What IS wedding music?

Since most of the jobs that our string quartets and trios play at are wedding ceremonies, the question that I am asked quite often by brides is “What is wedding music and how do I know if it is wedding related piece..?” 
There is really no one way to answer it. Really, it is your day and you may choose any pieces for your wedding music. The choice for wedding music is very personal. The first thing to decide is how personal you want your wedding to be, and that will give you direction in choosing wedding music. After many years of playing at weddings, I divide all weddings in three categories: traditional weddings, semi-traditional weddings, and non-traditional/unconventional ceremonies.  This division also helps me when I work with a couple on selecting music for their ceremony.
Traditional wedding will most likely include prelude music, ceremony music and postlude music. It also will have some key components such as seating of the parents, processional of the bridal party and the bride, communion, presentation of flowers to the Virgin Mary, possible Homily, Unity Candle and recessional. For each of these aspects there are specific pieces of wedding music that are played. Moreover, certain pieces of wedding music are almost expected to be heard by the guests since the ceremony is traditional. You wouldn’t want to play a Beatles song during a communion. More likely, a piece such as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” would fit here.  In my opinion, in a traditional wedding you have some flexibility with music choice, but you also have to choose it from a set wedding music repertoire that has been around for years and is expected to be played. 
In a semi/traditional wedding you have a lot more room for deviation from standard wedding music repertoire, and yet you still keep the element of tradition. We played at many weddings where the music for the processional was a pop-tune that meant a lot to the couple, and yet, the wedding music for the Unity Candle and the recessional was more familiar to the guests. Speaking of guests, and it is my opinion only. Over the years, I observed a lot of guests during wedding ceremonies and how they behave at them, whether or not they are bored or not, looking at their watches or cellphones, or if they are completely engrossed in the ceremony and the couple.  I think the choices of wedding music always made a difference in the way the guests were acting. If the program was put well together, and the guests got to hear pieces that they recognized or liked, it made it more interesting for them, verses the wedding music that was totally obscure for the guests, who ended up counting minutes until the ceremony was over.  I do understand that wedding day is for bride and a groom, but it also involves guests who are spending their time, money and effort to be there for the couple, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make a day memorable not only for the couple but for their guests.  Careful choices of wedding music is one way of doing so.
The last category, the unconventional weddings are the ones where musicians play either the songs that have an exclusive meaning to the bride and a groom and quite often unfamiliar to guests, or some popular rock and pop music. These ceremonies usually do not last more that fifteen minutes, with a very short prelude and just as short of a postlude. At these ceremonies it can be challenging to combine classical wedding music and wedding music that was requested by the bride or the groom. 
I guess anything can be referred to as wedding music as long as it fits your ceremony set up. The choices are unlimited among wedding music in classical, sacred, pop repertoire. You only have to be careful of how you combine the different genres in one wedding ceremony, making sure it all fits together.

Penn Scenic View

Category: Venue Reviews
This was a trio consisting of violin, viola and cello playing wedding music for a ceremony. It has moved up my own personal list of favorite places. It is fairly far from Pittsburgh ( off either Donegal or Somerset from PA turnpike), but what a place!  We played inside what looked like a gigantic barn room, with beautifully done woodwork and a fireplace. I don’t think I’ve met nicer people anywhere else, and we got so many compliments even though we didn’t play all that much, total of about an hour. The only downside – poor ventilation for the fire place. Within seconds of starting the logs, the smoke filled the room, setting the fire alarm off several times (tuned to a D  – we checked!), and making everyone’s eyes burn for a while. Still, it was wonderful and we felt really appreciated by those who were listening to us. 


Private entertainment

Category: Music and Life
Amidst all the hectic rehearsals, concerts, weddings, and teaching commitments, we try to have fun once in a while. Last week the two of us played an impromptu concert at a local hang out in South Park called Dorido’s. My husband and his friends go there after their respective police shifts, to hang out, eat, drink a bit and have fun. I guess my friend cellist and I decided to expose them to some culture, giving them an earful on classical music to their already “gun-trained” ears… They seem to like it! 

Pachelbel Canon dilemma

If Johann Pachelbel was still alive today, he probably would have a heart attack after hearing many versions of his famous Canon, and all the debates over that piece.  I have many clients, mostly brides, who  ask me to explain to them what Canon is. First, here is the definition of a Canon from a musician’s point of view.
“…Pachelbel’s Canon combines the techniques of canon and ground bass. Canon is a polyphonic device in which several voices play the same music, only enter one by one, each after a delay. In Pachelbel’s piece, there are three voices engaged in canon (see Example 1), but there is also a fourth voice, the basso continuo, which plays an independent part.  The bass voice keeps repeating the same two-bar line throughout the piece. The common musical term for this is ostinato, or ground bass…
Now, to the simple version for non-musicians.  Let’s use the string quartet as a basis, since it is one of the more common group combinations that the piece is performed by. I will dissect the piece as follows:
1) First, the cello comes in with a bass line, playing the same eight notes throughout the piece
2) First violin comes in with the main melody
3) Second violin comes in a few seconds after the first violin with the same melody
4) Finally, viola comes in a few seconds after the second violin, again, with the same melody.
Thus, we created a “canon”, or a round…  
The reason why I bring up the issue at all, is I just played at the wedding where the bride had requested the Canon for her entrance. It was played only by two instruments, myself on viola, and a cellist. Afterwards, I spoke to the bride, congratulated her. She was really grateful that we were there since it was a last minute wedding, and she loved the music. She also mentioned that I was right when originally I suggested for her to hire three musicians, not two, especially because she wanted to include Canon as her processional piece. She did say it sounded “..sort of empty, not like a round..” 
I usually don’t like to push my opinion on people when it comes to hiring musicians. I will tell my clients what I think would work best for them, but the final decision is theirs. I don’t like sounding as if I am pushing more musicians so we can get more money. However, in this case I tried to insist on at least three instruments because of  bride’s choice of wedding music. So, please keep in mind that if you decide to hire a duo as opposed to a trio or a quartet – some of the pieces that you might love and want to use for your wedding ceremony, might not sound anything like you expect them to. My opinion? The best combination is a trio – violin, viola, and cello,  unless you have a very large wedding. You may still use two musicians for a ceremony, but then think about omitting some of the pieces that will not sound “full” with only two instruments…