The soundtrack to your wedding day should be as glorious as the visuals, but choosing the right music is never an easy task—so we sought advice from the experts to find out what options are out there and how to choose the right one for your big day:

1. Bring on the strings

A string quartet or harpist adds a wonderful ambience to a church, drinks reception and even dinner, bringing a glamorous and traditional air to any venue, from the beach to a 17th-century cathedral.

Tradition meets trends: Just because they are using classical instruments doesn’t mean they’ll only play classical music—some string quartets or harpists will offer an old-fashioned repertoire, whereas others will perform instrumental versions of modern hits, so it's up to you to find the right fit.

Most are available for performances of around three hours, which means you can glide from the ceremony to the drinks reception with the prettiest choice of background music.

Setting the scene: “A harpist will perform throughout your event, with short breaks between sessions,” says entertainment booker Alison Vardy. “For weddings, we recommend booking a harpist for your ceremony, drinks reception and wedding breakfast. You are likely to want something a lot livelier for your evening reception.”

While string quartets may not pack the dancefloor, there is no better way for creating a sense of early-evening romance.

2. With the band

A great band is the best way to ensure that your guests are twisting and twirling all night long—so get them playing straight after dinner. Choosing well is arguably the most important factor in making your reception a success, so don't hire someone without doing your research.

Find the right fit: It's important to ask them a few questions to find out if their style will work with the ambience you're going for. For example, if you’re planning a chic black-tie cocktail party, a hard-core rock and roll band is simply not going to work. If possible, try to see them play live before you book.

Don't skimp: This is not an area to try to save a few dollars on. “I would say the most common mistake most people make when picking a band is they simply choose an affordable band to perform in one of the most important events in their lives, their weddings,” says Michelle Lo from Hong Kong’s Deans Live Music.

“I would say it is definitely unreasonable for a wedding band of four or five members to charge under HK$10,000 for around three hours, and this is including the PA system rental. The saying "you get what you pay for" is never truer than with wedding music.”

See also: Appily Ever After: 10 Wedding Apps To Help Plan Your Big Day

3. Hey, Mr. DJ 

Pick the right DJ and your guests will be on the dancefloor all night long. It definitely doesn't hurt to ask for references, especially from former brides, who will tell you if a particular DJ made the cardinal sin of misreading the crowd or was the life and soul of the party.

The perfect playlist: Work out in advance if you want a DJ who sticks religiously to your personally curated playlist, or whether you’d be happy for the DJ to go off-piste a few times. If it’s the former, get your playlist to the DJ as early as possible, as each one has a different system, and many involve placing your music on their master systems.

Finally, decide whether you’re happy for the DJ to take requests from your friends and family and, if so, whether there are any Do Not Play tracks you really don’t want to hear on the big day (think songs that remind you of your ex or that your family won’t approve of).

Crowd pleaser: Remember: it’s not just about you. “I think a common mistake the bride and groom make when choosing songs is only thinking about what they want, not what the guests want,” says Hong Kong wedding musician and DJ Johnson Ho. “It’s very important to choose songs that make the guests feel like they’re at home and enjoying themselves. The bride and groom are often too busy to listen to music so it’s the guests that they need to make sure are happy.”

See also: Real Weddings: Inside Joanna Lui And Troy Hickox's Three Gorgeous Weddings Around The World

4. Make it jazzy

Make your wedding a smooth and sophisticated affair with the crooning vocals of a singer who can recreate the sounds of jazz-era musicians like Frank Sinatra or Etta James. Start with a single sax player at your drinks reception, who can then join the band later in the evening to play classics by everyone from Charlie Parker to Michael Bublé.

All about ambience: Michelle Lo of Deans Live Music suggests a variety of jazz throughout the evening, from the single sax for drinks; jazzy, romantic music with vocalists over dinner; followed by bossa nova, blues, R&B and romantic pop to dance the night away. 

“As usual practice, we would suggest our clients choose 30 to 40 per cent of their banquet songs and let our professional event music planner plan the rest,” says Lo. “We believe a good live wedding band is indeed selling professional advice rather than solely the performance itself.”

Sound check: When it comes to jazz, sound quality is everything. “People don't realise how important a good PA system is to having great jazz music at a banquet. Most clients believe the venue will provide a good enough sound system. Sadly, that is not the case, and you need to arrange all of that in advance.”

5. Go a capella 

Few things delight guests more than a cappella, which provides a unique flair to your wedding. Whether it's a vocal group or beatboxers, they're sure to astonish with their ability to deliver the best in every music genre using their voices alone.

New classics: “A cappella groups are a welcome update on traditional choirs and are much more flexible than wedding bands,” says Lizzy Weintz from AfterParty, an international group that travels the world to perform at events. “You can stick us in the church, by the bar during cocktails, or on stage at the reception.”

Make it personal: One of the best things about an a capella group is that they can customise their performance to suit the style of your wedding (vintage, rock ’n’ roll, glamorous, etc.) and write songs specifically for the happy couple.

“We can sing any song, or any mash-up of songs, that the couple dreams up. In the past, we have serenaded newlyweds during their first dance, sung in an alpine church ceremony and even helped someone propose to his girlfriend—luckily, she said yes!”

See also: 13 Beauty Essentials To Look And Feel Flawless On Your Wedding Day

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