Tips for Planning Wedding Music (Part 2)

With Easter Sunday in the review mirror, “wedding season” is gearing up in many churches. Today’s post is the second in a two-part series sharing some tips about weddings from a church organist who’s seen (almost) everything. For Part 1, click here.

Think outside the box to avoid cookie cutter ceremony music.

The summer my husband and I married, I played ten other weddings. So, when planning our music, I just couldn’t stomach another rendition of Pachebel’s Canon in D or Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Instead we chose a handful of favorite hymns and gave our organist (who had impeccable taste) free rein to pick great arrangements of them. We processed in to my favorite hymn and recessed out to my husband’s. And years later, family members were still talking about the phenomenal arrangement of Jesus Loves Me that our organist chose to play just before the ceremony.

Divulge all the details – no matter how gory.

It’s the job of wedding musicians to be nosy. How many parents, step-parents, grandparents, step-grandparents are there? Do they get along? Are there flower girls or ring bearers? What are their ages? Are they human? Are you using an aisle cloth? (Please say no to that one!) Wedding musicians need all of the details of the entire ceremony so they can be ready to musically cover for any possibly uncomfortable moments. They also need to know anything unusual that the wedding party might be wearing. I once had a bride, who planned a large, ultra-sophisticated, Catholic wedding, come down the aisle in a stunning, low-cut, mini-skirted, black-sequined number that invited a lot of stares. When I caught sight of her during the processional, I know I played a few clunkers as I almost fell off the organ bench out of sheer shock. It was the last thing I expected from my meeting with her! After that, I asked all brides exactly what they were going to wear and, even though I got a lot of funny looks (“Well, a long, white dress, of course!”), I never again had a shock like that one.

Remember the guests.

In my last post, I said that music should reflect the personality of the couple. However, not all guests are going to appreciate the couple’s taste. Guests will enjoy themselves more if there are a few selections before the ceremony with a taste of several different genres. And remember to choose pieces that will appeal to various ages: Grandma most likely can’t identify with the same music as a college roommate.

Don’t print the titles of the prelude music in the wedding program.

Typically music begins thirty minutes before a ceremony starts. If the titles of the prelude music are printed in the program, musicians will start at the thirty-minute mark with those pieces – often playing to an empty venue to make sure that they get through the program. By the time the guests are seated, most of the music carefully planned and printed in the program is already over. And if life gets in the way and causes the ceremony to run late (not impossible or even uncommon), seasoned musicians always bring extra music – that won’t be printed in the program – to fill that extra time.

Skip the musician flowers.

I can’t speak for the guys but, as a lady, a corsage gets in the way of the arm movements required to play an instrument. Dodging a three-inch straight pin aimed at sensitive chest areas (I’m trying to be polite here) becomes more of a focus than creating great music. And wrists corsages are even worse nuisances. For vocalists, often the fragrance or pollen of the flowers will interfere with the ability to sing. So skip the flowers for musicians. A sincere, handwritten thank you note (with a check that doesn’t bounce) is much more appreciated.

And finally a bonus tip for brides: kneel in your dress at your final fitting.

If the top of your dress gaps when you kneel for a blessing during the ceremony and your worldly assets can be seen from the organ bench, imagine the view you’re giving the officiant standing right in front (and over top) of you. Please kneel in your dress at the dress shop and make adjustments to keep things modest!

Hope you enjoyed these tips and find them helpful!


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