Pulling Strings

During the pandemic, wedding receptions have gotten smaller – and quieter. Health restrictions mean crowded dance floors are, temporarily at least, a thing of the past.

So when it comes to planning music for your Big Day, it makes sense to focus on the sounds of the ceremony itself as much as the party afterward.

There are plenty of ways to be creative within current guidelines — though the location of your event will dictate what works best.

For a church wedding, you might want vocalists accompanied by strings, organ, piano or horns, for instance. Or, if you’re getting married outside, a classic string quartet may fit the bill. 

One thing’s for sure: the best thing to do if you don’t know what you want or need is to reach out to the pros.

One wedding music veteran is Harry Hardin, a Loyola University and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts grad who has been playing professionally for more than two decades. Hardin has planned music for and performed at literally thousands of weddings over that span.

Hardin has done it all, from playing solo violin for a couple and their officiant at an outside ceremony with no guests to assembling an orchestra to perform at an epic wedding … for dogs. Once, he flew to play a wedding in Mexico, where he literally partied with a rock star. Another time, a bridesmaid — how can we put this delicately … tossed her cookies, on one of his cello players. Then there was the time the bride’s ex-boyfriend showed up at the event to make a big speech. … 

So, yeah, he’s seen the good, the bad and ugly of it all.

And Hardin’s No. 1 piece of advice to make sure your day goes smoothly? Hire the best people you can find.

“I always advise people to work with really credible vendors — although I hate to call them vendors because what they really are is artists, whether it’s musicians, florists or photographers,” he said. “If you get good people working for you, it usually goes well.”

Hardin provides turnkey solutions for couples who know exactly what they want as well as those who need creative guidance.

He puts together everything from a string quartet or vocalist and pianist to entire orchestras. Song selection ranges from Pachelbel’s Canon and other wedding staples to Gershwin ballads, Beatles classics and more contemporary pop songs, like “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri.

“Very rarely are two weddings alike,” he said. “We have some songs that are more popular than others but everybody’s got different tastes so it’s important to be versatile and plan in advance and be upfront about what you want. Brides have a vision and it’s important that we’re on the same page.”

Hardin said it’s not uncommon for a customer to plan a musical theme for the day.

“I recently played for a bride marrying a British man,” he said. “So it was all Beatles songs and the song the groom walked out to was ‘Soul Bossa Nova’ [from the Austin Powers movies]. We’ve also done weddings on Halloween, when we played ‘Dance Macabre,’ ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ and the theme song from ‘The Gremlins.’”

If customers don’t have a strong vision, Hardin has them study the videos on his website to figure out what they like. He can also reverse engineer the music plan based on a budget.

No Poseurs

Troy Marks of the band No Idea, which has been together for 26 years and can perform more than 400 songs, said the most important thing for couples to do is find a truly experienced wedding band.

“If you’re going to pay for live music, the main thing is hire a reputable band,” he says. “When we first started, there were 10 or 12 groups in the city and now there are thousands. Everybody saw the money in it, so people will gather Bourbon Street musicians, call themselves a wedding band and get whoever can show up that night to play. So check references. We’ve been around 26 years and have the same members every show.”

Marks said it’s also important to see the band in person and not rely on their website.

“It’s difficult to shop that way,” he said. “You can post a picture of guys in suits and they look great — but when they show up to the gig they look like members of [metal band] Korn. So talk to vendors — communication is the thing.”

Free Help

One other tip: New Orleans & Company, the city’s destination marketing organization, will introduce couples to wedding professionals, send requests to wedding vendors, contact hotels for room blocks and much more — all for free. neworleans.com/weddings.

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