Entertainment serves a threefold purpose at weddings: to communicate, to distract and to amuse. There are several times during a wedding when guests are expected to sit, stand, kneel,etc., but if there are no verbal instructions, guests can get aggravated waiting for a late wedding party and boredom can leave attendees with negative memories. At these moments, music can provide audible clues about what's taking place during the ceremony. It also gives guests something to do at the beginning of the reception before food is served and festivities begin.

  During the nuptials, many attendees rely on changes in music, such as moving from the prelude to the processional, to know what's next.

  "Think of music as the conductor who sets the pace of your wedding — scoring each sequence, adding another layer of meaning to your ceremony, setting an upbeat, convivial mood at cocktail hour and getting everyone into the groove at the reception," Mindy Weiss writes in The Wedding Book: The Big Book for Your Big Day. "At some junctures, music will fade into the background, but you will still want it to be part of the environment."

  Hiring musicians can be one of the most challenging aspects of wedding planning, since each house of worship and reception venue has its own rules. Some churches permit some instruments and not others, some have restrictions on which songs can be played, and others require couples to hire talent from a parish-sanctioned group of artists.

  Rules at reception venues can be even trickier because of neighborhood noise control ordinances and no-dance clauses in contracts. Ensembles such as New Orleans Finest Musicians (884-4946; www.neworleansfinestmusicians.com), which plays both religious and secular music, or Joe Simon's Jazz Trio (365-0808; www.joesimonsjazz.com), which plays Sunday brunches at Commander's Palace, Mr. B's Bistro and Dickie Brennan's Palace Cafe, are well-versed in the legalities surrounding wedding music and can help navigate the maze of rules.

  "No matter what type of band or deejay you choose," Weiss writes, "the following points should be addressed in the music contracts: starting and ending time, attire, breaks, overtime rate and a do-not-play list."

  Guests who arrive at the reception via a wedding caravan are among the first to arrive and must wait to eat until the wedding party finishes taking pictures. This interval before the reception begins is often referred to as cocktail hour, but lines for drinks can be long. Some guests, especially those who don't know other attendees, may grow restless. These guests could benefit from an enjoyable diversion.

  Photo booths are a fun way to entertain guests until the reception really begins. Photo booths are fairly new to the wedding scene and come with props and accessories to add frivolity and are large enough to accommodate a group. Most photo booth companies, such as Magazine Photo Booth (638-0786; www.magazinephotobooth.com), post the photos on a password-protected gallery on the company's website and provide the couple with a DVD after.

  The end of the wedding gives the bride and groom one last chance to wow their guests. Another new trend — and a sweet treat for attendees — is a candy table.

  "Candy tables are a great source of entertainment for guests of all ages — not just kids," says Tamar Gregorian of Graceful Event Productions (723-2906; www.graceful-events.com). "They not only double as a wedding favor, but are so pleasing to the eye that they often become a decorative piece to match your color scheme and theme." Guests can create goody bags , mixing and matching their favorite treats.

  Most candy tables feature rock candy, jumbo lollipops, bulk confections and candies organzied by color in apothecary jars, and some incorporate baked goods like cake pops and macaroons.

  After the reception, there's the send-off, which has moved away from simply tossing rice or birdseed as the bridal couple leaves the ceremony.

  "The grand send-off is a celebratory moment when the guests applaud the newlywed couple and express their best wishes," writes Donnie Brown of The Style Network's Whose Wedding is it Anyway? in his book Donnie Brown Weddings: From the Couture to the Cake. What better way to send off your guests than with an authentic second line, complete with a brass brand and Mardi Gras Indians? The Mardi Gras Indian Show (975-2434; www.mardigrasindianshow.com), under the direction of Big Chief Jerry Butler and Second Chief Donald Claude Jr., supplies every second-line essential — except the handkerchiefs (the wedding couple can have their own printed as a memento) — making for a spectacular send-off.