How to Pick Jazz Music for Your Wedding

You’re getting married! Congratulations from the Harrison Jazz Ensemble of Tampa!

Now there is a whirlwind of details that need to be handled as the big day approaches.  One of these is picking the live music.

Your wedding music will cover a few broad categories.  These are:

  1. Ceremony
  2. Cocktail Hour
  3. Reception
  4. Post Reception Dancing
  1. Ceremony

Light, classy jazz music is perfect as a prelude to the ceremony for your guests to hear as they are entering the location.

Specific jazzy songs can add a memorable and unique touch.  As an example one bride decided that she didn’t want to come down the aisle to the traditional “Here Comes The Bride”.  Instead she wanted to hear “At Last” by Etta James, as that was a favorite she and the groom shared.

There are dozens of well written love songs in the “Great American Songbook”, which are classic songs created for musicals and films from the 30s and 40s.  These songs make up the bulk of popular jazz songs sung by Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra.   Let the bandleader know if you have any favorites

  • Cocktail Hour

The purpose of the music for the cocktail hour is to provide a classy aural backdrop for you and your guests to enjoy, while you take pictures, greet friends and generally have a good time.

You should discuss with your bandleader any specific songs that you’d like performed.  Sometimes there is a theme that you might want reprised throughout the event.   As an example from above, the song “At Last” could be played in full or in part throughout the evening as a sweet reminder of the ceremony.

  • Reception

While music is the band’s primary responsibility, you might need help in making certain announcements as in cake cutting, bouquet toss, etc. 

In addition, this is typically the time where there might be speeches from members of the family.  Check with the band to see if they can set up a mic and mic stand to help with this.

  • Dancing?

As a jazz band in Tampa, we often hear: “We’d like to dance after the reception”.  Great idea!  However there are lots of different types of dancing and different music that goes with each.

For example, we recently performed for a young and enthusiastic group of swing dancers.  These kids, in their early 20’s, were happily dancing to songs that were recorded in the 20’s and 30’s.  These were in the main jazz songs, so the jazz band could perform these.

On the other hand, another group of kids would want to hear hip hop or top forty music to dance to. One way to determine this is to look at what type of music is really popular with your guests for dancing and then discuss this with the band.

We have on several occasions arranged to have a dance playlist set up before hand on Spotify.  We then hooked that up to our PA and the crowd was able to dance to the specific songs that they wanted to hear and had a grand time “shaking their booties”.

Summing It Up

Your wedding is a big day!  Speak with your bandleader about each part of the celebration as outlined above.  Mention to him what you need.   You’ll want to see flexibility and a willingness to accommodate your requests.

Make sure to put those requests in an email so that they’re in writing.  Then let the band take over and create music for the special day you’ve been dreaming about since you were a child.


Roger Harrison

Harrison Jazz Ensemble
Tampa, FL

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