If you are following our wedding planning blogs, recently you would have read how we are struggling to find music we feel is right for our ceremony in particular. A bit of a search online and it seems this is a common issue that comes up on wedding blogs across the world. There are endless blogs and forum posts where people list what they had and give suggestions, but when you do what we do for a living, we tend to have heard it all before. So what is the best way to start looking at music? We asked exquisite and goosebump-inducing Soprano Rachel Maloy (who we highly recommend!) to give us a guide on how best to approach it…
Ceremony music: confused?
Music plays such an important part in your wedding ceremony, and is an opportunity to personalise the most formal part of your special day. But where to start? If you don’t have a musical background then this can be a bewildering process. Here are a few pointers that should help you on your way…
Music is a must during:
The Processional (entrance of the Bride)
The Signing of the Register
The Recessional (The Bride and Groom exiting)
Advice on musical choices may be available from your venue. Most churches will have an organ or piano and some may be able to provide a choir. Civil ceremony venues may have musicians in residence who are available to play at your ceremony for an extra charge.
Think about the role that you would like music to play. Are there particular songs or pieces of music that you want to include that have personal significance to you as a couple, or do you dream of a truly traditional wedding? This should help you on your way to making the right choices for you as a couple.
Before we begin . . .
Some churches may impose regulations on the music that you can have, so it is worth chatting to your vicar if you are thinking of going down the less traditional route. You may find the Royal School of Church Music’s website a useful starting point. Similarly, if you are having a civil ceremony, there must be no reference to God or religion in any of your choices of music, songs or poetry. This includes songs in other languages, so if you have your heart set on Ave Maria, you’ll need to re-book at the church! If you are unsure, check with your Registrar.
Most brides have a picture in their minds of how they imagine walking down the aisle. If you dream of the traditional church wedding, you may have the organ playing Wagner’s Bridal March or Purcell’s Trumpet Tune. Perhaps the choir are singing Rutter’s A Gaelic Blessing or Biebl’s Ave Maria or a string quartet are playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
Civil ceremonies offer greater freedom in your choice of music. Your wedding may have a theme that you want the music to fit around (like Iceland, perhaps . . . ) You may love musical theatre or a certain band. Or perhaps you still want the traditional processional. As long as the music does not have religious connotations you can have whatever you like.
The Signing of the Register
You need something reflective for your friends and family to listen to whilst you are signing the register. This can take around ten minutes and can be very tedious if no musical ambience is provided. I have been to weddings where there has been no music and the congregation sat in embarrassed silence. Awkward! You don’t want that! The signing of the register is the part of the ceremony when I am usually asked to sing. Two songs are needed, and I discuss with the bride and groom what type of songs they would like. Some couples have ideas or have a particular song that they would like me to sing, whereas others listen to some suggestions and then opt for one traditional and the other something more personal or modern. Some popular traditional choices for a church ceremony are: Schubert’s Ave Maria, Bach/Gounod’s Ave Maria, Franck’s Panis Angelicus and Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. For church and civil ceremonies you could have songs which work in both scenarios such as All I ask of you, from Phantom of the Opera, One Hand, One Heart, from West Side Story (note from Lina- this is one of the most perfect wedding songs, and last time we heard Rachel sing it I was a mess), or Songbird by Eva Cassidy.
Hurray!!! You are finally married! Let’s celebrate! Choose something jubilant to finish the ceremony as you walk out as husband and wife. In a church the organ may play Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, or Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, or the string quartet may play Vivaldi’s Spring.
Again, you can choose anything you like if you’re having a civil ceremony (providing there are no religious references!) I married my lovely husband, Toby, five years ago and at the end we walked out (or rather danced!) to Kenny Loggins’ Footloose!
I will never forget it!
If you are having a church wedding you may want to include two or three hymns in your order of service. My top tips are to choose ones that people are more likely to know (think back to when you were at school) and to have a choir to carry the sound. There is nothing worse than having hymns that no-one knows with no-one singing! Remember that you don’t have to have hymns if you don’t want to. Some firm favourites might be Jerusalem, One More Step Along the World I Go, or Shine Jesus Shine to lift the roof off!
You may also like to think about background (or Prelude) music whilst your guests are being seated before the ceremony. Church organists will usually play for around fifteen minutes before the bride arrives, or a string quartet sounds wonderful as your guests are seated. Another option (and one that I had at my wedding) is to have a playlist of atmospheric music as people are seated.
Let’s get listening!
YouTube is a great tool to listen to the examples that I have provided, and who knows what else you may find? The music that you choose will make your day truly special, and one that you and your guests will remember forever.
Rachel is a professional singer, singing/music teacher and choir director.