Tips + Techniques

Making the Music Match the Wedding Moments in Your Couple’s Film

June 18, 2019

By Greg Scoblete

Photo © Amber Baird/Eyenamics

Amber Baird’s filmmaking philosophy is simple: follow the emotion.

A great musical score can be a film’s secret weapon, subtly amplifying emotional moments, heightening the drama and creating a more cinematic feel for even the most seemingly mundane moments.

Pairing the proper music tracks with a wedding film is more art than science, but the wedding filmmakers we spoke with agree that music choices can make a huge difference in how clients perceive their films. It pays to put some thought and effort into selecting tracks.

Subscribe to a Licensing Service

Most music licensing services have moved to a subscription model from an à la carte plan, which has been a huge money-saver for filmmakers. Depending on the length of the film, you’ll likely only need three or four tracks, but even then, it’s easy to fall prey to a kind of paralysis, agonizing over your choices. 

Rob Adams is a firm believer in identifying a playlist of solid tracks and reusing them on films. “Take a day, once every six months or once a year, and find 20 songs you like and stick with them,” he advises. “Put those 20 or so tracks in a folder on your desktop and you’ll save yourself time.” 

While Adams likes to go back to a collection of favorite tracks for longer features, he’ll use exclusive tracks for teasers and short videos meant to be shared online.

Instrumentals Are (Usually) Better Than Vocal Tracks

For a documentary-style filmmaker like Manny Pabla, the only voices he wants to hear in his films are those from the day itself. He limits music to instrumentals that won’t compete with or distract from important vows, speeches or other spoken words. “The only point we tend to use music is during the intro to the day and morning preps,” he says.

Brandon Rice agrees, though if it’s a wedding without much audio, he might select a track with vocals. “It’s not that often that it happens,” he adds. 

Amber Baird suggests downloading versions of the song with and without vocals. This way, you have the flexibility to kill the vocal track without breaking continuity with the music. 

Let the Couple or Day Dictate the Song (But Not Literally)

“We spend a lot of time with the couple on the wedding day,” Baird says. “We know their likes and dislikes from that time getting to know them. We get a gut feeling about them and how the day went. We don’t force a specific genre on the bride and groom.” 

Pabla agrees. “The pace of the day dictates the style of music we choose.”

“Most of the time we are using slower, more romantic music for our films,” Thompson says, “but we can work out of our normal style and put together a killer upbeat, faster rhythm film to some epic music” if it better suits the personality of the couple. 

Rice begins making a preliminary playlist of songs he thinks fit his couple’s personality even before the wedding day to get a head start on the music-matching process.

While the couples and day should determine the music, the filmmakers we spoke to don’t allow the couples to actually choose the music themselves. That’s an intrusion into the creative process that they’ve been hired to shepherd. 

Mind Your Transitions

“One thing that bothers me when watching a wedding film is noticing where music tracks change,” Rice says. To avoid that in his films, he’ll use transitional elements to bridge different tracks. For instance, he’ll let one song fade into audio from the day—clapping, speeches—before introducing a new song. 

Thompson advises dropping a mark on each beat and then making sure that your scene-to-scene transitions occur on those beats. “Once the song is marked, we typically break it into eight scenes,” he explains. “Wow shots, bride hair and makeup, groom getting ready, bride getting ready, ceremony, group creatives, couple creatives and reception. Then, we drop in the clips at the right spots, add some audio— and you have a wedding film!”  

Related: How to Edit Your Wedding Films Like a Pro

Being a One-Person Superstar Film Team at a Wedding