A wedding simply wouldn’t be complete without a soundtrack. Even in Shakespeare’s time we were slaves to the beat. “If music be the food of love, play on,” wrote the bard, but in a tragic Shakespearian twist, many brides and grooms leave the music planning to the last minute, limiting their choices and leaving an important element to luck.
“It’s so important to start planning your music right away,” says wedding coordinator Belinda Belk of Blue Gardenia Events. “It is part of telling your history, your love story.”
To make the process easier, couples should concentrate on each major component of the Big Day: the ceremony, the reception and the after party (with an optional second line lagniappe in between). With a little preparation, planning your music can take on special meaning, incorporating a couple’s specific romantic and party playlists throughout the day.
Prelude and Ceremony
“The ceremony is the most important part of the day, and the music should reflect that,” Belk says. “Even if you don’t remember all of the details of the music, your guests will.”
For non-traditional music, Belk recommends creating a list of music meaningful to a bride and groom, the families and their background. “If a couple selects their music with enough time, any music can be reworked to take on a classical feel for a highly personal ceremony,” she says.
“We have seen playlists for Beatles music, Coldplay, Phish, and we can transform them into nice arrangements for strings,” Harry Hardin, New Orleans Finest Musicians, says. “What is key is time. The more notice we have, the more time we have to create a unique arrangement.”
For traditional music, Belk suggests couples do their music homework in advance of meeting with the priest or music director.
“Take the time to see all of your options,” she says. “Do your research so that when you meet with the music director, you have an idea of what you’d like to hear.”
Cocktail Hour and Reception
Creating a fun, party atmosphere for all age groups can be tricky, but Belk has some easy tips to make the event a success.
“The cocktail hour is a time to host a mixed group of people,” she says. “It should be great background music. We are lucky here in New Orleans to have great local, traditional music, which always is a good option. Another good idea is to use music with a little history, say from the ‘40s or ‘50s, that everyone is familiar with. This is setting the stage for the reception to follow.”
While the main reception allows for a more lively mix of music, it is also important to include all age ranges and tastes.
“I recommend making a ‘Do Not Play List,’ for songs that may not be appropriate, or that just may not be liked. Not everyone loves ‘Shout’.”
Selecting the right band for the right space is essential, taking the guesswork out of the planning process.
“Trust your planner,” Belk says. “They have seen all of the local bands, and they know what bands work for what spaces. When you have the right band in the right space, you can trust that they will read the crowd. A favorite moment might happen when the artists play a song you wouldn’t even expect.”
While the reception may be designed to appeal to a wide range of family and friends, the after party is where the bride and groom can often let down their hair, kick off their shoes and play their favorite tunes.
“Many couples create a Spotify playlist, but a DJ can also be a great way to go,” Belk says. “You can often find a great DJ at a reasonable price, and they will, again, read the crowd.”
Patrick Black from All Out Entertainment suggests using a DJ for larger spaces.
“For smaller spaces, like a couple’s house, someone is bound to plug in their phone, but for larger spaces you need to have a DJ,” he said. “We had a couple who had us play at their reception, and then we followed them to their after party at the Eiffel Society. We created a club-like vibe. For a space like that you need a DJ.”
However music is played, the after party is a great way for a couple to celebrate their day, their way.
“This is the time to play all of the crazy party music you like,” Belk said. “It’s a great way to end the day.”
Lagniappe – Second Line
For a little lagniappe, many New Orleans couples choose to celebrate with a second line.
“It’s a great way to get the party started after the ceremony,” Belk says.
While the second line brass band may simply accompany the couple for the length of the second line, they may also stay for a part of the cocktail hour. For Belk, having the second line play at the reception for an additional 30 to 45 minutes, brings a distinct touch to the entire day.
“It’s an experience like no other,” she says. “It really sets New Orleans weddings apart.”