Congratulations! Your hard work and musicianship have paid off, and a couple has asked you to play at their wedding. Whether you’re a DJ, singer, guitarist, or something else, there’s plenty of habits to practice to ensure your performance is as professional and stress-free as possible tips for playing music.
Based on personal experience, these are my 10 must-know tips for playing music at a wedding.
Practice, practice, practice
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, weddings are one of the highest-stake performances out there. Forgetting lyrics or botching a song transition will be noticed and hurt your reputation as a professional musician. It’s always best to be overprepared instead of underprepared. It’s also a good idea to prioritise what you’re playing. For example, if you’re playing the first dance song, it needs to a higher standard than the background music you played during canapes. Getting a good nights sleep before a wedding is always a good move too. It’s going to be a big day.
What to wear and what to bring?
As you know, setting up and packing down music gear can be strenuous and sweaty, so a suit or dress isn’t ideal. You don’t want to look like you’ve just done an 100m sprint when you’re playing either. One tactic I’ve found to be a godsend is to set-up your gear wearing some casual clothes, and then get changed into your formal attire. Some practical accessories to bring (depending on the season) include sunnies, sunscreen, umbrella or a raincoat. A water bottle is also essential!
Leave plenty of time to get to the venue
The last thing you want to be at a wedding is late. Showing up to the venue with plenty of time to spare ensures you have time to adapt to changes on the day, which happen more often than you might think. Not to mention getting lost on the road or having transport troubles. Setting up your music gear in new environments always presents new challenges to work around. Giving yourself ample time to set up and soundcheck will make the day 10x easier and less stressful. Say you notice one of your leads isn’t working, that extra time might be enough to get a friend to drop one off.
Triple check your gear before leaving
There’s not a scarier moment than realising you left a vital piece of gear at home. Triple check you have all the things you need before leaving your home to avoid major stress. Charge your phone, bring spare batteries, lengthy extension cords, and anything else you can think of to ensure you’re as adaptable as possible. In case a power point doesn’t work, having a battery-powered backup amp as backup can be a lifesaver. The Roland Street Cube XL is a fantastic option for performers out there that need to play without a power source.
Break the ice
Once you arrive at the venue, make sure you introduce yourself to whoever in running things, and find out what the plan of action is. Don’t be a stranger, you’re an important member of the vending team! If you can’t locate the PowerPoint or don’t know where to set up, someone else at the venue will probably have an idea. It’s also a good idea to talk to venue staff about food and drink. See if you can organise a good time to grab a bite or something to drink in between your sets.
Have a tried and true setlist
A wedding isn’t the place for gloomy songs or experimentation. When possible, keep things light and upbeat, to match the vibe of the occasion. Trust me, people will notice what songs you play, and at weddings, you want to stick to what works. If you’re a DJ, now isn’t the time to YouTube to mp3 a sick beat and start improvising. Below are some tunes I’ve found are commonly well-reciprocated, which you can springboard off.
Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
Crazy in Love – Beyonce
Dancing In The Moonlight – Toploader
Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson
Hey Ya! – OutKast
I empathise with the soul-drain of playing the same songs over and over again, but remember, you’re getting paid. The reason you play these songs is because people love them. If the couple love a certain artist, be sure to sprinkle some of their tracks into the mix too.
Weddings often run a little late, so be prepared to play things by ear. I’ve been told to stop early, play for longer, play in a different spot, play softer, play louder, you get the idea. Stick to your run sheet, but also understand that if plans change, you need to go with the punches. You’re there to serve the day, this isn’t your show.
Let the couple enjoy their day
Trust me, the couple aren’t going to be worrying about your problems on their big day. Be as self-sufficient and independent as possible, and only contact them on the day if the matter is urgent. Once there’s a free moment and you’re already settled in, be sure to congratulate the couple. Try to pick a moment where they look relaxed and free to talk. They’ll really appreciate it.
Have business cards
Look at you, absolutely nailing your songs and entertaining the crew! Someone’s come up to talk to you, but you don’t have much time. Here’s a sure-fire trick: Thank them for their compliment or enquiry, then direct them to take one of your cards. It’s an excellent networking tool and means you can focus on the wedding today and address their inquiry at a later time.
Playing a wedding is wild fun. Getting people dancing and bringing good vibes to a couples day is a wholesome experience. Not to mention a lot of weddings are pretty fancy, so you’ll get to enjoy some gorgeous scenery and delicious food/beverages. Listen to the speeches, cheer when the couple kiss, and take a piece of cake if someone offers you one. You’ve earned it. When you’ve got a moment, be sure to take it all in. You’re soundtracking a very special day.