A Piper for Your Wedding
The actual format of a wedding service and the use of music in it vary greatly but a wedding, like almost every event is essentially a story: It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Some suggestions for using a piper at your wedding are:
As a Prelude or Postlude: This could be done inside where the visual and acoustic presence of a piper with his instrument has more impact or outside, weather and season permitting, where the effect is a little more subdued but equal to the task of heralding your event for all to hear. These usually feature myself solo, playing a mixture of traditional light music and sometimes even a piobaireachd.
As a Processional: This can vary from simple to complex. A Processional, to my mind, involves three very important events, sometimes more:
1) The seating of the mothers and grandmothers last, the most honored women present,
2) The entrance of the wedding party and attendants,
3) And the processional of the bride, usually escorted by her father, down the aisle.
These three events are almost always in this order. I have played these mostly solo as well but also with an accompanist on the pipe organ. “Highland Cathedral” as well as Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” tend to work best here. Other possibilities include the traditional “Bridal Chorus from “Lohengrin” by Richard Wagner (“a.k.a. “Here Comes the Bride…”), “The Trumpet Tune” by Henry Purcell, “Trumpet Voluntary” (a.k.a. “The Prince of Denmark’s March”) by Jeremiah Clark, and “The Wedding March” by Felix-Mendelssohn, although it must be said they are not originally bagpipe music and so are more effective on the instruments for which they were originally written. That is the “Nature of the Beast.”
An Interlude: Usually something short and sweet works well here like “The Water is Wide.” Also, since it can often be a more intimate moment in the service, the shuttle pipes are extremely effective here.
As a Recessional: The “Big Finish!” I always recommend “The Highland Wedding.” This is for several reasons: 1) It is a great tune! The title alone befits the event. It is a highly spirited melody and best suits the mood of the end of a service, which is usually a combination of elation and relief. 2) It is a classic tune of no less than 6 parts, which gives ample music for leading the new couple, bridal party and attendants, out of the service and still having enough tune to fill the time as guests file out at a leisurely pace. Often I will repeat the entire tune for very large numbers of guests.
As a Postlude: Again, depending on the weather or the season, a segue from “The Highland Wedding” to any number of tunes to fill time and the moment after the service is a great way to wrap up the event outside of the church.
I have played virtually every conceivable variation or permutation of this basic format. I have been the only musician, playing for every point along the way in the service and I have been one of several musicians, supplying music for one segment only.
Tunes that I have played for Weddings:
1.) Mairi’s Wedding (traditional pipe tune; 2/4 march)
2.) Murdo’s Wedding (traditional 4/4 march)
3.) Rab’s Wedding (traditional 6/8 march)
4.) The Water is Wide (traditional folk song recorded by many including James Taylor)
5.) The Highland Wedding (2/4 march by Angus MacKay)
6.) Highland Cathedral (a recent addition to the bagpipe music, co-written for the pipe organ)
7.) Ode to Joy (Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee)
8.) Trumpet Voluntary
9.) Trumpet Tune
10.) Bridal Chorus
11.) The Wedding March
12.) Abide with me
13.) Morning has Broken (Yes, the Cat Stevens’ song is actually a traditional Gaelic melody!)
14.) Scotland the Brave
15.) Amazing Grace
Please also see The Nature of the Beast.