How I ensure I’m ready to sing & play guitar for a wedding

Singer and guitarist Andrew Healey performing at a wedding.

I love playing at weddings. Because I am a solo singer and guitarist, I usually perform for the ceremony (as well as a bit before and after), so the whole gig is generally short and sweet. For me, however, there is a lot of responsibility to do a great job; after all, a couple’s wedding is a major life event. In this post, I explain how I get prepared.

Preparing the wedding songs

There are plenty of songs in my repertoire suitable for weddings. Most couples, though, want a wedding singer to play one or two songs with particular significance to them. So, often I have to learn new songs. And, as long as the wedding isn’t, like, tomorrow, that’s fine.

How I learn new songs

  • Listen: To avoid misunderstandings, I ask the bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom) to send YouTube links to me of the songs they’d like me to play.
  • Assess: Then, I determine whether I can perform the songs well with only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment. Nine times out of ten I can; however, some songs just don’t ‘cut it’ without lots of instruments and production. Also, if a couple wants me to sing a song by an artist like Celine Dion, they should probably look for another singer.
  • Words and music: Once the couple and I have agreed on songs, I then get the lyrics and chords —usually courtesy of Google.
  • Check details: Believe it or not, lyrics and chords that you can find online are often wrong, so it is essential for me to listen to recordings of the songs to ensure everything sounds right.
  • Practice: For this, there is no substitute.

If you’re looking for suitable songs for your wedding, here is a list of New Zealand’s most popular wedding songs.

Related post:

Prepare my equipment

The day before the wedding is when I check that all my musical equipment is in working order. Even though I’m a solo musician, I still have a heap of gear.

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My checklist

  • Guitar: Do I need to change the strings? Is there still plenty of power in the battery? I mustn’t forget my guitar stand.
  • Microphone: I usually bring two, just in case. I also, of course, need a microphone stand.
  • PA system: I have two front-of-house speakers, a monitor and small mixing desk. Usually, for a ceremony, though, I’ll take just a single speaker.
  • Cables: You wouldn’t believe how many cables I use, so I usually set up my PA, guitar and microphone in my lounge to ensure I don’t forget anything.
  • Songbook: This contains about 100 songs, and it’s invaluable to fall back on when playing a number I haven’t performing for a while. And, there is my music stand.
  • Accessories: There’s my capo, tuner, spare strings and batteries.

Prepare my voice and guitar hands

Singing is quite physical. So, for a vocalist to perform at their best, they must warm up. And, this is one of the challenges when singing at weddings: There is usually minimal time to reach peak condition before the ceremony begins. So, before I start, often in the privacy of my car, I run through vocal exercises. Also, to get my fingers moving, I run through scales.

What comes next? Well, it’s time for a wedding.

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Andrew Healey


Andrew is an Auckland-based writer and musician.

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