As a wedding cinematographer, I end up having to make a lot of decisions regarding wedding video songs. Finding the right track can sometimes be daunting, but with a little direction, all couples can find wedding music that will reflect who they are, and what their love is about.
The impact of music on a wedding video
As a bride and groom, there are a couple of things to considering when picking a song for your wedding film. First, you should know that cinematographers will generally provide the couple with a Wedding Highlights Edit that varies in length between 3 and 6 minutes, depending on how much audio is kept from the ceremony, vows, speeches, and other moments from the day. Personally, I think 4 to 5 minutes is the sweet spot in terms of length for this type of video, but it varies depending on content, style, etc.
Where to start?
Where to start when thinking about your wedding song? Start with you! A good way to approach music selection is to give your videographer / cinematographer some pointers as to what you enjoy, the type of artists you listen to, the genres you jam to, etc. We’ll come back to it later, but it’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t get attached to one specific song, because it may not end up working. I recommend trying to find some keywords that define your musical taste. Perhaps you’re looking for an ‘indie rock’ song that’s ‘upbeat', or maybe you’re more into ‘singer-songwriter’ music with ‘romantic vibe’… or maybe, maybe you’re really into ‘classic rock’ but also like a bit ‘electronic’. Those are things that can help a wedding videographer find you a great track!
Why is a good wedding song important?
In many cases, the song you choose will define the feel of your Wedding Highlights Film. As editors, we tend to respond to footage and music in a very instinctive way, building wedding stories with our hearts as much as with our eyes. The music, for a wedding film, provides the emotional skeleton of the edit. As the same time, there’s also some technicality to it: the rhythm, BPMs, length, and general structure have a huge impact on the edit. They determine how fast we should move to content, when we should place footage that is important, when we should use more romantic or more playful footage. Music works hand in hand with video to make you feel something.
What makes a good wedding video song?
So, here’s a couple things I look for in a song: first, I want the wedding music to have good pace. If a song languishes too much, or is too repetitive it may prevent the editor from making an editor that progresses well; second, I want the track to have some internal variation. Ideally, I like songs that have fun lyrics, but that also has a few instrumental parts, that way it’s easier to insert bits of live audio - like vows, speeches, or readings from cards - into the body of the wedding film; third, I want the track to reflect the feel of the wedding. If you’re having an unplugged wedding at a farm, EDM might not be the best choice… similarly, if you have a very grand ceremony and reception, it might make more sense to go with a more cinematic soundtrack rather than an acoustic country song. Ultimately, it’s all about the relation of the music with the images, and about how those two relate relate to who you are as a couple.
A few examples of waveforms that illustrate structure within a song. In this case, the first song is a rather slow instrumental, more on the classical side. While it builds up, it's very progressive and likely wouldn't allow me to really cut 'to the music'. I could make it work, but it would feel more like a series of beautiful images rather than a full story. The second song (middle) is a much more high energy track, with some drums and guitar. However, it doesn't have much variation between the verse, chorus, bridge, etc, so while we can cut more 'in relation' to this track, it might still feel repetitive and lack demarcation between the various story segments. The third song is closer to an ideal structure: it starts slow, allowing me to set the stage, establish the locations and people, and then really picks up about 1/3 of the way in; about halfway, it slows back down for a bit, allowing a little step back, a more reflective, quieter moment, and boum, back to the high energy finale! This sort of track is great because it allows to create mini stories within the story, and to emphasize big moments with big changes in music (i.e. have the walking down the aisle, or into the reception hall, at 1/3 or 2/3, when the beats kick in.
Finding legal music for wedding videos
There are many ways to find music for wedding videos, and we’ll get into this shortly. But first, we must address one important issue: copyright. The same way that, as Toronto wedding videographers, we - and you! - wouldn’t want other people using our images without acknowledging that we’ve created them, and fairly compensating us for them, musicians should have the right to benefit from the usage of their songs. On the most basic level, the idea is that if the person sowing the dress, the event planner, florist, etc, get compensated for helping make your wedding awesome, so should the person providing the soundtrack to what will soon become a cherished memory.
Let’s dissipate one myth: licensing music for wedding videos is actually affordable! It’s actually so affordable that we at One Heart Films include that fee in your wedding videography package price. A license, typically, will vary between $50 and $100 per song. Why license music? Well, the best reason is because it’s the right thing to do (as we just discussed). But there is another reason: fi you don’t license your music, it is likely that social media sites will take your video down for copyright infringement. Facebook, Youtube and Vimeo all have track detection that allows them to find music that has been registered, and automatically flag and remove it until a proof of proper licensing has been provided. What this effectively means is that if you don’t use a licensable track, you may never be able to share your video with your friends and family online… and that would be a shame!
The way we work is that we ask our couples to check out the library of our music provider, The Music Bed, and give us a few songs that they might want us to use for the highlights edit. We then give it a listen and either pick one, or go back to the drawing board and recommend a few other tracks. I’ve never had a couple not find anything there, but if they didn’t, there are also other options such as Marmoset Music and SongFreedom (which actually offers licenses to some pop songs that get regular radio play). But we prefer some more unique and handcrafted, so we usually stick with The Music Bed.
Get creative: live music and covers
Another way to go about music for your wedding video is to use music that was performed during your wedding day ‘live’ or to record your own ‘cover’ of a song you love. Now, we have to caution that this probably only works for couples that are musician or music aficionados, and that have access to good sound recording equipment (or for whom we have good sound from the wedding day). It’s not for everyone, and song covers are a bit of a muddy zone with regards to copyright, but it’s certainly something to explore for some people, as it can truly make your wedding video more unique and personal.
Your Music, Your Story
Ultimately, the key to choosing good songs for wedding videos is to keep the following things in mind: pacing, internal variation, relation to the feel of the actual wedding day, and license-ability. Once you got all those things in the back of your mind, the last thing is to find a song that inspires you and can help your wedding videographer tell the story of your love!
So, do you know what music will you use for your wedding film yet?
Bonus: A Song We Love
As a little bonus, here’s one song that we love for wedding purposes (it’s got everything we talked about going on for it) and that is actually available through The Music Bed (yay)!