a guitar on a chair at a wedding

How to plan the music for your whole wedding day

23rd November 2023

Wedding music plays a huge part in keeping your guests entertained throughout the course of the whole day so it's useful to know when you will need music and what your options are.

A wedding day will usually need music for the wedding ceremony, drinks reception, wedding breakfast and the evening function. Each part of the day needs a different type of music to create the perfect atmosphere, while a mix of live music and prerecorded music (from a playlist or DJ) will help to keep your guests engaged and having a great time all the way through.

In this article we'll go through each part of the day and give an insight into what to think about and some ideas for choices for your wedding music.

First here's a breakdown of a common wedding day schedule...

2pmWedding Ceremony
3pmDrinks Reception
4:30pmWedding Breakfast
7pmEvening reception with DJ or playlist music
8pmCake cutting
8:15pmFirst Dance leading into bands first 45 minute set
9pmEvening food/buffet
9:45pmBands 2nd 45 minute set
10:30pmDJ until midnight
MidnightWedding venue curfew

Wedding Ceremony: Getting the music right

The first part of a wedding that requires music is the wedding ceremony, which itself can be thought of as a series of mini-events that all need considering individually.

Typically it’s a good idea to have music at five points in a wedding ceremony as shown in the table below,

SectionMusic Requirements
Arrival of the guestsA collection of about 3 songs to set the tone and entertain the guests
Processional pt IA song as the bridesmaids enter
Processional pt 2A song for the entrance of the bride
Signing of the registers1/2 songs to be played for the guests
RecessionalA song to be played as the couple and guests leave the ceremony

Wedding ceremonies usually require around 7/8 songs or pieces of music which could be played live by an acoustic duo or string player for instance, or from a device such as Spotify on a phone connected to a speaker. For some ideas on great wedding ceremony songs check out our list here.

Drinks Reception: Music for mingling

The drinks reception is the part of the day where all the guests get relax a bit as the bride & groom have their photos taken. Guests are usually ready to chat and mingle by this point, often catching up with old friends or family members, the music should provide fun & interesting background music rather than a full, featured performance that requires attention. 

A drinks reception typically lasts around 60/100 minutes and is a great opportunity to include some live music. A small ensemble usually performs around 90 minutes of live music at a wedding drinks reception with a short break in the middle making it a perfect fit. 

Live music at a drinks reception is a great way to create a fun, relaxed vibe and give your guests a talking point or ice-breaker. An acoustic duo or trio performing cool live-lounge style versions often works really well. 

Wedding Breakfast: Create the right vibe for chatting

The wedding breakfast is a point of the day which often goes overlooked when it comes to music and entertainment. However, light background music is a great option to create a fun atmosphere as your guests wait for their meals and get to know their table partners. 

This could be a well crafted playlist like this or a small ensemble or band of musicians. The vibe of this playlist or band set should be fun but not too loud or energetic. Chilled, acoustic covers of famous pop songs played in a different style work particularly well here.

wedding breakfast musicians performing to guests
wedding breakfast musicians performing to guests

It’s also possible to hire microphones for speeches from musicians you have hired for another part of day. We include free microphone hire for speeches for all couples booking a package of daytime and evening live music as well as playlist background music between sets. 

First Dance: Create an unforgettable moment

The First Dance is a special part of the day and usually takes place during the early part of the evening reception at around 7/8pm, just after the cutting of the cake. It opens up the evening of partying for all your guests as they join you on the dance floor.

The history of the first dance can be traced back to 17th century France where it was called the “Minuet”. In modern times it's normal for the couple to take their first dance before their guests who join them on the dance floor around half way through the song. Interestingly, in Victorian Britain wedding music it was the other way around as it became common for the guests to dance first and the married couple to join in later.

first dance music band
first dance music band

Today many couples choose a song for the first dance that means something special to both of them. Often this is a slow pop song or a more energetic song that has been arranged as a slower ballad. Alternatively, a first dance can also be light-hearted with some couples opting for an uptempo song and a rehearsed dance routine, a great way to add some fun into your wedding music.  

Evening Reception: Let's dance!

After the first dance the party really begins so it’s important to get everyone and up dancing right away. If you have hired a band they will usually move straight into their first set at the end of the first dance, often around 7:30/8:30pm. The music needs to be upbeat but accessible as you will likely have a wide range of ages to cater for early at this point.

Typically wedding bands will perform 2 x 45 minute sets or possibly split their performances into three sets so it’s a good idea to at least roughly plan their set times to coincide with the evening food and any other activities such as sparklers and evening speeches if there are any.

We would recommend that the band finish their last set at least 40 minutes before the end of the evening in order to give your guests time to make some DJ requests after the band has finished. If you have guests scheduled to leave before the curfew then that can be considered too. 

wedding band musicians on stage

Wedding venues usually have a midnight curfew but in some cases you may want to extend the party beyond. Most bands can make arrangements for this and will be able to provide you with hourly rates for music after midnight. 

Enjoy your amazing wedding music!

Hopefully this article has helped to inform and inspire your musical decisions for your upcoming wedding. The Duplettes can help with every stage and we'll happily provide musical advice for the whole wedding, even the parts of the day you haven't hired us for!

To find out more about how we can help your wedding check out our line up options here.

Let us know if we answered your question using the form below!

The Duplettes are a professional function band available for weddings, parties and corporate events. We have a range of lineups to fit any event including our acoustic duo, cocktail trio and full party band.

You can also find our videos on our youtube channel here or contact us about your event using the button below.

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The Duplettes band playing music

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