V.com weekend vote: Do you play for weddings?

May 18, 2018, 9:14 PM · I heard there is a big wedding going on this weekend - so let's talk about wedding music and wedding gigs!

As with most of life's major milestones, music plays a huge role in setting the emotional tone for a wedding, and having live musicians makes a huge difference.

wedding music, violin, roses

Of course, not many people have quite the opulent resources available to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry for this weekend's royal wedding, which reportedly will feature two choirs, an orchestra, several soloists, and even a troupe of trumpeters!

As string players and musicians, many of us have been part of weddings both big and small. I played in my first wedding as a college student and have continued to do so -- weddings in fancy churches, in backyards, on Malibu hilltops, school chapels - I can't begin to remember them all. I do enjoy creating the music for such occasions and also having that incidental chance to see how many different ways people choose to take their vows and celebrate their union.

Have you played for many weddings? What is your zaniest story? What music was the most moving? Have you ever participated in a wedding that seemed anywhere near the size of the royal one this weekend? I realize that several answers might apply in this vote, but please pick the answer that fits best for you, and then tell us about your wedding-gig and wedding-music experiences!

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May 19, 2018 at 05:13 AM · About 20 years ago we did a wedding gig which I remember to be in a muddy farmyard. Bride and groom were drunk. She wore odd coloured shoes, and instead of saying "I do" she said "yes". I have no idea what became of them.

May 19, 2018 at 06:54 AM · Never do a wedding gig as a favour to a "friend" of one of your quartet. You'll be allocated a small corner of a tent or the dead end of a corridor, be completely ignored by everyone and all you'll get for your trouble will be "expenses" which will hardly pay for fuel and a coffee on the motorway

May 19, 2018 at 07:38 AM · I've only performed violin/viola at one wedding in which I wasn't also the (not terribly good) organist, and that was the most recent one, when I played Bach unaccompanied (2 movements from the E major on the violin, then 4 movements from the E flat cello suite) - You've guessed it, the organist was even worse than myself, otherwise it wouldn't have been Bach unaccompanied. The rest only amounted to two or three. I wouldn't describe any of my weddings as a gig.

May 19, 2018 at 07:57 AM · I've only played one wedding, when two of my friends got married two years ago. (As a late starter, I wouldn't have had enough confidence to play anything at a wedding until the last few years.) But it was an interesting experience, because the pianist had to have emergency surgery for appendicitis 48 hours before the wedding and there was no replacement lined up, and I would have to play unaccompanied viola. Fortunately, I was only playing a short processional and a recessional.

In advance of the wedding, since the bride and groom had specifically requested that the common wedding selections (Mendelssohn, Wagner, Jeremiah Clarke) not be heard at all, I'd arranged Grieg's "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen" for viola and piano with some cuts to fit it into the expected length of time. With no pianist at all, I did a last-minute rearrangement for unaccompanied viola, and in spite of all the double and triple stops in it, prepared it in one day! I changed the recessional to unaccompanied Bach. Apart from playing the very first chord out of tune in the Grieg, I actually pulled it off. I'm still shocked that I managed to do it.

I wasn't paid for the gig, except for expenses. But the expenses were substantial: they flew me in from California to Michigan and paid for my hotel and meals for four days.

I would have gone to the wedding anyway, not least because it was so full of small-world coincidences. I knew both the bride (J) and the groom (R) long before they met each other. I'd met R at a summer camp in North Carolina when I was in high school, and J in law school in California 15 years later, and had no idea they'd met each other until they moved in together shortly before becoming engaged! About two months before the wedding, they were packing for a cross-country move when they discovered that R still had a box of letters from his childhood pen pals, all written more than 20 years earlier... and one of those pen pals was J.

May 19, 2018 at 10:21 AM · I've played for a few weddings - the first was our younger daughter's, 37 years ago - a violin solo (Sunrise, Sunset, from Fiddler On the Roof) as part of the ceremony. The next (that I remember) was from Vivaldi's Winter concerto for the daughter of my dearest friend. Next was as a cellist with a violinist friend for all of the music at a mutual acquaintance's daughter's wedding (got paid for that one). The last all the introductory music as well as processional and recessional was as a solo cellist for a woman who wanted a baroque wedding (a lot of Bach for that one). I think there was one more in there (Meditation for an in-law), but I'm not sure.

There was one I missed - my sister's son's wedding in Chicago in October 2001 - we were to fly from California to Ohio for that one - but after 9/11, our daughters (who both live near us) were afraid to fly there so I took the blame and even though I had bought a special small case to carry my violin, we just let our tickets go to waste. They probably would not have let my fiddle on the plane by then anyway.

May 19, 2018 at 03:39 PM · I played for my brother's wedding. It was a Bach Cantata, maybe Sheep Will Safely Graze, with a piano and a singer, who was a friend of my brother and his wife.

I also played for one wedding in grad school which went pretty well playing standard Bach, Handel and Wagner, and then was asked by the same pianist to play for another. That bride and groom decided they wanted "Makin' Whoopie," which I wasn't really comfortable with. I didn't know the song and hadn't played any jazz violin before. I tried it and after the first rehearsal they kicked me out of the wedding music and hired a professional. That was the right call, but I feel like I should have just declined on the spot rather than waiting to be replaced. It was a time when I wasn't playing much and I was already feeling pretty insecure, and that didn't help. If I ever played a wedding again I think I would want more control over the music.

May 19, 2018 at 03:41 PM · My high school orchestra conductor, also a violinist, played at my wedding though. By the time I got married he had stopped teaching at my former high school, was a freelancer, and had a string quartet. It was really meaningful to have his quartet play at my wedding.

May 19, 2018 at 04:40 PM · I've had the privilege to play at least half dozen weddings, as well as funerals and one fiftieth wedding anniversary. At one wedding the bride or groom (don't know which) invited their friend, who played classical guitar, to play also. So for the prelude, he would play a piece then we would play one piece. The groom's mother arrived late, so both of us had to repeat a few pieces. I noticed during the ceremony that the groom was wearing bedroom slippers with his tux. I asked him about that later; the bride's entire family lived out west (we are in Tn) and during their engagement the bride's sister sent him those slippers with a note that said, "Don't get cold feet!" He decided immediately to wear them for the big day!

May 19, 2018 at 06:26 PM · I've played fiddle in a ceilidh dance band for many years, we were asked to play at a ceilidh for some naturists, when we arrived they were all fully dressed, our caller said 'Take your partners for the 1st dance.' Everyone stood up and removed all their clothes, then took to the dance floor. The organisers said 'You can take your clothes off too if you want,' we said no thanks. We had to play a little more slowly than usual to allow for some parts of the body to catch up. One of the participants was a neighbour of mine, she asked me not to look, I said 'I won't' and didn't! At the buffet, our caller said 'Don't eat the food close to the edge of the table!' Think about it! This gig made me realise that bodies come in all shapes and many sizes! The Ceilidh was a great success and we did it again the following year.

May 19, 2018 at 06:37 PM · I recently played for a friend’s wedding. I had only a few days advance notice and I had to learn about Jewish fiddle music. With the help of friends, Google, and Youtube, I pulled it off. This gig is also memorable to me because I was recovering from a shoulder rotator cuff injury and I was supposed to play my violin for only 5 to 10 minutes at a time, once every other week. After the wedding I had a major relapse and had to get a cortisone shot for the pain. I am really glad that I got to play at this wedding because my friend and his wife were so happy and I got to share some of their happiness.

May 19, 2018 at 11:14 PM · Over a twenty year period, I played hundreds weddings and special events.

In that time, I've only had one repeat customer. :)

May 20, 2018 at 03:16 AM · I've played a few on instruments other than from the violin family. All those gigs were memorable for all the wrong reasons!!!

May 20, 2018 at 08:19 PM · I'll play for indoor weddings, but not outdoor.

May 21, 2018 at 03:54 PM · I have played for hundreds of weddings and have a corresponding number of war stories, but one that stands out is the wedding where we had just finished the processional and the minister (who did not look well) had begun his remarks when he interrupted himself to come over to the cellist and me to ask us to play a little music while he excused himself for a few minutes.

After twenty minutes or so with the wedding party and guests (not to mention us) growing increasingly concerned, the best man went outside to check, came back, and reported that it would be just a few more minutes. Twenty more minutes went by (we had now been playing for 40 minutes straight) and another announcement was made that a replacement minister was on his way.

After 45 minutes of nothing happening except for nonstop music provided by my violin/cello duo, a new minister showed up and the wedding resumed.

We later found out that the original minister had Parkinson's, his medication was not controlling his symptoms adequately, and he eventually had to accept that he wasn't going to be able to complete the ceremony. I don't believe he ever did another wedding.

One of my colleagues asked me later if I'd gotten paid for the overtime and I said no, it was completely out of the bride's and groom's hands, and I felt so bad about what had happened at their wedding that I didn't have the heart even to contact them to ask about it.

Moral of the story: always, always have much more music with you than you think you will need. We didn't repeat anything but we were fast approaching the need to repeat by the time the replacement minister was found. I've had other weddings be delayed for various reasons but 45 minutes of extra music is the record, hopefully never to be broken.

May 22, 2018 at 01:37 AM · Having played for hundreds of weddings in the last eight years there are no end to the numbers of stories!

There are unusual weddings -- the bride floating in on a barge as we played for her grand entrance, a Cinderella carriage procession, the wedding that was entirely in Aramaic, and of course, a marriage proposal on the rocky shore of the Pacific Ocean -- balancing our music stands and chairs.

There are unexpected events -- a Unity candle that blows out repeatedly on a windy outdoor wedding, patio umbrellas that collapse, broken tree branches hovering over the cellist's head, and the tide rolling in on a beach wedding, threatening to float us all out to sea.

Through it all, we play in -- as beautifully as we can -- and add to our collection of wedding stories!

May 22, 2018 at 08:02 PM · People are better behaved at funerals. Wedding jobs can easily eat up your prime Saturday schedule. The big problem with modern American weddings is that they think they have to copy the wedding scenes they see in the movies--so it turns into an expensive theatrical production, directed by amateurs, without adequate rehearsals or re-takes. Problems are inevitable. One that I remember, outside; as we were playing the processional, a yellow-jacket bee crawled up my coat sleeve. Annoyed by my excellent arm vibrato, he stung me in the forearm (ow, keep playing, the show must go on). It swelled up and I was out of commission for a few days. Another one--with a flute quartet, outside at a volcanic hot springs. There was so much Sulfur dioxide in the air that her silver flute totally corroded and had to be sent back to the factory for a cleaning.

May 24, 2018 at 06:06 AM · I played at my sisters wedding, a small civil ceremony in our parents' house. I played the Delibes Flower duet with my teacher as an item during the wedding. My teacher's husband played the Purcell Voluntary on a flugelhorn (a quieter version of a trumpet) for the brides processional

May 24, 2018 at 03:05 PM · On a lighter note, Sheku Kanneh-Mason may be the only musician ever to turn down an American debut with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in favor of a wedding gig.

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