The view from the gallery #3 – How much music to include in your ceremony?
Welcome back! We hope you’re enjoying our View From the Gallery series so far.
In our previous post we took you through some of the rules/guidelines on what type of music you can include in your ceremony, noting that the biggest determining factor is what kind of celebration you’re planning – Catholic, Church of Ireland, Humanist, civil weddings all have rather different rules.
That brings us to the question of how much music you should include, because that’s also also largely down to the nature of the ceremony. Some people imagine that gospel music is only for churches, but actually in recent years we’ve been raising the roof at more secular celebrations than religious ones . As long as you’re looking for joyful, energetic music, it doesn’t matter whether yours is a Humanist celebration, a civil ceremony, or whether you’re one of the 1,800 people who identified as Jedi on the most recent Irish census – we’re the group for you. To recap: if yours is a Humanist/Spiritualist celebration, you can essentially design your own ceremony and fit your choice of music around its key points. There’s a decision to be made here regarding whether you’d like some of the musical moments to be ‘stand-alone’ parts of the ceremony – a song between readings for example, which simply gives you and your guests a moment to sit and enjoy the music – or prefer them to have a more functional role, being performed only at moments when something else is happening, such as a gesture or the signing of the register. The beauty of this is there are no rules, it’s absolutely your choice as a couple. As your musicians though, we’d always encourage you to include some ‘stand-alone’ songs in your celebration. Because we like a lot of music 🙂
If yours is a Catholic ceremony, there’s typically 7 or 8 points in the ceremony that call for full-length songs, in addition to the liturgical music pieces known as the mass parts (Gloria, Hallelujah etc….) Your musicians will advise you on this and as we mentioned earlier, better to take this step before you discuss with your celebrant.
In the Church of Ireland tradition, it’s normal to have a number of congregational hymns that your guests will join in with, in addition to the songs that your professional musicians will perform at moments such as the bridal entrance, Communion, Signing of the Register and Exit.
With gospel music in particular, it’s worth noting that gospel songs are traditionally quite long, so important to consider the duration of a given moment in the ceremony before you choose a song for it. For example, the lighting of the candles:
Try this at home; with a stopwatch, the two of you stand up, light a candle each and sit back down – how long did it take? 20 seconds or so, right? Well, the intro to many songs is longer than that! We always recommend a short instrumental rather than a song here as, unlike a full-on vocal number, an instrumental can be trailed off whenever you’re comfortable sitting back down. We’ve sometimes agreed to go against our better judgement on this one, and the celebrant was all but tapping their watch, meanwhile the couple were standing on the altar trying not to look uncomfortable.
Another moment whose length tends to be overestimated is the bridal entrance, with some clients preferring separate pieces of music for the bridesmaid’s entrance and the bridal walk down the aisle. Please trust us, one song is more than enough to cover both. Again, on one or two occasions we’ve agreed against our better judgement to perform two separate pieces, because the bride was very keen on the idea, and guess what happened? The bride got nervous waiting and walked up to the first song anyway! Don’t forget that everyone stands up, cameras at the ready, when we begin the first song and the bridesmaids procession starts – those people are expecting to see a bride at the top of the aisle within the next three minutes! You may feel like there’s a loss of momentum if we finish one song and then start into a second one, all before anyone sees the star of the show.
So when do you make all these decisions? In our next View from the Gallery post we’ll be talking about the timeline; when should you choose music/speak to your celebrant etc…