Whether planning a church wedding or civil ceremony, many brides and grooms are choosing live music to accompany their special day. This blog aims to give an insight into the world of the musician, and discuss how to choose the right music for your wedding.
Wedding music and musicians can perhaps be seen as an afterthought or luxury in the wedding planning process, but I would be inclined to urge couples to think about it early on in the planning process if at all possible. I believe that live music in particular will provide a lasting memory and emotion for both bride and groom and their guests. It can significantly enhance and personalise the wedding, and experienced musicians get booked during peak times as quickly as other suppliers, so it's always good to prepare this element well in advance.
Once you've booked your musician, paid you deposit and your wedding date is fast approaching, you need to choose your wedding music. What is the process?
Let's start by establishing where you require music to be played. The ceremony itself is usually the most effective way to introduce live music to your wedding. Music for the bride's entrance (called the processional), the bride and groom's exit (called the recessional) and during the signing of the register are the most important moments to think about.
The processional piece
This can be classical or modern but it needs to be a good, steady pace for walking, and I feel it should have a somewhat stately quality to it or perhaps a romantic twist. The most popular choices remain to be 'Canon in D' by Pachelbel for a classical choice and 'A Thousand Years' by Christina Perri for a more contemporary feel. Both these pieces are chosen for their stately, processional feel and familiarity as well as being beautiful pieces of music. Other couples have chosen pieces that have a personal meaning to them, perhaps a favourite song or piece of music, or something that reminds them of their relationship together or when they first met.
Disney music is also a popular choice such as 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' and 'Beauty and the Beast' which injects a romantic or 'fairy tale' element to the ceremony and can be quite magical. I have also played the traditional Bridal Chorus many times, more commonly known as 'Here Comes the Bride', as this is certainly a tried and tested piece of music, and can sound surprisingly different on an instrument other than the church organ! Couples who have asked me to play this one just to rule it out, have often been surprised and ended up choosing it, because of it's ability to completely capture the moment, and the emotion that goes with it, within the first few seconds of being heard.
Film themes such as Star Wars and Jurassic Park have also been chosen and worked very well; they are great stand alone pieces of music, both written by the master of film music, John William. These pieces injected humour and light heartedness to the ceremony and were much appreciated by the guests.
It is also important to bear in mind the wording and lyrics if choosing a modern pop song. The wording won't be heard of course if it's an instrumental version, but I still feel it's important to consider this. For example the song 'Tenerife Sea' by Ed Sheeran begins with the phrase 'You look so wonderful in your dress' which is extremely suitable, compared to another Ed Sheeran song 'A Team' that makes references to 'class A' drugs and prostitution, which obviously is not!
Ideally your wedding musician will play through your ideas in person which will be unique both in terms of musical arrangement and interpretation. Or if you trust your musician and their style, then perhaps it will be a nice surprise to hear their version on the day!
Signing of the register
Once the official vows have taken place, there is another opportunity to include live music during the signing of the register. There is enough time here to include two pieces of music whilst you are signing and being photographed both officially and unofficially. Classical or modern again works well, and a chance to personalise. I often suggest that perhaps a favourite piece or special song can be used here, or something that will reflect the couples personalities, perhaps by choosing a song or piece each is a good way to balance the music. I was once asked to play a Welsh and a Finnish folk piece to reflect the bride and groom's birth places. This completely personalised the ceremony and included the guests, many of whom had travelled from both Wales and Finland to attend the wedding.
If choosing modern pop songs I advise choosing classics that will stand the test of time rather than really up-to-date chart music. It's also important to choose songs with a strong and recognisable melody as you are not relying on words and lyrics to express the music. Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, Bruno Mars, Coldplay and Adele all have examples of music with these qualities, and the pieces I've played pieces by these artists have always been successful. I also like to play contemporary classical pieces during this part of the ceremony, music by Ludovico Einaudi creates a beautifully atmospheric background to the proceedings. Other suitable pieces include 'Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany's', 'Fields of Gold' or 'Songbird' by Eva Cassidy, 'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol' or 'The Flower Duet' by Delibes.
The recessional piece
Once married and the formal part of the ceremony is over, the recessional piece begins as you exit the ceremony and begin your life as husband and wife! Traditionally this piece should be joyous, uplifting and celebratory. Classical examples are 'Bridal March' by Mendelsohn, 'Arrival of the Queen of Sheba', or 'Trumpet Voluntary' by Clarke. Modern examples include 'Marry Me' or 'Just the Way You Are' by Bruno Mars, 'Celebrate' by Kool and the Gang or 'I'm Yours' by Jason Mraz. Again, many couples choose personal or favourite pieces for this part of the ceremony.
Religious music or music with a religious text cannot be used for a civil ceremony, even if it is purely instrumental. Please check with your musician or registrar if you're unsure and they will be able to advise you.
Many couples begin their research by using YouTube to listen to examples and although this can provide a useful starting point, please bear in mind that every musician will play the same piece differently; in addition to each personal interpretation there will be many arrangements of the same piece including, very often, the musician's own unique arrangement, therefore my conclusion based on many couples experiences is that YouTube has a limited capacity for helping you choose your wedding music.
These days, even traditional church weddings provide the opportunity for couples to express their musical tastes and personalities and I'm finding more and more that anything goes, but it's always a good idea to liaise with your musician as they will know for certain what pieces work well for them and their instrument, and what they feel comfortable playing. Most established musicians will have a good choice of music on their repertoire list, and if given enough notice, will often be happy to play a special request if you can't find your favourite piece! Please do bear in mind when requesting a piece of music that it takes time, money and effort to source, purchase, learn, adapt or arrange and practice a new piece of music, so whilst many musicians are happy to provide this service, it needs to a definite choice rather than just to hear what it might sound like.
Other parts of the day that can include music are the drinks reception, wedding breakfast or even during the evening if you're having a live band. Many musicians can provide a package for different parts of the day which can provide good value and a seamless musical backdrop to your special day. My most popular package is for the ceremony and drinks reception, however I also love to play during the wedding breakfast, as the bride and groom really get a chance to sit and relax at this point, and it is often then they can really listen to and fully appreciate their chosen musician.
To round up, here's my 2 top ten lists:
Top 10 most requested pieces:
1. A Thousand years - Christina Perri
2. Canon in D - Pachelbel
3. Marry you - Bruno Mars
4. Fields of Gold - Eva Cassidy
5. How Long Will I Love you - Ellie Goulding
6. All of Me - John Legend
7. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
8. Can You Feel The Love Tonight - Elton John
9. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheeba - Handel
10. Tenerife Sea - Ed Sheeran
Top 10 alternative favourites:
1. I Giorni - Einaudi
2. Firestone - Kygo
3. A Million Dreams - Greatest Showman
4. One day Like This - Elbow
5. Star Wars - theme
6. Stay - Sam Smith
7. When We Were Young - Adele
8. City of Stars - La La Land
9. Fireflies - Owl City
10. Beauty and the Beast - theme