If you ask most wedding guests what they remember about their experiences, they'll often comment on the food and entertainment.
Wedding day music goes beyond hiring a DJ for your reception. Your entertainment selections set the ambiance for your wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception.
There's a lot to be said of hiring musicians who specialize in weddings. I've seen too many weddings where the ceremony music wasn't timed appropriately, the sound equipment didn't work, or the introductions and first dance were awkwardly fumbled through, which is why we asked Tampa Bay's most reputable wedding day musicians to share their expertise on A Guide to Wedding Day Music.
What Do Couples Need to Know About Ceremony Music?
“Your ceremony is the beginning. The beginning of one of the biggest days of your life. Your music should reflect your personality. What emotions are you wanting to trigger from your guests and yourself? Which songs will reflect your taste? Are you wanting to walk down to Canon in D Major that everyone knows, but also sets the tone for a more romantic scene, or are you wanting something so different that no one has ever walked down the aisle to? This is a great opportunity to showcase your personal taste in music to your audience. If you're someone who loves music and you want your personality to shine through during this time, you should definitely pick the songs that speak for you and your significant other. It will memorable for you and your guests. A DJ should not just play your music, but also should do a sound check with your officiant, test the audio so everyone can hear, and make sure the timing is perfect. This should be a priority and properly budgeted for when you hire musicians or a DJ.” -Christopher Grainger, owner of Graingertainment
“You can really set the tone of the entire wedding by choosing the perfect ceremony music. Whether you are looking for music that is more traditional or looking for a more modern contemporary feel, adding a live musician is such a nice touch and will leave your guests talking about your ceremony. If you do hire a live musician for your ceremony make sure they will provide the sound system and the microphone for your officiant. You want to make sure that your guests can hear you and your significant others say those special vows. Budgeting for your ceremony depends on the musician you choose and how many you decide to book. A soloist would be perfect for the couple on a tighter budget, but if you have a larger budget or a larger guest count we would recommend booking a duo or trio. Quartets will make the biggest impact.” -Jessie Soplinksi, of Breezin' Entertainment
“Ceremony music is the perfect place to add personality and passion. Sure, you can go the traditional route with Canon in D, but today's modern couples are personalizing the ceremony. Just like how the traditional flower girl is being updated with the ‘flower dude,' the music should evolve too. Acoustic versions of popular love songs are trending right now.” -Mike Greenberg, owner, Spark Wedding Events
“Quite often, ceremony music is something couples tend to overlook when budgeting their entertainment needs for their wedding. The DJ can not only facilitate that with ease but can also provide a microphone for the officiant. Some things to consider when selecting the specific songs for the ceremony are how far the walk down the aisle is and whether that song will be long enough to accommodate it. Something else to think about is whether or not they are including grandparents and parents in the processional, and if so, what song would they like for them.” -Jaime Corbitt, of Grant Hemond & Associates
“We absolutely love being part of a couple's ceremony. After all, the reason we are there is to help you celebrate your love along with the most important people in your life. I tell my couples that the ceremony sets the tone for the whole day. If the ceremony is amazing, the energy will be the same for the rest of the day. We are more than your DJ; we are your host. Our duties are to play the music of course, but they also include greeting your guests and keeping them informed when the ceremony is about to start. We remind them to silence their cell phones and convey any other wishes from the couple. From music for guests to arrive to to making sure audio is working for the officiant and timing the entrances with the day of coordinator, we make sure your ceremony goes off seamlessly so all you have to do is focus on marrying the love of your life. When it comes to the actual music, we help our couples select songs that reflect not only their personality but the mood they wish to set for their day.” -Tony Mancuso, owner, Platinum Entertainment
“Modern couples are choosing non-traditional music for their ceremonies. Couples are choosing a vocal track that speaks of their love. Replacing the traditional instrumentals like a Piano Guys version of a song. Wireless ceremonies (no power on the property) can be a gamble without the proper equipment. Make sure that your DJ or officiant has backup equipment to ensure all goes well with the audio.” -Rich Kenny, owner, Tampa Event DJs
What Do Couples Need to Know About Cocktail Hour Music?
“With us, the equipment needed for a cocktail hour is always included, so all the couple needs to budget for is the time it will entail. Don't stress about cocktail hour music, trust your DJ. Most couples are taking pictures at this time and won't be around to hear the specific music they've chosen. It's usually best to provide the DJ with genres of music they would like to have played and let the DJ create a playlist accordingly.” -Jaime Corbitt, of Grant Hemond & Associates
“Cocktail hour music should be fun, upbeat, but still in the background so guests can converse without being blasted by the music. There are so many directions you can go with cocktail hour music. Step it up a notch with music that you love. Instrumentals of pop songs are a great way to add the right amount of ambiance. Piano Guys, Vitamin String Quartet, and The Brooklyn Duo are great examples of this style of music. Cocktail hour is a great place for the music that you want for your reception, yet it doesn't fit the dinner or dancing style of music. Make your cocktail hour fun for your guests!” -Mike Greenberg, owner, Spark Wedding Events
“Cocktail music is the most overlooked portion of the evening. Most couples have no idea what songs to select for this hour of the wedding. Not all couples get married at the same venue as the reception, and at some weddings, this is often the first impression of the event for guests. The music chosen is often the tone-setter for the evening. Cocktail hour is a great time to let the couple's musical personalities shine through. A vast majority of our couples have very eclectic musical tastes and some of their favorite songs are more suited for cocktail hour than during the open dancing portion of the night. We also recommend the music fit the setting. Is your cocktail hour outside? Is it on a veranda overlooking a beautiful lake? Is it more of a casual thing with people playing lawn games? Is it in a beautiful ballroom? Each setting is different and deserves different musical selections to put guests in the proper mood.” -Tony Mancuso, owner, Platinum Entertainment
“Cocktail hour music should be upbeat. Upbeat jazz or lite hearted top 40 can create a festive mood. I prefer to pre-mix a set of tracks to get guests ready to party during cocktail hour.” -Rich Kenny, owner, Tampa Event DJs
What Do Couples Need to Know About Reception Music?
“As your host we have a ton of duties that day, from coordinating the ceremony to making sure all the other professionals you booked are in the best position to excel at their individual jobs for the day. But after all the formalities are over, it's time for us to roll up our sleeves and pack that dance floor. There are two types of DJs: weddings DJs and DJs who do weddings. We are the latter. Why is this important? Simply put, the dance floor is where a lot of your memories will be made that evening. Music has an amazing way of bringing people together, and our job is to seamlessly navigate the playlist for the evening to create a high-energy party that your guests will be talking about for a long time. As real DJs, we are music experts, we are on top of the newest music and the best remixes of the classics to keep everyone at your wedding entertained. How we open the dance floor is just as important as how we close out the night. We ask our couples to give us songs that they must hear and let us use our expertise to cultivate the rest. We don't know your family and friends, maybe there are songs that have special meaning to you or people at your wedding. Maybe we normally wouldn't select that song to play but you have expressed its importance, and it might be the highlight of the night. We also have couples that give us 100 song playlists and others that will tell us they are terrible at picking songs and they totally trust us, we are fine with that too. It's your day, we play the music you want for your celebration.” -Tony Mancuso, owner, Platinum Entertainment
“Your introductions should be grand if you have a medium to large wedding party. We allow each member of the wedding party to pick their favorite song to enter the reception room. The newly married couple will have their own introduction music that separates them from the wedding party. Music should be played continuously, no dead air! Music for dinner has changed from the crooner days to more adult contemporary, r&b, and country hits. Creating a strict playlist restricts the DJ from creativity and reading the room. If you hired a talented DJ trust that he/she will create the vibe using your must plays as high points while you are on the dance floor. Your DJ should always play your ‘must plays' while you are present. The end of the night should always be epic with your friends and family surrounding you singing and hugging to the last song of the night! Pick a good one.” -Rich Kenny, owner, Tampa Event DJs
“You’re hiring professionals who know what to play and when to play it, so use that to your advantage! There will be a few ‘must plays' and maybe a few ‘do not plays,' but for the majority of the evening think along the lines of styles/genres of music and then allow your DJ/band to do what they do best, read your crowd and play within the parameters you’ve set for them. The exception to this rule would be if you have very specific music you want played or if you want uncommon music played throughout the event. This would also apply if you have specific ethnic music you’d like played (i.e. Greek, Arabic, Spanish, etc.). In those cases, a specific playlist with song titles and artist names would be best.” -Jaime Corbitt, of Grant Hemond & Associates
“When it comes to the reception, the music will make or break the entire evening. I have a lot of couples who go in between wanting a band or booking a DJ for their reception. A fusion DJ package is one of the newest trends, combining the best of both worlds (a DJ with 2-3 live musicians playing along to his music). This keeps the energy up but still gives that ‘live band' intimacy you are looking for when booking a full band. When budgeting for your reception music please do not cut corners, this is one of the most important vendors that your guests will remember for years after the wedding day.” -Jessie Soplinksi, of Breezin' Entertainment
“Get ready to party…it's your reception! Give your DJ your favorite songs you have to dance to at your wedding. Try to avoid giving too many ‘must play' songs as your DJ will read the crowd and insert the best song for the very moment based on your genres and what the DJ feels is the best music to play. Should ‘participation songs' be played? That's completely up to you, but in today's modern wedding, these are not necessary to have a great time! The music should be a mix that encourages multiple age groups to dance together. It's always a great party when everyone's out on the dance floor!” -Mike Greenberg, owner. Spark Wedding Events
Should Couples Hire Live Musicians or a DJ?
“Yes and yes. It truly depends on what you are looking for. Musicians are great for ceremony and cocktail hour as they add a very personal touch, but they cost more than a DJ. DJs are great because all of the music is right at their fingertips.” -Mike Greenberg, owner Spark Wedding Events
“It all comes down to the music the couple envisions. If you are looking for contemporary Top 40 pop music then don’t hire a steel drummer, and if you are wanting a lot of hip hop/booty shaking music then hire a DJ over a band. I have a lot of couples who book the musician or DJ before really thinking of the type of music they want and then feel disappointed that the violinist cant play the Top 40 song or the band can’t play the rap song they love. You want to choose music that plays to the musicians' strengths and not ask them to learn 8-10 new songs for your day. Instead, look for someone who already has those songs in their repertoire or ask them for a song list for you to choose from.” -Jessie Soplinksi, of Breezin' Entertainment
“For elegant affairs live musicians are great for ceremonies and cocktail hour. You can also have a fusion of live musicians and a DJ for your reception. A great band will bring the house down and create amazing memories for you and your guest. If you have a wide range of songs and genres you want to hear at your reception, a DJ is your better choice.” -Rich Kenny, Tampa Event DJs
How Do Couples Know if They're Hiring the Right Musician/DJ?
“Make sure you see plenty of videos, go see them live, and ask for reviews. When hiring a DJ it’s all about personality. Have a phone conversation or meet with them in-person before making a decision to ensure you are all on the same page with the style of wedding you envision. In regards to musicians, they all have opportunities to see them live or they can send you plenty of videos of them playing. I often have clients ask to hear a particular song and my musicians will record it on their phone and text it to the couples so that they are 100% comfortable with how the music sounds.” -Jessie Soplinksi, of Breezin' Entertainment
“Find is a disc jockey who understands that it's not about the DJ. It's all about the couple. This is your day. Do your research! Referrals from other industry vendors, as well as reviews posted on wedding websites, are definitely the way to go. Industry vendors can point you in the right direction since they get a chance to work with DJs and bands almost every weekend. They know who to recommend and who to steer clear of. Plus, they’re not going to put their name on the line to recommend someone they can’t trust will do a good job for you! From there, make sure you’re confident in your decision once you’ve made it. If you’re not but have a good feeling, ask that company questions to ensure that confidence in them. After all, you’re putting a lot of time, effort, and money to ensure you’re event is a success!” -Jaime Corbitt, of Grant Hemond & Associates
“Write out a list of what you're looking for. Go over all of your questions with your DJ/musician and compare their answers to other companies. Talk to them either over the phone or in person. Do they mesh well with you? Do you like what you hear? Do they have great reviews? Are they in your price range? Do you feel they are going to do a great job at your event? Do your research. Don't just assume. Ask plenty of questions! Also, give yourself a few days to soak everything in before you make a decision. If it feels right and you and your partner both agree, then you have your person!” -Christopher Grainger, owner of Graingertainment
“The right entertainer will have a modern website, links to reviews, a YouTube page with up-to-date footage, a current social media presence, and recommendations from other vendors. You should always try and meet with your vendors. Find a DJ or musician who is equally passionate about your wedding as you are. We love what we do and it shows.” -Rich Kenny, Tampa Event DJs
How Much Should Couples Budget for Entertainment?
“It’s not all about the lowest quote! You hear all the time that a DJ can make…or break an event. In the grand scheme of the cost of a wedding (the food, photos, flowers, dress, etc.), if you pay a little more than what you were hoping for, but get a fabulous DJ, then it is money well spent. On the other hand, if you save a little and get a DJ who perhaps shows up late, forgets an important detail, mispronounces a name, doesn’t dress properly, etc. was it worth it? Just something to keep in mind!” -Jaime Corbitt, of Grant Hemond & Associates
“When budgeting for the reception, one of the main things to think about is how much time you will need DJ services. Other things to consider are whether you will want any add-ons such as uplighting, monogram lighting, and/or photo booth. Most companies will create package pricing for these additions, so don't be afraid to ask! When it comes to specific music, trust in your DJ! Give us your must-plays and genres of music you enjoy and let your DJ read the crowd. One thing to keep in mind is the music you enjoy listening to on the radio is not necessarily the same music that will keep your guests on the dance floor. You are paying for a quality DJ – trust their abilities to help you have a great time!”
Marry Me Tampa Bay Recommends:
Expect to budget at least $1,000 for a professional, reputable DJ for four hours of ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception music.
DJs often offer additional services such as uplighting, which typically starts at $300+ depending on the amount of lighting needed, as well as photo booths.