Ceremony Music Basics

When planning your ceremony, one of the most frequently asked questions is how to hire wedding ceremony musicians. If you’re wondering what parts of the ceremony you need music for and what kind of music it should be, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered!


Prelude music is performed while guests are arriving to the venue and being seated. It is almost always comprised of light, classical selections, but most groups should be more than happy to accommodate your own requests during this section. We have played everything from Bach to Bieber (yes, Justin!) during this time, so never feel afraid to ask for something special to you.

Guests usually arrive in the twenty minutes before a ceremony. Talk with your musicians and ask what time they typically begin their prelude music. If you have a lot of out of town guests, or your wedding is in a hard-to-get-to location, they might arrive earlier. Ask your ensemble if they are able to add additional time to this section if you think you may need it!

How to select wedding musicians photo by Jefferey Bennett JLBWedding.com Equally Wed
Photo by Jefferey Bennett, JLBWedding.com


This music is what will accompany the entrance for the wedding party. You will want to choose a piece of music that is special to you both for each arrival. Typically, we have couples select a piece of music specific for the seating of the mothers and grandmothers (it is always lovely to let them choose what they would like here, so they have their own special moment!). Next, you can choose something for the attendants, and then switch to something special and celebratory for the big entrance!

Interludes and Special Music

Sometimes, there is a chance for more music during the ceremony. Talk with your partner and think about if you would like to do a special unity service with music accompanying. We have seen some amazing ideas, from a simple candle or sand, to a wine box to share, a tree to plant, or a celtic knot to tie. Unity ceremonies are as varied and unique as the couples who plan them—why not add a piece of music that is meaningful to you as well?

Tip: Frequently, the officiant or minister will talk through the unity ceremony. Make sure you find out what they plan to say, and communicate such with the musicians! We can either play quietly, underneath the words, or we can play the whole song as a sort of interlude.


It’s over! You did it! You tied the knot! You want something joyous and exciting for the whole party to walk back down the aisle to and begin the celebration!

How to select wedding musicians photo by Amanda Dumouchelle amandadumouchellephotography.com Equally Wed
Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle, amandadumouchellephotography.com

The Venue

Rules and Restrictions

Before you speak with live musicians about your event, make sure to cross all your t’s and dot your i’s! Certain ceremony sites or officiants might have guidelines about what music selections you are allowed to have. Make sure you ask about any restrictions they might have before setting your heart on walking down the aisle to Britney Spears!

Set up

Make sure you consider the size of your venue before committing to hiring a group. For example: Choosing a trumpet ensemble in a small church chapel will most likely overwhelm the space with sound. Or, if you are outside and you want a pianist to be a part of the service, you will most likely need to be prepared for additional fees for keyboard transport. Likewise, if you are being married in a restaurant, a full string quartet may not fit—but a string duet may do the trick!


Are you hoping to have your ceremony inside or outside? This is a very important question to consider before deciding what kind of ensemble you want to perform. Outdoor weddings are beautiful and romantic, but the sound from live strings, guitar, or harp tends to dissipate very quickly in the air so you will want to have a larger group. Are you planning a small, intimate family gathering in a quiet restaurant? A soloist might be the perfect touch to add romance to the evening. Church chapels and cathedrals tend to have amazing acoustics, so any size group works well!

How to select wedding musicians photo by Katie Alexis katiealexisphotography.com Equally Wed
Photo by Katie Alexis, katiealexisphotography.com

Value and Professionalism

Before you begin your search, consider what amount you are willing to spend on live music. The fees for a professional group will not only take into account their performance on the day of, but will also include things like practice and rehearsal time, their ability to perform custom requests, and how seasoned the group may be. If a group is more expensive, it is because they are well established, all hold degrees in performance, and most likely have a contractor who is in charge of booking the group (which not only guarantees you a professional contract, and protection, but also means someone is available at all times to answer your questions as they come up!)

Things to look for in a group before booking:

*Are you able to listen to the group perform online? If there is no audio or video of the group, steer clear! You should always be able to get an idea of what they might sound like live!
*Are they able to perform a wide range of music? The most experienced event groups should be able to give you options of everything from classical, to current pop hits and everything in between!
*Do they have a professional contract and invoice booking system? You should always sign a contract with a group before paying any deposits. This contract of course protects the group, but it also should have clauses that protect YOU from anything should something happen!
*Are there reviews available from other past couples or other wedding professionals? If the group has a large amount of recent positive reviews, then it is a great bet that they will be a wonderful choice.
*Do they respond well to your e-mails in a timely and professional manner? Talent and ability are extremely important, but good communication is also key in selecting an ensemble. If you are having trouble getting responses from a group, or they seem unsure about the individual particulars of your ceremony, then run! The last thing you want is to be worrying about little details with your musicians the day of your wedding.


This is the fun part! The music you choose for your big day is as much a reflection of who you are as individuals as it is a set up for the big party after your ceremony! Ask yourself what the most important feeling you want to convey for your ceremony is. Do you want a traditional, romantic feel? Work with your musicians to choose beautiful, classical music for each portion of your ceremony. Are you hoping for something more unique and upbeat? Ask if they have arrangements of your favorite songs. If they aren’t currently a part of their repertoire, ask if they are able to do a custom arrangement for you. (Hint: Any professional ensemble should have the capability to do a perfect custom recreation of your favorite song for a small additional fee!)

Tip: Ask the coordinator of the group for help or recommendations if you get stuck! We have coordinated and played hundreds of weddings, and one of our absolute favorite parts is working with couples to choose the perfect music!

About the author

Michelle Kulwicki, White Pines Entertainment

Michelle Kulwicki is a professional cellist currently based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After ten years of playing with orchestras and chamber ensembles, she realized that her passion for planning and performing in unique settings was best realized in creating her own ensemble. With the help of co-manager and violinist Gyongyver Petheo the two began White Pines Entertainment in 2014, with the vision of providing outstanding personal service and delivering flawless performances for weddings and events. It has quickly blossomed into a premiere performance service, booking events years in advance. White Pines Entertainment is a preferred Equally Wed vendor. Visit their page on equallywed.com.