Strutting the aisle like a Hollywood red carpet with thousands of eyes fixed on you is some couples’ idea of Heaven – but don’t worry if this sounds more like wandering through the fiery pits of Hell to you! Everyone deserves to be loved, and everyone deserves the chance to express that love in their own way. If you’re more of a privacy-appreciating introvert than an attention-loving extrovert, you might be dreading the prospect of sharing your innermost feelings of love in front of a roomful of people – only to then have to keep them all entertained for the rest of the evening.
However, especially in these forgiving modern times, you don’t really have to do any of that. You don’t have to invite everybody you went to school with, just as you don’t have to hire a cheesy disco DJ to persuade all the grandmas and grandads to get up and dance to the birdie song. All you really need to create some fond memories of your not-too-big day is your partner, then whoever else you want there with you, and whatever music you want playing throughout.
Here are a few of our suggestions that you might like to consider for live wedding music that doesn’t steal the show, but instead blends seamlessly into a day that pans out entirely on your terms:
The Accommodating Acoustic Duo
People are still surprised by just how much you can do with two people and as many, or fewer, acoustic guitars – it’s not all Simon & Garfunkel (unless that’s your favourite). No, acoustic duos can pretty much play any song, whether it’s pop, folk, rock, jazz or even, in some instances, classical.
With either close harmonies (see Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s version of ‘Somethin’ Stupid’) or call-and-response (see George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’) vocal styles at their disposal, a pairing such as this can spread calm, intimate vibes across the room – and, as it’s only the two of them against the world, can even reflect your own partnership.
The Humble Harpist
There are few instruments capable of conveying the same level of understated beauty as the harp – which is a perfect match for you if you’ve gone with a less showy dress and suit. Harpists rarely sing along (although it’s not unheard of), so at least for the most part your guests will be purely under their instrument’s spell.
While nobody’s going to stop you from dancing in time to the harp player’s fluid fingers, it’s definitely a soundtrack more suited to quiet introspection than loud rave-up. This can, however, be far more meaningful – romantic, even – with the right company and the right selection of songs.
The Sympathetic Steel Pannist
The steel pan (not steel drum!) isn’t only the key ingredient in a Calypso party – it’s also an expressive instrument capable of an impressive emotional range. The untrained eye might think the steel pannist is whipping up some kind of tasty dish in that mysterious metal container, but even the untrained ear will be blown away by how complex something that looks so simple can sound. Steel pannists are also known for memorising huge repertoires, so chances are, if you request a fairly well-known song, they’ll be able to play it – plus, you probably won’t have to worry about them running out of material.
It’s a safe bet that any steel pannist you hire will know a few reggae songs – perfect if you’re a Bob Marley fan – but a real pro can churn out all your favourite hits, both old and new. We’ve heard A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’, the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’, Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ and Sia’s ‘Titanium’ played on the steel pan, and we loved it. And notice we avoid calling this instrument a ‘drum’ – while they also played with sticks, the term ‘drum’ doesn’t quite do the relaxing, ambient tones achieving by doing so justice.
The Supportive String Trio
Yes, string quartets are the (if you’ll pardon the pun) classic choice when it comes to arranging your cellos, violas and violins, but it’s by no means the only way of ramping up the sophistication at your ceremony and reception. Professional wedding string ensembles know how to do a lot with a little – and that might be more up your street.
The string quartet was favoured by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert for the wide range of notes it could achieve whilst retaining a sense of tonal unity, but by missing out the second violin or the viola, each piece your string ensemble performs will sound a little less busy. Heck, go for a string duo if you really want to – or even a solo electric violinist armed with a loop pedal. You’ll find most string quartets you can hire offer alternative line-ups to suit a variety of budget and venue requirements, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want.
The Unpretentious Pianist
With more emphasis on the ‘piano’ than the ‘forte’, some gently tapped keys – especially when accompanied by some smooth singing – can really sooth the soul. The piano is more often than not categorised as a percussion instrument – nowhere near to the same extent as a drum kit – so they’ll provide you with a decent bit of rhythm if you do fancy a boogie.
It’s also versatile enough to convey a range of moods, dynamics and musical styles – you could even hire them for the whole day, playing you down the aisle to something like Wagner’s ‘Bridal Chorus’ or Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D’, then completely flipping the script for your first dance (if you even want to have one, that is!) and playing a stripped-down instrumental version of the Cure’s ‘Friday I’m in Love’ or Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – the possibilities are endless (but if you’re struggling to choose songs for certain moments, any wedding musician will be able to give you some good suggestions).
We hope you found our suggestions reassuring, and we hope you find musicians for you wedding that entertain you without overwhelming the other aspects of your special day. Above all else, we hope you’ll be very happy together!