Wedding Music: The Food Of Love

by Aidan Goldstraw - Date: 2006-12-15 - Word Count: 1023 Share This!

Music is an essential ingredient of a memorable wedding day, so care is needed in deciding what role it will play on your big day.

CDs and discos are fine, but there's no substitute for live music when it comes to providing a great wedding atmosphere.

Depending on where you're getting married, there are three main areas where you need to consider what music and musicians you need - before, during and after the ceremony.

Civil weddings in secular locations are becoming more and more popular these days. However, you need to set a good atmosphere as family and friends gather ready for the wedding ceremony itself.

In churches it's usually down to the resident organist to provide background music while the guests assemble. Of course, there's no direct counterpart at a hotel or stately home, and this is one area where the presence of a good wedding pianist, for example, can really help.

Unlike the church setting, where pre-ceremony music is usually chosen (or sometimes improvised) by the organist, you're likely to have more active input with the hired musician or musicians of your choice as to what material you'd like played.

Of course, the local church still remains a very popular choice for wedding ceremonies, so how should you handle the music here?

You should ideally ask the member of the clergy who is officiating at the ceremony to put you directly in touch with the organist. This will give you a chance to meet, listen to him or her play, and discuss choices of processional/recessional music and which hymns you would like sung.

You should pick music which is technically well within the capability of the designated organist - simpler music, well-played, is far better than having an inexperienced musician make an utter hash of something difficult.

When choosing hymns, it's best to stick to the most popular ones unless a) you have paid for the church's choir to sing at the ceremony and b) the choir itself is loud and musical - try attending morning service to guage their ability.

If neither applies, you'll be relying on the congregation. Therefore, stick to familiar and easy-to-sing hymns that most people will know.

If you prefer to appoint an organist of your own for the ceremony most churches will allow you to do so, but some may insist that you also pay their regular organist fee as well.

Music for civil ceremonies usually has quite a different character - for a start there'll be no hymns to worry about. But many ceremonies feature music for the entrance of the bride, the signing of the register and the newlyweds' departure.

Piano music with a romantic theme can be used to full effect here and your pianist should have a broad range of possibilities from which to choose.

Many couples have "our tune", a song or melody which has special significance for them and for their relationship, and a good wedding pianist should be able to handle most requests.

Bear in mind, though, that the instrument being used needs to be suited to the music in question - Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water may be your all-time favourite tune, but it'll sound rubbish played on a piano!

So now you're hitched (good luck!) and have arrived at, or are already at, the venue for the wedding reception. What next, music-wise?

You may decide that a function band is ideal for the party after the ceremony - again, it's up to you to decide the mood. A good rule of thumb is to be as inclusive as possible - you may be fans of heavy metal, but is that AC/DC tribute band really going to go down a treat with Auntie Flo?

Far better to aim slightly more middle of the road and use a band whose repertoire tries to offer something for everyone.

By far the biggest bone of contention surrounding most music at weddings is its volume. Remember that weddings are social occasions, so there's little point in your guests not being able to hear themselves speak.

To be fair to bands, it's worth pointing out that any group featuring a live drummer is going to be on the loud side, due to the nature of the instrument. Again, it's possible to create quite a different mood with a solo wedding pianist playing favourite tunes into the night.

It's important to consult any band or pianist in advance about the repertoire. While most musicians are happy to play a couple of particular favourites, given enough notice, wholesale customisation of their set list is probably something that won't be possible without paying a significant additional fee.

When planning your schedule, you should allow enough time for the musicians to set up - usually about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the act - and enough physical space for them to play in. Consult with the act in question about this. Similarly, access to power points is an important matter to sort out - one plugboard run from a single socket is neither adequate nor safe!

The musicians will appreciate being looked after a little. You should supply some sort of changing room. It should be warm and ideally have washing facilities. Please note, toilets are not really acceptable as changing rooms!

While your wedding pianist or function band won't necessarily expect the same food as you're giving your guests, some light refreshment is very welcome. Most venues can usually arrange a few sandwiches for the band, providing you arrange it well before the date. At the very least, you should provide a supply of drinking water for use before, during and after the performance - making music is extremely thirsty work!

What about the cost? As a rule of thumb, most acts will charge an absolute minimum of 150UKP per musician, plus travel expenses. Remember, professional musicians pay tax on what they earn just like you. They work very unsocial hours and spend a great deal of time in rehearsal and money on expensive equipment.

You may be able to cut costs with cheaper acts, but largely speaking - as with all things in life - you get what you pay for. This is where listening to audio samples and demo discs is vital. It's simple - good acts don't come cheaply.

Choose wisely - and have a lovely day!

Related Tags: wedding, music, weddings, piano, parties, receptions, pianist, entertainers, background music

Aidan Goldstraw is a leading UK pianist for weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, parties and corporate events. Samples of his playing can be found at his web site Art of Piano. Aidan is also the leader of jazz and blues function band Feels Like Midnight. A classically-trained musician, Aidan is also musical director at St Giles Parish Church in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, UK.

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