Megan is a music instructor and a musician, specializing in wedding ceremonies. Here are her Top 5 Things to consider when selecting wedding music:
“Art can cut its way into your soul. A painting, a sculpture, a dance performance, a piece of music… The most accessible form of art is music. Even if you aren’t “into” music, there are probably a few songs out there that mean something to you.
As a wedding ceremony musician, I like to get a feel for who a bride and groom are as individuals and as a couple. I like to know their favorite songs or artists. I want every piece featured during their ceremony to mean something to them. Maybe their unity song will be the first song they slow danced to at another friend’s wedding. Maybe she walks down the aisle to the same piece her mother used to walk down the aisle to marry her father.
There are things to keep in mind and to look for when planning your ceremony music.
- What kind of music would you like at your ceremony? Traditional/Classical? Contemporary? It is important to note that many churches do not allow contemporary music to be played in the church, even if it is of the Christian music genre. In fact, Catholic and several Protestant churches do not allow “Bridal Chorus,” better known as “Here Comes the Bride,” to be played because the opera it comes from is the pagan opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner. If it is important to you have contemporary or non-religious music played or sung at your ceremony, and it’s important for you to be married in a church, you will want to discuss this issue with the pastor right away.
- What instrument/instruments would you like to hear? A string quartet or harpist will add extra elegance to your big day. A classical guitarist is beautiful in its simplicity. Are either of you Irish or Scottish? Look for a group of musicians who specialize in Celtic music. If you are being married outdoors, you will need amplification. Check with the venue and with the musician(s) to see if this is something either of them can provide.
- What is your budget for a ceremony musician? While that string quartet sounds like an amazing idea, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. Some churches do not charge members for the use of their organist/pianist. However, that free musician may not be comfortable with a more contemporary style or may not be available. In this area, you can expect to pay ceremony musicians anywhere from $150 – $1000 for a ceremony. Some have hourly rates, and some charge per song. If your DJ is not providing music for your cocktail hour, be sure to ask the musician if that’s something they can do. Not all pianists can play jazz improv, so be sure to be specific about your needs.
- What about the rehearsal? Yes, yes, yes. Your ceremony musician needs to be at your wedding rehearsal. Brides and bridesmaids tend to practically run down the aisle, so both of these processionals will need to be rehearsed. Also, if the pieces you’ve chosen for each of these processionals are long, the musician(s) will feel more comfortable knowing ahead of time about where to end the music. Also, you may realize that with your current set up, your musician(s) can’t see the ceremony, so you’d have to find someone to cue them to begin or end a piece.
- What if my sister/cousin/crazy aunt wants to play or sing during the ceremony? Ultimately, this is YOUR special day – go with your gut. If your sister has a beautiful voice, and she would like to sing the Unity song, then let her have at it! Now if that crazy aunt tends to be forgetful, or is the type to enjoy a few cocktails before the ceremony, you may just want to kindly tell her that you would really love for her to just enjoy your special day. If your cousin is decent at whatever instrument s/he plays and wants to perform at your wedding, just beware – the final product may not be up to your expectations, and you don’t want to be upset with a family member for making your wedding memorable for a not-so-good reason. Also, if you have multiple talented family members, showing favoritism or picking one over the other might cause family drama, and it may just be easier to hire a professional.
I want to share two of my most memorable wedding music experiences – one wonderful, one not-so-much. First, the one I would never care to repeat. I was playing piano at a wedding, and a friend of mine, who is an incredibly beautiful young woman, was singing for several songs. Her first song was the bridal processional. She stood up, and I started to play. Then the bride started to walk down the aisle. Obviously the bride’s family and her groom were looking at her, but all other eyes were on the soloist. She was standing at the front of the church, and she was gorgeous. What I learned from this: hide the soloist, or better yet, don’t have her sing as the bride comes down the aisle.
My favorite wedding music memory comes from the wedding of one of my dearest friends. I was the Matron of Honor, but the bride asked if I could provide the Unity Song. One of the groomsmen and I had worked together musically before, and we decided to surprise our good friends. I took one of the bride’s favorite songs and changed the words to make it fit the bride and groom personally, and I turned the song into a duet accompanied by me on the piano and the groomsman on the guitar. The bride and groom loved it.”
Megan is a private piano, flute, and voice instructor. She studied piano and voice at Millersville University, where she earned a BA in Music Business and Technology. She has played all three of her main instruments at weddings, anniversaries, restaurants, art galleries, and recitals in the Central PA area since 1999.