(One year on) Our Wedding: The Music

DIY Wedding, hired jukebox instead of PA or DJ

I think it’s fair to say that most of us are pretty keen on music. And for all the weddings I’ve been involved in, music has played an important role in some way, shape or form. I’ve seen brides walk down the aisle to Bjork, “Daisy, Daisy” and even “Eye of the Tiger”; and seen all manner of first dances, from carefully choreographed waltzes and tangoes, to fun freestyle boogies.

In fact, some of my clearest memories of the weddings I’ve planned are music related…..the beautifully touching first dance of Emily and Mike to Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” at the first reception I ever planned….rushing around a venue trying to find anyone who had a certain version of a certain song on their MP3 player, because the CD the groom had given me didn’t work (crisis averted, thanks to a very helpful bar manager!)…..the amazing string quartet who played a couple down the aisle to their own version of “Whole Lotta Love”…..and that moment when a groom tested his iPod ahead of a ceremony, and my shock as I realised that the track they’d chosen was full of swear words (luckily they only wanted to use the intro, so I was saved from that discussion!).

So, as fairly avid music fans ourselves, music was something that featured heavily in our own wedding planning. It’s one of the simplest ways to personalise an event, and to evoke the kind of atmosphere you want to achieve. And, forgiving the odd difference of opinion, we thoroughly enjoyed putting together all the music we needed for both “Part One” (our ceremony) and “Part Two” (the reception).

For the ceremony we only needed a couple of pieces of music as we’d decided to keep things pretty short and simple…..but of course that can often make things even trickier as our choices would count for even more! Both of the tracks we went with were pretty obvious choices though, because they mean such a lot to us, and remind us of moments we’ve shared.

From early on after our engagement (and perhaps even before if I’m honest!) I had thought of the perfect piece of music to walk down the aisle to…..when we lived in London together for the first time, we watched Battlestar Galactica together, and absolutely loved everything about it, including its amazing soundtrack by Bear McCreary. To me, the piece entitled “The Shape of Things To Come” made for a perfect aisle track, and when I suggested it to Adam, he fast agreed that it should be first on our list of definites. I still go all goose-pimply when I hear it, and it will forever remind me of the anticipation of our ‘legal bit’.

For walking out together, we both had a few ideas of up-beat, celebratory tunes we loved. It wasn’t long before we worked out which one it should be though…..I’ve always loved Mama Cass Elliot’s “It’s Getting Better“, and as we’d regularly hear it on the radio, Adam grew very fond of it too. When we sat and read the lyrics together (Adam is more of a melody person, whilst I like to analyse every word!) we decided that it was the perfect track, happy and positive, and very *us*. We typed out the lyrics to show on our notice board at the party too, and played it again during the reception play list.

DIY Wedding, music menu notice board

Our next choice came to be for our first dance. We’d not initially planned to do one at all, but we’d been taking ballroom and latin beginners classes, as well as a couple of modern jive workshops and really loved it…..so when I came up with an idea for a track, Adam found he couldn’t say no! Another show we’d loved watching together was the anime series Cowboy Bebop, and we were always both crazy about the awesome jazz title track, which is called “Tank“.

Now it doesn’t sound like an obvious first dance track I’ll grant you, but to us it just seemed the perfect choice. We didn’t want a really long drawn out slow track, as we didn’t feel comfortable being ‘on show’ for any great length of time, and the short version of Tank being only a minute and a half long (and very fast!) made us much more comfortable! We also loved the big band, jazzy feel to it, and knew it would work well with the style of dance we wanted to go for….our amazing teachers, Lee and Dawn (modern jive world champions in point of fact!) choreographed it for us with modern jive, foxtrot and samba moves (a nice change for them, apparently!) and we had six private lessons with them to learn it all.

Some bits were trickier than others to master (the glider lift in particular!) but we thoroughly enjoyed our classes and although a bit nervous on the night (resulting only in a couple of footwork mistakes!), really loved dancing it to officially open the dance floor. Our friend Holly was kind enough to take a little video, which she shared with us afterwards….I love our friend Rachel’s sort of commentary! It looks waaaay slower than it felt to dance, and you get a bit of an up-skirt shot at the end, but it’s a lovely reminder for us!

For the rest of the party music, we split the evening into three sections…. for the first two hours we made a playlist of background music for the time people were arriving and saying their hellos etc….then for the next few hours everyone got to choose what they wanted to hear from the jukebox we hired, which featured every top ten song since the fifties, as well as lots of other favourites besides…..and finally, after our first dance, we created a playlist of floor fillers to dance the night away to.

For our joint hen and stag do, we’d organised a modern jive workshop with Lee and Dawn (followed by a meal and cocktails, obviously!) and so we decided to start the dancing with some of the tracks we’d used at that, to encourage people to join us on the dance floor and help jog their memory of the routine we’d all learned together. After that, we ordered the songs (more or less) chronologically, as that helped them flow from one to another….Adam actually learned to mix and edit them so that we could cut short any that were too long (meaning we could include more songs!) and omit any weird bits or long pauses between tracks. It took him aaaaages, but was well worth it, as it was like having a DJ play everything we wanted, and in the order we wanted it!

DIY Wedding, hired jukebox instead of PA or DJ

We most carefully chose the last few songs, as we were keen to finish the night on a high note….after a few of our favourite more current tracks, we played Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now“, leaving in a pause at the end so that everyone would think it was the last song (it does make a great last song in my opinion!). Then to *really* finish, we chose AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long“, which we both love, and seemed rather apt! I have wonderful memories of a whole load of us doing a sort of ‘Hokey Cokey’ to it, all singing along and having a great time.

Planning it all out like that helped us to keep track of time on the night, and give a little structure to the eight hours we had. We’d toyed with the idea of getting in one of the amazing bands or brilliant DJs I’ve worked with before, but it was a (budget enforced) choice between those and having a full, open cocktail bar, plus there’d have been set-up and time restrictions too. All in all, we wouldn’t change the way we did it at all, and doing it this way was really cost effective….the jukebox we hired came with additional speakers and lighting, so we didn’t have to hire in a PA system, plus we could very easily plug in an iPod (we had three in total, just in case one failed, plus a CD!) for our own playlists. I’d really recommend going this way to anyone who wants full control of their music and doesn’t have an endless budget….the editing and mixing is well worth doing though so that it’s all seamless!

I won’t bore you with a full list of what we included in our playlists, but here are some of my highlights……

From the reception:

As the Days Go By / Talking Heads
Everlasting Love / Love Affair
Go Your Own Way / Fleetwood Mac
Rebel Rebel / David Bowie
One, two, three, four / Feist
Teenage Dream / Katy Perry
Walking After You / Foo Fighters
Daydream Believer / The Monkees
Born to Run / Bruce Springstein
At Last / Etta James
One Track Lover / Matt Berry
Walk Idiot Walk / The Hives

From the dancing:

Get Lucky / Daft Punk
Forget You / Cee lo Green
Mr Blue Sky / ELO
Let Her Dance / The Bobby Fuller Four
Tiger Feet / Mud
Superstition / Stevie Wonder
Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough / Michael Jackson
Jump / The Pointer Sisteres
Roll To Me / Del Amitri
I Wanna Dance With Somebody / Whitney Houston
Everybody Dance Now / CandC Music Factory
Return of the Mack / Mark Morrison
Don’t Stop Movin’ / S Club 7
Take Back the Night / Justin Timberlake
We Found Love / Rihanna
Sex on Fire / Kings of Leon


What was your first dance to? Or do you have a song you dream of walking down the aisle to? I’d LOVE to hear about it!

Ems x

DIY Wedding, hired jukebox instead of PA or DJ


Summer of 2012 Fever….. Ideas for your weekend, all over the UK

It’s hard to understand, what with us having this super-gross-and-vile wet Summer, but there really is a festival spirit going on this year. For whatever reason people are getting excited (be it that big games thing, the Jubilee, or maybe even the rain if you like rain, or if you’re a duck) there is so much going on all over the country….. it would be a great year to have a helicopter to get about and do everything, but if you’re not so lucky then there is sure to be something going on within a bus ride away from you.

Here’s a little round up of exciting adventures I’ve spotted, and would go to if I had a helicopter…. Enjoy!

Ems x

Dance Photography Exhibition by Tim Cross

An exhibition of striking performance images taken by Tim Cross-an artist whose two passions in life are dance and photography. Also, archive footage from the Royal Opera House and costumes on loan from the Royal Baller School.7am-9pm each day.

The Forum Trust, Millennium Plain, Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk


Latin American Tea Dance with Wurlitzer & Learn to Dance sessions

Latin American Tea Dance to the sounds of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ which rises up from beneath the stage in the Museum’s concert hall. Additionally, there will be a DJ’s selection of popular dance music and an interval for refreshments. The event is suitable for all levels, no partner necessary and includes two learn to dance sessions featuring the Rumba, Cha-cha and a sequence dance. The hall has a fully sprung dance floor and offers a fun relaxing environment to glide in your own “Strictly” session. 

399 High Street, Brentford, Brent, West London


Rhythms of the World Festival

The Rhythms of the World festival, originally organised by the local Oxfam campaigns groups, has evolved into one of the biggest – and best value – world music festivals in the UK with over 31,000 attending in 2011. People come from all sectors of the community and the event features both local talent as well as artists from around the world.

Hitchin Priory, Tilehouse Street, Hitchin, Hertfordshire


Pleasance Ahoy: Tall Tales from the Riverbank – Comedy Barge

A Comedy Relay on a narrow boat, follows a group of comics and their guests as they embark from London on a watery adventure…… Destination the Edinburgh Festival! During the journey, impromptu pop-up comedy gigs are performed to dedicated crowds in various secret inland locations, and along the river bank from the roof of the boat. 

The comedians will explore the heritage of the UK waterways, interviewing the people they meet along the way, investigating local traditions and quirks. There are 4 pop-up comedy gigs performed at various secret locations in the UK near London, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Four gigs will take place in Scotland. The entire journey can be followed by GPS and satellite on the web, and the daily digital logbook will contain blogs, podcasts, interviews and recordings of the shows, and much more watery madness.


Happy Days, International Beckett Festival

HAPPY DAYS is the world’s first annual festival to celebrate the work and influence of Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett. HAPPY DAYS will take place each year in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, where Beckett spent his formative years attending Portora Royal School. Enniskillen is at the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands, amidst of the most beautiful landscape in Europe. The inaugural HAPPY DAYS takes place 23rd – 27th August 2012 with FREE visual arts events from 3rd July. The Festival is collaborating with the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, and coincides with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Enniskillen.

Enniskillen, Northern Ireland

The Humble Market: Trade Secrets

Part performance, part experience, Trade Secrets presents us with an universe threatened with complete control. Using the lens of the marketplace to ask, “What do we really trade? What should be traded? And what cannot be bought?” Trade Secrets is inspired by the spectacular rise of Brazil as an economic power and the trading cities of the Northwest in the UK and Southeast in Brazil. Through a choreographed journey of interactive vehicles expect intimate provocations that confront us with the follies of mass consumerism. 

FACT (Foundation For Art & Creative Technology), 88 Wood Street, Liverpool, Merseyside


Stan’s Cafe: Of All The People in All The World

Theatre company, Stan’s Cafe are bringing 989kg of rice to the RSC, a grain for everyone in the country. An array of local and global human statistics will be weighed out in rice and arranged in labelled piles by a team of auditors.The work will evolve and respond to real time events, news and performances as they happen during the World Shakespeare Festival. By presenting statistics in tangible form, Stan’s Cafe, for 2012, will create for us a playful and at times politically charged work of art.

PACCAR Room, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon


Marie Thereza Alves – Ballast Seed Garden

Seeds of Change is the overall title of an ongoing ballast seed garden project from Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves. When ships came into port in Bristol they were weighed down with ballast (earth, sand, rocks, etc) which they dumped onto the river banks. In this ballast were seeds carried from ports and regions (and their regional trading partners) involved in trade with Europe. These seeds, which can lie dormant for hundreds of years, germinated and grew, contributing to the development of the ‘European’ landscape.

Working with the University of Bristol Botanic Garden, Arnolfini and Bristol City Council and utilising a disused grain barge, Maria Thereza Alves has created a Ballast Seed Garden on Bristol’s Floating Harbour, populated with a variety of non-native plants, creating a living history of the city’s trade and maritime past.

The design of the floating garden has been developed by German designer Gitta Gschwendtner in close collaboration with the artist Maria Thereza Alves and Nick Wray of University of Bristol Botanic Garden.

Bristol Floating Harbour, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol