Disclaimer! The following article is written to help new Wedding Videographers and Brides-to-be choose music for their wedding videos. However, it’s not as simple as picking your favorite radio song and throwing it into the background of your video. I will assume the you have already read my previous article: To License or Not to License… and have already familiarized yourself with all of your licensing options/requirements before you jump into this article.
Setting the Mood
One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing songs for your wedding videography project is to have the song fit the mood. Brides may not realize this, but the music in your wedding video basically sets the story and mood for the entire movie. While most would agree that something soft and romantic is a good choice, it will depend greatly on which section of the movie you’re watching and also on how soft and romantic the music is. My suggestion to most people is not to pick the most romantic song they can think of, but to more focus on music that is dynamic and has good emotion to it.
By dynamic I mean a song that is not steady the entire way through, but a song that has some tempo changes, maybe a few breaks, and a little bit of swing to it. Think of it this way; the songs you choose are the driving force to carry the visual videography element throughout the entire wedding film. If the melody and tempo are very mellow through the whole duration of the song, it’s as if you were driving on cruise control through farm lands. Sure, the view could be interesting for a little, but very quickly it gets monotonous and boring. You, as a passenger in this car, would probably start drift off thinking about other things instead of watching the view in front of you. However, if you choose a song that is a little more dynamic, it will be like driving up and down steep curvy roadways in a mountain path. Around every corner there is a new exciting site to behold and everyone in the car will be glued to their seats. Now I’m not advocating that you take your audience through a terrifying roller coaster ride of tension, but it’s a good idea to choose songs with breaks, tempo changes, and other interesting elements.
Another thing to consider when choosing appropriate songs for your wedding videography projects is to look at the movie as one long composition and to remember to not make the entire movie monotonous. Just like in my previous example of driving through a country road or a mountain, think of the entire movie as driving cross country to another part of the continent. If you had to drive the entire way on only country roads or only mountain roads, it would also get boring really fast. Spice up the entire movie by taking your audience through the mountains, then through a city, briefly on a small country road, and back to a winding coastal road. This basically takes previous point, about using the highs and lows of the particular song as a driving force for that section of the move, also applies it to the entire movie as well. Starting with a medium tempo song for the introduction of the movie, you can then change the pace with a slow song for the ceremony, bring the tempo back up for when you establish the reception, slow it down for the first dance, and really drive it home with a high energy song at the end. Of course this is all assuming that it the music fits the mood and is in-keeping with the story you are trying to tell.
Telling a Story
Any movie, no matter how big budget or small is meant to tell a story. While this is fairly rudimentary, it is so important that it needs to be repeated. Remember that after the actual wedding day, any videographer will have hours and hours of footage to sort through. There is a story in that footage and it’s up to you to tell that story. The music you choose will set the tempo and pace of the story, so it’s necessary to at least mention the major parts of the story to know how they all fit together.
If you were to look at the timeline of my Editing Software (generally referred to as NLE), I usually tell the story through 4-5 major sequences. For shorthand, I usually refer to them as the Introduction, the Ceremony, the Reception Establishing, the Speeches, the First Dance, and the Party. The ceremony, speeches, and first dance are pretty straight forward. Whether it be a church ceremony or an outdoor one, there usually isn’t much music because you don’t want to drown out the vows and the officiant. Same goes for the speeches at the reception. The first dance is just whatever the couple picks out because you don’t want to edit them into a different song than they originally danced to. My favorite sections to edit are the Intro (aka Opening Sequence), the Reception Establishing, and the Party.
The opening sequence is generally an establishing series of shots that set the mood for the rest of the movie. This introduces the audience to the who, what, when, and where of what they are watching. While it may seem self evident to most audiences that if they are watching a wedding movie of their family member or friend, the movie is about them, DUH… But sometimes the specifics of where everything took place are not as self evident. Sometimes the family isn’t present before the ceremony or doesn’t know where the Bride and Groom are staying. Sometimes, the friends of the newly weds, don’t know everyone in the family. We use the intro to set the tone and introduce your cast of characters. This should give you the most flexibility in which song you choose because it allows you to tell your story in a number of different ways. Whether it be through an uptempo rock song or a soft ballad, the intro is like the opening song of the your favorite album. It tells the viewers what to expect and what kind of ride the will be taken on for the next few minutes/hours.
The “Reception Establishing” Sequence and the “Party” I treat almost like 2 somewhat connected segments even though they may be chronologically separated. The reason is because this establishing sequence is a fundamental shift in the story where the couple has already gotten through the hard part, the ceremony, and are now getting ready to have fun and party. I use the establishing sequence to start building suspense for the forthcoming sections and the final pay off, the party. This segment, again, should give you lots of flexibility on which wedding videography songs to choose because it will depend on how you want to tell your story. Through upbeat high-energy music or more slow melodic romantic music. Either choice is okay, so long as it carries the story and sets up your final act, the Party.
This ending sequence needs to be something upbeat and catchy. I would not recommend using slow romantic songs here because this is the part of the night where everyone lets loose and goofs off. If the wedding videographer did their work, they should have more than a handful of great moments with each guest showing their goofy side. Use this time to show the audience how fun the party was and make them wish they were there.
Now that you know some of the overall concepts to keep in mind, let’s find ways to look for inspiration when hunting for your perfect wedding video soundtrack. When I’m look for new wedding videography songs to put into my project, I spend a lot of time thinking about which songs will be used and how I want to tell the story. I generally don’t like to re-use songs that I’ve already previously used in other wedding videos so I spend a great deal of time researching music and finding inspiration. Here are a few ways that I hunt around for new music:
- Watching other wedding videos (don’t forget to check out Cinaesthetic’s Chicago Wedding Videography page!)
- Exploring music through “Related Artists” section of CDUniverse and Amazon
- Surfing Music Apps like Spotify for new music
- Spend time digging on ccMixter while I respond to emails
- Listen to every local band and local artist I can think of
A Short List of Where to Find Wedding Videography Songs
Here’s a short list of where to find wedding videography songs. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you know of other great resources, I’d be happy to continue adding to the list. Just comment below!
Royalty-Free Music Sites
Production Music Libraries