wedding d.i.y.: the music

wedding d.i.y.: the music

I'm excited to share another wedding DIY with you this week - how Kurt and I approached music for our ceremony and reception! Both Kurt and I grew up with music as a central part of our lives, so, when considering music, we drew upon rather diverse experiences. Those experiences and attending other weddings helped us to very quickly establish what we didn't want - namely recorded music during the ceremony and DJs or wedding bands during the reception. So you're probably thinking right now, "What were you left with?!" Well, because we had such strong opinions about what we didn't want, we knew the ceremony and reception music would need to be something we coordinated ourselves!

Ceremony music

For the ceremony and cocktail hour we hired Penn Strings - a cello quintet for the ceremony and a duo for cocktail hour. This ended up being really special for a couple of reasons: First, when I was in college, I used to perform in weddings and loved that experience and second, because Kurt has such a vast knowledge of music he was able to select and arrange a piece that had never been performed by a small string ensemble, giving us something singularly unique for the wedding ceremony! 

Christopher Souza, Violin

Christopher Souza, Violin

Agnieszka Rybska, Cello

Agnieszka Rybska, Cello

To create a sense of continuity in the ceremony, Kurt chose one piece of music with four short movements - Petite Suite by Claude Debussy. It was initially a piece for two people playing one piano, but Kurt took those notes and spread them out among two violins, a viola, and two cellos.

For the wedding party's entrance, the quintet played movement 1: En Bateau, a playful, dancing piece perfect for happy parents and a nervous groom! I entered to the most regal and processional part of the suite, movement 3: Menuet. When Kurt and I recessed from the ceremony we were showered by lavender buds and the most celebratory piece, movement 2: Cortege. Finally, as all of the guests left the ceremony space, the last part, movement 4, Ballet, sent them off joyfully!

Dinner and dancing music

For the dinner and reception playlists, Kurt and I took inspiration (and a little bit of confidence) from A Practical Wedding. Something that stood out to us was this: 

"Note: do not hire a DJ if you are going to dictate the entire playlist and the order in which you want things played. It's a waste of your money and their talent."

Seeing as this was exactly what we wanted to do, we decided to take their advice and "DJ" the wedding ourselves!

In order to successfully DJ our own wedding, we downloaded and used the WeddingDJ app for iPhone. At less than $10 this app allows you to organize songs on playlists for longer periods of time, like party dancing, or as a single song for a specific part of the evening, like the first dance. Additionally, our venue made it easy by providing us with the capability to hook into their house sound system and gave us a microphone to use throughout the night. We asked one of my cousins to serve as our emcee for the evening and he did a fantastic job of moving our guests through the evening smoothly. By using this app we were able to keep the costs of providing music for our dinner and reception to less than $60 - a huge help in keeping our budget in check while giving us the chance to play the music we wanted to hear all night long!

Kurt and I spent months brainstorming, starting with hours and hours of music that we were able to reduce to just 28 songs for dinner and 30 songs for our perfect dancing playlist. We collected requests from guests through a form on our wedding website, and spent lots of time figuring out where each song would be placed within the playlist to create a specific progression to energy of the evening. What resulted was an evening that was full of dancing, and a playlist that allowed us to listen to and remember our special evening again and again!

Kurt and I danced our first dance to    "Into the Wild"    by Lewis Watson.

Kurt and I danced our first dance to "Into the Wild" by Lewis Watson.

As we approached reducing the original lists into the final playlists there were a few things that helped in making those decisions.

What type of dancing aligned with the song? 

Kurt and I love to dance at weddings and we wanted to make sure that our guests would dance at ours. So as we listened to each song we asked the question, "What type of dancing fits this song?" Was it a song that was meant for slow dancing? Or was it a high-energy song meant to bring everyone to the dance floor? We knew that each song on the playlist needed that clear delineation so that our guests would know what to do. If it didn't fit either one of those categories, it fell off the list. 

My dad and I danced to a mash up of    "Easy"    and    "Brick House"    by the Commodores - both songs that we used to sing and dance to when I was a toddler!

My dad and I danced to a mash up of "Easy" and "Brick House" by the Commodores - both songs that we used to sing and dance to when I was a toddler!

Was it a song that anyone would find offensive? 

We knew that the guests at our wedding were varied, so some types of hip-hop music or music with offensive language wouldn't work in the environment. We didn't want anyone to feel uncomfortable or out of place during the reception, so we kept the music within a range that would promote fun and frivolity for all. That meant including songs from a variety of generations so that any guest would be able to pick out a song that reminded them of fun times from their youth. 

We also organized the songs in a way so that they progressed from older to more current so that the older guests who maybe weren't going to stay until the end of the reception would be able to enjoy songs they knew early in the night. As we moved to through the playlist and time drew later, the songs reflected more of what Kurt and I listen to on a regular basis. 

Kurt and his mom danced to    "Si tu vois ma mere"    by Sidney Bechet.

Kurt and his mom danced to "Si tu vois ma mere" by Sidney Bechet.

How long was each song?

The last thing we considered was the length of each song. You might think this is an odd consideration, but do you ever have those moments when you're listening to something and you feel like its just too long? That's the exact revelation we wanted to avoid during the reception! By choosing songs that were shorter in length it kept everyone engaged in dancing and having fun. 

One of my favorite moments? The spontaneous dance train that happened during    "Love Train"    by the O'Jays!

One of my favorite moments? The spontaneous dance train that happened during "Love Train" by the O'Jays!

Want to know what songs we included to create our perfect dancing playlist? Take a listen below! The only song missing is "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift because it wasn't available on Spotify.


I'm curious - how do you use music in your celebrations? Are there favorite songs you remember from your own wedding day? Share in the comments! 

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