Before we go any further – congratulations on your engagement! Live music is a key part of your wedding, and hiring the right wedding musicians can create magical moments that you and your partner remember for the rest of your lives. Hiring wedding musicians can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve helped thousands of happy couples book incredible wedding musicians for their special day, so we know exactly how to help at each stage of your wedding planning journey.
In this guide, we’re going to cover every aspect of hiring live music for your wedding. We’ll take you right from the early stages when you’re deciding how much to spend and what type of act to book, through the process of finding and booking the perfect musician(s) for you. And then give you some insider tips on getting the most from your artist.
If you have any questions that aren’t covered in our guides, please do get in touch and we’d be happy to help you out. You can reach us at [email protected]
- Early stages of planning: where to start?
- Deciding on which music to have: wedding music inspiration
- Finding and booking wedding musicians: practical tips
- Getting the most out of your wedding musicians
The first question to answer is a simple one:
Should we have live music at our wedding?
For some people, there’s simply no question. Music means different things to different people, and if you’ve spent your life surrounded by music, it’s natural that you’d want there to be musicians performing on your special day.
For others, it’s a trickier question. If you’re on a strict budget, or if you’re having a very small wedding, then live music may not be at the top of your priority list when it comes to wedding planning, and that’s totally natural.
If you’re unsure about whether or not to have live music at your wedding, here are a few things to consider:
1. Think about weddings you’ve been to recently – did they have live music?
If you’re getting married soon, then chances are you’ve been to a few weddings over the last few years. Did any of them have live music? How did the music make you feel? Think back to the atmosphere and the vibe created by live music.
2. Ask your friends whether they were glad they had live music
If anyone you know had musicians playing at their wedding and you ask them if they’re glad they went for live music, they’re almost guaranteed to say yes. Very few people regret having live music on their special day.
We receive dozens of reviews every week from couples saying thank you for the incredible music and for making their day so memorable. Here are a few examples:
“Cristinel (violinist) played at our wedding reception and everyone commented on how beautiful the music was, my husband and I even got to have a dance on our own before heading down to the wedding breakfast room.”
“Harriett (harpist) was very professional and easy to get in touch with, and also learned and played our last minute choice of bridal entrance song really well. All the wedding guests loved her playing and it really added to the ambience of the reception during the drinks and canapes. Many thanks Harriett!”
“Sarah (singer) sang for us at our drinks reception at our wedding. Her singing was so beautiful my only regret is not having the time to stand and listen for longer. The atmosphere that Sarah helped create was perfect, her song choices spot on. Leading up to the wedding we communicated a few times and Sarah was always professional and quick to reply. I am so glad that we booked Sarah. Thank you so much!”
When do we want live music? Ceremony, Reception, Dinner, Party, or all of the above?
There are various points in the day when you can have live music. Some couples only have live music at one special moment in their day, such as the ceremony or the evening party, and others go all out, hiring several different musicians to provide a varied soundtrack throughout the day. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but as musicians ourselves, we always recommend having as much live music as you can!
Music serves different purposes at different points in your day:
Live Music at your Wedding Ceremony
The Ceremony is often the most special and romantic part of your day, so having a musician(s) creating a magical ambience for you is money well spent. As well as music while your guests arrive, there are three key moments in your ceremony that can benefit from the musical touch:
- The Arrival of the Bride
- The Signing of the Register
- Leaving The Ceremony as a Married Couple
Live Music at your Drinks Reception and/or Wedding Breakfast
The Drinks Reception and Wedding Breakfast is when all of your guests get to mingle, make new friends and generally enjoy good conversations (and lots of photos!).
Live music can serve as background music during these parts of the day, or it can be the main event: many couples opt for roaming musicians, such as barbershop groups or acoustic bands, who can wander around the venue and entertain different groups of people at different moments. We’ll discuss choosing musicians for your Reception further down in this article!
Live Music at your Wedding: The Evening Party
If you were to ask couples for their favourite moment in their wedding, they’d likely point to their first dance. Whether it’s a romantic and tender slow dance to a significant song, or an energetic and virtuosic display of dancing prowess to an upbeat floor filler, the first dance is always better with live music.
After you’ve had your first dance, you want to make sure that your guests get up on their feet and stay on the dancefloor until the early hours. The atmosphere at a wedding with live music is so different to one without, so if you’re committed to having a big party, we recommend going live!
Still struggling to decide? You might find one of our guides helpful: Wedding Planning: A Wedding Day Timeline With Music
Budgeting: how much do wedding musicians cost?
Balancing your wedding budget can be a tricky juggling act, but thankfully, there are live musicians to suit all budgets.
A quick guide:
Wedding Musicians Under £200
If you’re working to a budget and don’t want to spend more than £200, you can hire an instrumentalist soloist. Popular choices include having a violinist, cellist, pianist or bagpiper, to perform for your ceremony or reception.
Wedding Musicians Under £500
If your budget is £500, you can afford a slightly more expensive soloist, such as a harpist (£200 to £400) or a singer (£200 to £500). These soloists cost more money as they are in higher demand during the wedding season.
For £400 to £500, you could also afford a duo of musicians, such as a String Duo (Violin and Cello) or Jazz Duo for your Ceremony or Reception, or a Pop Duo (£400+) to perform at the evening party.
For £350 to £500, you may also be able to afford a DJ if they are local and don’t need to travel far to your venue. Bear in mind, however, that good DJs can cost anywhere from £350 to £1000 depending on how experienced they are, and how good their equipment is.
Looking for more advice? Read more here: Wedding Planning: Music At Your Wedding; Where To Start
Wedding Musicians Under £1000
With a wedding music budget of up to £1000, you have plenty of options to choose from!
For the Ceremony, you could hire a String Trio (£450 to £750) or a String Quartet (£600 to £1000). You could also have something different like, a Cello Quartet (£600 to £1000) or a small choir (£800 to £1000).
For the Drinks Reception, you could hire a Jazz Trio (£600+) or Jazz Quartet (£800+), or perhaps a roaming Acoustic Band (£750 to £1000) or even something different like a Mariachi Band! (£500 to £1000)
For the evening, you could afford a great professional DJ, or a professional wedding band with 3 or 4 members.
Wedding Music Under £2000
Generally, most wedding bands with 4 or 5 members will charge somewhere between £1000 and £2000 for a full evening performance, which will include two or three 45-minute performances, and usually a “DJ service” where they provide background music through a speaker between sets and can take requests from you and your guests.
If you’re looking for more advice on booking a wedding band, you’ll find everything you need to know in our Wedding Band Booking Guide.
In a nutshell: there’s music to suit all budgets! If you already know what you’re looking for and want to receive quotes from available, local musicians, you can do so on the Encore website.
What type of music should we have at the ceremony?
For most couples, this is the most formal part of their wedding day. This is the time to both impress your guests with your good taste, and set an appropriate atmosphere for the vows you are about to make to your partner.
Traditional weddings will often include music at 4 places in the wedding ceremony:
- Prelude. A short 30-minute performance to set the atmosphere as people arrive and take their seats.
- The entrance or procession of the bride into the venue.
- The signing of the register. This ‘admin’ part of the ceremony can take 5-10 minutes so it’s important you have an engaging musical performance here to help sustain the atmosphere and keep your congregation engaged.
- The exit or recession of the couple from the venue.
As this is the most serious part of your day, you might want to go for something classy for your ceremony. String quartets, harpists and pianists are all more traditional options while a singing guitarist performing your favourite song during the signing of the register can also work well.
Bagpipers are a popular choice for the entrance of the bride for couples with Scottish heritage. While booking an organist is something you’ll want to consider if you’re getting married in a church and would like a traditional-sounding entrance. Just make sure you check with the venue that you can access the organ first.
- Two for the price of one. If you are booking a band for the evening, and you’re on a tight budget you might want to consider asking them if they can provide some stripped-down acoustic ceremony music as well at a reduced rate. As they’ll already be travelling your way, many bands are happy to do this at a fraction of the price of booking a completely new act.
Hosting your wedding ceremony outside? Check out our Top 10 Musical Ideas for an Outdoor Ceremony article.
What type of music should we have at the drinks reception?
At the drinks reception, everyone will be mingling and getting to know each other. You want some light background music to provide a talking point and to keep your guests entertained as they toast the newlyweds. Receptions are often held so you might want to consider booking an acoustic, unplugged act. Popular examples include:
- String quartets (great for creating a sophisticated atmosphere)
- Acoustic duos (perfect for country or folk-style weddings)
- Strolling bands (these bands will walk around entertaining your guests!)
- Jazz bands (add some swinging jazz to keep people’s feet tapping)
- A cappella groups (want something different? Add you own personal barbershop quartet)
What type of music should we have at the wedding breakfast?
The nerves of the ceremony and the mingling of the reception are out the way. Now you can relax a bit more and enjoy your wedding breakfast surrounded by your nearest and dearest. Booking background music at this point is a great way to keep the party flowing as your guests sit down to eat.
For more ideas, check out our Top 10 Background Music Ideas for a Wedding Breakfast.
What type of music should we have at the evening party?
This is the time for your guests to get out of the dance floor and shake what their mumma gave em! Without a doubt, the best way to encourage your guests to make some shapes is to book a live band.
Nothing beats the energy of having professional musicians performing a specially curated setlist of party bangers. We’d recommend a specialist wedding band. These come in all shapes and sizes, from acoustic trios, to vintage swing bands, to large 12-piece party bands with full brass sections.
For a full guide to choosing your wedding band check out our full Wedding Band Booking Guide.
And as a bonus, here’s an article exploring 5 Essential Qualities To Look For In Your Wedding Band.
Should we hire a band or a DJ for our wedding?
If you’re budget or venue can’t accommodate a band, then a DJ is a great option. Leaving the control of the dancefloor to your mate’s Spotify never ends well. Our experienced DJs will consult with you beforehand to make sure all your favourites are included and then will time their delivery to perfection to make sure your dancefloor is full to the brim.
Learn more about choosing your Wedding DJ in our guide: How to find and hire a DJ for your Wedding
For a closer look at how your day could pan out, check out our example Wedding Day Timeline with Music.
Wedding Inspiration: Music at the Royal Wedding 2018
Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018 was an iconic moment in British history, and from it, several trends have begun to emerge in the wedding industry. You can read our full overview of Music at The Royal Wedding to get more inspiration, or our guide, Wedding Cellist: Hiring Advice and Inspiration, if you loved the performance given by Sheku Kanneh-Mason during Harry and Meghan’s ceremony.
So, you’ve decided on the type of music you’d like and when you would like music to feature on your wedding day. The next step is finding musicians who match your tastes and budget, and booking them for your wedding before they get booked for somebody else’s!
Advice from couples who booked musicians for their weddings
At the beginning of 2018, we surveyed hundreds of couples about their experience of finding and booking live music. Some found it easy, some found it difficult (they didn’t book with Encore!) and some were kind enough to share their top tips for couples about to book wedding musicians for their own weddings.
After analysing the hundreds of responses, we discovered seven major themes in the advice couples were giving to each other:
- Book early!
- Use Encore
- Try to compare multiple musicians before making a decision
- Meet your wedding musicians in person if possible
- Get clear on the type of wedding music you want BEFORE beginning to contact musicians
- Save money by booking local musicians if you can
You can read the tips and tricks from previous couples here: Booking Wedding Musicians: Honest Advice from 35 couples who have done it already
Once you’ve booked your musicians, it’s important that they know exactly how you’re imagining your day and how you’d like them to contribute to the ambience.
The easiest way to do this is to schedule a call with the musician or bandleader shortly after booking. If you haven’t already discussed these questions with your wedding musicians, we recommend having them written down in a list and checking each one off once it’s been discussed:
Are there any specific songs that you would like performed?
If you’d like the musicians to learn a new song, give them plenty of notice so that they can rehearse it!
Are there any songs that are off-limits?
Perhaps you want to avoid the usual cheesy wedding songs that you’ve heard at every wedding you’ve ever been to, or maybe you want to avoid any songs with even vaguely suggestive lyrics. If this is the case, make sure your musicians know in advance!
If you’re looking for a laugh, check out our article: 10 Songs NOT To Play At Your Wedding 😂
How would you like your wedding musicians to dress?
Most musicians can offer a range of outfits for their performances, ranging from smart black tie to casual clothes or even vibrant festival attire, if you’re hosting a festival-themed wedding. Make sure your musicians know what sort of aesthetic you’re going for so that they can dress up (or down) to match your theme.
Think about how you’re going to get your guests on the dancefloor
The best way to get your guests on the dancefloor and to keep them there is to hire an experienced wedding band or DJ, ideally one who has performed at over 50 weddings. Practice makes perfect!
If keeping the party going all night long is something you want to know more about, check out an article we wrote: 5 Simple Tips To Get Your Wedding Guests Dancing