Choosing music in New Orleans is just as easy as “a 1-2, a 1-2-3-4!”
Planning a wedding involves countless details that must be addressed in what never seems like enough time. The locations, the dresses, the flowers, invitations and catering – at such a personal occasion, you want every detail to be personal, too. The key detail in creating ambiance for both your wedding ceremony and reception is perhaps one of the most important: Music. With music, the possibilities can seem endless. In a city where music plays first fiddle (or horn?) to other arts, choosing the right fit for your wedding is easier than you think.
Why prioritize music? No one wants to walk down the aisle to screeching, off-pitch violins or have the lighting of candles interrupted by an over-ambitious third-cousin-twice-removed singing a song they learned yesterday. Making music a priority can help ensure a smooth ceremony and a fun, memorable reception, both incorporating songs meaningful to you. New Orleans presents numerous options when it comes to music professionals, from classical and jazz musicians, to DJs, bands and brass bands.
New Orleans Finest Musicians (884-4946, NewOrleansFinestMusicians.com), organized by Harry Hardin, specializes in providing classical and jazz ensembles and soloists for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Hardin recruits some of the city’s best performers and puts together ensembles fitting for the bride’s request, which is most often classical in nature but sometimes strays from the traditional.
“Sometimes we take modern pop music and give it a classical feel. We’ve done The Beatles, Elvis and even Coldplay,” says Hardin. Hardin has also contracted gospel ensembles and Latin groups. “I know a lot of talented musicians. If I don’t know certain instrumentalists, finding them is usually only a phone call away.”
As it pertains to music for a ceremony, “Timing is critical,” remarks Hardin. “During a processional, you may need to find a suitable ending to the piece that’s not awkward and leaving the bride standing at the altar for too long.” Hardin prides himself on providing musicians with the experience and versatility to ensure a seamless ceremony.
Rachel Van Voorhees (909-3756, NewOrleansHarpist.com), principle harpist of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, has been in the music industry for over 30 years, performing at weddings, receptions and private events, as well as booking classical and jazz ensembles, singers, organists and more.
“Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for the bride. All they have to do is describe what they want and know it will be taken care of,” says Voorhees, whose fees are all-inclusive. From any necessary sound equipment to the music stands and setup, Voorhees accounts for every music-related detail.
What is a typical music budget for a ceremony? “It’s up to your imagination and overall budget,” says Voorhees. Most often, the cost can depend on the number of musicians you choose to use. “For the ceremony, I’ve seen a range of $300 on up, though on average, people seem to spend $700 to $1,000, and some even more.”
Marla Belin, president of Nola Talent Unlimited (881-3077, NolaTalent.com), makes it her mission to constantly keep local performers working at home so they don’t have to travel out of the city for a living. Specializing in all different genres (except heavy metal), Belin books musicians for weddings and private events, and she also hires specialty performers and services such as jugglers and cigar rollers.
“I provide a link between the organizer and the upscale performers of New Orleans for entertainment of all types,” says Belin, who works with several big-name artists. From small trios to groups of Mardi Gras Indians and brass bands, Belin provides a diverse menu of musical options. “I’m like a one stop shop,” says Belin. “I handle all of the logistics and I or my assistant personally attend to make sure everyone’s needs are met.”
DJs and Bands
“When a guest leaves a wedding reception, what they’re most going to remember about the experience is the entertainment,” says David Storm, DJ at Omega Sound ((985) 966-6378, OmegaSoundDJs.com). A full-service mobile entertainment and production company, Omega Sound operates under the belief that a DJ is more than a person picking songs; they are interacting with the audience, engaging them in sing-alongs, dances and other crowd-pleasing activities. “We make sure everyone has a good time and that all are enjoying themselves,” Storm says.
Based in Slidell, Omega Sound has been entertaining crowds all over the Southeast since 2000. Boasting the largest music library in the Gulf South, Omega Sound offers over 140,000 tracks in all major genres. Couples are given an online planning suite on Omega Sound’s website, where they can search the song database and make requests ranked by priority.
Greg Keller, co-owner and DJ at All Out Entertainment (913-2392, AllOut-Entertainment.com) shares the same sentiment as it pertains to entertaining. “You can do something average – where someone sits behind a laptop and hits ‘next,’ or you can have someone who knows what to play and how to engage the crowd,” says Keller, a 15-year veteran of the trade. Keller stresses the need for a DJ to know how to gauge the mood of the crowd and know when to play something upbeat or slow things down.
All Out Entertainment’s music focus lies mainly in modern club music, bridging the gap between classic wedding songs and new Top 40 club songs. They keep things mostly upbeat, but also ask brides for specific requests. Naturally, couples are given their choices for the traditional first dances and other special songs.
Those looking for the song and genre versatility of a DJ but want the sound of a live band should look into bands such as Taboo (913-2392, facebook.com/taboonola). Organizer and front man Michael Taylor describes Taboo as a cover band that provides entertainment for all occasions. With an extensive repertoire of songs, Taboo can provide hours of entertainment and play songs from different eras and genres.
“We do Motown, rock, hip-hop, etc., and we sound genuine at each genre,” says Taylor. Commonly performing as a seven-piece band, Taboo features Taylor and two women on vocals as well as four other musicians playing guitar, keys, bass and drums. Horn players can be hired additionally. All about convenience, Taboo takes care of the sound needs, using their own equipment for most events.
For a traditional New Orleans feel, consider adding a second-line to the wedding festivities or having a brass band perform at the reception. For over 30 years, the Storyville Stompers (650-2339, StoryvilleStompers.com) have been performing traditional New Orleans music all over the world.
Imagine marching in a second-line from your ceremony to the reception or second lining out of your reception and into the night. From small, intimate courtyards to large ballrooms, the Storyville Stompers have experience entertaining in a number of settings. Their acoustic performance means no elaborate sound setup, and the flexible band can perform with a group as small as a trio or as big as an eight- to 10-piece band.
Processionals and First Dances
Just as important as choosing your performer is choosing the songs that matter most. When the bridal processional begins, all eyes turn to one person and all ears tune in to one song. And what about the first dance? What will you sway to while gazing into the eyes of your spouse? These local professionals offered up what they feel to be the most requested.
For a bridal processional, most people go the traditional route, with the top choices being “Prince of Denmark’s March” (also known as “Trumpet Voluntary”) by Clarke, “Trumpet Tune” by Purcell and “Bridal March from Lohengrin” by Wagner. However, a new trend finds many brides converting contemporary songs into classical pieces with songs such as, “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles or “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison.
The No. 1 song for a first dance? “At Last” takes the cake, with close runner-up “What a Wonderful World.” Other finalists include “It Had to be You” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”