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How to choose the best musicians for cocktail hour

Choosing the Music for Your Cocktail Hour

While we get a lot of requests to play music for couples’ cocktail hours, many are unsure of what type of music they’d like to have. If you choose carefully, you can ensure that the music will be welcoming for your guests and set the right tone for your celebration.

Choosing music for cocktail hour

When choosing your cocktail hour music, we suggest that you begin by considering the following:

  1. Mood you are trying to create. If you are having a modern wedding, then perhaps some jazz, modern ballads with classic nostalgic instrumentation like guitars, flutes, percussion, bass or keyboards could work very well. If you’re having a formal, traditional cocktail hour, songs made famous by Frank Sinatra and classic love songs played on guitars, flutes, saxophones or strings would set an elegant mood. For a more fun, casual mood, a steel drum band may be the right fit. Just be sure that you request that the volume is kept at a level where guests can still comfortably mix and converse.
  2. Your venue. Where you’re holding your cocktail hour may also play into your decision about what type of music to have. If your cocktail hour is held outdoors, consider the availability of power for instruments that may require amplification (guitars, strings). The larger the venue and guest list, the larger the ensemble you can use. For a smaller venue, you can use a more intimate ensemble like a solo, duo or trio.
  3. Whether you are using live or recorded music. If you’re going for a more upscale wedding, having live musicians will be appropriate and expected. Also, if you’re having a smaller affair but want to give it a more classy feel, hiring live musicians can make all the difference. You can always have your DJ play recorded music for your happy hour, but it will end up coming across as less personalized and less memorable.
  4. Your theme. If you and your wedding planner have come up with a theme for your wedding, be it beach, vintage, rustic, beach, country, garden, nautical or any other, having the right music at your cocktail hour help reinforce this theme. While you may have ideas of what music you might like, take the time to speak with your potential musicians to see what ideas they may have for playing music to help support your theme; they may have some ideas and specialties that you had never considered!

No matter what the mood, your venue, live or recorded or the theme you’re trying to create, we believe the key to creating the perfect soundtrack for cocktail hour is choosing uplifting songs with a relaxed vibe. The cocktail hours should be a time to play the songs that you love but are not suited for dancing.

How to choose the best musicians for cocktail hour

We recommend the beautiful music from legendary crooners like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Classics like “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Unforgettable” and “Can’t Stop Falling in Love with You” never go out of style. You can also add some love song favorites from the ’50s and ’60s that are timeless and romantic.

Whatever you have in mind, we suggest you work with your live musicians to select the perfect set list as the background to make your cocktail hour memorable and special.


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