Leaving Music Until the Last Minute -- A Disturbing Trend
by James A. Weinberg
I marvel at how selecting live music for one's ceremony often takes a back seat to choosing flowers, gowns and other physical elements. After years of watching brides during the planning stages, I've concluded they don't really mean to undervalue music -- it's just that in our society, music education is so poor that brides often feel ignorant or intimidated. When you don't know Mozart from Beethoven, it can be easier to buy matching gloves for the bridesmaids than selecting your wedding march! That's where either a knowledgeable wedding coordinator or a music planner can be of great assistance.
These days there are many sound samples available on the internet, so a bride doesn't have to take an Intro. to Music course to make educated choices. In fact, you don't have to know anything about what you're listening to at all. The main criterion is that you like it! After all, it's a matter of taste.
Some musicians will place restrictions on what is considered proper for ceremonies. This is an injustice to the client. That's why it is so important to consult with your musician before hiring him or her. This way you and your fiance may have your musician audition pieces from their repertoire, or may listen to recordings and inform them of your choices by phone or email. Couples frequently elect to have me choose their music, but I feel it's important for the music to have personal meaning. When you play back your video for years to come, guess what's in the background? A soundtrack! You can greatly assist the process prior to the consultation by listening to and identifying the style of music which most appeals to your tastes. Specific composers (like Bach/Gounod) and periods (like Romantic) and names of works (such as Ave Maria) will greatly aid the organist and make the consultation session more productive. Many musician sites list suggested pieces with sound samples. Visit websites that sell CDs where you can search for wedding music and hear 30 second clips. I also encourage couples to bring sheet music of favorite songs, tapes, or programs from other weddings when we meet.
If you are having your ceremony in a church, use discretion when requesting love songs and other secular music, keeping in mind the sacred nature of the event and place. Your minister or wedding coordinator might offer guidance on this subject as well. Rules defining restrictions vary from church to church, so ultimately these decisions should be made in conjunction with the officiating minister. If your ceremony is at a mansion, country club, garden, or is simply less religious in tone, find musicians who are open to non-traditional styles of music. Plan ahead. There has to be time to obtain sheet music for specially requested songs, to work out arrangements, and to practice!
Stay in touch with your organist or music planner. If you have a wedding coordinator, make sure she keeps in contact with your musician(s). Even though it seems fleeting and ephemeral, music is as concrete a presence at your ceremony as the candles and boutonnieres. Make it as much a priority as planning your other details.
One last word of advice: Take your rehearsal seriously. The walk-through of the bridesmaids' processional, bridal march, and recessional should be done in real time to give the organist or other performers a sense of exactly how much is required to get people from point A to point B. It also alerts the bridal party to their cues so everything runs smoothly.