Planning the music for your wedding day
We’re constantly on the lookout for wedding advice for our readers, we think that the more advice you can read, the better your day will flow and the more you can enjoy it! We spoke to the talented and lovely Natalie Nightingale who was happy to share some advice with us about planning the music for your wedding day – not something that everybody considers, but a fantastic form of entertainment to add to your big day!
Natalie has been singing professionally for nearly ten years, after training in London and the USA to gain a degree in performance. Her repertoire of over 600 songs spans most genres and decades, from vintage music right up to modern chart hits, and from rock and pop to classical! The music selection for each wedding is tailored to reflect the couple’s tastes, the mood they want to create and the age range of the guests. Natalie is also happy to learn new songs for her happy couples, so her song list is ever-growing! Natalie has a genuine love and passion for weddings and continues to feel lucky and honoured to be a part of so many couples’ special days.
Tip One: Do think carefully about the songs for your ceremony
The ceremony is the key part of the wedding and of course, you’ll have put lots of thought into every aspect: the setting, the decor, the guests you’d like to be there, the outfits, the flowers… but don’t let your music be an afterthought!
The pieces of music you choose for your ceremony are very important as you want music that means something special to you as a couple while reflecting a bit of your personalities too! A good idea is for you both to make a little list of songs you’ve always loved, songs that remind you of your partner or that you’ve got special memories of together, and keep it on your phone so you can add to it over the weeks or months – you may be parking the car one day and the perfect song comes on that you’d forgotten you loved: make a note before you forget!
Then when it comes time to decide on those 4 or 5 key songs (remember you’ll want two or three choices for during the signing of the register) you can spend an evening listening to them together and narrowing it down. Do bear in mind that if you are having a civil ceremony it can’t have any religious reference at all – this goes for the songs too. Some registrars are stricter than others on this though, so best just to check if there is a word like “angel” or “pray” in there… of course if you’re having an instrumental version played by musicians it won’t be a problem, and if you’re having a singer they can always change the words slightly, if needs be!
Tip Two: Choose an upbeat song for the recessional.
Just trust me on this!
The recessional is the song right at the end of your ceremony; the exit song. I always encourage my couples to pick an upbeat one. There are a few reasons for this; the main one being that you are now officially married – it’s time to celebrate! Everything from here on in is a celebration and it’s a nice way to mark a shift in the dynamic between the legal and slightly more formal proceedings of the ceremony to the eating, drinking, toasting, and dancing that follows.
I love starting an upbeat recessional song as the happy couple make their way back down the aisle with everyone applauding them because you can visibly see the music lift the guests in their seats and it changes the way everyone leaves the room, newlyweds and their attendants included! There’s nothing better than watching people practically dance their way out of the room – it can take a while for all of the guests to file out of the room and they seem to find it much more enjoyable if it’s a song they can hum along to, tap their feet to, even have a bit of a bop as they stand waiting to leave.
Tip Three: Consider having music during your drinks reception.
Not everyone thinks to do this, but it makes such a difference. Your guests will be milling about with a drink; perhaps in the summer you’ll all be out on a terrace; and while all the photos are being organised and the room is being set for the meal you want to create a nice, relaxed atmosphere.
You have so many options here – an acoustic duo, solo singer or saxophonist, harpist, or a string trio or quartet! Each will bring their own kind of ambience to this “in-between” time of the day and will be able to keep things really relaxed or throw in the odd livelier number if you’d like. When I sing for this part of the day I’m well aware that I’m just setting the scene with background music for many guests, but at any one time as people are beckoned off for photos I’ll always notice a few couples or little groups who are simply sat enjoying the music, singing along with a partner or just sat smiling and holding hands. Remember there will be some guests who don’t know many people there so that hour or two feels less awkward for them if they can be sat enjoying music. (And hopefully, they’ll make some new friends once everyone goes in for the meal!)
Tip Four: Don’t have the first dance too early.
You have the whole night ahead of you and if you invite evening guests from 7:30 there will definitely be some who are still arriving around 8:30! 8pm is certainly the VERY earliest I’d recommend having the first dance. Also – do cut the cake beforehand, as guests may join you on the dance floor towards the end of the first dance, and this means your singer, band or DJ can go straight into another song they hope will keep them there! The later the first dance is, the more likely people will just keep dancing afterwards; if it’s too early the dancefloor will empty again as people sit back down and continue catching up.
Tip Five: Do check the lyrics of your wedding songs.
No, I’m not talking about swearing (that’s an obvious one!) – but do pull up the lyrics of your ceremony and first dance songs online and read them through, almost as if you were reading a poem. You’d be surprised how many you think are lovely, positive songs but are actually about cheating, one night stands or a break-up! If I get requested to do songs like this, for example, “It’s a Beautiful Day” by Michael Buble, or “These Days” by Jess Glynne, I’ll make my couples aware and of course if they still want the song it’s completely up to them – but often they’ll change it! Also sometimes people have favourite songs that are actually really sad – I recently performed “Wasn’t Expecting That” for a ceremony as it meant a lot to the couple… BUT we changed the last verse as it’s actually pretty devastating!
So with a little forethought about the lyrics, fortunately, the only tears from the guests were happy ones!