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10 Ideas to Save Money on Wedding Ceremony & Reception Party Music

By Casey Slide

wedding march violinIt’s amazing how certain tunes are so ingrained into our culture. The Happy Birthday song, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and of course, the wedding march, can all be recognized within a few notes.

“Here comes the bride, all dressed in white…” Boys and girls alike learn that song at a very young age. Amazingly, even the most tone-deaf rendition is recognizable. There’s no hiding the wedding march!

Chances are that you’re familiar with not only the wedding march, but also with several other tunes that are typically played at weddings, such as Pachelbel’s Canon (otherwise known as Canon in D). While these define traditional wedding ceremony music, there are no set rules and nothing is required. Even if you’re planning a wedding on a budget, you can easily incorporate these traditional pieces into a modern celebration. Your wedding day is an expression of your love and life, and the music you choose should reflect who you are as a couple.

With that said, there are a lot of great options out there for planning wedding music on a budget. Here are some ideas on how you can save money on music for both your ceremony and reception.

Save Money on Wedding Ceremony Music

1. Ask a Friend or Family Member to Perform
You probably know at least one person who is musically inclined. Most would be honored to sing or play an instrument at your ceremony. The added bonus of having a truly personal performance at your ceremony will mean something to them, and you.

2. Hire a Music Student
Contact your local community college or university, and talk with the music department. Many aspiring musicians will probably jump at the chance to perform publicly and get a little extra money. Since students are not professionals, you could offer to pay them half of what you would pay a professional. Not only would this benefit you, it would also benefit the student.

3. Skip the Solo Instruments
I went to a wedding some years back where a trumpet was played while the bride walked down the aisle. Her father had recently passed away, and the trumpet was his favorite instrument which symbolized his presence and approval of the marriage. It was a moment I will never forget and thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes.

It is clear that solo instruments can add an elegant touch to any ceremony, but unless you have a very special reason like this bride did, you should skip on the solo instruments and save a significant amount of money. With that said, if you are set on live music, go with a solo musician rather than an expensive quartet or band. Also, if you are getting married in a church, check to see if they have a regular organ or piano accompanist available before pursuing outside musicians.

4. Don’t Have Live Music
If you really just do not have money in your budget for live music during your ceremony, there is a great alternative. Download some of your favorite songs to your MP3 player or burn them to a CD. I actually used a mixture of live music and recorded music at my ceremony to give it a more personalized feel.

Save Money on Wedding Reception Music

5. Hire a DJ Instead of a Band
While live bands can bring a certain sophistication to a wedding reception and can have a lot of fun with the crowd, guests tend to enjoy DJ’s more nowadays. Not only that, having a DJ costs significantly less than having a band. Unless you know a band who can cut you a deal or you have your heart set on live music, go with a DJ instead of a band.

6. Get a Friend to DJ
If you know someone who has any musical interest and a wide variety of music in their personal library, ask if they would like to be the DJ at your wedding. Some people would jump at the opportunity to be the master of ceremonies (and have a very good reason to stay off the dance floor!). If your friend is willing to DJ for free, all you will need to do is rent the equipment if they don’t already have it.

7. Hire Someone New to the Business
If you do not feel comfortable hiring a non-professional to be in charge of your reception music, consider hiring someone new to the DJ business. The more well-established someone is in the profession, the more they will charge. Just make sure you are not the new DJ’s very first wedding, and get at least one recommendation.

8. Pass on Having Cocktail Hour Music
There really is no reason to have a musician during the cocktail hour. Most guests will be busy chatting while they are eating wedding appetizers and drinks. They will not even know what they are missing. You can always see if your wedding venue has the ability to play some background music over the speakers.

9. Don’t Forget to Negotiate
See if you can cut a deal with your DJ if you hire him well in advance. Also inquire if your DJ offers any extras, such as lights or a fog machine. Ask if you can cut out those extras, and negotiate the price down a bit.

10. Download Your Own Music
No one knows your taste in music better than you do (maybe with the exception of your future spouse). So why not provide your own music for your wedding? You can have any song or any style you desire. You can either have the music played straight from a playlist on your MP3 player, or designate someone to take requests and manage the music. All you will need to do is rent the proper equipment.

Final Word

Music is not something you want to completely pass on for your wedding. Music at the ceremony adds elegance and sophistication, and music at the reception will make it a real party. The good news is, if you use these tips, you can keep the costs comfortable for you and your future spouse in order to have a budget-friendly wedding.

What have you done to keep music costs low for your wedding? Share your ideas in the comments below!

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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  • Erik Folgate

    I have a friend at work that’s getting a string quartet to play at their wedding, and instead of hiring an expensive professional trio, she’s getting aspiring music students to do it, and paid a third of the amount for it. Great tips, Casey!

  • Jillian Lovejoy

    These are great! We actually hired a string quartet of high school students for our ceremony, and plugged a laptop into the sound system with our own playlist for the reception. Both worked great and saved us a bundle!

  • FrancesB

    I’m afraid this article should be entitled “10 ideas to have horrible music at your wedding ceremony and reception”. I wouldn’t ask friends, family, or students to perform for such an important occasion, I would hire some qualified professionals. I’m sure there are good ones available for fair rates.

    • Casey Slide

      Why do you say that? Did you have a bad experience?

      • FrancesB

        Not personally, but I was at a wedding of a friend who used amateurs and their performance was really quite bad. I wouldn’t want the musicians I’d choose to make my guests laugh or turn away in horror.

        • Casey Slide

          That’s not good. Perhaps the couple did not listen to them perform beforehand? Hopefully that would be a rare situation, but it’s a reminder to make sure to listen to the amateur beforehand!

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