Here comes the… music to make your bridal entrance magical

The most magical moment of any wedding day is right at the beginning, when a bride or groom walks down the aisle on the arm of their attendant and meets the eyes of the person who is about to become their partner for the rest of their life. You spend hours (and a lot of money!) choosing your outfit, practising your hairdo and deciding who will walk with you, so here are some things to think about to make it even more special.

Music does something to us. To all of us. No one can really explain how or why, but there is something in sound waves that can make profound emotional connections in each one of us. It can make us happy or sad. Bring back memories of places or people. Hype us up to go to the gym (although I’m not too familiar with that sensation…!) or relax us during a spa day. However it does it, music can take any situation to another level simply by being there. Of course, this is also true of wedding days. Music enhances all aspects of such a special celebration, from some light background entertainment during dinner to partying the night away to a band or DJ. Music can be one of the hardest (and costliest!) parts of your wedding planning, deciding how best to create the perfect atmosphere and occasion with that medium that we all connect with: music.

That moment of the entrance of the bridal party at any wedding will be mesmerising, but to really make it truly magical you should choose the music that is played at this point particularly carefully. Any music will create an emotional response in all who listen to it, so not only is it important that you like it, but remember that the effect that it will have on your guests. Traditionally chosen music, such as Wagner’s Bridal March (frequently know as ‘Here Comes the Bride’) will stir a certain set of emotions or memories within your guests. Not everyone is a fan, and what you can be certain of is that at least half of those listening will be thinking about someone else’s wedding when they hear it, rather that focussing on yours! Instead, use your entrance music to create an atmosphere that is truly unique to your wedding day, to you and your partner and to connect everyone in the room with that time and place.

Depending on the theme of your wedding, you may wish to consider different types of music. For those who wish to have a more traditional piece, but aren’t sold on the idea of ‘Here Comes the Bride’, consider something gentle and elegant, such as Pachebel’s ‘Canon in D’. This piece has become a popular choice for bridal entrances due to its elegant nature, good walking pace and gradual build up as the piece goes on.

If that doesn’t create a connection in you and if you prefer more modern music then it’s really important that you think about something that will. How about the song that you have chosen for your first dance? Having an acoustic version as you walk down the aisle creates a lovely unity for the special music for your day, without having exactly the same version of the song twice. Others will choose family favourites, pieces that perhaps parents, or even grandparents had played on their wedding days, such as this love-song classic, ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’.

Some couples chose music from their favourite films, or that go along with their wedding theme. Alan Menken, for example and his colleagues at Disney have written some fabulous love songs over the years, and I regularly am asked to play pieces from Disney films (the good ones are the old ones!) as they create a connection with family and childhood memories which is always so special on your wedding day. Only recently I was given a list of a fabulous selection of Disney music, from ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ through to ‘Married Life’ from the new(ish!) movie Up! for a wedding ceremony in a Kentish Castle! For another wedding this summer that I was priviledged to play at, the bride (as a surprise to the groom) requested the theme from their favourite film The Holiday which I arranged especially for them (see her comment on my testimonials page).

If a specific film or song doesn’t spring to mind, how about something that connects you to being you. A hobby or interest; you would be surprised how you can find music that connects to a whole range of things. I have played football themes for dedicated fans, the music from the British Airways advert for one of their pilots, and even music from a Japanese computer game for an expert gamer! In all of these instances, several guests came up to me afterwards and commented on the choice of music as they understood the connection with the couple, which were made even more memorable having been performed live on a harp! Some of these I have continued to play to this day and are still in my repertoire  – click here to have a look at the current list.

Whatever you choose for your wedding ceremony, make sure that it represents you and your wedding in some way. Something that, for years to come, all of those who were honoured enough to be in attendance will hear the same piece of music and think about your magical moment.


To theme, or not to theme, that is the question…

photo 5

Can you see me?

In traditional Western weddings, the Wedding Breakfast (a formal sit-down meal) is one of the main features. To attempt to cater for a wide range of tastes, likes or dislikes (not to mention dietary requirements) of the 80 or so guests, many wedding venues have tried to make these as easy to manage as possible, which can result in some fairly similar outcomes! One way of making your wedding different to other people’s is to try and make this more personal. The menu may be limited by different factors, however how you dress the Dining Room and tables for your guests can create a real sense of occasion.

The Wedding Breakfast has its origins in late Georgian times, when the wedding ceremony always included a Holy Communion. This would have required the bride and groom to have fasted (not eaten) since the night before so that they were deemed eligible to receive the Holy Sacrament. As part of the Communion the priest would have blessed and distributed a selection of wine and bread or cakes, therefore meaning that the bride and groom would ‘Break Fast’. This over time developed into a meal at lunchtime, after the morning marriage service, and now we still use the same term to describe the large, formal meal that takes place (usually about 4.30pm!) during an English wedding celebration.

Nicola Veal Wedding HarpistOften dining rooms are set with round tables for 8-10 guests, each with a series of place settings, name cards and copious quantities of glassware. In the middle of each table is a wide expanse of nothing-ness which you can use to your own means to create a centrepiece for your guests to admire. Often florists jump in and create some stunning works of floral art for your guests to admire, surround with candles or similar. These can create beautiful coordination as they will match the flowers that the bridal party carry, and other decorations around the venue. The will also follow your colour scheme of your stationery and bridesmaid dresses, both creating and completing the ‘look’ of your day. Flowers are romantic and versatile as they can be moved around during the day, so these make a fabulous focal point. Don’t be afraid of adding to them, or around them, however with items of your own to create something more personal.

Table names are a great way of putting your mark on things. Catering teams will need some form of name or number for your tables so that they can make sure that the correct guests receive the right food. Numbers, however, can be a little problematic. Being seated on table 2, for example, can give your guests a sense of importance, but being placed on table 14, may not result in the same reaction! To combat this, table names are an easy alternative, as no one can guess which is more important that the other! I have seen many different themes; many people go with places that are important to them, or films that they have seen together, but here are a couple more that I have seen recently that I have quite liked!

On the left was a wedding reception themed with the couples’ favourite books. The top table (of course!) was Beatrix Potter’s ‘Peter Rabbit’, and other table included ‘The Wind in the Willows’. Each table had a beautiful, hard-backed edition of the book in question, presumably so the guests could read aloud to each other in between courses! A good party theme was different types of sparkling wine. Each table had an (empty!) bottle wit the name held into the cork and then every guests’ name card was itself mounted onto a champagne cork. A lovely keepsake, and a suitable theme for a wedding celebration!

Nicola Veal Wedding HarpistIf, however, you would prefer the more traditional table numbers, try to think of way that you can still add in something personal to them. I saw this at a wedding this summer, which I thought was priceless: each table number had two photographs, one of the bride and one of the groom, but both as babies or toddlers. (This was also a great way of getting in ‘those’ embarrassing photographs, without the need for long PowerPoint presentations as part of the speeches…!)

Whatever you choose to do for your wedding, remember one thing: your day is unique because it is yours. Your friends and relatives know you, so no matter whether you have booked a Castle or a Cabin to celebrate in, by creating a theme and personalising the things that you can, you will make the day truly unique just by being there. But try to make it different, and a day that everyone will always remember.


Dum Dum Di Daaaaaa!

Wedding Ceremonies in Western Culture have for the best part of a century frequently featured the same two pieces of music, but why?

No-one ever doubts what is about to happen when the opening bars of Wagner’s ‘Wedding March’ from Lohengrin is played; the bride is about to make her entrance into the most important day of her life. The piece is originally from an opera by Wagner written in 1850 and is sung when the women of the bridal party accompany the heroine Elsa to her bridal chamber.

Our most popular wedding recessional (when the bride and groom leave the ceremony) is the Wedding March by Mendelssohn. Felix Mendelssohn, another German composer, like Wagner, wrote a suite of music to be played for a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this Wedding March is one of the pieces.

Both of these pieces became popular as wedding standards after they were used at the wedding of Princess Victoria (daughter of Queen Victoria) to Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1858. The ‘Kate and Will’ of the day, once this royal pair had used this music, everyone wanted to copy and it became the wedding standard processional and recessional that we know and love.

Whilst these two pieces of music keep being requested (and for good reason) don’t forget that your music for your wedding need not be traditional if you would prefer it not to be. Make it as personal as you like – but there is a reason why everyone likes to hear ‘Dum, Dum di Daaaa!’.

“I’m just a little black raincloud…”

We live in a temperate climate here in the UK, and that means one, important thing – it rains. A lot.

We can never really predict the weather in this country, and this summer seems to have been worse than most. We have had cloudy days and many days with a sprinkling of rain. If you are currently planning your Special Day for next year, please remember these days! Sadly, it is absolutely no reflection on either you or your wedding if it rains on your Big Day – it is just down to luck. As we can’t predict the future, the easiest and safest plan is for your wedding to be weather-proof.

Having played at well over a hundred wedding venues over the years, at more than 500 weddings, it really is the venue that makes or breaks a wet wedding day. Some venues are well set up so that if you and your guests can’t be outside in the sunshine, there are pleasant spaces as alternatives inside. This is really important. We have all been to weddings where the heavens have opened and the guests are crammed into a bar in a basement with not enough room to swing a cat, let alone a canapé. Whilst I would NEVER suggest that you plan your wedding for the sole benefit of your guests, make sure that all of the rooms can fit all of your guests in, if the need arises.

Outside wedding ceremonies in beautiful gardens are increasingly popular, with many venues building stunning gazebos for the ‘I Do’ moments. Do be aware, however, that these are far less pleasant sitting on a soggy chair under an umbrella. Many registrars simply will not conduct ceremonies outside in the rain as they have to be incredibly careful about the registers themselves getting wet. This means that if you would like to have a ceremony outside, you absolutely must have a wet weather plan. Sadly, I have played for wedding who don’t and then 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to start, it’s all hands on deck to move tables, flower arrangements and chairs to create a ceremony space inside. This never makes for a calm start to your day, so  make sure that there is an alternative inside. With so many wedding venues now available, make sure that you look around and think about what might happen if the weather does decide to have an off-day!

Two stunning weddings from this month, one at the Westerham Golf Club, Kent (left) and the other at Rivervale Barn, Hampshire, both on days that completely poured down with rain. The set-up, however in both venues was simply stunning and whilst I am sure that it would have been lovely to be outside, it didn’t detract from the special day for either Bride and Groom, or guests.