Tips for Planning Wedding Music (Part 1)

With Easter Sunday in the review mirror, “wedding season” is gearing up in many churches. Today is the first in a two-part series sharing tips to help happy couples plan wedding music – from a church organist who’s seen (almost) everything.

Be very nice to your musicians. They can make your wedding ceremony “memorable.”

Church musicians usually have long fuses and thick skins thanks to the many opinions they endure Sunday after Sunday from congregation members. But there can be limits to that patient endurance so, even though you’re stressed, be nice to your musicians! They have the power to go above and beyond to set the tone (pun intended) for your ceremony and to move your guests with stunningly beautiful music…or to have a low organ pedal “accidentally” stick causing a deep, persistent rumble all through your vows.

Come with an open mind to your meeting to discuss and plan music – and leave your mothers at home.

You have a vision for your wedding but, unless you’re a musician, you’re likely not familiar with the dizzying array of choices in wedding music that’s available. Share your vision for your ceremony along with any ideas you have of music you like and skilled musicians can guide you in selecting music that will set the perfect mood – whether it be low-key casual or pull-out-all-the-stops formal. If family members have special requests, mention those and maybe honor them. But remember: Mom/Grandma already had her special day. This one is yours and the music should reflect your personality as a couple.

If there’s a piece of music you know you would like played, learn how to pronounce the title and the composer’s name correctly.

Musicians will be polite and not laugh out loud at “Patch-a-bell”, “Han-dell”, and “Batch” but they will be inwardly groaning, rolling their eyes, and maybe secretly questioning your formal education. If you’re unsure of a pronunciation, you’ll gain more credibility with a musician by admitting it up front than by guessing it wrong. (For your edification: Pachelbel rhymes with Taco Bell, Handel is the same as what you use to open a door, and Bach rhymes with wok, or for Star Wars fans, Ewok. 🙂 )

Never, ever, ever ask a musician to play from photocopied music.

Photocopying copyrighted music is illegal. If you request a selection that isn’t already in your musician’s library of music, then you need to discuss who will be purchasing a legal copy to use for your wedding. Maintaining high ethical standards regarding copyrights keeps everyone out of trouble and starts your new life as a couple out on a good foot. (Think karma.)

Believe musicians if they say there is music they are not allowed to play for your church ceremony.

Many churches have rules regarding what music is appropriate for a religious ceremony. Some of those rules are set by the church and some are set higher up within the denomination. You may have always dreamed of having that “one special song” during your ceremony but please realize that it may not be allowed and breaking the rules can have dire consequences for a musician. It’s your special day, but it’s not worth it to a musician to lose a permanent job over it. Seasoned musicians will have plenty of alternate – yet similar – suggestions that can help create the vision for the ceremony you always dreamed of.

In the next posts, I’ll talk about avoiding cookie cutter ceremony music, not printing music titles in your wedding program, some details you may not have thought of, and a bonus tip to help avoid wardrobe malfunctions. (Like I said, I’ve seen almost everything.) Until then, enjoy!


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