Wedding coordinators and planners have been asking us to blog about this for a while. Coordinators are literal super heroes. They save the day MANY times throughout the day, on wedding day! They’re amazing, and we love them! They make our jobs easier, and they make the jobs of all of the other vendors easier! Coordinators hold vendors accountable. They fix their mistakes. They keep them on time and on task. They tie up loose ends. And they do about a million other things. You'll find that we often make shameless plugs for coordinators and beg our clients to hire them, because... it's worth it!
Some wedding coordinators have a musical background and some don't. Some coordinators have planned 10 weddings, and others have planned hundreds. Many coordinators have asked us, "What can we do to make the ceremony processionals run even more smoothly?" We hope to answer that in this blog!
We often have "after action reviews" at the conclusion of our weddings. We talk about what went well and how we can improve. This blog focuses on understanding when music is important, and how wedding planners can help it all work perfectly.
WHEN DO I NEED MUSIC PLAYED?
There are several different parts of a wedding where music is important.
The ceremony music
This is the typical lay-out of wedding ceremony music:
Prelude (sometimes called pre-ceremony) music:
30 minutes of background music as your guests arrive and find their seats
Seating family (mothers, grandmothers, etc... whomever you decided to seat)
Bridal party (officiant, groom, groomsmen, bridesmaids, flower girls, ring bearers, etc.)
Recessional (music at the conclusion of the ceremony)
Cocktail Hour Music
Background music as guests mingle and bridal party takes photos.
More background music
More music, usually for dancing
We at Deans’ Duets focus on the ceremony music, but we often provide cocktail hour and dinner music. And we sometimes play for the reception too. But in this blog, we focus on ceremony music, because it’s the most tedious, and it’s also the music that can get messed up if musicians are inexperienced or nervous.
Some coordinators are musicians or at least know music, and they love the music part of the ceremony! Others - not so much - and they often ask how they can help this part to go more smoothly. It’s sometimes intimidating to cue music or to work so closely with the music when your background isn’t in music!
So have no fear…. we have some tried and true tips to help this go really well. Not just ok… but to make sure all of your guests have chills as the bride walks down the aisle!
HERE ARE THE THINGS YOUR MUSICIANS + PLANNER SHOULD DISCUSS:
List every single person that is walking for each song, and make sure musicians & coordinator agree :)
Simple Gifts - family
- grandma #1
- grandma #2
- grandma #3
- mother #1
- mother #2
Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring - bridal party
- 5 groomsmen
- 5 bridesmaids
- 1 ring bearer
- 2 flower girls
Canon in D - bride
- bride + her father
This ensures that everything is clear and that no one is forgotten!
Where will these entrances be starting? For example, sometimes groomsmen will enter from a side entrance while bridesmaids enter from another door. And then sometimes the bride appears in a horse-drawn carriage! These things are important for musicians to know during ceremony music.
Agree on cues! We recommend that the coordinator hold up a ONE for family seating, a TWO for bridal party, and a THREE for bride. Thumbs up works too, but numbers are just another double check for us to all be on the same page. Another alternative is for coordinator to text musicians. But this requires reliable cell service (which isn't always the case), so we usually just go with hand signals. Hold those numbers high to make sure there’s no doubt we see them!
Once we see your ONE, we’ll bring our prelude song to a close. We’ll pause for about 3 seconds of silence. And then we’ll start the family seating song. Make sure you wait for the silence before you start sending family down the aisle! We’ll make it really obvious. Sometimes it takes 5 seconds or so for us to end a song beautifully, so give us time to end it, and THEN people start walking.
Wait for the silence again before sending the other groups.
Pace people slowly. We love for clients to really get to hear 1-2 minutes of the songs they chose. Sometimes, if walking is paced too quickly, people only get to hear 20-30 seconds of the songs.
When it’s time for the grand walk down the aisle, give the musicians a clear cue to start while the bride is still hidden. This gives time for the song to crescendo and for the guests to recognize which song it is before they see the bride.
You want this sequence:
1. cue the musicians
2. previous song stops. bride’s song begins
3. guests are overcome with the beauty of the song and recognize it
4. doors open & bride appears
5. bride walks toward the aisle as music continues to build
6. bride stops before the aisle to have dress fluffed & to take a moment to enjoy
7. music crescendos into a climax as bride nears the aisle
8. music concludes in an epic final chord as bride arrives at the front
When this sequence happens perfectly, almost everyone is overcome with emotion, and many guests describe this entrance as the most powerful moment of the entire day. When the coordinator and musicians are in sync, this happens flawlessly!
We love making this happen! It’s our favorite part of the entire wedding day.
Talk about any music which will be played during the ceremony.
- When will it happen?
- What will be the musicians’ cue to begin and end the music?
What is the cue for the recessional? Sometimes it’s “You may kiss the bride.” Sometimes it’s “I present to you for the first time…..” Sometimes it’s "Mazel Tov!” Sometimes it’s jumping the broom! It’s very important that the wedding coordinator, the officiant, and wedding musicians know the cue for the recessional. When the recessional music begins at exactly the right time, it’s another magical moment! When it’s even a second or two off, it can be awkward and lacking excitement.
So there you have it….. seven important details to help your ceremony music flow perfectly! Are there tips we missed? Comment with them below! Can we help answer any questions about your ceremony music? If so, send us an email! DeansDuets@yahoo.com
Coordinators…. are there things WE can do to make your jobs easier on wedding day? We’d love to know!
P.S. Read a couple stories below to understand what can happen when these steps don't happen!
Check out a few of our favorite bridal processional songs below....
Lately, with all of the changes of shifting to smaller weddings, there are more do- it-yourself weddings (aka DIY weddings) where there is not a designated planner. If there is a planner, he or she is often faced with increased responsibilities due to the small size of the wedding and all the complications that have come with COVID weddings.
One would think that a small wedding would make it easier on the coordinator and all involved, but often the opposite is the case. The coordinator is faced with last-minute decorating, pushing play on a playlist, floral arranging, giving instructions to more people….lots of responsibilities that would typically be the responsibility of a different vendor at a larger wedding.
We have also seen weddings with no coordinator at all in this COVID-era wedding climate.
The question we get from brides and coordinators alike is… How can I avoid potential hiccups with my music and ensure that everything goes according to plan?
Even in earlier years when Covid was not an issue, there were a few key things that we always recommend to help your ceremony music to go smoothly on wedding day. Here are our suggestions...........
Venue: Sweet Magnolia Estate
If you don’t have a day of coordinator, book one! We have never heard a bride regret booking a planner. As long as the planner is a professional and well-vetted one, DO IT! It's pretty much always a good decision. A full service or month-of planner is even better, but at least having a day-of planner is a good idea.
If you do not want to hire a planner, designate someone who is not immediate family to at least line people up and send them down the aisle at the appropriate time.
This is important because, without someone designated, time gets away from you on wedding day! There are boutonnieres to pin, bouquets to organize, grandparents to locate, petals to find for flower girls, pillows to remember for ring bearers..... all the things!! Most weddings start very late without someone in charge.
This person should ideally have a printed day-of schedule and a to-do list at certain times of day. They should also plan time to chat with the musicians and with your officiant sometime before pre-ceremony music begins.
Have a rehearsal. Even if it’s a small wedding of 20 people, just walking through the motions helps a lot. Who walks down first? Who is on which side? Do groomsmen put their hands in their pockets or in front of them? What do you do with your bouquet when it’s time to exchange rings? All these things will flow better on wedding day if you have a quick walk-through.
*Actually, a coordinator has a list of these things, and they'll take care of all of them, but again, if you don’t have a coordinator, a rehearsal will help!*
Venue: Champagne Manor
Communicate. What time should everyone arrive? What are your expectations of people on wedding day? Who brings all the things? A well-crafted email to everyone, or a schedule - or both - goes a long way. (Also copy your venue on this if they’re involved!)
Read our more detailed blog to coordinators next week to see what we recommend to make music go PERFECTLY. We are pretty good at making things work well and flow, even if things are late.... even if we don’t get the cues we need... even if people walk out of order, etc. But… there is something about a perfectly timed entrance that is MAGICAL. So, read next week to get more specific tips about the music portion and how it can go as planned.
Venue: Vesuvius Vineyards
Deans’ Duets is a full-service music planning team who provides ceremony music, cocktail hour music, dinner music, and reception music for clients throughout the southeastern United States and beyond. We currently provide music for many luxury weddings, but we started out many years ago playing mostly small church weddings and DIY low-budget weddings, so we’ve seen it all! Let us know if we can help.
Carrie-Grace and Hunter reached out to us last year about providing a solo violinist for their wedding in Dothan, Alabama. We loved getting to know them and hearing about their vision for their wedding.
With all of the uncertainty that came with weddings last year and this year, they decided to go ahead with a plan to have their wedding ceremony and reception in the bride's parents' backyard in Dothan Alabama. It was the perfect location for their elegant outdoor ceremony in southern Alabama. The violin music was just perfect for the ceremony. It was very simple, elegant, and sweet.
Madilyn is our violinist from Pensacola, Florida, and she was in the perfect location to play this wedding. Madilyn played for us for several years in North Carolina and has since moved to Pensacola, so we love when we can book weddings for her in Florida and Alabama! Madilyn and her husband traveled from Pensacola to southern Alabama and enjoyed their time exploring a new place and playing for such a lovely day.
Shea Wilson was the wedding planner, and she was fantastic! She reached out to us a week before the wedding to talk through song selections, logistics, and itinerary. We love when we get to talk to the planner the week before the wedding to make sure we are all on the same page. She was so helpful at the wedding as well and cued us perfectly for everyone’s walk down the aisle.
The photographer, Sarah Blaze, was amazing as well! If you are ever in need of a photographer in southern Alabama or the panhandle, she is so great!
April is a professional violinist and the music coordinator for Dean's Duets.