Wedding Music, Part 2

Posted by AJ Harbison at 3:55 am

As I mentioned in my first wedding post, I’ve taken on the responsibility of planning the music for our wedding, and that includes the music for the wedding ceremony itself.

TheKnot.com is a wedding planning site that I would normally stay far, far away from, as a guy, but as a fiancé I guess I get a bit of extra slack. I decided, after spending an hour or two or three on Gigmasters, that I would check it out just to see if it had any good suggestions for wedding music. In the sidebar of an article entitled “Ceremony Music: The Basics,” I found the following list of ceremony music suggestions, which was rather amusing and entertaining in itself:

Your selections will speak volumes.

Processional: Bridal Chorus (Wagner)
Recessional: Wedding March (Mendelssohn)

New Traditional
Prelude: “Apotheosis” (Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty)
Processional: “Spring” (Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons)
Bride’s Processional: “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (Bach)
Recessional: “La Rejouissance” (Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks)

Prelude: “Amazing Grace” (John Newton)
Processional: “In This Very Room” (Ron and Carol Harris)
Bride’s Processional: “St. Anthony’s Chorale” (Haydn)
Recessional: “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” (Hans Georg Nageli)

Prelude: “You and I” (Stevie Wonder)
Processional: “In My Life” (The Beatles)
Bride’s Processional: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” (Lauryn Hill)
Recessional: “Beautiful Day” (U2)

Prelude: “J’ai Dormi Sous L’Eau” (Air)
Processional: “Luna” (The Smashing Pumpkins)
Bride’s Processional: “Fade Into You” (Mazzy Star)
Recessional: “Love Song” (The Cure)

It was funny just to note my own knowledge of these pieces–I recognize all the songs listed under “Traditional” and “New Traditional;” about half of the songs under “Gospel/Religious” and “Modern;” and none of the songs under “Hipster.” I guess that tells you where I fall in my musical tastes….

Several years ago, an old friend of mine asked me to write a bridal processional for her wedding–the song that would accompany her as she walked down the aisle. I wrote it, incorporating a lot of musical symbolism–even basing the melody of the middle section on her name–and in the end she decided against using it. (She already had music in mind for the bridesmaids’ processional, and I guess it didn’t flow well with my piece. She ended up using the piece that she had sent me as an example of what she wanted it to sound like.) A short while ago, Eleanor and I were talking about music for our ceremony, and I mentioned that piece (which I had entitled “Passion and Purity,” based on this book). She got very excited, and asked if I would want to compose music for our wedding ceremony. I got pretty excited myself.

After that I looked at the Passion and Purity Wedding March again, and was horribly disappointed–it’s really not well-written at all. I composed it in the spring of 2006, which I suppose is not very long ago but rather a long ways away in terms of my development as a composer. So, for our wedding ceremony I will be rewriting the Passion and Purity Wedding March. (Not least among the revisions will be the middle section, which will no longer feature the name “Hannah.”)

In further discussions, Eleanor said that the more music I composed for the ceremony, the happier she would be. I don’t know how much I’ll have time to write, but I love the thought of writing all the music for my own wedding. Seán Dunnahoe did it for his, and (although his style was very different from mine) it was really cool and worked out very well.

Most likely we’ll have just a piano (to keep costs down, and make my writing easier); I guess if I wrote everything I would compose the processional, the bridal processional (a new incarnation of “Passion and Purity”), and the recessional. I’ll keep you all posted on thoughts as I go!

P.S. Amazon is having a Black Friday sale all through this week and next, with different deals each day. And, as always, if you click through any of the Amazon links here on TLB, your favorite starving composer-blogger gets a commission on whatever you buy, with no extra cost to you! If you’d like to do some of your holiday shopping online and support me in the process, please click here: Black Friday 2008 Deals.



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    Desha on 11.26.2008

    Awesome! Can’t wait to hear what you write.

    I was blessed to be the conductor for Sean’s pieces in his wedding. Very special. It’s wonderful that you’re going to have the extra connection to your wedding of writing music for it.

    What device did you use for the Hannah’s name in your piece?

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    Darth_Harbison on 11.26.2008

    Ooh . . . Nice. That’s cool. I look forward to hearing it.

  3. Gravatar

    AJ Harbison on 11.27.2008

    Hi Desha,
    Thanks for commenting! My system for spelling things musically is simple: I write out the English alphabet. Then underneath it I write the musical alphabet three times: first A through G, then A-flat through G-flat, then A-sharp through G-sharp. (After that, the English letters V, W, X, Y and Z are still left over, but none of them appeared in “Hannah” so it didn’t matter.) Thus the “H”s were G-sharps (since the piece was in A major, they were G-sharps and not A-flats), the “A”s were of course A’s and the “N”s were F-sharps. I haven’t tried to spell out “Eleanor” yet….

    AJ Harbison

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