Singing acoustic guitarist and friends? Powerhouse duo? Full performance band? Band and DJ? Whatever your preference, there are highly recommended, local preferred partners to create the soundtrack for one of the most important days of your life — your wedding!
Everyone is pumped that in-person events — particular weddings — have exploded again now that we’re all thoughtfully leaning into the new, new endemic normal. Hiring the right music group for your wedding helps get the party started and keeps it going. We talked to singing acoustic guitarist and DJ Anders Hyatt of Anders Hyatt Music, and Jon Ardito of Sugarbomb Entertainment and Stephanie Fitzpatrick of EBE Talent who both represent pretty much every type of band you can imagine. Here’s their inside intel on the wedding live music scene!
What’s trending and super hot right now for wedding live music?
Anders Hyatt of Anders Hyatt Music:
Right now, a lot of people are struggling to decide whether they want a wedding band or a DJ for their wedding, as they weigh various concerns, such as budget, venue capabilities, guest count and their overall vision for what they want their night to be like. One option that seems to be very popular at the moment is to hire vendors who can provide both live music and DJing, giving them the best of both worlds — and, that’s my specialty! The live music typically covers the ceremony and cocktail hour, and then DJing begins during the reception. This allows couples to have the incredible atmosphere created by live music at the beginning of the event, along with the ability to have an awesome dance party at the end of the night.
Jon Ardito of Sugarbomb Entertainment:
In terms of an unexpected band, Queen is very popular again. The 2018 film “Bohemian Rhapsody” really got millennials and Gen Z fixated on this classic rock band. The hottest trend, though, is the ability to transcend live events into the social media realm … if it’s not on Instagram or TikTok, did it even happen? Trending songs, wedding hashtags, capturing special event moments, editing video content to viral audio clips are all a part of it because although weddings have a limited invitation list, these days, everyone gets to see the results on social media. So, it all ties together: music, the live moments, social media appeal and the potential viral nature of really special content.
Stephanie Fitzpatrick of EBE Talent:
Live bands are back in a big way! Couples and their guests are more excited than ever to really party and dance the night away since large celebrations were stalled due to the pandemic. Whether a couple is envisioning a large 13- to16-piece wedding band, a mid-size 9- to12-piece band, a smaller band or a DJ/hybrid ensemble, live music is being requested now more than ever.
Are there certain genres or styles that are really popular now and that you see moving into 2023?
There isn’t a specific genre that I see taking over when it comes to wedding music. But most people like to have calming, unobtrusive music to start out the event as guests begin to arrive and for the wedding ceremony itself. This can be a string quartet, trio or duo. Or, even just a solo guitar player or violinist. Typically cocktail hour music is more upbeat and fun, celebrating the union that just occurred and giving you a taste of what’s to come later in the evening. Dinner is more relaxed, and the music often slows down a bit. More importantly, the music quiets down a bit at this time so that people can converse easily and enjoy their food — the music creates a nice background ambiance. Once dinner ends, everything picks back up as the dancing begins.
Dance bands are always staying on top of the latest pop songs. This year the must-have covers are Doja Cat, new Justin Beiber, Lizzo, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and many other top billboard artists.
“So I saw this on TikTok…” is a common opener when couples are giving our bandleaders their song requests right now. TikTok trends are definitely driving the music charts and the live music scene at weddings and events right. Songs like “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen and “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion are suddenly reemerging as trending songs, and their popularity is fueled by viral TikTok challenges and trends.
In addition, pop music selections played by classical string music ensembles have become incredibly popular for wedding ceremonies and cocktail hours since the show “Bridgerton” was released; the second season definitely continued the trend.
Music is super-personal — how does that drive the trends?
In general, people seem to love instrumental covers of popular songs for their wedding ceremony music. Classic songs like “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong or “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles are always popular and still pretty trendy today. Of course, Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” is always a big one.
Lately, people have requested songs that have been popularized by current TV shows and movies. For example, “Simply the Best” as performed by Noah Reid (Patrick from “Schitt’s Creek”) has been getting requested a lot. I’ve also learned songs from movies like “Princess Bride,” “Lord of the Rings” and Pixar’s “Up.” I’m seeing more country music songs get requested, as artists like Chris Stapleton and Thomas Rhett gain popularity. But most of the time, people are choosing songs that are meaningful specifically to them and we, as musicians, are gearing our performances toward those specific tastes to personalize our set lists to match our couples’ vision.
It is personal. That’s what makes the preparation phase so important. No two couples are the same. It becomes very important to understand each couple and cater to their preferences. TikTok songs reign supreme in 2022, and we don’t see that ending. If it’s viral on TikTok, you’d better believe your Gen Z wedding crowd can “jiggle jiggle” to it on the dance floor!
So many decades throughout history are becoming popular again in both fashion, aesthetics and music. ‘70s disco, ‘80s dance hits, ‘90s and early 2000s throwbacks are all back in a big way. TikTok stars such as Charlie Puth and Lizzo, as well as pop icons Harry Styles and Doja Cat, are all top requests right now as well.
What are your top tips for those looking to have live music at their wedding?
Make sure that you allow the musicians you hire to have some freedom to choose songs that they perform well and that will work for the room. A good musician or band should be able to “read the room.” They should be able to see what is working well in the moment and adapt their performance to enhance the overall atmosphere. This doesn’t mean you won’t have any input on what should and shouldn’t be played. You should definitely communicate your preferences to whomever you hire so that you’re on the same page. But, don’t tell them exactly what to play and in what order. Give them some creative freedom. For example, if you hire a florist, they’ll want to know what colors you prefer and the general appearance/style you’re going for, but you wouldn’t try to tell them exactly where to place each individual flower. It’s the same with music.
Trust the integrity of the act/agent. The post-pandemic band market is very full. There are a ton of new bands, which means a lot of options for couples. It also means thoroughly vetting the act/agent. This is pretty straightforward advice, but you really just want to make sure you’re booking a band that can play your songs, communicate effectively and execute your vision.
Hire a band that does more than just play music. A professional wedding/event band that stays on top of trends, constantly learns new music and is truly versed in creating a wedding timeline or event flow that is conducive to a high-energy party is the key to packing the dance floor and getting rave reviews from everyone in attendance.
What can the bride/groom and bridal party do in advance to make sure the day goes smoothly music-wise?
First, make sure that you think about what songs you want for the important moments. This includes processional and recessional songs during the ceremony, your first dance, and the mother/son and father/daughter dances. It also includes what song or songs you want playing as you are introduced into the reception, and perhaps the last song of the night. Whomever you hire should be able to help you out with suggestions if you’re struggling to come up with ideas.
In general, talk to your musicians and make sure they have a good understanding of your musical preferences. If you’re not picky about music, that’s OK! Just let them know. They’ll know what’s generally popular and should have no problem creating a pleasing musical experience. If you’re picky, give them a really good idea of what you like. You could send them a Spotify playlist with all your favorite songs. Don’t expect them to play each and every song on that list in the exact order you want, but make sure they have a good grasp of what you like. For those couples who have really specific musical tastes, it’s more important to share the songs they don’t want to hear. Remember to consider what your friends and family will enjoy, as well.
Provide as many details about music preferences as possible. Some couples provide us with Spotify playlists and others go through our song lists — we like to put the ball in their court when it comes to making these decisions. Every detail of a wedding reflects the couple, and music is no exception.
A packed dance floor and party that doesn’t stop means your guests have to love it too! Talk to your bridal party, closest relatives and guests about what they’re excited to dance to at your wedding, and consider including some of their ideas to your request list.
Anything else that you’d like to say to couples?
Choose music that you as a couple love. Don’t worry too much about whether it’s too popular or not popular enough. And honestly, don’t get overly concerned with the meaning behind the lyrics of every song. Your wedding guests won’t be scrutinizing every song and deciding whether it’s appropriate for the day. If you enjoy the song, that’s all that really matters. Music is pretty much always there in the background during any kind of celebration or special gathering. It speaks to the soul and brings people together. So just make sure you give some thought to what will be the soundtrack for the most important day of your life.
It’s your day — make sure you step back and take it all in!
We’re thrilled to see the wedding and events industry explode the way that it is right now and to help couples and their families create so many beautiful memories again. It’s sort of like the roaring ’20s after prohibition ended — we’re excited to bring the party!
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Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a five-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news and recipes from our executive chef.
Featured photo by Megan Hoffer