There are a few things to know when hiring musicians for your event. I’m going to break this down into three distinct areas: wedding ceremonies, cocktails/dinners, and parties/dances.  If you are planning a wedding, your event will of course fall under all three categories.  Whether you choose the default church organist, a DJ or musicians, this two-part article will help you make the right choices for your event.  The article below will discuss wedding ceremonies; “Hiring Musicians for Your Event – Part 2” will focus on hiring musicians for cocktails, dinners, parties and/or dances.

1. Wedding Ceremonies

If you are deciding to use musicians for your wedding ceremony, make sure the church or venue is ok with that. Some churches don’t allow musicians to be brought in; others will make you pay for their organist even if you supply musicians yourself – and some ministers don’t allow secular (popular) music in the church.

In finding musicians, there are many of them out there (i.e. classical or jazz) who specialize in wedding ceremonies. You are best to stick with them. They will understand the dynamics of this unique type of event; they will know that the timing is crucial; they will know their place within the ceremony.

Pay attention to what the musicians normally offer in the way of instruments. Please don’t ask a ready-made ensemble to play with your Aunt Matilda on piano. And if you have wild ideas about inventing your own ensemble:  i.e. guitar, flute and French horn, you may be stuck with musicians who throw things together at the last minute. Now, solo musicians can work well, but really only for piano, organ, guitar or harp. Pretty-much everything else needs accompaniment of sorts. Solo violin, cello or flute each sound bare; they are made to play with each other, not alone.

As for song selections, all wedding musicians will be able to send you their song lists, complete with suggestions for the different aspects of the ceremony (if they don’t have a song list at the ready, it’s likely they don’t normally do weddings). Here are some things to consider:


This is the piece of music played for the bride’s arrival and the bridal party’s procession down the aisle. Usually one piece is chosen, which lasts the duration of the bridal party’s journey to the groom at the altar. Some suggestions for pieces of music to be played during the processional are:

– J.S. Bach: March (Notebook for Anna Magdalena)

– Handel: Aylesford Gavotte

– Pachelbel: Canon in D


Often the signing of the register can be a lengthy process. During this time the musicians can play any suitable music of your choice, whether traditional or modern. Suggestions of popular choices of traditional music are:

– J.S. Bach: Air on a G String

– Schubert: Ave Maria

– Vivaldi: Largo (Lute Concerto in D)


As the bride and groom leave as husband and wife, you will want music that is joyful and celebratory. Traditional recessional music includes:

– J.S. Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

– Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy)

– Purcell: Trumpet Tune

If you want a song not listed in the musicians’ repertoire, it is possible they can learn it, or they can do their own arrangement. For example, a guitar, piano or organ can play two or more parts simultaneously (i.e. a piece written for string quartet). The result will not sound like the original song, but will usually be quite effective. But be careful when expecting three or four musicians to play a piece normally written for a full orchestra, or a song normally played by a rock band – you may not like the end result. In any case, you will have to pay a little extra for a song not normally in the musicians’ repertoire. I have also been asked on occasion to COMPOSE music for the bride and groom. It’s a great idea, but quite costly.

When choosing music for the ceremony, please, please try to have only ONE song for the processional. It is very tricky to sync two or more pieces of music to the different aspects of the march down the aisle. Some people ask for a different song each for the groomsmen, mothers, bridesmaids and then the bride. Even if the musicians have arranged for the songs to be chopped up to accommodate everybody’s arrivals, the bridal party will almost never be able to time their entrances to the music – nor should they; there is too much going on for them to consider what part of the music dictates when they start to walk.

For a wedding rehearsal, the musicians do not need to be there. If you want us to attend the rehearsal, will we go, but you will have to pay extra for it. And I will bring a paperback to read, because I won’t actually be needed. The minister will ask why the heck the musicians are there, and you will have wasted your money. In the 30 minutes before the actual ceremony, the musicians will have a brief conversation with the minister or the wedding planner, and everything will go smoothly.

Copyright 2010, Steve Parton of Avalon String Trio and The Relics