I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the role of music in a wedding ceremony. I have had a lot of conversations with brides and grooms and I am often questioned about the necessity of music in the ceremony. I guess the short answer to those questions is “you don’t need music”. You don’t need pictures either, or flowers, or food, decor, a DJ, tuxes, etc. You get the idea. All you NEED are two people who have a desire to commit their lives to one another, someone to officiate and 2 witnesses. Everything else is window dressing. Having said that (and probably made my other friends in the industry gasp and clutch their pearls), do you really want to have a wedding without those things? Some people will say “yes, that’s fine”, but they’re probably not reading this blog; they’re on a plane to Aruba or down at City Hall having the wedding of their dreams. For the rest of us, those things are a large part of what makes a wedding beautiful and memorable. You want to create an experience to share with your family and friends that reflects how very important this day is and how much you value their presence.
What about music? What is music’s role in the wedding ceremony? In short, professional, live music provides a soundtrack for your wedding day. As in the movies, it sets the mood and helps to enhance the emotions that the bridal party and guests are feeling. You can have a perfectly beautiful wedding ceremony without music, but it will be missing something important. (Try watching “Jaws” with the sound off and see how frightened you’re NOT without the “Dah-dat…dah-dat” to tell you to WATCH OUT!!!). In the movies, the music is a lot more than filler; it foreshadows events (“hey you stupid kid! The killer is right behind you, can’t you hear the MUSIC?!?!?!”) and enhances emotions (you always know the instant they fall in love…).
So it goes with weddings. 30 minutes before the ceremony begins, the guests begin gathering, and the musicians surround them with beautiful, romantic music. I often see people’s entire demeanor change as they enter the ceremony area (whether it’s a church, hotel ballroom or public park); they realize that they have arrived and their minds turn towards anticipation of the events to follow. Even at a non-religious event, there is sanctity to the space where the ceremony is taking place, and the music often defines that space and helps them prepare their minds and hearts.
Once the ceremony begins, the music takes on an even more important role. Music isn’t just “to get people down the aisle”; its presence is an opportunity to share something personal with your guests, or with each other. Some brides and grooms are traditionalists and having “Canon in D” or “Bridal Chorus” played represents a connection with previous generations and to history. Having music that has stood the test of time is an important symbol of their commitment to one another and the longevity that their marriage will enjoy.
Others are more interested in making each selection a personal journey. I played a wedding not long ago where the bride surprised her groom by asking me to arrange a beautiful little alternative rock song for her processional. It was about a man proposing to his girlfriend and he had played it for her as he was proposing to her. I had to work hard not to cry because everyone else was, and I still had to play!
Most people find a balance, where they have some of the traditional blended with some personal for a perfect wedding soundtrack. The thing to take with you is that music sets the mood for the whole day and gives you an opportunity to make your wedding ceremony personal, special, and memorable.