You’re all set with your venue and arrangements, decided that live musicians would be the perfect touch for your special day, and have picked out a fantastic local group. Now for the fun and creative bit – picking the actual songs or pieces to be played during your ceremony! Over the many years I have played at weddings, I have found that the couple to be married like to generally either go for A) Something very traditional, or B) Something more unique and personal to them. Both are great options, as the traditional or classical pieces will always sound wonderful (some pieces, such as the Canon, get played at about 80% of all the weddings I perform at), and a lesser-known classical piece or a pop arrangement adds a unique personal touch.
To get the best of both, I’ve compiled the top 5 processional pieces, with an option for a unique twist.
1. Pachelbel’s Canon
A Canon is a very old way of writing music that involves all players playing the same thing, but not starting at the same time (think a nursery rhyme “round”), with a bass line underneath. A great thing about the Canon is its flexibility – it sounds great with only 2 players (violin/piano or violin/cello), but the bigger ensemble, the more filled out and cool it starts to sound with all the conversation between melodies. It is also instantly recognizable, and great for long processionals while still very easy to smoothly cut off at the right moment.
A cool idea that I have done in the past is taking parts of the Canon, and parts of a pop song’s melody and doing a bit of a mashup version. This puts a bit of a cheeky twist on it and was quite fun to do. The original idea came from a bride asking if I could replicate this video:
Unique Alternative - Pachelbel's Canon + Marry You Mashup
2. A Thousand Years
If there’s been another number that might give the Canon a run for its money in terms of popularity, it must be this one! I’m not too familiar with Twilight, but I hear people like it… The recorded version by Christina Perri is an acoustic singer-songwriter type arrangement that works really well as just a duo – piano or cello playing the chords with a violin playing the vocal melody on top.
A cool version I found that has a few more embellishments is this “Piano Guys” version, with a bit of nice exchanges of melody between the two instruments.
2. Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol)
This one has a bit more emotive energy to it, and sounds great as an arrangement for strings. The recorded album version has some strings in the last chorus where the electric guitars come in, and it really brings out the feeling of the song.
Something in the same vein but a bit darker and with really great emotion might be Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. You might be thinking it’s not the most appropriate choice for a ceremony, but sounds really beautiful played with acoustic instruments. The famous Finnish cello group “Apocalyptica” did an all-Metallica cover album and this was one of the best ones on it. Check out their version!
2. At Last (Etta James)
Although this is traditionally a first dance song, I’ve played it before as a processional and it sounds great. Some really nice harmonies in the music, and this old R&B stuff is really classy while not sounding too prim and proper. Probably best suited to include a piano playing just so all the notes in the arrangement get covered, but a larger string group such as a trio or quartet works as well.
For something still 60’s, but a more on the folky-side of laid back, checkout Darling Be Home Soon by The Lovin’ Spoonful. The recording is quite upbeat, but subbing the guitar for a piano, slowing it down a touch, and putting lots of vibrato on the violin gives it a really nice lyrical feeling.
5. Concerning Hobbits (The Lord of The Rings OST)
Nice and light, and if you’re a LOTR fan then you’ll love this one from the OST. I really enjoy how it is nice and short but builds up as it progresses (along with whoever is walking down the aisle getting closer!).
Still on the same folky side of things as Concerning Hobbits, Icelandic band Sigur Ros’ song “Hoppipolla” really gets to the feelings. Might be a bit hard to do without a bigger ensemble (the drums and bass guitar really make it come alive), but I do understand some people play recorded music at their ceremony. Never been to one myself where that was the case… :)
Enjoy this piece of music!