Live classical music can add a touch of class and beauty to any wedding ceremony, from a traditional wedding in a cathedral to a small ceremony on the beach. You don't need to be a highly-educated aficionado to choose the best classical music for your wedding ceremony, and you don't necessarily need to spend a ton of money to get live musicians to play for your wedding. A solo instrumentalist is an affordable option for smaller ceremonies, while larger weddings can often afford to hire duos, trios, and quartets without breaking the budget. This article will cover classical wedding music from single instruments to full orchestras, as well as some of the traditional (and non-traditional) repertoire.
Solo instruments are the most affordable option for classical wedding ceremony music. Keyboards are the most common solo instruments because they are polyphonic (capable of playing more than one note at once), giving you the best "bang for your buck." The organ is a great choice for traditional weddings, while the piano can make the ceremony a little more modern. An even more modern choice for polyphonic instruments is the classical guitar. Instruments that are monophonic can only play one note at a time. Solo monophonic instruments such as the violin, cello, and flute can add a nice minimalist touch to small weddings.
A duo of a monophonic instrument accompanied by a polyphonic instrument is perhaps the most common configuration for classical wedding ceremony music. Violin and piano, cello and piano, flute and guitar, and trumpet and organ are all popular choices.
Chamber music ensembles are small groups of musicians such as trios, quartets, and quintets. The most common chamber ensemble for classical wedding ceremony music is by far the string quartet of 2 violins, a viola, and a cello. This is one of the most versatile ensembles; it works well for anything from 18th century baroque music to modern popular music (think "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yesterday" by The Beatles or "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay).
Another common chamber ensemble is the brass quintet, consisting of two trumpets, a french horn, a trombone, and a tuba or bass trombone. This ensemble is a popular choice for more traditional weddings featuring baroque music, sometimes with an organ as well.
These are the most common, but there is a nearly endless number of possible combinations. String trios are popular, as are trios and quintets of piano and strings. Flute and strings, trumpet and strings, guitar and strings, and woodwind quintets are also good choices. Modern, non-traditional ensembles such as saxophone quartets and guitar quartets are also becoming increasingly popular.
For larger, big-budget weddings, a small orchestra can be an option. While a full symphony orchestra is usually impractical if not impossible, a chamber orchestra of 12-30 musicians or so can be often be organized. A string orchestra, as it's name suggests consists of only string instruments (violins, violas, cellos, double basses and harp). It is common to add a keyboard such as harpsichord, piano, or organ to this ensemble. String orchestras work well on their own or backing up soloists such as trumpets. Adding winds to a string orchestra makes it a full orchestra. The wind section for an orchestra can include as much as two each of flutes, oboes, bassoons, clarinets, trumpets and horns, or any smaller combination. If you would like to hire an orchestra for your ceremony, you will need to find a director to organize and conduct your orchestra. The conductor of your local symphony orchestra or school orchestra could be an option, or a music director at a large church.
Vocalists can add extra beauty to any classical wedding ceremony music. Vocalists in classical music can range from a soloist to a full choir. The most common choir is the mixed adult choir, but a men's choir or the very popular boy's choir can sound great as well. Vocal duets are very common in classical wedding ceremony music as well.
Choosing the best classical wedding ceremony music is not as difficult as you may think. There is no right or wrong choice of music, although there are many pieces that are considered "traditional" wedding ceremony music. These are some pieces (both vocal and instrumental) that are traditionally associated with weddings:
- Jeremiah Clark - "The Prince of Denmark's March (Trumpet Voluntary)"
- Felix Mendelssohn - "Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream"
- Richard Wagner - "Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin ('Here Comes the Bride')"
- J.S. Bach/C. Gounod - "Ave Maria"
- J.S. Bach - "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"
- J.S. Bach - "Air on a G String"
- G.F. Handel - "Hornpipe from Water Music"
- Franz Schubert - "Ave Maria"
- Johann Pachelbel - "Canon in D"
- Leo Delibes - "Flower Duet from Lakme"
- W.A. Mozart - String Quartets
- W.A. Mozart - Divertimenti
- Antonio Vivaldi - "Concerto in D for Two Trumpets"
- Antonio Vivaldi - "The Four Seasons" (particularly teh "Spring" movement)
- G.P. Telemann - "Concerto in D for Clarino (trumpet) and Strings"
- Stanley Myers - "Cavatina from The Deer Hunter"
- J. Mercer/H. Mancini - "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's
- V. Young/E. Heyman - "When I Fall in Love" from One Minute to Zero
- Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings
- R. Lovland/B. Graham - "You Raise me Up"
- J. Kern/D. Fields - "The Way You Look Tonight" from Swing Time
- Meredith Wilson - "Till There Was You" from The Music Man
Examples of any of these pieces of music can be found by searching on sites such as YouTube. These lists are intended as a jumping off point for choosing your own classical wedding ceremony music. If you have other pieces that you would like to hear at your wedding, fell free to be creative and come up with a unique program for your special day!