Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Thoughts on Wedding Music

The Musical Ramblings of Natalia McCarty
May 2010
My Thoughts on Wedding Music

I have a confession to make: I used to plan out my wedding in full detail and, get ready for it—I’m single. I searched through bridal magazines to pick out the perfect dress, the flowers, the invitations, and the venue. You name it, I had already searched out exactly what I wanted. I know it’s normal for girls to dream of their wedding day, but I was intense about it. While I had nearly every detail worked out, the one thing I always had difficulty with was music. Do I want a DJ? Do I want a live band? Do I want karaoke? How about just plugging my iPod in and turning on shuffle?

As I write this, I’m still single and still undecided about what kind of music I want at my wedding. Thankfully, I have married friends with first-hand experience who are kind enough to give SKORCH readers their perspective on the issue. I surveyed several of them and got the scoop on a number of questions.

Which do you prefer: DJ, Live Band, or any other musical alternative?

Hiring a band can be a great option for your wedding, but let’s weigh the pros and cons. The upside of hiring a band is the music is live, it’s real, and it’s there. A band provides you with someone who can sing exactly what you want. Some people choose to have a rock band, some swing, while others want a cover band. The musicians who play weddings normally get the guests involved and provide great entertainment; if you've seen The Wedding Singer, you know what I'm talking about.

The biggest downside of hiring is a band is that they tend to be pricier. Depending on the type of music, number of musicians, and length of performance time, it can get expensive quickly. You are not paying for one person; you are paying for the singer, the bass player, the drummer, any other musicians in the band, and the crew required for set up. If you want a full orchestra, I’m guessing your last name is Trump. The other problem with bands is some musicians just suck live and you won’t know what you're getting into unless you know the band's history. Should you decide on a live band, do your homework. Make sure they are an actual wedding band. In other words, the band shouldn’t be trying to become the next big thing. They should solely perform for weddings and other similar events. They’ll know the deal: what songs to sing, how to get everyone involved, and have a set fee that is reasonable for a wedding.

While bands can be fun, I found that most people prefer DJs at weddings. There are tons of benefits to hiring a DJ. They generally have a huge selection of music that spans different genres. This means most guests will be pleased with at least some of the music played at your wedding. And don’t forget, DJs are performers in their own right. They have a stage presence to go along with the job and provide many different services; they are the emcee, host, you name it! They announce when the bride and groom enter the room, when the wedding song is performed, when the food is being served, when the bouquet is thrown, and anything else necessary to keep things running smoothly.

However, there are a few drawbacks. Just like with a band, it’s best to hire a DJ who is mainly focused on playing weddings and has plenty of experience doing so. This seems logical, but there are plenty of DJs who don’t gear their services towards weddings, so they only play one type of music or won’t take requests. The other big issue you may run into is DJs bringing their friends to your wedding. Seriously. I'm not talking about helpers, I'm talking about their buddies who will claim to have a job but don’t seem to be doing much except eating food intended for guests. Discuss this with your DJ ahead of time—if he or she is planning to bring someone, make sure you find out what they’ll be doing and whether or not you’ll be charged extra for this person’s services. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make it known that there is a budget and you do not intend on feeding people unless they are asked to be there.

If you’re going to hire a DJ, know what you want! If you have specific songs you want played, discuss this with them beforehand. If there are songs you absolutely detest (we'll discuss this in a moment) make sure it is known. Communication is key. DJs have standard music that they use for weddings, but they’re creative and should be flexible to your needs.

So, what would I personally do? I'm not your everyday girl, so I would want it all. A band for a good hour or two, then a DJ set in between it all. But before you start planning, check your budget—you can get anything accomplished if you have the budget. You can hire out a musician or band and a DJ if you can afford it. If you are having a very low-key reception, then be your own DJ! If you have an iPod, you have a playlist for your wedding! Make sure to pick songs everyone enjoys. Ask the invitees if they have any recommendations and set it up. If the venue has a sound system, you’ll be set for the night. Just make sure you designate someone to manage the playlist to keep things running smoothly—you probably won’t have time to keep it up yourself.

If you want a little more audience participation, karaoke is an awesome option! Your talented family and friends can to show off their talent and it will get everyone socializing quickly. You can either rent out a karaoke machine or ask the DJ if karaoke can be included. Most DJs do include it should you want it. Even if you have a live wedding band, certain cover bands do moonlight as live karaoke bands but just be advised that their song list can be minimal in comparison to the DJ karaoke list. Whatever you choose, make it a fun time and you get what you want since it’s your day!

What songs do you HATE hearing at weddings?

The response was overwhelming! Most people seemed to detest any songs that are accompanied by choreographed dance routines. Here's a list of the ones that popped up the most in that category:

1. Chicken Dance - by far the overall winner of most loathed song and dance.
2. Electric Slide
3. Hands Up
4. Electric Mambo
5. The Conga
6. Achy Breaky Heart

I gotta be honest with you though, as much as I get the choices, sometimes I think it’s all talk. The people who say they hate these songs are the same ones who end up the most active in the dance routine after enough drinks! To be honest though, I have to agree—most of these songs are lame. If it were my wedding, I wouldn’t play them because I'm not a huge fan of making people dance like idiots. That being said, a lot of people enjoy it and it doesn’t hurt to throw in two or three of these songs just to make everyone happy. This mainly applies to your Aunt Mollys, your Uncle Teddys, your Grandma Ritas, and your adorable mother Esperanza. (Yeah, that last one is a reference to my own mother…she loves the Electric Mambo.)

I won't lie, though—I actually love “The Electric Slide.” Not the dance! I mean, don't get me wrong, after a few drinks I might be caught getting down to it, but I'm referring to the song. I really love that 80's disco funk sound with hints of reggae. I love singing it! It’s just such a fun song. IT'S ELECTRIC! BOOGIE OOGIE OOGIE! The Electric Mambo? Well, for me, it's just funny as hell to watch people dance to it. How often do you get to see an elderly relative shake her backside to the ground on command? Come on, that's just sheer comedy! I have a smile on my face just thinking about it!

There are other songs (without mandatory dance routines) that a lot of people really wish would go away at weddings. Unfortunately, this includes the couple's wedding song sometimes.

1. “Endless Love” - Whether its by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross or Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey, it’s the most overplayed wedding song. You have no idea how often I have seen that song commence and the amount of eyes rolling simultaneously. It’s pretty incredible.

2. “The Power of Love” (or any Celine Dion song) - Don't get me wrong, Celine Dion has an amazing voice. Very strong and it works well with the love songs she sings. However, I guarantee most men would not want to be affiliated with this song. The guys I spoke with really dislike having a Celine Dion song as their wedding song. I know two who had The Power of Love as their song and it took a lot of coaxing to get it out of them. Come on ladies, you don't want your husband to be ashamed of their wedding song.

3. “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” by Meatloaf - I personally love this song, but I understand why people don't like it. As soon as someone chooses it, the DJ insists that the room get split in two: men and women. Then, the men and women have to sing to each other the entire song. Most party attendees don't want to sing—THEY WANT TO HEAR THE SONG! Fun for some, annoying for others.

4. “Cotton-Eyed Joe” by Rednex - I don't know why this even happened. Take a hillbilly song and add a club beat to it and the next thing you know, it’s played at every party. I think it’s hysterical, but I know it isn’t popular with many of you.

5. “Last Dance” by Donna Summer - I love her voice and the song but so many people are tired of hearing it at weddings. Mainly because this beautiful song is now associated with the party being over. This is the DJ's way of telling everyone to go home. He's tired and he wants to get his money! Many people just wish someone would come up with another song to let us know that it’s the last song on the DJ's playlist.

Look, this is my bottom line: have fun. Make sure you hear music you want to hear at your wedding. If you are a guest, make sure you understand that your purpose at this reception is to celebrate the union of two people you are fond of. Just have fun! It’s a partaaaay!

I would like to thank everyone I spoke with in person, on the phone, via text, via email, and via Facebook for his or her input. It was really fun coming up with the information I gathered from all of you guys! You all rock!!!


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