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Music Inspiration for your wedding - Memories to last a lifetime - Why you should consider live musicians at your wedding | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo: Letter10 Creative

Flash forward in time. It’s your 10th, 25th, or maybe 50th anniversary and you’re looking back on your wedding day. You chuckle together about the flower girl who unexpectedly stopped half way down the aisle, mesmerized by all the people, and the sweet if slightly embarrassing words shared about you by your minister or rabbi or officiant. You look at the lilacs growing outside the window of your home, smell the scent, and revel in the same soft purple grace you enjoyed at your wedding. When you hum your special song, or play the recording on the stereo, and dance through the halls of your home, your breath catches as you remember the moment of your walk down the aisle, the moment the musicians played your special song in the middle of the ceremony, or your first dance together as a married couple, and the music that filled the room on that day.

Music can be one of the most significant factors which will establish the ambiance, and color the memories, of your wedding day. With so many options available to today’s couples, where do you start in making music choices that will resonate for both of you – and leave memories that will still catch your breath on your 50th anniversary?

First, talk with your partner about what you like in music. Do you dream of a quartet serenading you down the aisle with your favorite classical music standards, or would you prefer a soloist or a duo with a Celtic lilt? Or perhaps you want to steer clear of traditional choices and pick some favorite pop or Broadway tunes. Do you have a special song already that you’d like to include in the ceremony? Or would you like to choose a special tune together that will become “your song?” What sort of musician would be best suited to play that tune? Do you have an ensemble in mind, or will you be finding a soloist or group of musicians that will play the repertoire you have in mind? Do you have any special memories of playing or hearing music in the past in a way that really influenced you? And what can you afford for music? The greater the number of musicians, the greater the price – so you’ll need to keep that in mind when choosing between a soloist, a duo, a quartet, or a full band. These are all important questions to explore together before you get too far in the planning!

You may have no idea what you’d like, and that’s ok too! Here are some thoughts on the next steps.

First, consider the value of live music. The feeling, the vibrancy, the life, the color of the mood of live music played by live musicians is something that will resonate in your experience of the day, in the experience of your guests, and in your memories. Ever been at a wedding where the bride is ready to walk down the aisle and a relative is having difficulty finding the right spot on the CD, or the speaker is blasting shrieks of feedback, the plug gets disconnected, or someone can’t find the off button after the bride reaches the front? With live music, there will be real and experienced people who have tailored the thoughts of you and your interests into their preparation, and who enjoy reveling in your dreams for the day and weave them into your repertoire choices, while shaping the music to fit each portion of your wedding.

The next step: browse some web sites. You can either do this together or have one of you do the initial research and report back. For starters, click here for an overview of some of the top musicians in the state.  Talk about what each of you likes and doesn’t like about a particular option, laugh a little at the differences of perspective, and revel in the similarities. Check with musicians about availability, pricing, and any other questions you may have. The joy that you find in making the choices, and in the memories created, may end up being a part of the glue that holds your marriage together and keeps a lift in your step and a glimmer in your eye for many years to come.

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont Lebanon, New Hampshire, and online to students worldwide.

Ceremony Processional Inspiration Videos | Vermont Bride Magazine | Valentine's Day Inspiration This Valentine’s Day, what could be more romantic to watch than a wedding processional? Here’s a sampler of videos with some fun ways of thinking about the wedding processional! Hopefully these will engage your romantic spirit, enthusiasm, and sense of adventure, while opening up your vision of a wedding processional in some unexpected and fun ways! Everyone loved the wedding of Catherine Middleton and Prince William, so let’s just start there! Catherine’s processional was “I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me” by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, a British composer who lived from 1848-1918 – not your everyday processional music selection! Nor did anything else about their wedding qualify as “everyday.” I love the close-ups of their faces, and what a fun way to start this video processional adventure:

 

Changing gears completely, let’s have a look at an African styled wedding processional, shall we? Love the beat, and check out the stilts at about 1:30! And the smile on that bride – she’s clearly loving every moment:

 

OK – getting mellow again – get out the tissues if you haven’t yet, for this groom singing the bride up the aisle:

 

Get down, everybody, let’s dance:

 

Here’s a traditional Korean wedding – the bride enters at about 1:22:

 

I just love this sweet and mellow processional to a solo flute playing the theme to the movie “Braveheart:”

 

And while we’re in a Scottish theme, anyone for bagpipes?

 

In the next video, the two grooms assembled a large group of musicians, including many talented friends, for a rousing and touching entrance. This one features the musical performance very strongly – the grooms enter at about 10:00:

 

Something to think about: Pachelbel’s Canon is the most popular processional – but so often the folks who love the music only end up hearing a phrase or two before the bride has arrived at the altar. How about delaying the bride’s entrance and give everyone a little chance to anticipate?

 

For contrast again – I love the beat and the mellow sway of this African American processional:

 

The gentle, sweet vocals in this Jewish wedding processional end with the bride circling the groom seven times before the couple moves to the huppah. The Seven Circles is a Jewish tradition representing the seven wedding blessings and seven days of creation, and demonstrating that the groom is the center of her world. I recommend having tissues handy again, before the groom starts singing for the bride’s entrance:

 

And, well, this is Vermont, and we couldn’t be complete without Maria’s processional from “The Sound of Music.” Not sure I’d recommend a tune representing “How do you solve a problem like (name of bride or groom) – but I guess it worked for Julie Andrews, and it does sound lovely in context:

 

Enjoy! And Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She maintains a studio in Montpelier, Vermont, and teaches flute in Vermont, in Lebanon, NH, and online to students worldwide.

Ceremony Music Tips | Paint Your Ceremony Your Way | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Letter10 Creative

Classical music wafting through the air, elegantly winding through the gathered group of family and friends – or would you prefer a little Celtic lilt to put a spring in your step on your special day? Or what about that special hymn grandma always used to sing? Or that pop tune or show tune you always sang as a kid - or first danced to as a couple? Or what about something totally different - something composed just for your special day?

When most people think of “wedding music” what pops to mind is often Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” (“Here comes the bride…”) or Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” or perhaps Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” You might imagine a church organ or perhaps a classical quartet. Many couples do choose some variation on the above for their wedding music - and why not? Classic, elegant choices that are easy to walk to, and that are tested by time, will never go out of style. Would a bride avoid wearing a long gown and decide not to exchange rings simply because everyone else does? Traditional choices can say as much about you as non-traditional choices, if chosen from the heart.  This type of connection with tradition and the past can be comforting, sentimental, and certainly can make your decision-making simpler!

 But sometimes couples choose music that’s a little different - and again, why not? It’s your day to paint the town - the music will paint the atmosphere and color the feeling of your celebration - why not choose music that has significance for you personally? That touch of you in the music will touch your guests as well as bringing you smiles - or tears - or a lift in your every move. Again, if the tunes that are significant for you are also popular with others, then go for it! If not, the sky’s the limit!

I had the honor of playing for a wedding where the bride had arranged or composed the music for her own wedding - including a special song performed by a friend. At another, the bride commissioned a friend to create medleys of a series of special songs - primarily Broadway songs and hymns, and chose popular but non-traditional classical music for the prelude. Many couples wish to have entirely classical music for their weddings, but prefer to completely avoid the traditional wedding standards. There are too many options to list here, but you may wish to look into music by Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, for the classic sound that’s not “wedding standard.” And by the way - don’t think of these composers as the stodgy old men you often see in pictures - if Bach really were the person we think of when we see his stiff representation in portrait, do you honestly believe he would have fathered 20 children? Or composed the intensely energetic music he did? Bach, in particular, composed some of the most versatile and awe-inspiring music ever heard - and a great deal of his music has been arranged for many different combinations of instruments, and is often heard at weddings, though never as the standards that could be considered “over-used” - so check him out! I’ve also recently played as recessionals:  “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles and “Landler” from Sound of Music; as processionals: “Til’ There Was You” and “Fanny Power.” I’ve played two weddings where the request was for music throughout the ceremony – essentially a soundtrack - a mix of styles, in one case with music continuing even as background for the vows, and the entire ceremony built on musical selections that were particularly special for the couple.

Want to get even more unique? Vermont boasts a huge variety of composers and song writers. If this is of interest, you may wish to contact Steve Klimowski, clarinetist from  the ”Classic Consort” - also director of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble – for names of Vermont composers who might suit your style. Why not consider having a special song composed just for your special day? It would lend a whole new meaning to the phrase “playing our song!”

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.

Musican Choices From The Heart | Ceremony Music Inspiration | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Letter10 Creative

I still often cry at weddings. This may sound like a strange admission from someone who plays music at weddings all the time. Especially a flutist - no one wants a flutist sputtering and squeaking into their instrument during their processional. Rest assured, I have learned to turn off the faucet at the right times, but, well, I do often cry at weddings. 

It doesn’t seem to matter for me whether a couple has chosen Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” for processional or “When You Wish Upon a Star;’ ”Adagio” from Handel’s G major flute sonata  or the Celtic tune “Fannie Power;” Schubert’s “Ave Maria”  or Journey’s “Don’t’ Stop Believin;”  Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” or “Laendler” from Sound of Music; the Filipino popular song  “Ikaw” or the Jewish traditional song “Dodi Li” (my beloved) or the Broadway hit “’Til There Was You.” When I know the choice of ceremony music is heartfelt and reflects either the bride or groom’s love of tradition or their desire to be unique in a particular way, especially when I know that a particular tune brings tears to their eyes - I do frequently get caught up in the joy and emotion of the moment.

Your wedding day is, in the very best sense, all about you. It’s a time when you  choose from a palette of colors, sounds, views and words that reflect you - as individuals and as a couple. If each choice, as you make it, stirs your soul, helps you to understand and respect one another better - your similarities and your differences - and brings on the joy or the tears or the strength or the vulnerability that you seek, that will be felt by others present at your wedding. 

This past year, I met with a wedding couple and as I was playing through a few possible processionals, the bride-to-be told me “That one made me cry!” Well, I played a few more possibilities just to be sure, but it seemed clear that “Sheep May Safely Graze” was the one that was meant to be the wedding party processional for her wedding, where her daughter would be the junior maid of honor. As I was playing “Sheep May Safely Graze” as a duo with my own violinist daughter months later at this wedding, and the bride’s daughter was walking up the aisle, well, yes, I held off the tears for the time being, but only due to years of experience. I’ve played “Sheep May Safely Graze” many times, as well as the Pachelbel Canon that followed for the Bride’s processional, but in this moment, knowing how the bride felt about these pieces, I felt the music with a fresh perspective, energy and emotion.

Some couples know exactly what they want, while some have no idea. Sometimes the process can feel easy, sometimes overwhelming. As you can imagine from the list of processionals mentioned above (all from weddings I’ve played in one calendar year), the options for wedding music can be wide open and virtually limitless. If you’re overwhelmed with the decisions about wedding music, first speak with the professional musician you’ve chosen for your wedding. They may be able to make some suggestions that strike a chord for you, and that they know sound great with the instruments you’ve chosen. There are also numerous lists of options available online - a google search may make the difference between not knowing where to start and - “aha! That’s perfect!” And of course there’s YouTube. Your professional may be able to send you links to videos to give you some ideas, or you can browse yourself.

Your first step: know that your options are very wide, but can be very simple if you know what clicks for you (bearing in mind that in some cases there may be an extra charge for special sheet music purchases or arrangements, or some options may be less suitable for the instrument combination you may have already chosen). Your second step: find the music that makes your heart skip a beat or that brings you joy or sighs or tears - or whatever emotion you wish for your day.  The loved ones who gather with you on your day will feel it too.

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She maintains a private flute studio for in Montpelier, Vermont and also teaches online to students worldwide.

Tips for hiring musicians for your wedding ceremony | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Eric Foley Photography

Perhaps you can perfectly envision your walk down the aisle - you can hear the exact music you want in your mind and see the whole scene perfectly. Or perhaps you don’t know exactly what you want, but you know the feeling you’d like the music to convey - perhaps slow and dreamy, or meditative, or regal and stately, or with a certain driving pulse underneath – or you just have a gut sense that you can’t find the words to explain. Or perhaps you’re somewhere in between - with some thoughts and feelings about what you’d like, some specific ideas, but haven’t nailed down yet exactly what you’d like.

Once you’ve given a little thought to the music you’d like to have at your ceremony, it’s time to start making contacts with musicians. Here’s a brief overview of the process of booking a musician. First, professionals in the wedding business (particularly Vermont professionals, in my experience!) do understand that most couples haven’t booked a musician for an event before, so are experienced in helping you through the logistics of the process - so just jumping in with the contact is most commonly just fine. But for a little broader understanding of details to keep in mind in consulting with a musician to be sure you end up with the perfect musician for your wedding with confidence in understanding the booking process, read on!

On your first contact, most couples are looking for the following information: 1) Is the musician or ensemble available for your wedding date and time? And 2) What would be the cost? 

In order to get the information you’re looking for and move on with the booking and planning process, with full understanding of the final cost, it can be really helpful to include the following information up front:

  1. The date and time of the ceremony (approximate time is usually  ok on the first contact) and whether you’d like music for the ceremony only (typically 20-30 minutes of prelude as guests are arriving plus processionals, recessionals, possible interlude  - typically 1 hour total, or 1.5 hours for Catholic ceremonies) or ceremony plus cocktail hour/reception, or reception only - and probable number of hours desired, if you know 
  2. The location of the ceremony (and/or cocktail hour/reception if relevant)
  3. Will your event be indoors or out? 
  4. If your wedding will be outdoors, will you be providing shelter for the instruments and musicians? Under what conditions would you move indoors? (Some musicians will not play outdoors; others require negotiations - and potentially extra fees - regarding specific details for protection of instruments and/or performers from sun, wind, extreme temperatures and rain)
  5. Will you require specific musical selections that are not among the typical standard wedding music options, or on the musician’s playlist? (in some cases, there may be additional costs for uncommon requests to cover purchase of new sheet music and/or time spent arranging and practicing; in some cases, your preferred repertoire choice may not be an option with a particular musician, or may require additional fees, and you may wish to know this before making a final decision to book)

Including this information can help you to get the clear answers regarding availability and cost that you’re looking for right up front. In considering musicians’ fees, bear in mind that some musicians have extensive training and experience, and often practice for hours a day, which may lead to higher cost than less experienced or less advanced musicians. Every musician I know has stories of mishaps of their own or their peers from their early days of playing for weddings. Among the stories I’ve heard:  arriving at the wedding site only to find that the instrument was not in the case and therefore being unable to play; hopping on the express train in plenty of time - only to find it was going the wrong direction - and missing the wedding; one group member getting lost and arriving at the wedding after it was finished (stories of younger players arriving late are very common); sheet music blowing off the stand in the middle of the processional because it wasn’t clamped down properly, causing a halt to the processional music (I’ve heard many variations on this story for all portions of the ceremony); music stands blowing over and/or music flying into the bushes and taking a few minutes to reassemble. I could go on - and haven’t begun to address musical expertise - but you get the idea - you often get what you pay for.

An additional note: some musicians are more organized than others. If you do not receive a reply within 24 hours, this could be a source of concern. Your music planning process could be very simple with a musician who’s organized and replies promptly. With wedding vendors who do not reply promptly, your planning process, including repertoire choices and more, could be a nightmare. You deserve prompt communication! If you don’t receive that, it may be a red flag. (Bear in mind that occasionally communication doesn’t go through – I’ve occasionally received inquiries in my spam folder – a second attempt may be helpful in some cases). 

Once you’ve confirmed availability, pricing, potential shelter for instruments, and options for suitable repertoire choices, you should expect to receive a contract. Once the contract is signed by both you and the musician, and your deposit or retainer fee is received by the musicians (this may be 50% of the total fees, though this may vary quite a bit), you can rest assured that you have completed the logistical part of booking a musician, and can now move on to the fun part - refining your repertoire choices! This deposit/retainer fee is normally considered non-refundable, since the musicians will most likely be turning down other paid work for your wedding day between the time of booking and the time of your wedding. 

Starting off on the right foot with a good working relationship with your musicians can be a really helpful beginning to the process of setting the ambiance for your big day.  Vermont musicians will certainly help you to fill in the missing pieces and will generally be very understanding in the process, but conveying your understanding of their needs - in terms of time, protection of priceless instruments, respect for training and expertise, and conveying a bit of your feelings about what repertoire inspires you - can really help get you in a groove with the musicians in a way that drives everyone’s energy toward optimal results!

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.

Prince William and Catherine Middleton Wedding Music Inspiration | Royal Wedding Fifth Anniversary | Vermont Bride Magazine
Photo by Hugo Burnand

This article originally appeared in Vermont Bride Magazine in 2011, revisited in honor of the royal couple’s fifth anniversary which occured this past April 29th.

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, then Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton, were selecting music for their wedding, they wove threads of many colors and textures into the fabric of their day. The majority of people watching from around the world were probably aware of the majesty of the sound, and the familiarity of some of the hymns, but I would venture to guess that relatively few were aware of the personal significance of Prince William and Miss Middleton’s choices, nor how those choices wove their ceremony, and their future life together, into the fabric of family, community, country and world. Royal weddings can set precedents for the rest of us long after the event itself – as can be seen in the case of the use of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March for the 1858 wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick. I invite you to a closer look at William and Kate’s wedding music, not so much with the idea of duplicating the specific choices, but in considering their planning approach as you plan a wedding that will reflect your own life, your past, your present, and your future, as individuals, as a couple, as a family and part of a community.

The bride’s processional, “I Was Glad” by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, was selected partly for its ability to fill the large hall with theatrical impact while accenting rather than detracting from the bride herself, and partly because it was a favorite of the couple and was written by Prince William’s favorite composer, but it also represents family history in that it was composed for William’s great-great-great grandfather Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. The recessional, “Crown Imperial” by William Walton, was originally performed for the coronation of King George VI in 1937, and was also played for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Prince William and Catherine Middleton Wedding Music Inspiration | Royal Wedding Fifth Anniversary | Vermont Bride Magazine

Three of the couple’s favorite hymns were sung during the ceremony. Notably, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer” was the final hymn at William’s mother, Diana’s, funeral. The second hymn, “Love Divine All Love Excelling” is considered one of Britain’s top ten favorite hymns and has also been sung at other of their family ceremonies, and the third, “Jerusalem,” references the poet William Blake’s perspective on social inequalities of the industrial era, with notable similarities to the social priorities and interests of the royal couple, as well as the final statement regarding better days “on England’s green and pleasant land.”

Three selections for the prelude (Farewell to Stromness by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Touch Her Soft Lips and Part by William Walton, and Romance for String Orchestra by Gerald Finzi) were chosen specifically because of their use at the Service of Prayer and Dedication for the Prince of Wales (William’s father) and the Duchess of Cornwall, following their wedding service in 2005. 

One of the clearest threads in Kate and William’s choices was the emphasis on 20th century British composers. The only exceptions were two organ compositions at the beginning and end – Fantasia in G by Johann Sebastian Bach – and Toccata from Organ Symphonie V by French composer Charles-Marie Widor. I can only speculate on the significance of opening and closing with representation of the greater European world, representing the gifts of one of the first and greatest organ compositions and another by a composer who lived at the time the Westminster Abbey organ was rebuilt.

Miss Middleton had two more priorities in her music selection. She chose a selection representing a beautiful theme of hundreds of years of England’s history – Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaugh Williams (original theme likely by Henry VIII from the 16th century) – and also placed a high priority on recently composed music. Three pieces on the program filled this second need: the Fanfare following the signing of the registers, composed for this occasion by Wing commander Duncan Stubbs; the Anthem: “This is the Day Which the Lord Hath Made” by John Rutter, commissioned by Westminster Abbey as a gift for Prince William and Miss Middleton, and “Ubi Caritas,” a 2010 selection from 36 year old composer Paul Mealor, resident of the Isle of Anglesey in Wales, where the Duke and Duchess also reside.

Though few of us can afford to commission a new piece for our wedding, to be played on one of the world’s greatest organs, as well as a full professional orchestra and choir, and few of us have coronations in our family history, I believe we all have many threads in common with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 

Several threads of joy, a thread of grief, some of community, some of country, some of the greater world, many threads of love, many threads of faith, a thread of spring, a thread of sorrow, a thread of awareness of the need to work for a bright future, many historical threads, and some brand new threads. This is the fabric of a couple. This is the fabric of a family and a community. What musical selections represent what you love? your family? your community? your outlook on the world? your tastes and preferences? your history and your hopes for the future? The musical choices you weave into your wedding day can reflect and interconnect, and hold a place in your world from which you and your loved ones may grow, safely and joyfully, together.

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She maintains a private flute studio for in Montpelier, Vermont and also teaches online to students worldwide.

Honoring Your Loved Ones Through Music Choices | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Mae Memories Photography

A 1927 photograph shows my grandparents on their wedding day, beaming with the newlywed glow of any young couple. My grandfather was a man of few spoken words, though he once wrote “I married a very wonderful girl in 1927…” and “We grew apples, potatoes, and peaches but our most important crop was our daughter and three sons.” I recall only one time, in the twelve years that our lives overlapped, that he spoke to me, the sixth of his ten grandchildren, directly. I was seven or eight and he in his mid-seventies, and slowing from progressing cancer. He sat in an easy chair during the day and once motioned to me to come to where he was. He took my hand and said “Where’s that chubby little girl? You’re almost grown up!” I remember the touch of his work-worn hand and the look in his eye. In hindsight I see in his face that I was, in that moment, along with my cousins and siblings, not only his most precious crop but the reason for every crop of his 75+ years, for every trip up the apple tower to survey the orchards, for every apple picked or pressed, eaten or sold, sauced or baked in a pie by my grandmother. We were the reason his parents immigrated from Sweden, and he, the youngest of their twelve children, was only one of two to live, marry, and have children in this new country. 

Every family has a precious and unique history. What better time to honor your loved ones than your wedding day? There are many ways to go about it, but consider what your music choices can say. At my wedding, I chose to include movements from Ingolf Dahl’s “Variations on a Swedish Folk Tune” to honor both of my grandfathers’ Swedish ancestry. We chose to have a contradance at the reception largely because we both loved contradancing, but it also honored both New England and Celtic roots.

If you want a ceremony and reception that thoroughly reflects a specific heritage, you may wish to choose a Klezmer band for a Jewish wedding, or a French Canadian Band to reflect French roots, or a similar choice. But many wedding couples may wish to have primarily classical music, but include some specific selections to reflect specific people or family backgrounds. I’ve often played Celtic selections for this purpose, intermixed with the classical. On one occasion I played a traditional Korean song, “Doraji,” as part of the prelude, to honor the bride’s Korean heritage. For weddings where one or both members of the couple are partially of Jewish descent, I enjoy movements from Michael Isaacson’s “A Jewish Wedding Suite,” arranged for flute, violin and cello. Movements from this suite include the folk songs “Dodi Li” (My Beloved), “Eishet Chayil” (A Woman of Valor), “Ma Navu” (The Messenger of Good Tidings), and more. Any of these folk tunes could also be played on other instruments, with the proper arrangement. There are infinite possibilities for couples wishing to reflect virtually any family background. (Bear in mind that depending on musicians and instruments chosen, as well as cost of purchasing music or potential complexity of arranging the music, there may - or may not - be additional fees involved, and certain specific selections may not work for certain instrument combinations). 

Perhaps a grandparent had or has a special hymn or song they always loved. Another thought may be to ask your grandparents or parents what was played at their wedding. Or if no one knows, perhaps you might wish to choose something that was popular at the time of their wedding. “It Had to Be You” was written in 1924, around the time my grandfather would been wooing my grandmother “away from the other fellow” (according to recent information from my uncle!). Hearing the song reminds me that my grandparents’ generation so long ago was not so different from my own generation, or from younger or future generations, reflecting the thoughts, the love, the care that any young couple today feels for one another. We’re all part of the story, taking what came before and weaving it into the future.

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.

Outdoor Music for your Ceremony | Vermont Bride Magazine
Photo by Daria Bishop Photographers

What could be more romantic and inspiring than to be married under the open sky, with lush green (or vibrant red, orange and yellow) surroundings, breathtaking mountain views in the distance, surrounded by wildflowers and feeling at one with the natural Vermont beauty around you? I love outdoor weddings. In my youth, avid hiker that I was, I envisioned being married on top of Camel’s Hump. But, as a musician, I’ve seen the fear and trepidation that the simple words “outdoor wedding” can sometimes cause for my fellow musicians. 

What do you, as a wedding couple, need to know about live music as you plan your outdoor ceremony? 

First, it’s fabulous to hear live music wafting over the grounds, blending with the wind and the birds and the scenery to create that amazing and unique sound and feeling you’re craving. It’s all generally very manageable, and most musicians are willing to play outdoors. The key is clear communication up front with your musicians.

Second, if your musician doesn’t bring up the question of their needs for protection of their instrument from a variety of weather-related possibilities, you should double check weather details with them to make sure you’re not in for a last minute surprise. 

I’ve heard many stories from both perspectives. The most common story goes roughly this way: “It rained. The musician played in the (garage; house; inside the Inn; you pick) and could not be heard from the ceremony site.” I’ve heard versions of this one from both the musician’s perspective and the bride’s perspective, and concluded that communication prior to and included in the contract about the conditions under which the musician will play outdoors are absolutely critical to avoid panic for musicians and terrible disappointment for the wedding couple. 

Some other stories and experiences along these lines that may be helpful in understanding the situation from both sides:

  • The father of the bride happens to see the violinist for the quartet a few days before the wedding. She casually mentions “You know we can’t play in sun?” Dad’s to-do list in the final days just got a lot longer with tracking down a tent.
  • The shade from the gazebo gradually moves out of the gazebo by the beginning of the 5:00 ceremony on a 95 degree day. The harp goes out of tune and musicians panic that the glue holding the instrument together will begin to melt away, potentially shortening the life of the beloved $30,000 instrument.
  • The oboist frantically warms the outside of her instrument with her hands to equalize the temperature between the 58 degree air outside of the instrument and the 98.6 degree air going in to prevent her $8,000 wooden instrument from cracking. 
  • I see beneath the well-rehearsed calm exterior to the pit of stomach reaction of the cellist, holding his $20,000 instrument, when told by the groom: “Yes, we lucked out with the weather, but we would have been outside even in a thunderstorm!”
  • The wind picks up, and the music on the stand blows out of view during the recessional, stopping the music. Experienced outdoor musicians usually clip down the music to the stand ahead of time, and hold the base with feet or wire loops in the ground and around the base, combined with feet. If your musician hasn’t discussed weather ahead of time, they may lack this type of outdoor wedding experience. Then again, strong wind may not be manageable for anyone. 

If your musician doesn’t mention weather, this doesn’t necessarily mean all will be well - different people have different assumptions about what is considered acceptable weather for making the choice to move indoors. Sometimes musicians may assume one thing while the wedding couple may not have thought about it, but would choose to be outdoors even if weather conditions are what a musician would simply assume would be unacceptable. So be sure you know what the musician is expecting and make sure it works with what you’re hoping for - and  be prepared for some “unpredictable as weather” moments in all aspects of your outdoor wedding planning. 

Here’s a list of weather conditions to discuss with your live musician to clarify their needs and your desires, and how to best ensure that everyone will be at their best on the day that counts. First, consider the listed possible weather conditions below and discuss with your partner under what conditions you would really want to stay outdoors. Next be completely up front with your musician about your interests and make sure they let you know under which conditions they might not be able to stay out in the open. And finally, discuss whether protection from the elements is something that you’re expected to provide or whether the musicians may provide some sort of protection, and specifically what conditions would ensure that they could provide that safely. Weather concerns for musicians may include: 1) rain - heavy, light, sprinkle or potential; 2) direct sun; 3) temperature - low or high; 4)wind conditions; 5) additional moisture (from wind, shade tree, leaking gazebo, even after the rain has stopped). 

Most of the weddings I play are outdoor weddings. And most experienced wedding musicians will bring up weather concerns or stipulations and be clear and up front about their needs. With proper communication and precautions taken, during the late spring, summer and early fall, the exquisite experience of live wedding music wafting through the great outdoors is normally quite manageable in Vermont!

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.

Choosing Ceremony Music | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Steve Holmes Photography

You can perfectly envision the moment you’ll begin the walk down the aisle and into your new life.  The perfect location, gorgeous dress, the flowers. Now even the flower girls have completed their walk down the aisle, and the music stops. Your processional has begun.

It’s the moment you’ve dreamed of for so long, finally here. What music will usher you down the aisle to the love of your life? What will he be feeling when he hears the music? 

There are so many choices for today’s couples. While many make traditional music choices for their ceremonies, for twenty-first century weddings, just about anything goes. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the choices, here are a few thoughts to help you find the direction that’s best for you, to make the ambiance of your most special moment truly memorable, and truly personal.

First, are you a person who likes tradition, or someone who likes to forge new ground? Does a wedding without Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” at the end feel like a birthday without singing “Happy Birthday”, breakfast without orange juice, or Hanukkah without latkes? I know some who hate the song “Happy Birthday”– and can’t stand the thought of the popular wedding choices at their wedding. But for some they are as dear as “Silent Night” at Christmas time, as comforting as a “welcome home” hug, and as full of anticipation and excitement as a child’s birthday wish coming true. 

If you’re a tradition lover, your choices will be relatively easy. The vast majority of couples choose the Mendelssohn “Wedding March” for the recessional (Click the following link for a basic description of wedding music terms like “recessional”). In my experience, the most popular choice for the bride’s processional is the Pachelbel “Canon in D.” The second most popular choice is the traditional Wagner “Bridal Chorus” (“Here Comes the Bride”). I have played some weddings where both are played: the Pachelbel  Canon for the wedding party and the Bridal Chorus for the bride. 

Just about everyone wants music that’s joyful and lively for the recessional, so that’s an easy place to start.  Here are a few alternatives to Mendelssohn you may wish to consider: 

  • “La Rejouissance” from “The Fireworks Music” by Handel
  • “Trumpet Tune” by Purcell 
  • “Trumpet Voluntary” by Clarke (also called the “Prince of Denmark’s March”)
  • “Gigue” from Suite #3 in D Major by J.S. Bach
  • “Allegro” from “Spring” from “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi
  • “Hornpipe” from “The Water Music” by Handel

The list above works well for almost any instrument combination, and all are popular choices. Of course, some couples might choose a popular tune, a show tune, a hymn, or maybe a Celtic or Jazz piece – you name it! Here are a few truly alternative examples I’ve experienced:

  • “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schonberg
  • “Carolan’s Concerto” by Turlough O’Carolan
  • Medley of: “One Hand, One Heart” from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein,  “And This is My Beloved” by Robert Wright and  George Forrest,” “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” by George Gershwin, and “All I Ask of You” by Andrew Lloyd Weber.
  • “Hallelujah Chorus” from “The Messiah” by Handel
  • “Everyone” by VanMorrison
  • A medley of traditional Scottish tunes played by the bride’s grandfather on bagpipes
  • “Get Happy” by Judy Garland
  • “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
  • “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay

 

Choosing Ceremony Music | Vermont Bride Magazine

I hope you get the idea about how numerous and varied the options are! You’ll definitely want to check with your musicians to confirm that your choices are workable for their particular instrument combination. Your musicians may have additional ideas as well. There are too many options to list here, and many work well for some instrument combinations, but not for others, so do be sure to talk about your thoughts early in the process with your musician(s).

The bride’s processional is probably your most important musical choice. The first question: would you like your processional to be of the fanfare variety (like the Wagner “Bridal Chorus”) or the flowing variety (more like the Pachelbel Canon)? Do you fantasize a regal and stately entrance following a trumpet style musical introduction? Or do you prefer the simple but elegant glide?

Here are some processional possibilities that work well for virtually all instrument combinations. All are workable for either the bride or the wedding party:

Regal, fanfare style processional suggestions:

  • “Trumpet Voluntary” by Clarke
  • “Trumpet Tune” by Purcell 

More flowing processional possibilities:

  • “Air” from “Water Music” by Handel
  • “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J.S. Bach
  • “Sheep May Safely Graze” by J.S. Bach
  • Theme from “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven

Below are a few possibilities that I’ve experienced that are more uncommon:

  • “Carol of the Bells” by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych, for a December wedding
  • “Leezie Lindsay” traditional Scottish folk song
  • “Meditation” from “Thais” by Jules Massenet
  • “If We Hold On Together” from “Land Before Time” 
  • “All I Ask of You” by Andrew Lloyd Weber
  • “Sinfonia” from “Cantata 156” by J.S. Bach

Choices for music in the middle of the ceremony vary much more than processional and recessional choices. You may wish to ask a religious leader or your musicians for specific additional recommendations. Many of the pieces listed as processionals could also work well here. Below are a few additional pieces I’ve found to be popular for such a moment:

  • “Simple Gifts” 
  • “Amazing Grace”
  • “On Eagle’s Wings” by Michael Joncas
  • “The Rose” by Amanda McBroom
  • Virtually any hymn that fits the mood 

And a few others that I’ve experienced:

  • “Fannie Power”  traditional Celtic tune
  • “Sarabande” from Partita for Solo Flute by J.S. Bach
  • “Sicilienne” from Sonata in E flat for Flute and Piano by J.S. Bach

It’s my view that the most important elements of planning music for a wedding are: 

  1. Consider whether there’s a special piece of music – a tune, a song, a classical piece – that resonates with you and/or your partner, or that has special meaning for a family member or friend. If so, work with your musicians and your officiant to include that music in some way in your ceremony.  A special tune on your wedding day may put a hum on your lips and in your heart, and in the hearts of friends and family, for many years to come!
  2. Ask advice from the musicians you’ll be working with. They may be able to easily guide you toward music you’ll love that works well for their particular combination of instruments. They will also be able to discuss with you whether a particular piece of music would not be ideal in the instrument combination you’ve chosen.
  3. Be aware that the music establishes the background feelings that will color your ceremony and your memories. Select music that resonates for you in the way you’ll want to remember forever.

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.

The first prominent use of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, from the Ballet “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” was for the wedding recessional Princess Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (pictures below).  In my experience, this remains the most popular wedding recessional today.

 Choosing Music for your Processional | Wedding Resources, Ideas, and Tips | Vermont Bride Magazine

 

For those of you who don’t summon the tune to mind at the mere mention of the title, or who just enjoy listening, here’s a video of the Berlin Philharmonic playing this popular piece:

 

 

Many people associate this piece with the organ – here’s a magnificent organ you might enjoy:

 

 

Now that you all know what music I’m talking about, you’re probably thinking either A) yes, definitely – it just wouldn’t feel like a wedding without walking back up the aisle at the end of the ceremony to that music! OR B) Ooh – no – I think that’s a little TOO traditional for my taste! Or perhaps C) hmm… maybe – what are the other choices? 

One thing to consider is that some religious denominations do not consider the Mendelssohn Wedding March to be appropriate at a sacred service, due to themes within the story line of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” 

 

The basic storyline of the play and the ballet is a comedy which involves love potions, magic spells, and misplaced passions, but in the end, couples reunite and wedding festivities ensue for three happy couples. 

So if you are having a religious ceremony, particularly a Catholic ceremony, you will want to discuss this option with your priest, minister or other officiant. Other than the potential religious conflict, primarily for some Catholic weddings, it all boils down to your personal preference, and your personal tendency toward tradition or toward more unique and personal choices.

 

Choosing Music for your Processional | Wedding Resources, Ideas, and Tips | Vermont Bride Magazine

 

If your response to the above was “What are our other choices?” then you’re in luck, since the options are many. A few alternatives I’ve found to be popular: “Rejouissance” from Handel’s Water Music; “Allegro” from Vivaldi’s Spring; or from a different angle: the Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand;” or Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.” And for those of you who would specifically prefer something that NOT so traditional, well, the sky’s the limit! Just keep in mind that in most cases you’ll want music that’s upbeat and celebratory as well as easy to walk to. Please check back – I’ll be posting an article on recessional alternatives soon, with more thoughts and additional possibilities I’ve experienced – both popular and VERY unique! 

Meanwhile, I thought that you might enjoy this little a cappella rendition of the Mendelssohn – particularly the non-traditionalists out there!

 

 Choosing Music for your Processional | Wedding Resources, Ideas, and Tips | Vermont Bride Magazine

Many thanks to Angel B. at  http://www.avictorian.com/ for sharing the photos of Princess Victoria’s wedding festivities above. 

Lisa Carlson is a flutist offering ensembles for weddings and other occasions in duos, trios, quartets in a variety of instrumental combinations, and staff wedding music writer for Vermont Bride Magazine. She also maintains a private flute  studio in Montpelier, Vermont, in addition to teaching flute at Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and online. 

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