Your wedding day is one that you will never forget, and it all begins with the ceremony. There are two main types of wedding ceremony: one that takes place in a church, and one that does not – often referred to as a civil ceremony.
A civil ceremony is conducted by a registrar or celebrant, and there will be a second registrar present to ensure that the official documents are signed properly and the marriage is properly recorded. This ceremony generally includes a declaration that both parties are free to marry, an exchange of vows and rings, and sometimes readings by guests. Over the years I have heard very formal and sincere readings that cite everything from classical poetry to Winnie The Pooh.
A church ceremony tends to be longer than a civil ceremony, and may also include readings by the priest who is officiating, as well as the singing of hymns.
So how does music fit in to all this? In my time performing as a wedding singer and acoustic guitarist I have played during many marriage ceremonies. The most common times to have live music during a wedding ceremony are for the entrance of the bride, the signing of the register and for the exit of the newly-married couple. I generally advise that couples select four songs: one for the entrance of the bride, two for the signing of the register and one for exit.
There are endless options to choose from when picking songs, and it very much depends on the individual taste of the couple. Emotional and stirring music is very effective for the entrance of the bridal party, with popular choices being ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri and ‘Tenerife Sea’ by Ed Sheeran. Sometimes an instrumental with no singing can be effective, but often songs are chosen for the power of their lyrics (Tenerife Sea’s opening is ‘You look so wonderful in your dress / I love your hair like that’). Live music really is the best choice for this special moment, and tends to get a few tears rolling!
I am often asked whether I can sing as guests take their seats before the bride appears. Even though it can be effective to do this, I advise that it is best to save the singing until the bride arrives, as singing earlier than this will lessen the impact of the entrance. Not to mention the fact that guests have only just arrived and will be more concerned with greeting friends and family and finding a seat than they are about being entertained at such an early stage.
Songs during the signing of the register work very well. Guests can be left wondering what to do with themselves while the signing takes place, as no photos are permitted until the marriage certificate has been finalised. Live music is therefore an excellent option, and I have performed all manner of laid-back tunes during this time. Popular choices include ‘Only Love’ by Ben Howard, ‘Better Together’ by Jack Johnson and ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheeran.
Once the signing of the register has concluded and guests have had a chance to take photos, the person responsible for conducting the ceremony will ask guests to stand, before announcing the newly-married couple for the first time. The couple, followed by flower girls, page boys, bridesmaids and groomsman, will then exit the ceremony room, followed by all guests.
Live music is the ideal way to conclude the ceremony, usually with a nice upbeat number. ‘Happy’ by Pharell, ‘Best Of My Love’ by The Emotions and ‘Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher’ by Jackie Wilson are good examples. The classic is of course ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ by Stevie Wonder.
And then it’s on to the drinks reception and the rest of the day!