How much music can be played during the wedding ceremony?

When hiring a live band for your wedding ceremony it is reasonable to try and allow them to play as much as possible to make sure get your money’s worth! However, most wedding ceremonies, whether church-based or civil, need to observe fairly strict rules as to how much music is permissible and at which points it can be played.

Although these regulations may seem a bit restrictive, there are some ways you can get around them to ensure you maximise the effect of your wedding musicians.

A band will play as your guests gather and accompany the bridal procession

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Most of your guests will begin making their way into your wedding venue about a quarter of an hour before the ceremony is due to begin. If you can arrange for the musicians to have access to the venue a little earlier, they can set up and be ready to play some quiet atmospheric pieces as people take their seats. Most bands will be happy to perform three or four pieces or songs of your choice to help set the scene and prepare your guests.

When the bride is ready to make her grand entrance, the bandleader needs to be tipped off so the band can begin playing at the perfect moment. The musicians will be happy to play any music at this point, but bear in mind that the music needs to be appropriate for announcing the arrival of the bride. A fanfare-style piece that will have an immediate effect and grab the attention of all your guests is usually ideal.

Discuss the remaining ceremony songs with the vicar or registrar

The amount of music that is allowed during the ceremony itself is usually down to the discretion of the vicar or registrar. At church ceremonies there are usually slots for a couple of hymns to be sung as long as the vicar approves your choices. Unfortunately, at civil ceremonies there doesn’t tend to be the same allocation for music, but a sympathetic registrar might be more accommodating.

During the signing of the register there is almost always the opportunity to play another piece – you might even squeeze two in here. Once again, the content of the music is down to the discretion of the registrar or vicar – at church ceremonies they may be required to be hymns or anthems, whereas at civil ceremonies no religious content is permitted.

Live music can accompany the newly-married couple from the venue at the end of the ceremony. It is usually best to choose something uplifting and celebratory to signal the start of the party!

The band could perform outside the venue or at the start of your reception

Once the ceremony is over there is usually a lull as photographs are taken and people generally mingle. This is the perfect opportunity to make use of your band – especially if they are an acoustic group that can easily relocate. Ask them to join your guests outside the venue and perform some enlightening music to keep everyone entertained and maintain the atmosphere.

Alternatively you could ask your musicians to make their way to your reception site where they can perform a set to accompany the start of the evening festivities.

During a wedding ceremony there are usually 4 or 5 real opportunities for a live band to play. Traditionally these tend to be before the ceremony, the bridal procession, during the signing of the register and the newlywed couple’s exit. If you want to get more out of your live musicians, ask them to play during the photographs outside, or at the start of your evening reception.

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