Secrets of the Trade: Tips From a Professional Violinist
by Ariana Straznicky
As a professional violinist, many brides come to me with a picture in their mind of the perfect ceremony: a classical string quartet in the background, playing a romantic melody that swells the moment she walks down the aisle. Live classical music is undeniably elegant and, well, classic. But how do you decide which songs the musicians play? Here's a quick guide to help you choose and some secrets of the trade.
When booking live musicians, know that you're going to be hiring for about one hour to an hour and a half. Though you may estimate that your musicians will only be performing for 30-40 minutes at the most, you would be surprised at how often the ceremony runs late. To be on the safe side and to add flair to your wedding, have your performers playing for 20-30 minutes before the ceremony, just as guests are arriving. Musicians become the welcoming committee, and when the groom's extended family is caught in traffic from the airport, they are the ones who keep guests' toes tapping to the beat with a lively atmosphere. If you pick a professional with an extensive sheet music library, they may delight your guests by allowing them to make on-the-spot requests.
For background music with an elegant and traditional feel, ask your musicians for pieces from the Baroque and Classical era. Translation: upbeat and light music, like Mozart, Handel, and Haydn. To add a sophisticated twist, have your performers play contemporary music like jazz and pop.
I've found that brides often want an elaborate set-list for their ceremony: one song each walk of the grandparents, the parents, the bridal party, and the bride's processional. In theory, it's a great plan. In practice, the final outcome is usually one minute of each piece being played. If you choose to have multiple pieces played, keep that in mind. It's easily remedied: if you love the middle of "Ave Maria", ask your musicians to plan accordingly and to arrange the piece to get to your favorite part for your shining moment.
If you dream of walking down the aisle to Pachelbel's "Canon", keep in mind that the full piece takes anywhere between four and eight minutes and your aisle is usually much shorter. Talk with your musicians and ask them to speed up the tempo so you can hear more as you walk down the aisle, or, if you don't want to miss a thing, have it play it at a different part of the ceremony, such as the signing of the registrar or during communion. Consider having Pachelbel's "Canon" play for the entire processional. That way, when it comes to your time to shine, the musicians are just getting to the best bits of the piece and you can really take in that special moment.
For special moments like signing the registrar, lighting the candle, and communion, remember that you can have a longer song played. This is the perfect time for Bach's "Air on the G String", Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze", Corelli's "La Folia", Mascagni's "Intermezzo", or Schubert's "Ave Maria".
For a traditional recessional, you can't go wrong with Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" or Purcell's "Trumpet Tune". Looking for an upbeat and celebratory feel? Try Handel's "La Rejouissance", Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", Mouret's "Rondeau", or Handel's "Hornpipe" from Water Music.