Wedding Music: Hitting the Right Note
Today’s weddings have so many details to consider–from the bride’s dress to decorations and meal choices, the possibilities are almost endless. While these items are important, it is also vital to consider the musical experience you want to share with your wedding guests. Will you have music at the church, during the reception, and throughout the dance? Is your choice a DJ service, a band, or a soloist? Fortunately for the Chippewa Valley’s engaged couples, there are many options in the area that can make your wedding music both memorable and suited to your unique needs.
John Davies has owned Party Hits since 1995, traveling to weddings throughout Wisconsin and the Twin Cities, and playing music for approximately 20 weddings each year. He recommends asking your potential DJ questions prior to hiring the person for such an important event. “Find out if the DJ is insured, how he or she will dress, how many weddings he or she has played, what type of music will be played, and if the couple meets with the DJ prior to the wedding,” Davies said. “A professional will make your wedding dress, so a professional should also provide the music at your wedding—just because you saw a DJ in a bar does not mean that he or she is a wedding professional,” he continued.
Jamey Brownell, owner of Kaleidoscope Entertainment, has been entertaining for over 20 years. In that time frame, he has witnessed many changes in the industry, including the switch of media formats from cassette tapes to CDs and now to digital files. “At one time, I would have had to bring thousands of CDs to a show and now I only need to bring my laptop,” he explained. One thing that hasn’t changed during that time is the art of being a DJ. “You still need to know what to play and when to play it to get the dance floor packed—that will always remain the same,” Brownell said.
Both Brownell and Davies have recommendations for couples. “Don’t wait until the last minute to try to reserve your entertainment. Many couples find the service they want to hire has already been booked or they end up with entertainment leftovers,” Brownell said. Budgets are also critical to wedding success. “Couples need to set a budget before they start any planning and stick to it,” Davies said.
For those seeking a live musical option for the ceremony or beyond, Harpist Serena O’Meara, provides a unique experience. O’Meara provides music for 35 to 45 weddings and receptions each year. In addition, Bethany Shuda, a harpist that works with her, plays 12 to 18 weddings per year. “Sometimes we are hired to perform as a duo or one of us plays for the ceremony and the other greets the guests with music at the reception,” O’Meara said.
While any music can add ambience to the special day, O’Meara knows that the harp provides a distinctive environment. “The sound of the harp surrounds the listeners with a warm, soft sound, the graceful sight and romantic sound helps celebrate love, and the harp may just surprise your guests,” O’Meara explained.
Because of O’Meara’s unique instrument, plans must be made for weather and other potential changes. “I only accept outdoor weddings between May 20 and September 20, plus the couple needs to provide me with indoor back-up plans. For outdoor weddings, when the wind blows, the strings vibrate and can create a distracting sound,” she explained. O’Meara has witnessed many changes in wedding music throughout her 40+ years of playing the harp. “Wedding music has changed from being very traditional and religious-oriented to being pop songs that have meaning to the couple,” she said. In addition, she recommends that a couple’s choice of music should match the theme for the rest of the wedding day.
Equinox Jazz Group, led by Freddy Sklenar, is another local group that can provide a variety of musicians and music for weddings and other occasions. “As a jazz artist, writer, and performer, I am biased to suggest that jazz is a wonderful backdrop to a wedding party and many of the jazz standards fit well for those couples that desire something special and something different but extremely memorable,” Sklenar said.
Currently, the group is a quintet with Sklenar on tenor and soprano saxophones, a trumpet or flugel horn/trumpet player, and a bass, drums, piano rhythm section. Sklenar explained that the jazz group can play at ceremonies with just piano, while adding a single horn and/or bass player as needed, including doing more classical pieces that are suited for a ceremony. “We play a variety of jazz standards with some interesting pop and rock tunes, such as those by the Beatles and Chicago,” Sklenar continued.
No matter if you choose a DJ, live band, harpist, or other musical group for your wedding, be sure to find the right fit for you. And, search for someone that has a passion for his or her music and entertainment niche. “I love music and entertaining and sharing in the special events in people’s lives. It is truly a passion of mine, and it shows in the service that I provide,” Brownell said. Also, couples should consider that their wedding is one of the most important days of their life. “I would tell any bride to not overbook your time on the day of your wedding—the idea is to have fun,” Davies concluded.