Top Celebrants Share Unique Ceremony Ideas With Wedding Music

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​Nobody knows ceremonies better than celebrants. And when it comes to ceremony music, they’ve seen it all.

Last month we put a callout to the top wedding celebrants around Australia.

We asked for experienced and creatively driven celebrants to share the best and worst of ceremony entertainment.

Their collective wisdom revealed unique ceremony ideas, their thoughts on wedding ceremony music, traditions you can ditch and done-to-death clichéd songs.

Expert celebrants from around Australia

​Nobody knows ceremonies better than celebrants. And when it comes to ceremony music, they’ve seen it all.

Last month we put a callout to the top wedding celebrants around Australia.

We asked for experienced and creatively driven celebrants to share the best and worst of ceremony entertainment.

Their collective wisdom revealed unique ceremony ideas, their thoughts on wedding ceremony music, traditions you can ditch and done-to-death clichéd songs:

Lana & Clem's wedding ceremony music | PHOTO: I Got You Babe Photography | MUSIC: Fidel & Sarah |

Tell us your thoughts on live wedding music. Do you suggest that couples include it in their ceremony?

Koren Harvey: Hell yes! It adds ambience and atmosphere and from a practical perspective, also lessens the risk of mistakes (eg, the person pressing play on the iPod playing the wrong song as you walk down the aisle, they forget to turn the phone to flight mode and Pachelbel’s canon is ruined by a ring tone or most common of all, they stop the music abruptly when the bride gets to the groom). Live music adds feeling, but hiring professionals also means that they’ll keep playing if you miss your cue, shorten pieces where necessary and just make everything run more smoothly.

Zena Lythgo: Live (music) elevates the feels as you come down the aisle, is nicer while your guests wait about and a live muso can adapt to what’s happening and fade out or add another verse as required. Also iPod fades are often clunky as…

Charis White: Yes all the time.

Monty King: Absolutely! Sounds better, better atmosphere, the ability to respond and adapt to changes at seconds notice

Anthony Cribbes: Absolutely…nothing quite captures the feel and mood like live music can. The other great thing about live music is that you can ad-lib a little…so if you need to re-play the bridge as there was an unexpected delay you can….or you can fade out the song no worries. It’s always awkward when a song on the PA stops abruptly, or the distortion kicks in or it finishes before the bride gets to the end…LIVE music all the way people

Big Love Weddings: Always. ‘Cause live music is good for the soul.

Lauren Evans: Absolutely! Live music allows for all scenarios – whether the bride has a sudden wardrobe malfunction that requires fixing before she continue down the aisle (this taking much longer than a recorded song), or if she charges down the aisle and the song needs to wrap up quickly – it is always much more organic with live music than the celebrant having to either hit repeat on the song, or fade out the volume in the middle of the chorus. It also means one less job for me!

Nat Sproal: Yep – because it’s awesome for creating atmosphere.

Russ Macumber: I always recommend it. Live music adds another dimension to the emotion on the day that recorded music will rarely match

Josh Withers: Yes, always, because a muso can play to the room, without needing a rehearsal or anything fucking weird – they can just play to the actual event, instead of having to stress about songs being too long or short or whatever

Acoustic ceremony live music | PHOTO: Gold & Grit Photography | MUSIC: Fidel & Sarah |

Would you (or did you) have live ceremony music at your own wedding?

Josh Withers: I wish we did.

Sarah Aird: If I ever find someone silly enough to want to marry me I will definitely want to have live music. Life music brings an extra zing to any event.

Celebrant Lady Love: Yeah we did! It was really important to us.

Marry Me Dee: Not for the ceremony – we wanted to but our musicians we used for the party were not accommodating us for the ceremony.

From This Day Forth: At the ceremony an organist (who was ghastly) at the reception we had a band.

Zena Lythgo: Not married but 100% would.

Susan & Shane chose David Bowie for their recessional | PHOTO: Brown Paper Parcel | MUSIC: Fidel & Sarah |

Does live music really make that much difference to a ceremony?

Pete The Celebrant:  I think live music really adds to a ceremony, gives it a unique blend of authenticity. You can also have the band/musician play at the reception and carry on the narrative of familiar people.

Lauren Evans:  Absolutely! For the smoothness of the flow, and because a professional isn’t going to screw it up for me!

Marry Me Dee:  It’s very important when it’s done properly, that is having professional musicians who know how to read a crowd and entertain. Live music brings everything to life!

Deborah Lilley:  Live music gives couples the opportunity to take a ‘non wedding’ song and turn it into their very own soundtrack for the day… acoustic artists playing very non traditional re-arranged songs can make amazing aisle songs for a brides arrival. 

Why not just use a cd/recording?

Anthony Cribbes: You can’t capture mood and atmosphere through an iPod cord like you can with the real live mccoy.

Nat Sproal: Not the same energy and prescence.

Big Love Weddings: The VIBES man, the vibes.

Celebrant Lady Love: Skilled musician/s inject warmth, personality, style, humor and feeling into ceremony. They don’t just fill the air with sound, they add bursts of colour and entertainment too. You can’t get that from a recording. But to be fair, I have only come across a few live musicians who can achieve it too.

From This Day Forth: Live music sounds so much better and gives ambiance.

Live folk music at Amie & Nick's elopement | PHOTO: Anna Taylor Photography | MUSIC: Fidel & Sarah |

What clichéd wedding songs are you sick to death of hearing?

Big Love Weddings:  1000 years… God help me!!!!!!! Ed Sheeran -help me again!!!

Sarah Aird:
  If I hear John Legend’s All of Me one more time I am likely to stick something sharp in my ear.

Charis White:  A thousand miles.

Monty King:  Twilight song – 1000 something something. Boo.

Anthony Cribbes:  FUCKING BRUNO MARS/JASON MRAZ/ED SHEREEN or that fucked up song from twilight!!!!

Lauren Evans:  I’m Yours – Jason Mraz.

Nat Sproal: Fucking Big Jet Plane, that Ed Sheeran song, At Last.

Jon von Goes: Pachelbel’s cannon.

Paul Bonadio: I think the traditional wedding march has pretty much run its course. God bless it.

From This Day Forth: I swear if I hear “A Thousand Years” just one more time…!!!

Deborah Lilley: CHRISTINA Perri ‘thousand years’, John Legend ‘all of me’ and anything by Ed Sheeran lols

Sarah & Dan picked a song from their first date for their live processional music | PHOTO: Tin Drum | MUSIC: Fidel & Sarah |

What about boring duos/bands/styles? What's yawn-worthy that couples should avoid?

Celebrant Lady Love: If musicians could stop trying to imitate Angus and Julia Stone that’d be greeeat.

Zena Lythgo: Def important to do recognizable covers it’s not the place for spruikling your originals. People don’t care…you can tell when they aren’t seasoned wedding performers and they are offended no one is engaging.

Jon von Goes: I tune out

Anthony Cribbes: Farnsy…give it a break, lord knows he has!

Monty King: Mumford and sons sort of thing.

Not all ceremony musicians are equal. What's the worst stuff you've seen?

Marry me Dee: A duo sitting down playing looking bored out of their brain and boring me and everyone else. A solo/duo who arrive right beforehand and rush to get ready – they clearly don’t give a shit and it shows. A solo guitarist who doesn’t own an amp and nobody hears them. A duo that has great sound equipment and plays the sound so low that the brides not even sure they have begun her music to walk down the aisle. Yep I’ve seen some shockers!

Charis White: A tone deaf singer.

Big Love Weddings: A duo who both sang out of key… it was terrible…

Claire Parsons: Just an inability to read a room/dancefloor. I don’t care what style it is, if the guests are smiling and there is a booty shake or two, that’s the money.

​Sarah Aird: While I absolutely LOVE live music and working with professionals, I’ve also had some absolute shockers. There was the professional busker – the bride literally found him busking on Swanston Street and asked him to play at the wedding. He’d never done a wedding before, refused to work with me to make the music work with the ceremony, and brought merch to sell to the guests – he put a stack of his CDs on the table with the guest book and wishing well, $10 a pop. Then there was the duo with the singer who turned up with no microphone or any other gear, and because she had a bit of a cold and didn’t want to strain her voice, asked to borrow mine. FFS. These people should be banned.

Pete The Celebrant: Bands need to somewhat match, I’ve seen some bands who’s styles of dress is all over the place.

Lauren Evans: The worst thing I’ve seen was a female duo who would hit play on prerecorded music and then sing to it. If you are doing live music I want it all to be live, instruments included.

These rad dudes chose music that reflected who they are | PHOTO: Anna Taylor Photography | MUSIC: Fidel & Sarah |

What are some unique ceremony ideas you’d love to encourage couples to explore?

Sarah Aird: I’ve had a groom sing a song instead of writing personalised vows – it was a surprise for his husband and it was incredible and beautiful and there were tears galore.

Nat Sproal: Getting the band to play the processional and recessional in their own style/ interpretation of it -not having recorded tracks

Paul Bondadio: I’d encourage them to check out Fidel and Sarah first and foremost.

Celebrant Lady Love: Including guest sing-alongs during ceremony! I also saw some roving musicians play recently and I loved that. It would’ve been great if they’d done that during the ceremony while we were signing the papers. Like actually get in front of people, talk to them and entertain them.

Marry Me Dee: Singing together, light background music in certain sections of the ceremony. A band/duo/solo artist who works with you as a team and can boogie out a few notes in light of a joke…you know kinda improv stuff.

Josh Withers: I ask musos playing at my ceremonies to play right through the ceremony, almost providing a soundtrack to the ceremony … it is soooo good, it’s like an epic movie.

Anthony Cribbes: There’s this ace folk duo called Fidel and Sarah…get them!!!

Oh hi there. Meet alternative-indie-punk-country-jazz-grunge wedding singers Fidel & Sarah

And what do you wish couples would stop doing?

Charis White: Having boring crap music.

Koren Harvey: Choosing ‘wedding songs’ rather than songs they adore.

Sarah Aird: Thinking they have to choose certain types of music because it’s expected and because “that’s what you do”. I had a bride whose mother told her she couldn’t have songs with lyrics, that she had to have all instrumental. Fuck that! I talked her into choosing what she wanted… she danced down that aisle like it was the most joyful moment ever.

Lauren Evans: Not having live music?

Big Love Weddings: STOP BEING BORING or conservative with your music choices if you’re not boring or conservative people. And if you’re wanting me to create a kick -arse vibe and fun filled/rockin’ ceremony, don’t have a harpist or whale mating music…it’s much harder to get the vibe up after the music has brought them all down. If we’re smudging, washing our feet and worshipping the goddess of nature and chanting and meditating in the ceremony- (yes, this has happened) a 4 piece string quartet ain’t gonna cut it. The music should be a part of the entire experience-adding to the vibe-not working against it…

Nat Sproal: Getting shit DJ’s they found through dodgy sites.

Celebrant Lady Love: Choosing songs they think are “wedding themed” – I always tell my couples that their song choices don’t have to be about love, as long as its music they love, that’s what is important because it expresses who they are. I also don’t know why people think they have to choose down tempo songs for ceremony. I actually encourage the opposite. Lift the mood, make it fun and upbeat, so that it kick-starts your party and sets the tone for the day.

Claire Parsons: Googling “best songs to walk down the aisle to” haha.

Josh Withers: Stop thinking that lyrics and the songs being played as per the record are that important … the vibe and feeling is more important

Jon von Goes: Playing music that they think is weddingish or appropriate.

A ceremony singalong involves the whole crowd at Anna & Russ' wedding | PHOTO: Gold & Grit | LIVE MUSIC: Fidel & Sarah |

What do you think of live ceremony singalongs as an alternative to traditional readings?

Deborah Lilley: That sounds like fun!!!!

Koren Harvey: It happened at my own wedding! We’d asked friends to share their advice for marriage in place of a reading, with their words to be a surprise to us until the day. One friend got up and started reading the lyrics to ‘all you need is love’. He got to the end of the first verse and invited everyone to sing with him. The chapel was filled with the sound of 150 people singing ‘all you need is love’ and it was a spine-tingling, happy moment and remains a brilliant memory.

Russ Macumber: Would be awesome if you got the band to play it and everyone sang along.

Marry Me Dee: Always – they only work with live musicians.

Monty King: I love the sing-a-long idea.

Celebrant Lady Love: I Rick Rolled a couple during their vows recently and that turned into an impromptu sing-along. Loved that. I’ve also done a Meatloaf sing-along at the end of ceremony before and that was heaps of fun too. Couples are usually afraid of it when I suggest it. Maybe I’m too enthusiastic in my approach, haha, and my crazy eyes put them off.

Big Love Weddings: I always encourage couples to use song lyrics as readings instead of the old shit we’ve heard a million times.

​Nat Sproal: What a cool idea!

Creative ceremony ideas with live music get the crowd going | PHOTO: I Got You Babe | LIVE MUSIC: Fidel & Sarah |

Give us your top tip! What's one thing couples can do to make their ceremony freakin' rad?

Monty King: Think outside the square. Be yourself, don’t get pushed into “traditions” if you don’t want them.

Lauren Evans: Ditch the readings, instead use the time to tell a story about who you are as a couple, it makes it so much more personal!

Koren Harvey: Be authentic! Don’t be afraid to be silly, to laugh, cry, sing, dance if that is who you are. Nothing screams ‘uncomfortable’ more than a couple acting in a certain way because they think that’s how a bride/groom ‘should’ act.

Big Love Weddings: Be brave with their music choices. Understand and remember that music can be such a vital part of the ceremony… as well as helping to set the tone-it can guide their guests through the ceremony without them even realising they are being guided & create unforgettable moments.

Zena Lythgo: The song at the end as every one celebrates is key- let’s get the party vibes happening!

Celebrant Lady Love: Ditch anything that isn’t real and doesn’t hold meaning. If you want to pour colored sand into a vase kid-ceremony, ask yourself why. Unless you can come up with a meaningful response, ditch it. Also don’t google wedding readings. If you want to have a reading it should be something that’s come from you, not the internet. Like an excerpt from your favourite book or movie, lyrics to your favourite song, you get what I mean.

Marry Me Dee: If they want the signing part within the ceremony – there must be music and booze to fill in that 5 minutes. Think outside the box with music – make it reflect who they are – one couple walked down the aisle to Snoop Dog’s ‘What’s my name’ and I heard people say “that was so them”. There are only two legal components for the ceremony otherwise there are no rules – make it your own!

Claire Parsons: Don’t read bridal magazines. Stay away from Pinterest. Stop comparing. Just do you.

Josh Withers: Be present, not perfect

Jon von Goes: I encourage couples to play the music they like and to not listen to what anyone else thinks they should play.

Paul Bonadio: My top tip is the worse thing that happens at you wedding is still going to be great. We get so worked up in making sure its perfect that we forget its basically one big shin dig with the people you love. Aw shucks!

Rockin' recessional with live music at Colonial Brewing, Port Melbourne | PHOTO: Ben Mulligan | BAND: Fidel & Sarah |

And lastly, your final thoughts on wedding ceremony music?

Zena Lythgo: We need more of it, the thing that’s stops people is money much like budget dictates how much they will spend with celebrants. But the ceremony is THE thing, it is the Centre of the day, it raises the energy for the rest of the night. Couples either get that or they rush over it! Their loss…

Monty King: Book someone!

Anthony Cribbes: Just don’t hire someone shit.

Lauren Evans: It’s the best!

Josh Withers: Be at more of my ceremonies!

Jon von Goes: Live music is great.

Marry Me Dee: I would have it in every ceremony I do if I could.

From This Day Forth: Wish there was more of it.

Claire Parsons: You know those feels when you see the waiter bringing you your meal in a restaurant? Choose a band that makes you feel like that.

Of course, live music isn’t going to work for everyone. One thing all the celebrants stressed in their responses –

you can go your own way.

Your ceremony is the heart of your wedding, and you don’t have to upstage every pin on pinterest to make it unique.

Stick to who you are as individuals and as a couple.

Pick songs you love, rituals you care about, and entertainment that makes you giddy.

There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from the internet. And hell, if you find ceremony songlists that speak to you, by all means give ’em a listen!

But don’t be afraid to do things differently.

If you want to high-kick your way down the aisle, do it. Rock in on rollerskates? Do it. Dance, swear, have a flash mob, get nanna singing, dress up as Elvis…

It’s YOUR day. Enjoy the pants off it.


With special thanks to these excellent celebrants who brought you the great ideas:

Sarah Aird – Glen Iris
Zena Lythgo – Melbourne
Charis White – Northcote
Koren Harvey – Melbourne
Monty King – Newcastle
Anthony Cribbes – Ballarat
Big Love Weddings (Jo) – Sunshine Coast
Lauren Evans – Perth
Nat Sproal – Brunswick
Russ Macumber – Melbourne
Pete The Celebrant – Eltham
Celebrant Lady Love (Annie) – Gold Coast
Marry Me Dee – Melbourne
From This Day Forth (Martess) – Adelaide
Deborah Lilley – Adelaide
Claire Parsons – Adelaide
Josh Withers – Brisbane
Jon von Goes – Melbourne
Paul Bonadio – Collingwood

And remember, just like us, many celebrants are happy to travel interstate for your wedding.

Hey, you made it all the way down here!
We hope these experts have given you some inspiration to make your ceremony personal.

If we seem like your kinda band, you can listen to our songs or learn more about how we do wedding music.

​Whatever you do, have yourselves a fab wedding. xx