How to choose great live music for your wedding processional, recessional, canapés and reception.

Pav Chudiak

Last edited on 14 Nov 2017.

When looking for the perfect live music for your wedding ceremony/processional, canapés and reception, one of the most important things to consider is how you want to remember your special day. Do you want it to be fun? Absolutely. Happy? Of course. Relaxing? Yes! Party time? Till the cows come home!

Just like weddings, bands and DJs come in all shapes and sizes. Tailoring the music to your tastes or style of your wedding will make your special day all the more memorable for you, your new “legal” BFF and your family and friends. It’s also important to remember that music is a big part of the entertainment on your wedding day, but if you rush into a decision, you may not be so entertained.

Considerations such as venue size, venue restrictions and the number of guests may impact the decision you make on what live music you choose. So, be sure to check with your wedding ceremony venue before-hand if they have any conditions. In any case, there are plenty of music options to make each event throughout your day memorable, from the ceremony, through to canapés, pre-dinner drinks and reception.

Live music for your ceremony, canapés and pre-dinner/cocktail hour

Your ceremony is the most special and emotional part of your day, so the music needs to be chosen carefully. Here’s a great article explaining the wedding ceremony order of events to help you decide which parts you might want live music played. 

Most musicians are happy to learn requests for your processional (walking down the aisle), signing your wedding certificate and recessional. Make sure you ask them! They want to make your day special. You might also want to have music playing for your guests while they’re waiting for you to walk down the aisle. 

Here’s a list of options for live music during your ceremony, processional, canapés and pre-dinner:
- Piano player, no singer
- Solo piano player & singer
- Solo acoustic guitarist & singer
- Acoustic duo
- String duo / trio / quartet
- Harpist

Check out the following links regarding information relating to music styles and great song choices: Procession, Signing of the registry, Recession, Canapés.

Live music for your reception

Having a guest list of 30 or less will most likely be hosted in a smaller venue and in most cases won’t be favourable to having a 4-piece band or larger band with drums. However, if you enjoy jazz and prefer background over party music, a jazz band is a great option as they are well versed at playing at low volumes. Other great options are those similar to what was mentioned previously, i.e. a solo acoustic guitar / singer, solo piano /vocalist, or an acoustic duo. If the venue has restrictions on sound you could either ask to use either the venue’s speaker system or bring along a high quality portable speaker and create a Spotify song list you’ve both put together.

Things to look out for: You might love your rock music but if you’re considering having a rock band with drums for an intimate setting, it is more difficult for a full band to control their volume and you might actually annoy your guests, or worse, it might annoy you! While professional musicians can play quietly, the more instruments that are playing together, the louder the sound will be.


Live music for your reception from 30 guests upwards
Your wedding reception is the perfect way to thank your friends and family for their love and support throughout you and your partner’s journey together. If you are having more than 30 guests you’ll most likely want to choose a band or DJ that specialises in the styles of music that you and your guests will want to dance to. Here are some band sizes:
- Trio
- 4-piece band
- 5-piece band
- 6-piece band

Music styles: Music styles like pop, rock and soul are great choices for your reception. They cover decades of hit songs and most bands and DJs will include all of these genres in their song list. While some of the classic hits may not be your favourites, they’re tried and tested and are sure to get the dance floor rockin’. 

Experienced bands and DJs are great at reading the room. If they can see your guests want to hit the dance floor, they’ll be more than happy to make it happen, and will be able to!

Check out this link for a list of music styles and songs you might want to consider for your reception.

Things to look out for: Solo acoustic guitarists, piano players and jazz bands are limited in the amount of party they can bring to your wedding reception. While they’re often cheaper, booking a band with a drummer will give you more options being able to provide relaxed music over entreés, light dance music before the main meal and party dance music until the end of the night.

The wrap
Choosing the right live music can make your wedding all the more memorable for you and your guests. Like finding the right venue or dresses and suits, flowers and photographers, take your time, do your research and ask as many questions as you can. When finding music for your wedding it’s best to ease your guests into the evening with relaxed background music through the ceremony and canapés and give them the party they deserve at the reception.


A personal tip: During the night when you have a spare minute, look around the room and take in the atmosphere. You created that!


Pav Chudiak is a Melbourne-based professional musician with over 20 years experience playing at all types of events. He is also a co-founder of and a tertiary music teacher of over 10 years.


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