Hannah Warren Harpist - Hannah Plays Harp - Ottawa based wedding and event harpist Lauren McCormick Photography 23

Choosing a music option for your wedding

Just like with your decor, venue, dress, catering, and every other vendor you choose for your wedding, you’ve got plenty of choices for finding the right music choice(s) for your big day! Let’s walk through your three main options for wedding music, and go through the pros and cons of each.

Live musician(s)

Ok ok I might be a bit biased here being a wedding harpist and all, but your wedding day is such a fantastic time to take advantage of having live, personalized music! Ottawa has fantastic options for live musicians too, so there’s bound to be someone out there that fits your wedding vision. Apart from myself, here are some other fantastic musicians in the Ottawa area:

Benefits to hiring a live musician

Hiring live musicians for your wedding can come with many benefits! First, you can easily tailor your wedding to a certain theme. Love pop music but don’t want heavy beats playing while you walk down the aisle? A live classical musician can give you the best of both worlds! Live musicians also have the flexibility of being able to adapt quickly to timing while you and your bridal party walk down the aisle. If someone is taking longer than expected, or you’re too excited to get married and speeding down the aisle, a live musician will be able to adjust their tempo and finishes to ensure everything happens on time.

Downsides to hiring live musicians for your wedding

The two biggest disadvantages to having live musicians at your wedding would be restrictions in where they can play, and diversity. First, many musical instruments (like the harp!) are temperamental when it comes to being outdoors, potentially limiting your options if you’re planning on having a wedding out in the middle of nowhere, or on a particularly temperate day. (You can read all about venue considerations for harpists here, if you’re interested!) The second disadvantage to having live musicians at your wedding is that you’re limited to the same sound of music for the entire time you have the musician playing. Although I can play many different genres and get different sounds out of the harp, at the end of the day it’s still harp music for a few hours. Many couples end up choosing live musicians for their ceremony up sometimes through dinner, then switching to a DJ afterwards for the more familiar dance music.


A good DJ is like the heartbeat of your wedding reception. Able to create perfect playlists on a dime, your DJ can directly affect the mood of your party and keep the energy going all night long.

The Ottawa region is lucky to have many great DJs, including these ones:

Pros to hiring a wedding DJ

I’m of the belief that a DJ is an essential wedding vendor. From ensuring your ceremony is heard by all of your guests, liasing with your videographer to make sure every moment is captured, and keeping the party going all night long, DJs are some of the wedding industry’s unsung heroes. Many offer add-ons like photo booths, special lighting, and more to really make your reception a party, and are there to help you craft the perfect playlists so every guest can say “hey! I know that song!”

Cons to hiring a DJ for your wedding

Unlike florists, live musicians, or other wedding vendors, it can be hard to judge which DJ is right for your wedding since you don’t really get to hear their work beforehand. Make sure you and your DJ’s personalities match, and be sure to talk with them about your music selections beforehand. After all, your wedding vendors only know what you tell them! Having a wedding DJ for your wedding ceremony as opposed to live music is still a good choice, however in my experience it can be a bit harder to find processional and recessional songs that work well together. If they’re being played by the same instrument(s), then they’re bound to sound at least somewhat cohesive!

A pre-made playlist

I’m going to start by admitting that I wouldn’t really recommend a pre-made playlist for your wedding unless your budget is extremely limited. But let’s get into those pros and cons to discuss more.

Advantages to the pre-made playlist

The biggest advantage to using pre-made playlists for your wedding would be to save money. While a DJ or live musician won’t be the most expensive wedding vendor you book, it’s still an expense to ensure you’re accounting for and many couples look at their budget after booking their venue, photographer, and caterer and realize they’re going to have to make some hard choices for the rest of their wedding needs.

Disadvantages to using a pre-made playlist for your wedding

When it comes to choosing music for your wedding, sticking to a pre-made playlist sets off a couple of major red flags for your wedding planner (if you have one), and for your wedding reception. First, during your ceremony you’ll have to have someone dedicated just to making sure the music is cued properly. When I was getting married myself, the last thing I wanted to think of was logistics while I was waiting for the doors to open, and not having to stress about whether the music would start properly and not stop partway through was key. Your wedding planner will be too busy coordinating the rest of your event to worry about your music as well, which means coordinating and extra person for your day. Second, during your reception you’re kind of stuck with whichever songs are in the playlist, or having someone run back and forth during speeches to turn the music down and switch songs when needed. My advice? Let your guests enjoy the party and leave the sound to the pros!

Getting married in Ottawa and looking for a live musician?