The A-Z of wedding music: everything you need to know

Don’t know your processional from your recessional? Relax – we’ve covered everything you need to know about your big day soundtrack.

Image: GEEBZ Photography

A is for Aisle

The processional is the bride’s walk down the aisle, and music here sets the tone for the whole day. Disco Therapy‘s Stephen says it’s all about “building drama.” After the ceremony, the couple’s walk-out is known as the recessional and Stephen reckons it should be celebratory “ you’ve just got hitched, after all! If you’re stuck for ideas, popular options include Pharrell Williams’ Happy or Let’s Get Married by The Proclaimers.

Whatever you choose, Graham Moore from 5 Star Discos says it’s important to reflect your personality. “Sometimes you get couples with rock music in common, so they’ll go for something like Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter.”


B is for Band

“Having a band and live music can create a bit of an atmosphere,” says Euan from DeVille Wedding Band. “Most bands can do a bit of ceilidh too.” If you want a band, go to a live showcase to see them play “ online videos are helpful, but they don’t give an accurate sense of how the band performs. Book as early as you can, too, as some bands are booked as far as four years in advance.


C is for Ceilidh

For a truly Scottish wedding, you’ve got to include a bit of ceilidh dancing. “A great thing about having a ceilidh band is that many of the dances, such as the Progressive Barn Dance and The Circassian Circle, are ˜mixer dances’ where you change partners several times,” says Davie from The Big Shoogle. “This immediately gets the two families mixing informally.”

This is ideal if lots of your guests haven’t met before. “It’s great to bring everybody together and it’s a good icebreaker,” agrees Colin from Pentlands Ceilidh Band. “It’s also a great way to burn off any excess alcohol!”

Image: Julie Lamont Photography

D is for Daddy’s girl

The father-daughter dance is becoming increasingly popular. “It’s something I wish I had done,” says dance instructor Felicity of Learn 2 Wedding Dance. “My dad’s dead now and it’s one thing I regret not doing. I wish I had spent time on the day just thanking him for the journey he had brought me on.” Favourites for this special dance include The Temptations’ My Girl and I Loved her First by Heartland.


E is for Ed Sheeran

According to Spotify, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran was the most popular first dance song last year. (However, Team SWD prefers the second most popular artist, Etta James; At Last is a true classic.)


F is for First Dance

It can strike fear into the hearts of rhythmically-challenged couples, but the first dance is super special. If you’re worried about being out of step, why not take dance lessons to avoid awkwardness? “We can teach a dance to suit your chosen music, and we can adapt a lot of dances to these songs,” says dance instructor Alan from DeesDancing. “The best thing to do is choose a reputable dance teacher. Don’t go for what seems to be cheaper. You’ve got to have somebody who is knowledgeable enough to mould it to suit the couple.”


G is for Group Dance

Forget choreographing just your first dance; more and more couples are getting other members of the bridal party on the floor. Not only will this add the wow factor to your evening reception, it’s also a fun activity in the lead-up to the wedding. Felicity from Learn 2 Wedding Dance says the weekly dance lessons with your BMs or guys make a great bonding session. “It’s having a connection with whoever’s doing the dance,” she says, “something together that no other guest knows about.”

Image: Story of Love


H is for Harpist

If you fancy something a bit different during your ceremony or drinks reception, hire a harpist. “As well as sounding great, the harp looks amazing and it’s not always the music you might think,” says harpist Katherine Harrison. “We can play everything from Metallica to Madonna!” And being live, it has the advantage of creating a beautiful, relaxed atmosphere, even if things aren’t going to plan. “If the day is running a bit late or someone cries, we can add a bit and break the tension,” says Katherine.

I is for Inclusive

You may be a fan of thrash metal, but that doesn’t mean your guests are “ so bear this in mind when deciding on your evening playlist. “You’ve got to cater for all the ages with your golden oldies, music from the 80s and 90s and all the modern stuff,” says Euan from DeVille Wedding Band. William from Sphere Function Band agrees. “Most good wedding bands play a great selection of music that covers many genres. All a couple really has to do is find a band that appreciates the diversity of tastes in a wedding environment and tries to play something for everyone.”

J is for Jazz

The jazz aficionados amongst you may favour a cool double bass and sax for your wedding soundtrack, and the good news is they’re really on-trend right now. “A jazz act in particular is very versatile as they can perform with or without vocals, making them suitable for ceremonies, drinks receptions and evening entertainment,” says Jay at entertainment agency Freak Music. “Gypsy jazz bands such as Viper Swing are very popular for quirky weddings.”

K is for Kissing (of course!)

Cutting the cake is always accompanied by a great big smooch that will last as long as it takes your gran to get a photo. Take the pressure off with a fun song. We’re loving Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard.


L is for Loch Lomond

End your big day on a high singing your hearts out. Cue plenty of foot stamping and arm swinging. Pentlands Ceilidh Band used to always end on Auld Lang Syne but Colin from the band says Loch Lomond is also a great crowd pleaser. “It’s a rousing Scottish song,” he says. “It gets everybody up in a circle with the bride and groom in the middle.”

Image: Struve Photography

M is for Marryoke

Looking for a fun ice-breaker to get all your guests talking? Put them all on camera in a marryoke vid, lip-syncing to your chosen tune. Have plenty of props at the ready and cast your best men and maids in prominent parts to get everyone going. (Search Youtube for ˜marryoke’ to see what we’re on about!)


N is for noise restrictions

Some venues have sound limiters, which are devices that cut the power supply to your band or DJ’s equipment if the noise exceeds a specific level. Ask your venue if they have a limiter in place, and relay this information to your music act so that they’re aware of the restrictions.


O is for Organ

This is totally dependent on your venue, but if you’re tying the knot in a church or cathedral it would almost be a shame not to walk in to the strains of something classical on the organ. Trust us, it’s a winner. You could always mix it up with something more contemporary for the recessional.


P is for Piping

“Bagpipes bring nostalgia to a wedding,” says Gemma from The National Piping Centre. “They bring tears to people’s eyes, and they look amazing in photographs.” Though pipers mostly play traditional pieces of music, some can play more unconventional songs, which is a great way to entertain your guests. You could even offer your guests a more hands-on form of entertainment, as Gemma explains. “At our venue we use the piper to do a ˜come and try the bagpipes’ during the drinks reception,” she says.


Q is for Quartet

Think string quartet and you’d be forgiven for jumping straight to Vivaldi or Mozart, but the options are endless. “I always encourage the couple to choose the music they would like to hear so there will be something for everyone, allowing guests to relax with friends old and new,” explains Davie from Christie Quartet. “Every couple has their song and any song can be played by the string quartet.” Plus, Davie adds, a string quartet adds a touch of sophistication to your day, visually.

Image: Tracy Gow Photography 

R is for Reception

While you’re off having your photos taken it’s important your guests are well looked after, so having some musical entertainment is a good idea. Consider a pianist, harpist or string quartet. “Live piano music will create an ambience that adds something special to your day,” says pianist Neil Malcolm, who plays a wide range of music in a jazz-based melodic style, which he says creates a relaxed atmosphere.

Another advantage of having a music act during this part of the day, says harpist Katherine Harrison, is that it creates a focal point even when guests are scattered around. “The older guests “ or those who are less mobile “ can come and sit down and listen,” she says. “It’s not ostentatious; it’s quite subtle.”


S is for Superstar DJ

When it comes to catering for all tastes, you can’t beat a DJ. After all, they have a wealth of music at their fingertips and can pick and choose what to play based on what you guests are enjoying. Graham from 5 Star Discos says, “We can tailor it to you.” Plus, a DJ can entertain guests in more ways than one. Stephen from Disco Therapy favours an interactive approach to get guests involved, doing things like a Mr and Mrs quiz with the happy couple and singalongs.

T is for Tea time

While most couples think of music for their ceremony, drinks reception and evening reception, many forget about the evening meal. Pianist Alex Graham normally plays until the evening reception, and says his favourite part is during the wedding breakfast. “I love receiving song requests throughout the meal,” he says. “Anything from Guns N’ Roses to Adele to Dario G. Whatever your guests ask for I’m able to play.”


U is for Uptown Funk

Mars + Ronson + funk beat = packed dancefloor. Enough said.

Image: The Gibsons

V is for Vampires

Brides and grooms up and down the country can’t get enough of Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years, from The Twilight Saga soundtrack. We’ve seen brides walk down the aisle to the vampire film song, couples have their first dance to it and seen wedding videos set to it. Now that’s a love song.


W is for Wedding singers

Anyone call for a flash mob? Plan the perfect Love Actually moment by having a choir pop up during your ceremony. “We plant the choir in the audience as wedding guests,” says Douglas from Soul Nation Choir. “At an appropriate moment, usually during the signing of the register, one will pop up on the pew and start singing.” More and more singers join in and can eventually accompany the bride and groom down the aisle. “It makes it joyous,” adds Douglas.

X is for X-rated dance moves

If you haven’t already seen Canadian actress Melissa Molinaro’s dance to Beyonce’s Upgrade You for her new husband, I urge you to watch it right now! There’s no denying she and her fellow dancers look hot writhing in their bridal leotards, but unless you want to give your new father-in-law heart failure, keep your dance moves PG-appropriate.


Y is for Your Way

We say it all the time but make sure you have the wedding you want, and that means having the music that’s right for you. “Choosing the right band for you will make your wedding personal,” says William from Sphere Function Band. “Most bands can’t cover everything, so it’s important you find a band that reflects your taste.” You can personalise your music by letting your band or DJ know what song you’d like for your first dance “ a song that has particular meaning to you both “ and if you hand over a shortlist of your favourite tunes, they’ll do their best to play those too.


Z is for Zen

Finally, keep things zen. Before the first strains of the processional begin, have a relaxing morning of pampering and getting ready to your favourite chill mix. Or if the nervy energy kicks in, work it off jumping around to some drum and bass!