It’s only the soundtrack to the most important day of your clients’ life -- it's their wedding day, and you’re the wedding filmmaker. No pressure, but as the wedding videographer, you have to get this right. As an editor, your ability to choose the right music for the wedding video will be put to the test. Here’s how you can succeed.
Get to know the bride and groom
The way to satisfy a bride and groom is to get to know them personally. Find out what they love both in music and film. At the same time, do not let the couple choose the wedding video songs. 9 times out of 10, they will choose a generic love song or a popular track that is far out of their budget to obtain a license to use. However, by getting to know what genres of music they love, you can more successfully choose royalty-free music that they will also like.
During your meeting with them, get to know their favorite and least favorite artists and genres. Do they like classics or contemporary music? Indie or Pop? Do they have a favorite film score that they love? It can even be helpful to show them examples of your wedding videos to see what resonates with them.
Educate your bride and groom on the legalities of using copyrighted music and point them in the direction of royalty-free music like you’ll find on Artlist. You may even want to select a handful of music beds or instrumentals and get their feedback before you proceed with editing.
You’ll also want to pay attention during their ceremony and reception for cues about the music they like. What’s being played? What gets the crowd moving? What do the bride and groom enjoy dancing to during the reception? Do they like golden oldies, classic Rock, Funk, Country, RnB, or Electronic music? While you may not incorporate those exact genres into your edit, you can take cues from those sounds when considering instrumentation in the music, whether it's Classical Strings, Piano, or harp; Electric Guitar; funky bass or more Electronic Synth.
Consider the setting, location and mood
A wedding video is more than one scene. It’s more than the ceremony. If you’re filming the preparation, photography session, rehearsal dinner, or cocktail hour, you’ll need to consider the wedding video songs or music beds for each setting. Are there smiles or tears? Tender hugs or jubilant celebration? Each will call for a different type of track.
Is the location elegant or rustic, upscale with white tablecloths and champagne or in their backyard? Will you choose a classical composition or something a little bluegrass?
The location will inform your choices, and so will the mood. What is the emotion of the moment -- happy, sentimental, or adventurous?
You’ll likely use 3-5 songs or music beds if you’re shooting a full day of activities. The sentimentality of the vows and the party atmosphere of the reception simply need different tracks. For example, you won’t have a dance track playing under the vows or a classic wedding video song playing while the couple is doing the macarena.
What is the theme?
There are two things to consider here. First, what is the theme of the wedding? Second, what is the theme of the wedding video?
The wedding might be party-themed. Perhaps they’ve chosen the Roaring Twenties or a fantasy medieval court. A themed party will definitely help you narrow down music choices, giving you clues as to which direction to go in. These selections should be discussed with the couple to avoid becoming altogether too dramatic or kitschy for a sacred event.
The other consideration is the theme of the wedding video itself. It may be similar to a documentary or simply a quick-moving montage. If the couple wants the video to tell a specific story through interviews and speeches, you may want to consider finding a musical theme that repeats throughout the video, similar to a movie soundtrack with a motif.
If you’re simply creating a short montage with no dialogue, consider movie trailers as inspiration. You’ll want an impactful beginning, middle, and end, and that can be found all within a single track. You might even add sound effects for a bit of extra drama.
Consider the story you’re telling in all aspects of song selection and consider how bold the couple is, as well as their specific direction during your interview with them about the video.
What's The difference between music beds and songs?
Music beds or underscores are often instrumental and can be layered under dialogue or used as interludes between scenes. In contrast, songs contain music plus vocals and lyrics. Songs should be used sparingly and approved by the couple first. You don’t want to get deep into editing the wedding video, spending hours or weeks cutting to a particular song just to find that the bride and groom simply don’t like it.
Music beds and underscores should be used to enhance or heighten the emotional potency of the scene. And sometimes music beds shouldn’t be noticed much at all. This is especially the case under dialogue, such as the vows. An unobtrusive piano bed or a light symphonic arrangement are better than a distracting lyrical song for important moments where the couple or wedding party is speaking. The focus should be on the action; the music is simply there to accompany it in these cases.
In an interview we did a few months ago with successful wedding filmmaker Matt Johnson (linked above), he gave pro tips for aspiring wedding filmmakers. When talking about choosing the wedding video music, he said, “I want the music to support the wedding video, drive the emotion of the film, but, at the same time, I don’t want the music to be overpowering. It’s just one of the ingredients of a wedding, albeit an essential part.”
In addition, you’ll want to consider the tempo of the tracks you choose. The tempo should match the mood and action of the scene. Employ a slower tempo for sentimental moments such as the father giving away the bride and a faster tempo and more celebratory wedding video music for after the kiss when the married couple is presented to the guests.
It may be helpful to map out each scene of the wedding in a spreadsheet with the following fields:
- Dialogue or no dialogue
- Song selection
Licensing royalty-free music
In addition to considering the emotional impact of the songs you choose, you’ll also need to consider the legality. The couple will likely want to post the video online, as will you as part of your portfolio. YouTube requires that you own the rights to the music in your video or that you acquire the legal license from the song creator. The use of copyrighted music requires a license, and you could be in legal trouble if you don’t obtain permission. So, you have three ways to avoid this: contact the copyright holder of any copyrighted song, hire a composer or license royalty-free music.
A royalty-free license eliminates the need to negotiate licensing fees with the Performance Rights Organizations (PRO’s) and gives you the right to use copyrighted music any way you like.
Artlist, a royalty-free music licensing platform, makes it easy to find music for your wedding video. Not only do you get direct and unlimited access to an entire catalog of high-quality music for a single annual subscription fee, but you can also search by video theme (in this case, weddings), genre, mood, instrument, tempo and duration. You can even filter selections by Staff Picks and popularity. Pay for the license only once, and you can use that song for a lifetime.
Following these guidelines will help you choose the right wedding video music, make your clients happy on their big day, and give you a beautiful portfolio piece for your business.
Jessica Peterson is a travel and documentary filmmaker with a background in journalism and marketing. She has 20 years of experience producing content in 114 cities and 25 countries. In 2016, she directed and produced her own documentary about her then-home of Guam. Working under the name Global Girl Travels, her clients include CNN, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Matador Network, and Tastemade.