Years ago I was in a friend’s wedding, a wedding that was big and formal and that forced me to buy a floor length ball gown. When the doors opened and my friend emerged, in all her bridal splendor, the musicians broke out into Pachabel’s ‘Canon in D’.
I wanted to throw down my bridesmaid bouquet and storm out. Canon in D?!?! No detail had been overlooked in this wedding, down to the ice sculptures and the fine chocolates we were given as favors. Yet no one could come up with a better processional song than ‘Canon in D’?
If I had one wish for brides everywhere, it would be to give up ‘Canon in D’, one of the most overused wedding songs ever. You’ve futzed over everything from the dress to the menu to making sure the napkins match the groomsmen’s boutonnieres. Don’t let the music be a cliché. Music sets the mood and the ambiance of your ceremony. It’s worth investing a little time to make it an experience.
Overall, let’s not forget this is a happy occasion and the music should be a reflection of that. I once knew a girl who, in all seriousness, wanted to walk down the aisle to ‘Be Not Afraid,’ which is technically a funeral song.
Here are a few suggestions for wedding music that will be a welcome change from the old standbys. Hopefully they will inspire even further musical exploration. (Click on the links to play the songs on Spotify).
‘Palladio’: You’ll find this song on pretty much every collection of wedding music, and yet I’ve never actually heard it performed at a wedding. De Beers popularized the last 30 seconds of it in their series of diamond commercials in 1990s, but the whole piece is about three and half minutes of subtle intensity.
If you’re a bride with an evening wedding and a flair for the dramatic, this would be great for your bridal party to enter to. (Think dark room with lots of candles.) It’s a challenging piece to play, so find a string quartet with some chops and solid cellist.
‘Lover’s Concerto’: This song was popularized in 1965 by The Toys and is based on Bach’s Minuet in G Major. Henry Mancini, the great American composer who pretty much wrote every popular soundtrack and theme song in the 20th century, came up with this delightful version. It only needs a few extra horn players (a tuba and some French horns) in order to be pulled off. I think the bride should make her grand entrance at the 2:00 mark.
‘Joy’: You could spend all day exploring Mancini’s music and find gem after gem. (You can start with ‘Moonriver’ from Breakfast at Tiffany’s) Another wedding staple of his that I love is ‘Joy’, which is based on ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desire’. He manages to turn it into a gig, and it works. It would be great to leave the ceremony to this tune.
‘Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances No. 4’: Classical music snobs are quite familiar with Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, but it’s not in the traditional canon of wedding music. Shame, since all the selections are gorgeous and diverse. My personal favorite is the fourth movement, especially the first three minutes or so. It could easily be incorporated into a ceremony, even without a symphony orchestra.
‘Carmina Burnana’: Most people think of ‘O Fortuna’ when they think of Carmina Burana. There is much more to the choral work than just the spooky, flagship song.
If your budget allows for more than just a string quartet – or you have access to a local choral group — you may want to consider ‘Ecce Gratum’ for when your bridesmaids come down the aisle. It’s light and will set a buoyant mood for your big entrance.
‘Uf Dem Anger’: If you really want to make an impression, walk down the aisle to this piece. The opening trumpets will be enough to wake up your guests and let them know that you mean business. It’s not even a minute long, which should be enough time to get you to your groom.
Singers add real punch to a ceremony, and finding a choral group to perform may not be as difficult, or expensive, as it may seem. In any metropolitan area there are usually quite a few semi-professional and amateur choral groups that with a little bit of notice would be happy to perform at your wedding. These are usually people with a solid background in music and performing who also have day jobs. I’ve been in several of these choral groups in Manhattan and have done my share of private performances.
If you’re having your ceremony in a church, don’t settle for the choir you may be offered. Find a good group, make a donation and prepare to impress your guests.