-recorded ceremony music, but weddings with live musicians are usually my favorites! That said, as a wedding planner, I’m always coming back to the logistics. Some things you’ll definitely want to consider before hiring live musicians are:


Does your venue have enough space? A solo guitarist or a DJ takes up significantly less space than dueling grand pianos. You’ll want to work with your venue, your planner, and your musician(s) to ensure there is enough room to fit them in the space.


What are the acoustics like? A ceremony in a carpeted indoor venue is going to sound a lot different than one with bare floors which is going to sound different from an outdoor ceremony. While many live musicians can play just about anywhere, you’ll want to discuss the acoustics of your space with your musician(s) to ensure their instruments will sound great wherever you place them.


What are the weather and climate like? Many instruments are incredibly sensitive to changes in the environment. If it’s slightly too humid, a little too cold, too sunny, or starting to rain, the instruments may not have an ideal sound, and some musicians may not even be willing to perform in certain climate conditions. Be sure to discuss this with your musicians before signing a contract.


How long are your musicians playing? Most DJs can press play on the next song before running to the restroom or grabbing a bite to eat. Live musicians need breaks too, and usually require them. If you would like your musicians to play for longer than 60 to 90 minutes (during your cocktail hour or even into your reception), chances are you’ll need to schedule one or more ten to fifteen-minute breaks for them. Be sure to think through your wedding timeline to ensure these breaks fall at logical times.


Lastly, as with your other wedding vendors, the musicians you choose must be a good fit for your personality as a couple. Once you’ve found a soloist or ensemble that you’re interested in, consider having a conversation over the phone or on Zoom. Getting to know the musician(s) before booking can help you feel informed and confident in the investment you're making. Don't feel like you need to have every detail in place before reaching out to the performing group or soloist. Part of their expertise is providing suggestions based on each couple's preferences.

Have more questions about hiring live musicians for your wedding ceremony? Feel free to reach out to either of us at info@woodlandevents.com or boomislandstringquartet@gmail.com and we'll be more than happy to help! And don't forget to visit Boom Island String Quartet's website!


Photos in this post by Emma Halet Photography and Lauren Baker Photography.


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