For your actual ceremony, you may be restricted as to when you can play music, and what types of music you can play. For example if you are getting married in a civil ceremony, the registrar will usually request that music is only played as the guests arrive, with a special tune for when the bride enters and the happy couple exit. During the ceremony itself, even background music is not usually allowed, so make sure you discuss this will the registrar before you start choosing your ceremony play list. If you are getting married in a church, you may be restricted to traditional organ music, and this may simply be because there is no sound system available. You may be able to have a string quartet or other small group of musicians if you would prefer, so discuss this will the church official in charge of the organising the ceremony.
When you are choosing music for your ceremony, try to select songs that are meaningful, and reflect your feelings about your special day. Romantic, soothing tunes are usually best for setting an intimate mood, and if you have a specific wedding theme (medieval for example), then let the music reflect and enhance this theme.
When you are selecting music for your reception, think about whether you and your guests would enjoy live music. This may depend on your budget, and also the size of your venue. Most venues will need special licenses for bands that have more than two musicians, so make sure you check this before you book anything. Generally the more musicians there are the higher the cost, so large jazz or swing bands would be at the top end of the scale, with solo or duo performers at the bottom. It is a good idea to go and see a few gigs, so that you can judge various bands or DJs to see if they would be suitable for your wedding, and talk to them to see whether they can accommodate your particular requests. DJ’s are sometimes preferable for a large guest list of varying ages, as they will be able to provide a good range of popular music to suit everyone.
Once you have decided, book the musicians/DJ as soon as possible to avoid disappointment and make sure you clarify all the charges from the beginning. Some bands charge travel fees for venues that are outside of their local patch, and also charge for the duration they play. If you ask them to stay on longer than the agreed time they may charge you extra. Hold a final meeting with the band at least 6 weeks before the wedding to confirm the final details, such as the music programme and set up times. They may require at least an hour to set and warm up before the reception starts, so you should make provisions for them to arrive at the venue a little earlier than the guests if possible.
Remember to have a back up plan in place in case the worst happens and they let you down. You could research a list of five or so back up bands that you could call in the event of an emergency, or you could compile some appropriate CDs that you can play on the venue’s sound system, so that at least you will have some background music.