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Choosing live music for your wedding ceremony - Live or recorded?

Guitarist at wedding ceremony

Just about every time I have played guitar or piano for a ceremony over the last 20 years or so, whether it is a wedding, christening, funeral or anything else, there is always someone in the room who comes up to me afterwards and says how much more special it was to have a real live musician for the event, rather than a CD player.

Whether it is the Mother of the Groom, the Father of the Bride, the Registrar or a wedding guest, people can always feel this, but they don’t always understand why.

From my experience as a lifelong musician my opinion is that it is because of the essence of what music actually is. Music when purposefully and sincerely played is expression of pure emotion. Musicians are trained to understand the emotional content of the harmonies, the phrases, the spaces between each note etc, and most importantly how to put emotion or ’soul’ into the music. Those performers who can do this best become the most expressive musicians.

All ceremonies are always highly charged with emotion of course, and every person in the room feels and transmits that emotion to some extent, including the musician.

Guitarist plays at wedding ceremony for Bridal Entry

As the person playing the music (at a wedding ceremony for example), I always feel an emotional response to the people in the room at the ceremonies I play for - you can’t help it, it is a powerful factor there in the room with us all.

When I begin to play the music specially chosen by by Bride and Groom I know that this music or style has some special meaning to them, on top of all the other emotional resonance going on at that moment. So when I begin to play it is actually an unseen interaction between myself and the people in the room. The sound of the music then stimulates the emotions of those in the room, which is felt by me the player, adds to and affects the way the musician plays. It is like a feedback loop.

When choosing the musician to play for your ceremony you would do best to choose someone who understands this. Someone who has done it enough times to be able to keep a cool head and still perform well in the midst of the emotion of the occasion. I remember in my early days of playing guitar for weddings being surprised and slightly overwhelmed by this a few times until I learned to work with it.

Compare this to someone operating the play button on a cd or mp3 player. No matter how great the recording of the music a machine cannot interact with room full of people on an emotional level.

Wedding Guitarist plays for Exit from Ceremony

Right back through human history every single ceremony (I am supposing) has been accompanied by music. In ancient times it was usually the shamans or priests who were the musicians. The ancient druids had a caste of musician/poets called Bards. Their role during ceremonies was to open the gates to the ‘other world’ using music and sound, amongst other things.

Music contains a real ‘magic’ and ‘power’ when experienced in the right conditions, and this is hardwired into who we are as human beings.

I’ll end this blog with a quote by famous philosopher Freiderich Nietsche who said,

“Life without music would be a mistake."

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