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Music for your wedding

Many people getting married for the first time are at a loss when it comes to choosing the appropriate music for their wedding. Having been to other people's weddings, they initially conclude that they should stick to tradition.

Nowadays, anything goes. A wedding need not take place in a church. A church wedding need not have organ music. When the father of the bride walks with his daughter up the aisle, the music does not have to be Wagner's "Here comes the bride." When the newly weds leave the church, Mendelssohn's Wedding March need not monopolise the scene.

Either because they don't realise they have the choice of choosing something else or they want to stick to tradition, the subject of wedding music is often a misguided one. Couples don't get enough guidance about all that is possible.

If they were to approach a musician, they would be given a list of pieces which that particular musician is confident in playing. If they were to approach a wedding planner, they would be told of the most popular choices, and they would simply be copycatting everyone else. For couples who aren't musicians or serious music connoisseurs themselves, the best solution is the simplest albeit the most limited solution.

Having played music at weddings for more than 20 years, I have the following to say:

Decide whether you want a civil wedding or a church wedding. Decide whether you want music or not. I know a couple who decided to have no music at all because their preferences clashed greatly. The accoustics of the venue determines what kind of live music can be played. Decide on a budget for music.

Many people like the sound of a particular instrument, such as the harp. In general, any piece can be transcribed for the instrument(s) of your choice. But transcribed pieces don't always sound good. A piece unfamiliar to the musician may require time to master. Some pieces are simply infeasible.

Another way to approach it is to choose the music first and then find musicians to play it. This approach takes more time. It's easier to choose the musicians first and then discuss the music with them. They may not have the music of your choice in their repertoire, for example.

I ask couples to think of their favourite tunes or a particular song that plays an important part in their relationship. It could be a piece that was playing in the background when they first met or one that they listened for the first time together. A meaningful piece when played at their wedding would become solidly ingrained in their memory.

The following pieces are considered traditional in church weddings. Personally I think they are overplayed and overused. They are Here Comes the Bride, Pachelbel's Canon, Ave Maria (Gounod/Bach version as well as Schubert's), Queen of Sheba, Wedding March, Water Music and Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring.

Since most people, when they are getting married, hope to get married only once and stay married, it is no wonder that they want to stick to tradition. As far as they are concerned, they will never tire of the same music they've heard at other people's weddings.

As a wedding musician, I just want them to know about the wide range of musical instruments and candidates for wedding music. Last but not least, the decision making process can be rewarding, in the discovery of other possibilities.

Having said all this, the harpist Peter Murphy tells me that not all couples are so fussy about music for their wedding. Two years ago, a bridegroom from California called him to play at his wedding in the famous Leeds Castle in Kent. He did not make any special requests despite engaging Peter to play at both the ceremony and also the reception. This came as a surprise to Peter who remembers the wedding fondly. "The first time I met the groom was only 30 minutes before the bride arrived, so I asked him if he has listened to any soundclips on the website before he booked me. He said no, he just read my CV and decided to go ahead with the booking. The he said "I'll leave all the music to you Peter." So I smiled and said OK."

Peter Murphy's experience shows another aspect of choosing and booking musicians for a wedding. If you do not know the musician personally or if he/she is not recommended by someone you know, how would you know that he/she will show up? It's like engaging any stranger in any profession to work for you, how can you rest assured that he/she will show up? In Peter's case, the bridegroom trusted his website and his biography. I would too. Anybody with a respectable website has a reputation to protect.

Interested in improving the way you make decisions? The forthcoming Bon Journal Decision Making Guide contains sound advice from experts on career management, relationships, and other kinds of decisions. Contact the editor to place your order.

26 August 2005 Friday

Related links:
analyticalQ wedding music and link to free article: Wedding sources on the web
more articles on music by Anne Ku
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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