These Chattanooga wedding musicians make sure your wedding strikes the right note

Contributed photo / Harpist Rachel Payne
Contributed photo / Harpist Rachel Payne

As a musician, it's weird to be asked to play Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" during the bride's processional at a wedding.

As a harpist, it's way beyond weird. But for Rachel Payne, learning the song and playing it "was fun."

Whether you play an instrument, sing or spin tunes as a DJ, your job at a wedding is far more than just getting up there for a song or two.

"That's the easy part," says musician Johnathan Bond. "As a wedding singer, my job is to get beyond the glamour to the heart. So if the song doesn't resonate with them, then I failed."

In most cases, the musician or DJ meets the bride and groom a few weeks before the wedding to get musical details. Do they want secular or sacred songs or both? What songs do they want played when? What songs are must-plays?

While Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" is a frequent request for her, Payne seems to attract hard-rock lovers. Along with her Metallica moment, at another wedding, the groom asked her to play "The Final Countdown" by '80s hair-metal band Europe.

"We don't just show up and play," she says. "There's a lot of practice, a lot of learning new songs. I do have a list of songs that I give to brides, but there's always new music coming out, so I try to add new songs all the time."

A nominee for several Dove Awards for songwriting from the Gospel Music Association, Bond says he writes many of the songs he performs at weddings. When he meets with the couple before the ceremony, he wants to know their story. How did they meet? What is special about their relationship? Are there other people in their life who they want recognized?

At a recent wedding in Alabama, he wrote a song for the bride's dance with her grandfather at the reception.

"I wrote a song called 'My First Dance,' and it speaks about a little girl who's out in the yard with her grandfather, and she's standing on the end of his shoes, and they're going around and dancing," Bond says. "And there's a line in the song that I love. It says, 'Even though I'm marrying this other guy, Grandpa, you will always be my first dance.'"

Being a wedding performer is also more than just music. Psychology comes into the equation. Keenan Daniels is a wedding DJ who goes by the name "MillionDollaMan." He plays about 95 weddings a year — "They're my bread and butter" — and says that he must take the personalities of the guests into account.

  photo  Contributed photo / DJ Keenan Daniels as “MillionDollaMan”

There are family members from each side of the aisle — some like each other; some don't. And there are friends — some like each other; some don't. And don't even get started on couples who have split but are both invited to the nuptials.

"I never know the dynamic between families," Daniels explains. "And then you've got your classmates; you've got your gym buddies; you've got your co-workers; you've got your church members. So it's a big room of: I-don't-know-who-you-are.

"But someone has to direct their mental traffic toward what's really important, and that's to celebrate the bride and groom. I never know what I'm getting myself into, so you have to mentally adjust and read the room," he adds.

But Daniels has one song in his arsenal that works every time, whether he wants to fire up a good mood or dispel a bad one: Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."

"Regardless if you're old, young, black, white, whatever the case may be, that's just a universal song," Daniels says.

For more information, find Keenan Daniels at Johnathan Bond's website is And Rachel Payne is on Facebook at Rachel Payne — Harpist.

  photo  Contributed photo / Singer Johnathan Bond

Upcoming Events