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Anika Noni Rose and Jason Dirden Dancing at Wedding Reception
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How an Artist Chooses Her Wedding Music

For Tony Award-winner Anika Noni Rose, finding the right big-day musicians was as simple as exploring her own network.

As anyone who is planning or has planned a wedding can attest to, one of the most important tasks on a pre-wedding to-do list is deciding which elements of the big day are top priorities. Doing so ensures couples appropriately divide their budget and focus their attention on the elements that matter most to them. For Tony Award-winner Anika Noni Rose and actor Jason Dirden, music quickly rose to the top of their list. As artists themselves, they understand the impact great music has on any experience, so ensuring the tunes at their ceremony and reception stood out was key.

For their ceremony and cocktail hour, Anika and Jason hired a string quartet and vocalist; to get the party started during the reception, they relied on a great DJ. Here, the duo share the four things they kept in mind when hiring their wedding musicians.

Decide What You Want Early On

“I did not want a band,” Anika affirms. “That can go so wrong, and I’m a singer! I wanted to hear the songs that I wanted to hear in the form that they would usually be heard.” That made it easy for them to rule out bands and focus their attention on finding a great DJ right away. And that’s exactly what they did: Jason went to college with DJ George 2.0, and the duo very quickly determined that he was the perfect fit for their big day. 

Consult Your Network

DreamPlug, the string quartet that performed during the ceremony and cocktail hour, was recommended to the couple by the bride’s maid of honor. “I was lucky because my girlfriend is a vocalist, and I know that if she says, ‘This group right here is great,’ then they're going to be great,” Anika explains. Though not everyone has an arsenal of other performers to consult for advice, you can always ask for recommendations from friends and family members who tied the knot before you. And of your other wedding vendors, especially a wedding planner or your venue, will be able to make recommendations, too.

Get Familiar With Their Work

Glowing reviews, either from family and friends or online, are wonderful, but your research shouldn’t stop there. “I think it's important to have some sort of touchstone—you can go just from word of mouth, but I would always suggest having heard something, talking to people who have been at an event where these people performed, and understanding how they move in an event space,” Anika explains. And that’s not limited to live musicians, either. “Anybody can play records, but not everybody can DJ,” Jason explains. “DJing entails so much more—knowing what the energy is, knowing what the vibe is, and deciding what record to play next versus an original plan.” That’s why seeing your wedding musicians—whether that’s a string quartet, a solo singer, an eight-piece band, or a DJ—in action at another vent is key. 

Don't Be Afraid to Provide Some Guidance

The couple knew they wanted to hear classical music during the ceremony prelude, but they didn’t want anything too overdone; they gave the string quartet that guidance and worked together to curate a selection that felt right for their day. For cocktail hour, Anika and Jason advised that they’d love to also mix in instrumental versions of some contemporary hits, but gave the quartet freedom to determine the final selection. “We told them we wanted it to be classy and charming, but not stuffy,” Jason explains.

The duo also say it’s important to share key information about your guests. After all, you know who you’ve invited to the wedding—your band or DJ does not. Ensuring that the musical selections you make will appeal to everyone, not just you two as the couple, is important for a successful party. “We can have music that we love and want to hear, but we also had to keep in mind that we weren’t going to be the only ones partying,” Jason explains. “So, we explained to our DJ that our guests would range in age from eight to 83, and we wanted there to be something for everyone.”

But Remember to Trust the Team You’ve Hired

Once you have that conversation about what you do and don’t want to hear on the big day, it’s essential that you trust the professionals you’ve hired to do their job. “You have to have that conversation first, but then you should feel comfortable enough that you can trust them,” Jason says. “Just let go, and let the DJ do what the DJ is there to do.”

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