Guide to Selecting Wedding Music

When it comes down to the aspects of your wedding that can make or break the mood, there’s nothing else with more moving power than live wedding music. From start to finish, live wedding music drives the action and emotion for both guests and the couple, so selecting the songs to play throughout the day is an important (and fun!) piece of planning.

Here, we outline the parts of the wedding day that are prominently accompanied by music, and some tips on music selection for each. Whether you’re thinking of a string quartet, a jazz band, DJ, or something in between, we’ve got you covered.


As guests trickle into the ceremony venue before all the action, pre-ceremony music sets the tone for the wedding and keeps folks entertained — especially the early birds. Light classical or acoustic tunes are perfect for allowing quiet conversations to continue, while preparing the atmosphere for the occasion.


Accompanying one of the focal points of the day, the processional music is what plays during the walk down the aisle: one piece for the bridal party, and a separate show-stopper for the bride. These can be anything ranging from Pachelbel’s Canon to an instrumental cover of your favorite pop song, performed by a number of instrumentation combos (think: strings, acoustic guitars, vocalist, or even a steel drum).


Your vows are professed, rings on snug, and smiles are unstoppable — time to exit the ceremony back up the aisle in the recessional to a traditionally more uptempo tune. Similar to the processional, there’s a wide selection of classical works to mainstream songs that accompany this moment, depending on the style of your wedding ceremony.

Cocktail Hour

The flexible, fleeting nature of cocktail hour makes it the perfect opportunity to add one more touch of flavor or class to the event. To get guests warmed up for the ensuing celebration, keep it casual, yet energizing, with anything from a violin and piano duet to a small dixieland band.

Reception Entrance

The bridal party and newlyweds’ grand entrance into the reception calls for an upbeat song for each to get the action started. If only the bride and groom are being introduced, you’ll only need one song here, and sometimes it’s combined with or rolls right into the first dance.

Bride & Groom’s First Dance

For some, the type of dance determines the song, and for others, a special song steers the dance. Oftentimes, the magic of this moment can be amplified with a live rendition of the couple’s selected tune. Pro tip: all eyes and ears are tuned into the bride and groom, so if you’re not a fan of the undivided attention while on the dance floor, be sure to predetermine a stopping point for the song to fade out early (and same goes for the parent dances).

Parent Dances

Traditionally, the bride and her father, as well as the mother and the son, share a dance — this can be to the same song, or one after the other. These are often more sentimental, slower-tempoed tunes, but don’t feel constrained to the norm if you’d prefer a fun, upbeat dance!


Much like cocktail hour, the music played while guests are dining should be lighter and more casual in nature. A small jazz band or acoustic ensemble are perfect for entertaining without distracting from table conversations.

Reception Music

The rest of your reception is filled with music, ranging from uptempo party beats to slow, smooth throwbacks. When considering the setlist, it should include a variety of songs to keep guests dancing, as well as hand-selected numbers for events within the reception, like the cake cutting, bouquet toss, and garter toss.

Last Dance / Exit

As the night draws to a close, it’s nice to end the tunes with intention and on a high note! Have a song in mind to wrap up the reception, get everyone out of their seats, and send off the bride and groom.


Your Source for Live Wedding Music

And there you have it — the main parts to the traditional nuptials and their respective live wedding music accompaniment. With so much to consider and enjoy for your big milestone and event, know that you’re in good hands with any wedding musical group you book through Butler Music.

Have questions or want to talk about live wedding music options for your big day? Contact us! We’re here to help.

2017-08-30T23:51:06+00:00 August 30th, 2017|