“I sing because I’m happy.
I sing because I’m free.”
I’ve attended a lot of wedding ceremonies by now. This summer will mark my 7th season as a wedding photographer, and while I’m not as busy as the full-timers, I think I’m still up to around 60 weddings. That’s more weddings that I ever thought I’d attend in my lifetime.
Over the course of these weddings, I’ve noticed a trend that isn’t talked about much online. People are shortening their ceremonies more and more, and there is less and less music included.
Sure, there is a processional and recessional. I actually see most of my couples going out of their way to ensure live musicians take part in these portions of the ceremony. I don’t hear the traditional Wagner or Mendelssohn wedding marches at all anymore, as people learn more and more towards choosing something personal, meaningful, and often very contemporary. String trios and duos, guitarists, and pianists are common.
But during the ceremony itself, music is absent.
I know this hasn’t always been the case. My parents had a wedding singer. I had a wedding singer (although, to the honest, he was a surprise). Catholic weddings have lots of singing, including even the congregation. But for the majority of my weddings, no one performs. No one even hits play on an iPod so there can be a sentimental country song playing during the candle lighting. It’s just… silent.
There isn’t anything wrong with this, necessarily. But when I do hear music performed as part of a ceremony, it is always a highlight. Everyone enjoys it. The guests like it. The couple likes it. The performers are happy to share their gifts as part of your day. It’s a fantastic way to include loved ones who may not want to be part of your wedding party, but who have a talent that can lend emotion and reverence to your ceremony.
When Catherine and Graham’s friends sang, “Bright Morning Stars” a cappella at their mountaintop wedding, I was in tears. So were many, many others. It was a moment that no one really anticipated and that still stands out in my memory, even apart from the photos. Music — and especially live music — has the ability to transport us and make us feel. It has been used in religious and secular rituals for ages because it’s good at this. And yet, so many people are determined to keep their ceremonies short, short, short, and skipping the musical performances that used to be so common. In this rush, they’re possibly leaving out some moments that could truly be amazing for everyone in attendance.
Now, this isn’t to say that your wedding can’t be amazing without music. I’ve been to enough now to know that it can. And probably will be. And really, this could just be the type of weddings I attract. I tend to shoot a lot of outdoor events, removed from churches or sometimes from any designated religion in particular, and perhaps my couples just aren’t that invested in the idea of a performance as part of their ceremony. And I get that. Everyone has their own reasons for what they choose to include as part of their ceremony. When my husband and I got married, we chose not to have a musical performance because we knew we’d be too picky about who the soloist was and what music they performed, and that our preferences probably wouldn’t match our guests’ (we ended up with one anyway, but like I mentioned, he was a surprise). I’ve definitely had more than one musical couple who have chosen to forgo the ceremony performance as well, and perhaps their reasons are similar. It’s impossible to know another person’s mind, and I realize I’m taking a risk by writing this today.
But I challenge you, 2016 and 2017 couples, to bring back some singing. Bring back an instrumental solo, a guitar duo, a girl in a pretty dress singing “Ave Maria” while you absorb the feelings of your ceremony. Let the audience sing with you on your favorite hymn. Pause for a moment and enjoy even just listening to a recording during your ceremony. You’re only going to do this once. Don’t rush it. Stretch it out. And if you know a musician, let them honor you with their gift.