Following are some of my ideas on planning a successful wedding. My recommendation is to get these completed at least 1 hour before the end of your reception (or at least by the time the photographer leaves, as you want pictures of everything). These are all just suggestions based on my experience, but please remember that this is YOUR day!
When it comes to creating a time line of events, I always tell people not to become too obsessed. There are really only 4 main times that really matter:
- Hair & Make Up
- Ceremony Start
- Dinner Service
- When is your Photographer/Videographer leaving
You hire professionals to ensure all of the events are done timely, and that everyone is on the same page before the events happen, that includes you, your guests and all the vendors. that is my job (or the co-ordinators). A good DJ does a lot more than just play music!! Your job is to show up, have the time of your lives and go home, knowing that your vendors will take care of everything for you
The Events:Ceremony Reception Entrance Songs First Dance Toast Anniversary Dance Father/Daughter Dance Cake Cutting Honeymoon (Money) Dance Bouquet & Garter Toss Last Song
One thing to let you know before I start talking about the ceremony, is that I got myself ordained on line. This does not mean I am offering this as a service, I think that is the wrong way to do it, it means that if something happened to your officiant, I could step in and perform a basic ceremony that would be legal.
As guests start to arrive, there should be soft music playing, nothing too loud. I do not recommend using classical music at this point, the Vitamin String Quartet are great for this portion, they take well known songs and them in a strings format. There are other songs as well of course, but these are my favourites, every time I play them, at least 1 person comes up to me and asks me who it was, so I know people are paying attention !!. I do recommend using different music for the Ceremony Procession. and I will add that more and more people are using contemporary songs they like over the more traditional Classical music... When you make the change, people know the ceremony is starting. Of course you can use anything you wish :-)
For the wedding ceremony, the typical order of entry is as follows: Grandparents and Mothers are seated by the Groom/Groomsmen. The Officiant then walks in followed by the Groom the Groomsmen. I recommend using one song for this.(although i have used "Here Comes Your Man" - Pixies or "You're The Best" by Joe Esposito - from Karate Kid - for the Groomsmen before!!)
Next the Bridesmaids walk in, followed by the Maid/Matron of Honour and the Flowergirl and Ringbearer.
Of course you can have the bridesmaids and groomsmen walk in in pairs, it is entirely up to you.
Obviously the Bride is next, the only thing I would be aware of when picking a song here is to know how long it takes you to walk in, especially if you want a song with lyrics as it may not play for too long and the lyrics may lose their meaning if you have to end the song quickly ...
If you are having a "ceremony within the ceremony" such as the Sand Ceremony, or the Unity Candle Ceremony (be very careful doing this outside because of the wind), have the band/DJ play something softly in the background as the Officiant is reading the piece, then raise the volume as you perform the ceremony, it adds something to the overall ceremony.
A great song for this is "Watermark" - Enya
Once the Ceremony is over, you want a good recessional song, I think it is great to play something non - classical here. My personal favourite is "Marry You - Bruno Mars " . It is a fun way to end the ceremony, and makes a statement we are going to have some fun tonight. You want people to remember your wedding as being different and better than every other one they attended. This is one thing they will probably not have seen, and it is not at all tacky.
If you can do it, I would definitely recommend doing a group picture at this point. It is one picture you will spend many years looking at, probably more than any other picture, and it only takes a couple of minutes to get.Reception Entrance Songs:
I think that the introductions are the most important part of the reception. The ceremony is obviously the most part of the day, but when we do the introductions, it is the only time you are guaranteed to have everyone's attention. It is important to introduce the bridal party, they are your "warm up act". While I would never compare you to a sports team, when a team is introduced to the "big game" they always come out to an up beat song. I think it is better to have a separate song for the bride and groom from the bridal party. Have fun with this, I have done all sorts, from Star Wars to the Rocky Horror Theme to Hells Bells to Sexy & I Know It!!
I do recommend doing this after the introductions because the introductions don't take very long, and if I announce that we are having dinner straight after introductions, it can seem a bit anticlimactic.
I would never try and suggest what your first dance should be, every couple has a song that is personal to them. Additionally, do not worry how long the song is, have a signature move such as a dip and a kiss that I am looking out for and I will end the song when you do this. That way you are in control of how long you dance. After your first dance, I really enjoy going into one dance song before dinner, getting all the guests up. It goes over really well for young and old (just make sure you pick a really popular song !!) you can see a video of how this works on my promo CD page (called 'dance before dinner')
I firmly believe the best time to do the toast's are at the end of dinner. I get with the caterers (if you have a co-ordinator of course I work with them) and have them start to pour the toasts when the last person has gone through the buffet or been served their entree. By the time they have finished pouring the toast, everyone making the toast has finished eating, as they were served first. Everyone else is still sitting down and paying attention.
I find out from you in advance who is making the toasts and I make sure they know what order we will do the toast in, where to go and how to hold the microphone. You can do the toasts in any order, but the most common is Parents Of Bride - Parents Of Groom - Maid/Matron Of Honour - Best Man - Bride & Groom I ask them to go to where the bride & groom are sitting, so you can all be in the same pictures together, but I confirm with the photographer/videographer where they want them to be. I strongly advise you not to have an open toast, this can go on for a long time and you get those really bad unrehearsed speeches.
If you cannot think of a song, or do not have a favourite, ask your respective parents, it makes them feel more a part of the wedding. I would not recommend doing the whole song, people lose interest very quickly. Additionally (especially for the Mother - Son) choose a more upbeat song, I see a lot of "uncomfortableness" when a slow love song is used for this. Another option is to use the same song for both, have the Bride and her father come out first and then after a minute or so, invite the Groom & the Grooms mother to join them
An Anniversary dance is where you get all couples to the dance floor and eliminate them by the length of the marriage. If you want to do an anniversary dance and can find out who the "winning" couple will be, it is a nice touch to find out what their song was when they were married and (if I can find it) have me use this for the dance. It also helps to find out who the "runner up" is to help me keep it going until the end of the song. I have seen couples bring a bottle of champagne and hand this to the "winning" couple or give the lady an extra Bouquet (or your own if you are not doing a bouquet/garter toss). Typically the "winning" couple will be family members which make this all the more special. I have seen some very touching moments. If you do not know who the couple would be, or cannot find their song.
I do not say anything during the cake cutting, except to get people to go over to the cake. I believe there is nothing more tacky than a DJ giving a running commentary and trying to encourage you to smash the cake into each others face!! Depending on the song you pick, you may need 2 songs, as typically the cake cutting takes about 4-5 minutes
The Money Dance (I do not recommend calling it the Honeymoon dance as some guests won't understand ...) is not done at every wedding, for some weddings it is a traditional part of the wedding, for others, it is something the couple find hard to decide on, while they know that they want to do it, there is a feeling it is "tacky". If you are unsure as to whether to do it or not, my take on it is as follows, if you have an open bar, it is like them buying you a drink back. If you are not having an open bar, it may be considered "tacky" by the guests if it is not in your tradition.
The best time to do the Money Dance is right after the cake cutting. This gives people a chance to eat cake while others are taking their turn to dance, and they are not just standing around.
When selecting songs, try and avoid "I Love You" songs. One thing I have noticed over the years is that the songs are as important for the people waiting in line as they are for the people dancing with you. I want to keep them nodding their head, tapping their feet and singing along while they wait. Whilst I don't talk a great deal through the reception, as the wedding is not about me, this is one time where I talk a lot, to keep things moving. If you are not having the money pinned to yourself, have the Maid/Matron Of Honour collect the money for you. I ask people to form two lines and will announce something along the following lines.
"Ladies and Gentlemen" at this moment we will be having our Money Dance, your chance to dance with the bride or groom, so put your hands in your pockets and wish them as much luck as you can, come up and see our maid of honour and take your turn to dance with the bride or groom.
We can usually get about people through in 20-30 seconds, so we do not take up too much time. Some people like to have fun and be blatant when selecting songs, others like to be more subtle, it is whatever you want it to be !!
This is a moment some people really look forward to, and others not so much. One thing I have been doing at almost every wedding is to invite all the ladies up, whether they are single or married. This leads to a better picture as there are more people out there, and the single ladies don't feel so 'isolated' !!
A good idea is to bring 3 scratch off Lottery tickets and announce that the person that catches the Bouquet and Garter will get a ticket, and the one who does the best job will get 2. This is 100% designed to make the men more involved, and it works every time !! ) I also have a special twist at the end that you can ask me about. If you are going to do this (or look at the Video on my promo video page called 'Knee High Special!!
I do not recommend ending on a slow song. Sometimes it kills the energy and is almost better to do 20 minutes or so from the end and finish with a few dance songs to keep the energy level up, almost like an encore :-)
If you do want to do a slow one at the end, one song I like to use is Billie Joel's "Piano Man" I get everyone in a circle (the only time I do this is if you want me to). I have the bride and groom dance for a bit, then walk around the circle and thank everyone for coming. After that I like to play one more fast song, as an 'encore' and then, if you are ok with it, I play the Dan Band's version of 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' (from the movie - Old School) but I would of course never play this without your approval !!
If you have a chance, check out my blog (there is a link on the home page). I list all the songs I played in the dance portion for every event, as well as some pictures and a slide show.
I hope these suggestions help, remember, this is just a small selection of the music I have and I am just advising you, never telling you, how to run your wedding !!