So the wedding is a couple of months away and the list of to-do looms large. After playing 100's of weddings and getting married myself a few years back I think I can outline a few helpful ways you can 1. Make choosing the music easier/more enjoyable 2. Make great song choices.
Firstly, there are no 100% wrong choices, unless you go into crazy territory "I want to walk down the aisle to Insomnia' by Faithless. It was blasting out of the club speakers when me and John got fresh on the dance floor the first time. Could you do a slowed down acoustic version of that Doug?" I've had similar requests. I actually love ‘Insomnia’ but…
Here's a few suggestions to help to get it right.
Communicate with the people involved:
The Priest (for religious ceremonies)
If you’re getting married in a church, talk to your priest & see the lay of the land with regard to hymns & popular music.
This is rare but your priest might want ALL hymns for the service so it’s good to find out early & flag it with your musician/singer. Hopefully you have a top-class wedding singer who knows a vast range of hymns and where to place them appropriately in the mass ;)
If the priest seems easy going with regards to music, just assure him that you’ll be including hymns in the usual places and appropriate songs elsewhere. Going through it with a fine toothcomb can increase the likeliness of the ‘All hymns required’ scenario.
The Celebrant (for civil, spiritual or Humanist ceremonies)
For these ceremonies you obviously have a lot more leeway. Still it’s good to walk through the ceremony with your celebrant and figure out where music should be placed. It’s all about making sure the whole thing flows smoothly. For example, too many songs can stifle a ceremony. It’s not a gig :) The music, if placed correctly will add that bit of magic to proceedings. Your celebrant will have a good handle on the right places to include music.
I always say to my clients that it’s best to go through the list together, preferably in person or by phone as opposed to by email. With a good old chat you can throw ideas around, it’s less formal and you see where everybody is coming from. There’s a lot of potential back and fourth over email & it’s tricky to communicate why a song is or isn’t the right fit. Sometimes a song might be requested by a couple which seems perfect in isolation but might not work in the ceremony. Your musician will (or should at least) look at the song list as a whole and judge/advise whether each song is the right one for the right moment in the ceremony. What can be achieved in 20 email exchanges can be achieved in a 10-minute phone call, especially if like a lot of people you're scratching your head for ideas or song titles are not your speciality. Also when you’re getting married the singer is sometimes only a few feet away from where you’re sitting. It’s surely a nicer thing to have spoken to him/her at least once.
Keep it light, clean and avoid the ‘bad salad’ (sad ballad)
You want the music to be uplifting for you and your guests. It is after all a happy occasion. If you have a dreary/waffly celebrant (yes, they’re out there!) music can be the perfect antidote. If you have a great celebrant then great music will only add to the awesomeness of your ceremony.
I often suggest a (short) song in the middle of a civil/humanist ceremony, before the vows. This is great for giving the couple a moment to catch their breath, take in what’s going on and enjoy themselves. There’s a lot going on, blink and you can miss it. If it’s a nice, light tune that everyone can tap their toes to it’s guaranteed to be a lovely addition to the readings etc.
Keep it clean! I’m no prude but songs that mention body parts pressing against other body parts etc are just plain weird at a family occasion, right? Thankfully In a lot of cases you can edit songs to take out certain lines.
Familiarity helps A LOT!
Song choices are as much about your guests as they are about you. I thought long and hard about the music for my own wedding ceremony but in truth there was so much going on that most of it passed me by. By all means choose songs that have special significance for you but it’s extra awesome if those songs are well known. For example: The best walk out songs are always ones that everybody knows because they’re more likely to clap along and cheer as you make your way out the door.
A good rule of thumb is if you want a favourite, lesser-known song played make sure it’s at a point where you can take it in and enjoy it.
Entrance & Exit Songs
The only advice I can offer for your entrance song is to picture how you'll feel walking down the aisle to it. If it makes you burst into tears every time then maybe there's another song that'll work just as well and you can leave this song for somewhere else in the ceremony. There's nothing wrong with a few tears (girls or boys!) but it's such an emotional moment as it is, you don't want to be literally blubbing before you embrace your partner. Think of the photo's ;)
Exit songs should ideally be upbeat & 'instantaneous'. What I mean by that is the hook of the song should kick in immediately. What I often do is start with the chorus of a song and then play the verses. It's to add to the euphoria of that moment when you get to walk out as a married couple for the first time. I was recently asked to play 'I Will Wait' by Mumford & Sons as a walk out song. If I started with the verse the couple would be out the door before I got to the most uplifting part of the song. I've been to a few weddings where this has happened - hardly a tragedy & the type of thing that only a wedding nerd like myself would notice BUT - those walk outs weren't quite as 'YAY' as they could have been perhaps. Check out https://www.dougsheridansinger.com/song-list for a list of ones that have worked great for me before.
I hope this helps anyone who might think it’ll be a chore figuring out their wedding music. Grab a glass or bottle of wine, listen to some music together, enjoy the disagreements, have fun with it. The most enjoyable part of my job is when a couple and their guests say stuff like “the music was brilliant, it really helped make the day extra special”.