Many brides are planning their 2010 & 2011 weddings now, and we'd like to share some suggestions from years of experience at providing music and related services for weddings. Keep in mind some of these suggestions spring from humorous events, not all from tragic fiascos.

1. PICK A "BAD" HALL - With the caveat of "To Each His Own", my personal take on this, is a hall that holds 2 or more weddings simultaneously can cause problems. The biggest problem is obviously the noise...you may be having the heartfelt toast from a shy Best Man, and be hearing the crowd singalong from "Y.M.C.A." down the hall. When you first arrive with your wedding party, expecting a unique celebration, you may run into the dregs of a reception winding down....and suddenly your wedding is just one in an assembly line, and loses the personal and gracious feeling you may have wanted. Also when you're evaluating a hall, after looking at the French doors, gurgling fountain, and corner where you'll place the cake table, consider the parking. Your guests will have to. (yes, there are rentable valet services). Also think what ambiance do you want?.....rustic?..... elegant?.....new?....old?......great view? Be sure to check out the history of your venue if it was built before 1950. (e.g. Jack London got married in a particular Oakland church, the renovated Palace Hotel (aka Sheraton Palace) in San Francisco has quite a history of famous people celebrating there... San Francisco's St. Francis -now called Westin St. Francis...was noteworthy for its survival of the 1906 earthquake).

Solution: Call us if you want a list of our favorite Bay Area halls, or ask the hall manager (i.e. catering dept.) if there will be a simultaneous wedding within 100'.

2. HURRY UP THE CEREMONY -Many brides and grooms overlook the planning of the ceremony until the last minute..give it a low priority. The ceremony is over in 6 minutes, the minister gives a 30 second homily and it's so short it seems like a joke.

Solution: Don't forget, this is a big part of the wedding ritual...also it's one of the few opportunities in modern life for poetry and great words of wisdom. You can, of course, use the Bible for a source, but don't forget Shakespeare, John Donne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Yeats....you can even pick a humorous but optimistic quote about love or marriage from authors like Shakespeare, Dr. Johnson or Mark Twain. You can ask 1 to 3 members of your bridal party, to each pick a 30 second poem or thought and read it. (English majors really rise to the challenge)...it really gives more of a personal touch to a ceremony. If you want to take the easy way out, use something "individual" like Kahil Gibran (not exactly unique--it's been used in c. 80% of ceremonies for the past 8 years.."Now I will feel no pain" (though I will feel boredom from hearing the same poem over and over).

3. CEREMONY MUSIC - Some brides shun the church organist for recorded music in the sanctuary. They would rather have a canned version of the latest week's Top 40 ballad (recorded by 2 strangers in a studio in L.A. with drum machines), than the dignity and quality of live music. If you're fortunate enough to have a ceremony where there is a large church pipe organ, it can create a spectacular old fashioned sound, and add to that spine-tingling feeling when you walk down the aisle. If you don't want to use the church organ, there are options like harp/viola duo, string quartet, guitar/flute duo, solo harp, solo piano, brass quintet, etc. Of course, some wonderful classical pieces can set the tone before the ceremony while people are being seated...and continue the ambiance for a while after the ceremony. Alas, in today's society, unless a classical piece is a theme in an advertisement or a Tom Hanks movie, people seem unfamiliar with the genre. We've had a bride that requested the music that "was in that Gallo wine advertisement". I think I'll give up planning music for weddings when a bride asks to have the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" theme for her processional. If you don't know anything about classical music, why not leave it up to the musicians (and their Mozart and Vivaldi) to recommend some pieces, rather than draw upon a Hollywood concocted memory to spark your musical choice.

Solution: If you're considering live music for the ceremony, call us for a "wedding sampler" CD (with 7 different classical groups), or use the church organist.

4. TRYING TO "MIKE" THE CEREMONY - With good intentions, some brides have wanted to use a microphone for the ceremony. Keep in mind, if your ceremony is outdoors, you may have the problem of wind blowing over the microphone. (try to use a "windscreen" on the mike"). Also, the minister may not want to lean his(her) head into your mike, just to make a good recording. We've seen the beautiful old fashioned ambiance of a ceremony be marred by the obtrusiveness of a mike, and the awkward neck craning needed for 3 people to share it (groom, bride, minister...and any ceremony readers).If your feel adamant about putting a mike in the mix, try to be satisfied with a recording of the "natural sound" of the ceremony..and not aim for a crystal clear recording.

5. PICK A BAD TIME OF DAY/MONTH FOR WEATHER- Of course, you can still have a good time if it's raining or windy...but one of the worst mistakes brides can make is to plan a wedding outdoors in the heat of the day (1pm-4pm), in July, August or September - in one of the hotter areas of the Bay Area (Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Sacramento, Livermore, Los Gatos, etc.). We've seen many weddings made insufferable by outdoor heat...picture your 4 bridesmaids in those mauve outfits, with arm stains, and soggy hairstyles. If there's a chance it might be over 90 degrees that date (look at an almanac in the library) try to push the hours later (6-10pm). Obviously, if it's indoors, make sure there will be sufficient air conditioning. If you're planning an outdoor wedding and that date there is a slight possibility of rain, research getting a tent beforehand, so you won't be a frazzled if it happens. We did get hired to provide music for a large wedding, under a tent, which endured rain, wind and hail that day..with the sun coming out at the end. The bride kept a good outlook though, laughing about it, and the couple will always have the weather stories to tell.

6. FIGHT OVER D.J. VS. BAND - This is not uncommon. The bride may want a band, and the groom a D.J. Or perhaps the parents want a band, and the couple wants a D.J. Wherever the lines of battle or drawn, there is an easy solution.

Solution: Band/D.J. combination - everyone will be happy...fortunately the cost is less than the individual cost of a band + a disc jockey....there is quite a break in price for the package...(the D.J. cost is nominal when added in to a band/D.J. combination.) We also have a pamphlet which explains the advantages and disadvantages of band vs. D.J.... To request the pamphlet, see our questionnaire.

7. LEAVE OUT RELATIVES IN FIRST DANCE - Often, if there has been a divorce in the bride or groom's family, the bride will want to avoid the sticky situation by not having the divorce(e) or widower join in. Or if everyone has remarried, there may be 3 or 4 couples of "parents" joining in.

Solution: Plan out who the divorce(e) can dance with if they haven't remarried. (e.g. if the bride's mother is divorced, perhaps she can dance with her son, or a friend.). If there are step-parents now, they all should be invited in, if possible. Try to empathize with the parents...this is one of the few roles they have in your wedding celebration, so try to put in the extra effort to allow them all to take part. If it's impossible for them to dance (perhaps they are too sickly, or can't find a partner), then you can dedicate a song to them later in the reception.

8. ODD MUSIC CHOICES - In the end, it's your day, so whatever you select, it's your prerogative. We've already expressed the opinion that canned (D.J.) music isn't particularly tasteful in a church sanctuary. Fortunately some church workers are still authoritarian enough to disallow it at the altar. For the First Dance, there are those who want the latest Top 40 ballad (do you really want people to think of scenes of Leonardo di Caprio drowning near the Titanic as you have your First Dance?) There are other adventuresome brides who want to pick something unusual or fun. (For a 2002 wedding the bride requested we perform "That's Amore" for a First Dance...it is, after all, a waltz. Not everyone these days has a well rounded music appreciation, so often brides make song choices based on relentless T-V advertisement themes (the last 2 years the most popular First Dance choice was"At Last", a beautiful love song sung by Etta James "rediscovered" by the 20 something generation because of its use in a car ad.) . Strangely enough in a wedding held in San Francisco a couple of years ago, a well known Hollywood actress chose "Ain't No Sunshine" for her First Dance--not exactly a romantic celebratory tune (the lyrics lament that the partner is "always gone"). Fortunately for brides-to-be, there are some great music lyric writers from the 1940's whose songs are sweet and graceful enough to be that one sentimental song you'll cherish. (e.g. "Our Love Is Here to Stay")....and there are, if you look and listen, other wonderful song choices out there from each era.(Call us for a list).

9. AGONIZE OVER BAND DECISION - Everyone wants the "best" band (according to their taste) for their wedding. When we ask the bride what kind of music she wants, 80% of them say something vague like "fun dance music" (and one may be thinking of a band playing lots of James Brown and Aretha, another may be thinking of a "jump swing" band playing obscure tunes by Louis Jordan, another may be too embarassed to say that she's thinking of a band that can play ABBA and Billy Joel songs.) We help you to articulate what your "vision" is and then match up the band for you. But some brides can get what I call "Christmas tree lot vertigo". They start driving around seeing band after band, their "evaluation process" is one of "looking for a flaw" (e.g. the band doesn't know "Dancing Queen", or the band does know "Dancing Queen", the bass player wasn't grinning enough, etc.)...after a while the bride's memory of the bands turns into a spinning vertigo (like you get after you've been walking around in circles in a big Christmas tree lot.....most of the trees are quite nice, but you find a little flaw with perfectly good trees...you feel dizzy..."lots of green, can't breathe......must make decision.") We can help.....When we send out the demo CD of several bands (along with repertoire lists, pricing, etc.), I now include my own "personal recommendations" (listing good & weak points of all the bands, and noting my personal top 1 or 2 recommendations (and why).

10. TRY TO FINE TUNE WEDDING TOO MUCH - This type of detail-conscious strategy can be successful in your own workplace, but it often inhibits the mood at a wedding reception. Remember this is a party, not a organ transplant. We've seen brides, that actually had schedules as tight as like:

  • 2:00 p.m. all guests finish eating
  • 2:03 p.m. Bride & Groom cut the cake
  • 2:08 p.m. Best Man gives 60 second toast (make sure he doesn't talk longer)
  • 2:09 p.m. photographer takes photo of Best Man holding glass to bride and groom
  • 2:10 p.m. band plays "It Had to Be You"
  • 2:14 p.m. band plays just a few seconds (for laughs) of "Poker Face"
  • 2:15 p.m. band plays "Knock on Wood"
  • 2:20 p.m. Bride throws bouquet
  • 2:25 p.m. Bride and groom take photo in front of fountain
  • It's not conducive to a fun party to have such a tight schedule. Also, by nature, weddings are somewhat spontaneous...extra people decide to give toasts....photographers have to change the film in their cameras.....people leave the room to go talk.....sometimes the dinner takes longer.......children interrupt........ministers extemporize.......Maids of Honor sing surprise songs.......relatives want to "sit in" with the band.....

    So just relax and enjoy your day. If you keep a happy and flexible attitude, you'll have a delightful (even if flawed with human unpredictability) event....and probably a good start on a wonderful marriage.

    If you would like to receive a free copy of these (and more) suggestions for planning a wedding, request it through our questionnaire.

    Back to Home