Yesterday was a spectacular, hot and sunny day here on Cape Cod. It felt more like a day in July than one in early October. I played the post-ceremony cocktail hour or so at a wedding, which was held at an inn over in Wareham. It was an outdoor ceremony and reception and unfortunately the only practical place for me to set up and play was in the direct, hot sunlight. I felt bad for the poor groomsmen who wore three-piece suits and were all sweating and uncomfortable in a very short amount of time. I wondered aloud to my wife when I got home why weddings couldn't have some sort of provision for clothing alternatives in these circumstances but she reminded me that the opposite situation would have taken place if it had been cold and the poor bridesmaids in their light chiffon dresses had to deal with freezing! She was right of course. Weddings are certainly wonderful events but no matter what there always seems to be some hassles involved. Oh well, I guess!
That direct sunlight on my Martin was not a good thing either. I could feel the face and the fingerboard heating up as the minutes passed and the capo I was using with its black finish was almost uncomfortably hot to the touch. It made me wish I had a less expensive but serviceable guitar to use in those circumstances. In any case, the guitar and I got through it fine, I think.... Hoping I don't find the bridge lifting or some other bad things in the next few days (!)
As I drove home I got to thinking about weddings I've played over the years, both with bands and as a single. Generally, function work is great as compared to playing in bars. At functions everyone is there to have a good time and vibe is very positive, which definitely is not the case sometimes in bars. Also, the pay is usually pretty good. So I seek out this kind of work whenever I can.
Weddings, as I said earlier, often involve some level of stress for the participants. As a musician you must take this into account, both when you contract for the job, as the time approaches and at the wedding itself. Playing ceremonies has its own set of challenges. The bride and groom (usually the bride) have favorite and/or what they consider appropriate songs that they want performed. That's all well and good but you would not believe some of the requests I've had over the years, things like "When I'm 64" for a recessional, Elvis's "But I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" sung next to the bride and groom - in the middle of the ceremony! And the all-time most curious request: "Send in the Clowns" for a processional. I kid you not. "But it's such a pretty song!" said the bride-to-be. I nixed that one.
Then there was and most likely still is the outright animosity from clergy person officiating the ceremony. This is always at the very least disdain but sometimes reaches the point of outright rudeness. It took me a while to figure this one out, but finally it came to me: I was taking a gig away from his organist! For whatever reason, priests in the Catholic Church have been most inclined to this attitude, to the point that I think twice about doing wedding ceremonies at certain churches in our area.
But when things go right, acoustic guitar music at wedding ceremonies and small receptions works very well. My job, as I always tell the bride and groom, is to help elevate the mood and never, ever be intrusive. When a bride comes to me with a list of a half dozen or more songs she wants in the ceremony, I gently remind her that it is NOT a concert. People are there to see and enjoy the wedding and the music should be like good stage lighting: illuminating and very important but never ever drawing undo attention to itself. My standard plan is incidental music for 15 minutes or so when the guests are arriving in the church, a planned processional tune, perhaps one instrumental in the middle of the ceremony and if communion is being offered, instrumental music while that is going on, a pre-determined recessional and more incidental music as the guests leave the ceremony.
That's it. No more. It works and I've had dozens of experiences that were positive and later the bride has commented on how much the guests enjoyed the music. For their part, the bride and groom are usually so nervous that the music they agonized over is hardly even noticed by them!
Now, receptions? Well, that's a subject for another entry here!
Peace & good music,