I seem to remember performing harp at a wedding for the first time about fifteen years ago. Almost since that day, I’ve known that someday I want to walk down the aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon in D. There was a brief period during high school when I wanted it to be Canon in D performed by five cellos and a string bass, but now I know I probably can’t afford to pay five cellists and a bassist what they are worth.
Considerations for Processional & Recessional Music
- Don’t Restrict Yourself. Don’t feel like you need to restrict yourself to one of Google’s Top Ten Wedding Songs. Wedding sites online are a great place to get ideas, but not the only place. If you know a song that you like, it can probably work as a processional.
- Rock & Roll… ? Even rock ‘n’ roll can sound suitably respectable on an acoustic instrument. I’ve ushered brides down the isle to the likes of Aerosmith, Metalica and Counting Crows.
- Short & Sweet Keep in mind that processionals are often pretty short. So if your favorite song has a chorus, multiple verses and a bridge, you probably won’t hear the whole thing. One of the reasons Canon in D works so well as a processional is that the chord progression is only eight bars long, so the piece is only ever eight bars away from a graceful sweeping finish.
- Your own song? Some brides walk down the isle to the same music as their bridesmaids, while others prefer to have their own song.
- Recessional Tempo You usually want your recessional to be a faster, upbeat piece to kick off the celebration.
When Should Music be Playing?
Maybe you have lots of songs you want in your ceremony. Here are some moments in or before the ceremony where you can incorporating music:
- during the seating of the mother of the bride, mother of the groom, or grandparents just before the processional
- for communion
- during the lighting of the unity candle or other symbolic gesture
- during a special time of prayer for the couple
- Of course you can always have a song in your ceremony just for the sake of the song, especially if it’s a piece you really like.
Some brides want soft continuous music throughout the ceremony. This is great for public locations where unwelcome background noise could detract from the mood. Make sure though that the audience can still hear the officiant, especially outdoors if no mics are available.
Communicating With your Musician
Often wedding musicians offer a free consultation to discuss your vision for the ceremony. If you have music selections you really want in your wedding, come prepared. Have the name of the piece, composer, and arranger (if there is one) ready. If you can find it on YouTube, consider sending a link to your musician ahead of time so he or she can better judge how it will work on their instrument. Meet with them at least two months before your wedding so that they have ample time to learn those special requests.
All this is assuming you know what pieces you want. If you really have no ideas, still not a problem. An experienced musician will definitely have recommendations and preferences. If they send you a demo CD ahead of time, take the time to listen and write down the names of any pieces you like. Otherwise when you meet with them, ask them to play samples of various pieces for you.
A final word: some brides feel overwhelmed by the thought of finding music for a half-hour prelude or postlude. I strongly recommend you let your musician do that work for you! They know what songs go well together, how long each piece takes, and what will sound good on their instrument. Do think ahead of time, though, what genre you prefer: classical, pop, folk, sacred, jazz, etc. Once your musician knows the mood you’re looking for, they can paint in the details.
Have you been to a wedding where you particularly liked the music selections? What songs did the couple choose?
Stephanie Claussen has served the wedding industry in Minneapolis & St. Paul since 2000. Lovely harp music could be available for your ceremony–consider hiring Stephanie!