They’re Playing Our Song

Rebecca OrrMusicLeave a Comment

outer banks wedding music

Ceremony Music

Imagine…your guests start arriving at your ceremony, and they’re being seated while music floats among the whispers and soft laughter of the friends and family who are gathering in joyful anticipation of your nuptials. As the wedding party makes their entrance, the music becomes more distinctive, drawing the audience’s attention. Then, with a dramatic change in the music, all eyes move to the bride who is making her grand entrance. It is music that helps amplify the emotion of the ceremony.

Trained musicians are generally more expensive because of their high level of skill and education. Although the musicians may be on the scene for a brief period, the bulk of their time is spent in preparation prior to the wedding day, “tuning-up”, if you will.


The big variable is the venue: beach, backyard, congregation hall, or church? Despite the challenges, an outdoor Outer Banks wedding is often a dream come true for many. Couples choosing to marry here generally pick the casual beach wedding over a church setting. Depending on the setting, weather can be a huge factor in the quality of the music. Reed and stringed instruments, for instance, do not fare well in extreme temperatures or salt air. Vocals or instrumental music may be drowned out by noisy winds. Electrical equipment can be shorted out by rain. Acoustics can be difficult to control outside. It is important to have a backup plan in the event of bad weather.

obx wedding father and daughter dance

Pullen Weddings

Reception Music

Cocktail Hour

As the wedding transitions from the solemnity of the ceremony, music for the first hour or so at the reception venue should be upbeat but non-intrusive, fostering conversation and setting the mood for a party. Often the cocktail music will be focused on jazz standards, but pop music also works. There is a growing trend of couples choosing more pop-rock songs over traditional music, as well as instrumental versions of songs. 

The choices for music providers at your wedding are farily consistent year-after-year. Typically, they can be either a live band or a Disc Jockey. 

If you decide on a live band, the bandleader will likely ask the couple to choose songs from a set list which the band will select from them during the reception.

Professional Disc Jockeys are usually familiar with a wide range of wedding event music and will fit the songs to the mood.

obx wedding limbo

Pullen Weddings

In either case, the bandleader or DJ can act as Master of Ceremony to introduce the wedding party and to keep the events of the reception moving forward.

Many times the musicians, DJ, or live band hired for the reception can also play during the cocktail hour. Some live bands will have their keyboard player, guitar player, and vocalist play “unplugged” for both the ceremony and the cocktail hour. 

They reunite with the rest of the band and rev it up later for dancing. If the band is adaptable, it can provide a nice transition that guests will enjoy, and it may be more affordable than hiring different musicians for different parts of the wedding. 

Similarly, classically trained musicians hired for the ceremony (which can include trumpet, cello, violin, viola, vocals, flute, and/or guitar) can also play livelier music, usually jazz, during the cocktail hour. 

First Dances

Typically, the couple selects the songs for the “first” dances. The First Dance for the bride and groom is usually that one song that locks your gaze with each other when you hear its first notes, and you think of no other than them when you hear it… you know the one! It’s “your” song.

Many couples are selecting a special dance for the bride and her father, and for the groom and his mother. The options are limitless for whatever fantastic moment you want to create in your memorable day. Celebrate your love!

obx wedding first dance

Pullen Weddings

Full Swing

Here is where the fun really steps up, where the couple can relax and join in the festivities. A festive wedding can be just about guaranteed with a great band or DJ. The experienced ones will know to keep tabs on the caterer, the photographer, the family, and the guests to ensure things roll the way they should. Real pros read the crowd and adapt the music accordingly. Dancing, both slow and fast, can be inspired by how a skilled DJ or bandleader tailors the music, adjusting appropriately for when the younger folks out-number the older folks later on in the party. 

Finally, a last song chosen by the couple is a sweet way to close a great gala and leave the guests with wonderful memories. 

obx wedding reception dancing

Katiedid Photography

Wedding Music Tips. A Checklist:

What Musicians & DJs Want the Bride and Groom to Know…

  • Not all song requests may be appropriate for the crowd or the mood. Respect the expertise of the professionals you have hired.
  • It is not always possible to perform outside on the beach, especially in high wind and rain. Always have a backup plan in place for outdoor weddings.
  • Even if you are willing to pay for overtime, the venue may not allow it. Check ahead of time if you have the option to keep the party going.
  • Happy guests make a great party, so always keep them in mind when choosing the music.
  • Trust the professionalism of the musicians or DJ in reading the crowd.
  • The more trained/experienced the musician, the more he or she is worth.
  • A phone or in-person consultation is much better than email in helping the entertainer understand your taste and meet your expectations.

What the Bride and Groom Should Ask…

Musicians & DJs:

  • What is your musical specialty, background and experience?
  • Do you charge by the hour or the event?
  • Do you have references?

Live Music performers:

  • Can you accompany vocalists?
  • What are your equipment, power, and space requirements? Have you played at this venue before?
  • Do you have a set list from which you work? Will you provide a copy?
  • Are you willing to learn special songs that are not on your set list? Is there an additional fee?


  • Do you offer additional entertainment beyond playing music?
  • What is your policy on playing overtime? Is there an additional fee?
  • Are you open to taking requests from the wedding party and/or from guests?
outer banks wedding chair lift

Lori Douglas Photography

Top feature photo by Pullen Weddings

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