Some different musical ideas for weddings and parties

When I talk about weddings ideas or wedding day ideas, I  am of course going to be talking about different musical ideas for weddings, because that's my business.

So what are good wedding ideas? I would say that they are things that you do to make your day all the more memorable. Things that will stick in your mind and in the minds of your guests the years to come. And what sort of things stick in the mind best? Well it's things that are out of the ordinary, unusual. So music fulfils this criterion.

Of course I'm not talking about music played by a CD, or disco or any other form of recorded music. This isn't out of the ordinary. Turn on classic FM you may well hear string quartet playing. You probably have jazz and folk music on your phone that you listen to through your earpiece. So music isn't out of the ordinary. It is probably more ordinary now than it ever has been in history. Music is ubiquitous. It's always available either intentionally because that's what you're wanting to listen to, or in the music of TV adverts and films, and even when you don't want it such as when you're walking round a shopping centre and have tinny music squeaking at you all the way down the shopping mall, or that annoying loudspeaker up in the rafters of this quaint old pub ratting out cheap and nasty renderings of songs once played by famous music groups, totally out of character.

Talking of annoying music, isn't it called Muzak, reminds me of a superb holiday I had in southern Ireland. As a fiddle player and play in a ceilidh band, and have played for lots of Irish ceilidhs and Irish dancers in my time, I wanted to experience the real thing, the Irish pub sessions. It was a wonderful holiday and I eventually (that's a subject of another rambling) found some superb sessions to enjoy and playing, but I also came across the most annoying music I can think of ever hearing. It was in a southern Irish town. I won't mention the name for fear of upsetting the inhabitants, but as my wife and I walked down the long street of this little town I became aware of music. It wasn't good music, in fact it sounded horrible and tinny and I couldn't make out where it's coming from. At first I thought it was some youngster in a car playing a car radio too loud with all the windows open, just to show how cool he was and to annoy everyone. The cars passed and the sounds continued. My next thought was that there was a shop somewhere with a loud music playing to attract attention. But as we walked down the street music didn't seem to get louder or fainter, it was just there, coming from the sky it seemed. Then we discovered what it was. Every lamppost had a loudspeaker attached near the top of it, all the way down the street, probably 30 lampposts, all playing the same squeaky music. It was awful. Is that what the local dignitaries thought that tourists wanted to hear as part of the Irish charm? Would it make the tourist come back again? Well maybe you did for some, but it didn't for me. What did for me was the genuine Irish charm one found in every shop, in every pub, and thankfully the next day the system must have blown a fuse because the loudspeakers were silent.

But as usual, I am digressing. We are supposed to be looking for wedding reception ideas that are fun, wedding evening ideas that people will remember. Obviously it depends on what your taste, your rage and the age, and age range, of your guests. If you want something that is going to blow everyone's mind, you can go for a large function or party band that will get everybody up and dancing wildly. That's great if most guests are of similar age and temperament when they can enjoy this, but not everybody is into this kind of music and dance, particularly if the parents and grandparents and their and particularly if it's also a reunion where people want to talk to each other. A function band is great for excitement but it can kill conversation.

Perhaps you could go for a swing jazz band, this would certainly go down well with the grandparents, but it also come back into fashion as the music is timeless. Have a rat pack singer with piano accompaniment if your venue is small. Again the music of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and others has come back into vogue with the Canadian singer Michael Buble and others. In fact for many years now, a good proportion of the songs in the pop charts which are often thought of as new songs, came from the jazz band and ratpack eras of the past.


If you want some real fun ideas for weddings and if you're wanting to get everybody together and interacting, you can't do better than having a barn dance or a ceilidh. Over the last 10 years or so I have soared in popularity for weddings. It is one of the few things that everybody can enjoy, from young children to the grandparents, if they reasonably fit, and if they're not they can enjoy watching everybody cavorting around and can listen to the music without having a conversation drowned out.


If you're looking for backyard wedding ideas, then of course you could go for a ceilidh band or a barn dance band. These can be held in marquees, barns, even large carriages if everything is cleared out of them. You can have them outdoors, but you got to be very careful and plan for the eventuality of the weather not being wonderfully kind. I won't go into that now because there's plenty of it on a website, just be very careful and find out what can and can't be done.

Back garden weddings reminds me of one wonderful wedding reception that I played at with my string quartet some years ago now. We arrived at the address to find it was modest -sized terraced house. We were used to playing at private houses, but these were invariably large detached houses, large farmhouses or mini mansions. We wondered where on earth we're going to play. We were greeted at the door by the bride and groom who led us through the house into the back garden. It was beautiful, large and completely undercover. Were we in the TARDIS? Remember everyone in the string quartet looking the others in bewilderment. There were flowers, fountains, waterfalls, large barbecue and lots and lots of guests.

It transpired that the neighbours had all taken down their garden fences to turn the happy couples garden into something several times its original size. They had then lashed vertical poles to the fence posts and stretched canvas overall the gardens to make a kind of marquee. But unlike the conventional hired marquee that had a matting floor and was relatively divorced from the garden that was pitched in, this marquee was the garden. What an amazing thing!          

 If you're looking for drinks reception ideas, then there is of course the string quartet of the jazz band, but you could go for something more intimate. Perhaps a lounge jazz duo, a classical pianist or pianist that plays a mixture of evergreens, jazz and classics. A solo saxophonist using backing tracks. There are many small combinations of musicians that can be suitable for a small wedding reception, or to play in the side room of a large venue as guests wander in and out.

And what about the wedding breakfast if you're looking for ideas for music the wedding breakfast, or about a classical guitarist or jazz guitarist if it's a small number of people (too many people and the music will get drowned out. You're not aware of it when you're reading, but you become very conscious of the amount of noise that people make when they're eating and talking when you're trying to play music. Sometimes it sounds like a flock of geese (yes geese do sound like a mob of people chattering. Many years ago, driving across the moors from Edinburgh to Glasgow by one of the backroads, wife and I stopped up on the moors to get out of the car and stretch our legs before continuing with our journey. We were taken back by the sounds that were coming from over the hill. There was a wild party going on, probably a hundred more people laughing and shouting in joking. But how could this be out in the wilds? We walked towards short distance until we could see over the rise. Out of us was small can with probably 200 geese in or around it. It was the geese. We could have sworn it was human voices!

Perhaps you are looking for modern wedding ideas. That normally means a covers band, certainly for the evening reception. But you're not limited to that. There are smaller ensembles with male or female singer, usually with piano synthesiser. There are string quartets who have a wide pop repertoire. There is a pop covers duo with two male singers, where both play ukulele. He would think it would be awful, but in fact they are such good musicians that they are fantastically good and always with ukuleles there is an element of humour with it, so great fun.                    

If you're trying to think of unusual wedding ideas, it could be connected with the location. We've had our string quartets and jazz bands and ceilidh bands playing on historic ships, such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel's SS Great Britain which is in dry dock in Bristol. That is certainly an unusual place for a wedding reception. Although the biggest steamship of its day, it is relatively small compared with hotel wedding venue, but this had the delight because of the unusual illness of the surroundings. A classical guitarist fits well in the dining lounge and there is room for a barn dance in the cargo area of the ship. We played there with the Ringerike Ceilidh Band.

Folk music was an important element on board ships at this time and earlier. On sailing ships like HMS victory in the Portsmouth historic dockyard, a fiddler would have sat on the capstan playing jigs and reels as the team of sailors turned heavy capstan. This was part entertainment for the boring and gruelling job, and was part to provide rhythm to keep all the sailors in time as they pushed. But ownership like the SS Great Britain music would have been played to relieve the monotony of the long voyage to America and take people's minds off the seasickness that they may well have been suffering.

Still looking for unusual ideas for weddings, well we have also had musicians playing on HMS Warrior, the first ironclad warship. This is definitely something very unusual, a ship from the 1860s, which is also in Portsmouth's historic dockyard.

But every body has their own ideas of what constitutes an unusual wedding reception. I remember playing Eastern European and Jewish clips, music as a duo for a wedding reception. The bride's criteria was that it had to be weird, the stranger the music was the happier she was. I think she wanted to shock her guests. Well, between the Jewish, Eastern European, Bosnian and Greek music we played, she really did get some weird music and we got some strange looks, people had a thoroughly good time.