5 Tips for Booking Your Ceremony Musicians

August 25, 2021
5 Tips for Booking Your Ceremony Musicians

If you’re in the throes of wedding planning, you might realize that there are a lot of tiny details that can truly make your wedding day unforgettable. From a spectacular cake to a stunning reception dinner, it’s the little details that count. One way to add a unique element to your big day is live ceremony music. While you may not know where to start when booking ceremony musicians, we’ve got you covered. We chatted with Adam Overacker from Utah Live Bands to compile their top five tips for booking your ceremony musicians.

1. Timing

Always book longer than you think. Ceremonies almost always start slightly late, and if you’ve booked a busy performer for exactly one hour you don’t want them leaving half way through the ceremony, making a scene, and leaving you without recessional music.

“I always suggest booking for two hours, that gives you a half hour of prelude music to set the mood for arriving guests, a half hour for the ceremony, and any additional time for the cocktail hour when all the pictures are being taken. That’s enough leeway to make up for grandma getting lost on the way to the wedding. An additional hour for dinner music is another common request we receive,” says Adam of Utah Live Bands.

Photo by: Beyond the Dark Room Photography and Logan Walker

2. Song Choice

Generally, the musician(s) will ask for one or two processional songs, a recessional song and a handful of song choices for the general mood of the prelude and cocktail hour music. For the prelude music you really just want to set the mood, so you may specify all classical music, or romantic love songs, or happy Motown covers, whatever fits how you want to feel and want your guests to feel.

For the processional, sometimes everybody walks to one song, but it’s more common for the bride to walk to her own song. In the case of two songs, one processional song for the wedding party plays, the musician pauses, the officiant may say something, and then the bride’s processional song begins. Choose songs that are not too fast or slow, songs that feel romantic.  It’s a good idea to test your songs – try walking to them and see how they feel.

For the recessional you’ll almost certainly want a song that is really happy, upbeat, and celebratory. The cocktail hour music is usually similar to the prelude but a little more upbeat and energetic.

Pro Tip: Ensure that the musicians will be ready to stop early or repeat as necessary.

Photo by: Pepper Nix

3. Ceremony Location

Where you have the ceremony will help determine what types of musicians you can hire. For example, a ceremony in a meadow makes hiring a pianist very difficult (though it can be done). A harp is a beautiful choice but very sensitive to changes in temperature and the more they have to move the harp the longer they will need to tune it before performing.

A string quartet is my favorite choice as they’re flexible and beautiful, but if the ceremony is outdoors, shade will need to be provided as many instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass, harp) are very sensitive to direct sunlight.

If hiring a pianist, you must determine if there is a piano at the venue or if the musician needs to bring their own keyboard. If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, you’ll most likely already have a backup plan, but in the event of rain, snow, or excessive wind, you might need to move your ceremony indoors.

Pro Tip: Ensure that there will be power available for the keyboard if that’s the route you take.

Photo by: David Newkirk

4. Musician Location

Where you put the musicians during the events is important. A ceremony in a church gives obvious placement, whereas a ceremony in a meadow, a backyard, or a ballroom means more choices. If you put them in the front, everyone will be able to see them, but they will likely be in the pictures.

Wherever you put the musician, make sure that the wedding planner has a clear line of sight to the musicians and vice versa. That way they can signal to the musicians when to transition based on the start and end of important moments. This will allow everything to flow smoothly during your ceremony.

5. Equipment

If your ceremony has more than a few guests, you’ll likely need sound equipment for the officiant, the groom, for anybody else speaking or reading during the ceremony, and potentially for the musicians. Some musicians, like guitar players, are used to bringing their own amplification. Others, like strings or harp, are not, so make sure you’re all aware of what is needed to make your ceremony perfect.

Most sound systems need to be near power, though there are battery-powered systems that can be used anywhere.  Ask the entertainment provider if they can provide sound for the ceremony (both the equipment and someone to run it). Sometimes it will be included, but usually it is an additional charge. It’s worth every dollar to ensure the best sound quality during the ceremony!

Pro Tip: If you plan to play music from an electronic device, like a phone or an iPad, make sure the ringer is off, the screen won’t go dark, the person running it knows the code to log in, there are no notifications, and that all the music is on the device itself and doesn’t require wifi to play the music!

Photo by: David Newkirk

Sample Song Lists

Based on common requests we get, make your music choices unique to you!


Prelude or Cocktail Hour: Ave Maria (Schubert), Air on G (Bach), Adagio Cantabile (Beethoven), Trumpet Voluntary (Clarke), Water Music (Handel), Flower Duet (Delibes)

Processionals: Canon (Pachelbel), Bridal Chorus (Wagner)

Recessional: Wedding March (Mendelssohn)

Modern Romantic

Prelude or Cocktail Hour: My Girl (The Temptations), Stand By Me (Ben E King), Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton), Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Frankie Valli), Your Song (Elton John), God Only Knows (The Beach Boys), Every Breath You Take (The Police)

Processionals: Can’t Help Falling In Love With You (Elvis),

Recessional: All You Need Is Love (The Beatles)

Pop Music

Prelude or Cocktail Hour: 100 Years (Five For Fighting), Make You Feel My Love (Adele), Just The Way You Are (Bruno Mars), Marry You (Bruno Mars), Fix You (Coldplay), Better Together (Jack Johnson), I’m Yours (Jason Mraz), Somewhere Only We Know (Keane)

Processionals: All I Want Is You (U2), You’re Beautiful (James Blunt)

Recessional: You Make My Dreams Come True (Hall and Oates)


Prelude or Cocktail Hour: The Luckiest (Ben Folds), Such Great Heights (Postal Service), We’re Going To Be Friends (The White Stripes), Best Day of Our Lives (American Authors), Marry Me (Train), Home (Ed Sharpe), Say Yes (Elliott Smith), First Day Of My Life (Bright Eyes)

Processionals: I Will Follow You Into The Dark (Death Cab for Cutie), A Thousand Years (Christina Perri)

Recessional: You Are The Best Thing (Ray LaMontagne)


Prelude or Cocktail Hour: Yours (Russell Dickerson), In Color (Jamey Johnson), I Loved Her First (Heartland), Die A Happy Man (Thomas Rhett), I Hope You Dance (Lee Ann Womack), Crazy (Patsy Cline)

Processionals: I Love The Way You Love Me (John Michael Montgomery), When You Say Nothing At All (Alison Kraus)

Recessional: Look What God Gave Her


Prelude or Cocktail Hour: At Last (Etta James), Everything (Michael Buble), Unforgettable (Nat King Cole), L-O-V-E (Nat King Cole), Let’s Fall In Love (Diana Krall), What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong), The Way You Look Tonight (Frank Sinatra)

Processionals: Come Away With Me (Norah Jones), La Vie En Rose (Louis Armstrong)

Recessional: Fly Me To The Moon (Frank Sinatra)

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