If you ask most weddings guests what they remember about their experiences, they’ll often comment on the food and entertainment. However, your Tampa Bay 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 whole 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?
Jessie Soplinksi, of Breezin’ Entertainment shares:
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. Always remember that if you do hire a live musician for your ceremony to 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 on 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, however!
Erica Muresan, owner of Sunset Strings, explains:
“It’s important to make sure that the ceremony music will be loud enough for all of your guests to enjoy. Check with your vendors to ensure you’ll have the volume needed. There’s a cost difference between a solo musician and a group such as a duo or quartet, but the music is the first thing that your guests will notice as they enter the ceremony space. Make sure you have the appropriate group size for your venue and number of guests. For many couples, the ceremony music is something they’ll remember for years to come, making live music well worth the investment.”
Matt Winter, owner of the Matt Winter Band adds:
“Ceremony music is the soundtrack to the start of your wedding and your lives together. It ushers in your ‘beginning’ so to speak. It should reflect your tastes, and perhaps a few memories you have already spent together, and how you want to grow together. We suggest choosing songs that have a connection to your relationship. We have found that couples who forgo the expense of ceremony music usually regret doing so. Music means so much in our day to day lives, that it has an even greater impact on the lifetime occasions. We recommend budgeting out between $350 and $1,000 for ceremony music. This amount would allow for you to either have a live musician (or two), string ensemble, and/or DJ’d music, and also includes a mic for the officiant. Our top requests are strings, steel drums, and acoustic guitar. We understand that most couples are working with a budget, but ceremony music is something that we do not suggest that you forgo.”
The team at Grant Hemond and Associates shares:
“Quite often, ceremony music is something brides 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 or not that song will be long enough to accommodate. 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.”
Christopher Grainger, owner of Graingertainment adds:
“Your ceremony is the beginning. The beginning of one of biggest day 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. A DJ should not just play your music, but also should do a sound check with your officiant, test the audio so everyone will hear, and to make sure the timing is perfect. This should be a priority and properly budgeted for when you hire musicians or a DJ.”
What do couples need to know about cocktail hour music?
Erica of Sunset Strings shares:
“We plan upbeat, fun, but still elegant music for the cocktail hour. It’s a musical bridge between the softer, more romantic music during the ceremony and the dance music that comes later. It’s important to play a variety of music during the cocktail hour to ensure that all guests enjoy themselves. Most weddings have a wide range of guests, from young people to grandparents, and playing a mix of songs tells your guests that they’re welcome and important to your special day.”
Matt of Matt Winter Band adds:
“Cocktail music should act as an interlude between your ceremony and reception. Part of being a good host/hostess is providing entertainment for your guests while pictures are being taken. It takes the pressure off of the couple by knowing that family and friends are having a good time while the two of you steal away for a few sunset photos. It can be either live or DJ’d music and should be viewed as the ‘starting point’ to the celebration/party aspect of the evening. One of our favorite cocktail hour options would be an acoustic guitar with the saxophone. This combo sounds beautiful in any location!”
Grant Hemond and Associates explains:
“For 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. Please don’t stress about cocktail hour music, trust your DJ. Most brides and grooms are taking pictures at this time and won’t be around to hear 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.”
What do couples need to know about reception music?
Breezin’ Entertainment shares:
When it comes to the reception the music will make or break the entire evening. I have a lot of couples that 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.
Matt Winter Band explains:
“You want to choose the correct size band depending on the size of the venue and the size of your wedding. If you are choosing a DJ, you want to make sure that their sound can be carried across the room. The emcee will coordinate with your vendor team and helps greatly in directing the flow of the evening. EXPERIENCE IS ESSENTIAL! While reception music is the most expensive of the three (ceremony, cocktail, reception), remember, it’s your wedding, a once in a lifetime event, so splurge, and throw in that extra in your budget to get exactly what you really want to ensure that party will go to the next level!”
Grant Hemond and Associates chimes in:
“When budgeting for the reception, one of the main things to think about is how much time you will need disc jockey 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 the specific music, trust in your DJ still applies! 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!”
How do couples know if they should hire live musicians or a DJ?
Sunset Strings advises:
“When you hire live musicians, you’re creating a feature for your wedding, rather than simple background music. When guests arrive at the venue and see musicians, they’re drawn to them, often taking out their phones and shooting video. Many people have never experienced live music in such an intimate setting, and it’s a memorable experience.”
Matt Winter Band explains:
“With Matt Winter Band being a live band, of course we love to recommend live music to couples. However, it’s important to choose music that fits who you are and your personal style. We love live music for its organic ability to capture and enhance the moment at a wedding. What a beautiful moment, the guests rise to greet the bride; she is stunning, glowing with love and the anticipation created as she slowly walks down the aisle. A cellist and violinist begin playing her song, the one she chose to share with her guests as her father walks beside her, arm and arm as his little girl ventures into the arms of her husband. These moments would be inorganic without live music. Your wedding day is all about moments just like this.
However, we understand that some couples just truly want a DJ. They have the ability to play limitless song choices and requests. A good band will have close to 1,000 different song selections, and a DJ can have limitless downloads. An option that we like to offer is a combination of both Live and DJ’d music. It’s the best of both worlds!”
“It comes down to your taste and your budget. Since we are a DJ company, I will be biased, but who doesn’t love a live band? The live band will bring a different atmosphere than a DJ will, but a DJ can play whatever you want compared to a band. A band will have a set playlist.”
Breezin’ Entertainment adds:
“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 Drake 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.”
How does a couple know if they’re hiring the right musician/DJ for them?
Sunset Strings explains:
“The best way to find out whether a musician is right for you is to ask if they’re performed at your venue before. You can also read their reviews from past clients, paying attention to the types of venues they typically perform at. If the venues are similar to yours in terms of pricing and size, chances are the musician will be a good fit for you also.”
Audio and video samples are key, but there are also other indicators of whether the musician is right for you. How quickly do they respond to your emails/texts? Also, check out their social media accounts and website. If you’re looking for a musician who plays current top 40’s music, but their website was last updated in 1999, they’re probably not for you.”
Breezin’ Entertainment recommends:
“Make sure you see plenty of videos, go see them live, and ask for reviews. When hiring a DJ it’s all about a personality for the evening. 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 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 they are 100% comfortable with how the music sounds.”
Grant Hemond and Associates adds:
The most important thing for any couple to find is a disc jockey who understands that it’s not about the DJ. It’s all about the couple. The is your day. We work for you and it’s our job to facilitate your wishes to make your dream day a reality!”
“Write out a list of what you’re looking for. Talk to your DJ/musician and go over all your questions and compare them to other companies. Talk to them either over the phone or in-person. Do the mesh well with you? Do you like what you hear? Do they have great reviews? Are they in your price range? Do your research. Don’t just assume. Ask plenty of questions!”