Top Ten Moments of the 2016 Wedding Season: Emma & Joe

Our busiest wedding musician, pianist Craig, lists the top ten moments from his weddings with us during the 2016 wedding season.

When Lauren asked me to write a blog listing my top ten weddings of the 2016 wedding season, I thought it’d be a doddle. As soon as I started to look through the long list of Dream Day Music weddings I’ve played so far this year, though, I realised that it was an impossible task: every wedding is perfect in its own little way, and choosing the ten best would be as wrong as it would be difficult. Instead, I decided I’d choose my ten favourite moments

Emma & Joe – Eaves Hall – 1st July

Confetti shot at Eaves Hall

Emma and Joe after their wedding ceremony at Eaves Hall. The bridesmaids wore silver. [photo: Stella Photography]

Wedding Pianist Craig Smith playing his Portable Grand Piano at a wedding at Eaves Hall Lancashire

I often set up outside at Eaves Hall when the sun shines

Emma and Joe married at my own most regularly booked venue, Eaves Hall in the Ribble Valley, in July. Theirs was the most musical wedding I’ve been involved with this year!

Eaves Hall has a stunning grand piano in the entrance hall, and I’m often booked to play that instrument for drinks receptions, as well as also playing solo piano in the Ballroom for ceremonies and wedding breakfasts. In Summer, it’s common that I’ll set up outside to entertain guests in the sunshine, playing Dream Day’s fantastic Dutchgrand portable grand piano. There was nothing ‘common’ about this wedding though..!

The vast majority of my Dream Day bookings come from the bride and groom contacting the business directly after hearing me play. Maybe 10% come from wedding planners, as did this booking for Emma & Joe, which came about through our friend Donna at Pure Elegance Weddings and Events Ltd.

Emma and Joe had set Donna the task of finding someone who’d be able to provide a range of music played by a range of musicians throughout the day. Their wedding was going to be a musical extravaganza, and they wanted different combinations throughout!

Emma and Joe supplied Donna with a huge list of songs that they wanted to be performed… less than two weeks before the big day! So, not only did Donna need several quality musicians, she needed ones who were able to improvise and sound great playing together for the first time without much rehearsal. She came to the right place!

In the end, to accommodate the couple’s needs, we had five musicians playing their part on the day: myself, singer Natalie, guitarist Matt, saxophonist John and another pianist (otherwise I’d have played literally all day!) in Mike. I think we ended up with seven different musical combinations in all!!!

Pre-Wedding Ceremony Music

wedding song list

Requests galore!

One advantage of booking musicians that are strong music readers is that we can play music without prior rehearsal.

Before the ceremony, whilst the guests eagerly awaited Emma’s entrance, I performed solo, playing several of the songs from the list they’d given us.

This especially allowed us to include the more unusual requests — such as songs by Prince, All Saints, Sixpence None The Richer and Oasis — that Natalie didn’t know; there simply wasn’t enough time for her to learn them because we got the list at short notice.

Natalie, Matt and I had arranged some time together on the morning of the wedding to run the ceremony music, and we created some acoustic versions of a few of the requests for later in the day too. We also took a quick selfie, of course!

The Wedding Ceremony

lancashire wedding musicians for a wedding ceremony

Natalie, Matt and I ready to play for the wedding ceremony – the first time we’d played together!

As we’ve already mentioned, this wedding was anything but the usual, so when Natalie told us the ceremony music had changed that morning, we embraced the challenge! The original choice was replaced by Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years”, my most popular wedding request of 2016. Luckily, we all knew it, so it wasn’t too much hassle to throw it in, but it was good to have the time in the morning to check that we had a matching version that we could all play together.

In fact, as musicians, we sometimes perform at our best when we’re flying by the seat of our pants – it’s easy to get comfortable playing music you play all the time, but last-minute changes and playing with new musicians really shake things up!

Also used during the ceremony was a recording of Pachelbel’s Canon in D for the bridal entrance, and “Come Away with Me” by Nora Jones for the signing of the register.

The Drinks Reception

Wedding Saxophone player John at Dream Day Music in Lancashire

John playing during the drinks reception.

During the drinks reception, I managed to have a break, and left the entertainment to one of Dream Day Music’s wedding saxophonists, John, accompanied by Mike on this occasion, using the grand piano in the Eaves Hall foyer.

The pair played an hour’s set of jazz and swing, entertaining guests in the bar whilst the newlyweds had photos taken in the grounds by their super cool photographer duo, Stella Photography. Incidentally, my favourite 2016 professional photo from one of my weddings was of Emma and Joe, showing off Emma’s gorgeous Riki Dalal gown and astonishing bespoke veil, from Ramsbottom based Bride Sew Beautiful.

Also a feature of this photography session was John making an appearance on saxophone in the bridal suite and on the balcony! I must admit, it makes me a bit jealous how much he gets asked to feature in the wedding photos!

He then joined me at the piano back in the foyer ready to play Emma and Joe’s “re-entrance music”, “Waves” by Mr Probz, which accompanied Emma and Joe as they came back to the reception to be with their guests.

Bride and Groom at Eaves Hall

Emma and Joe in the Eaves Hall Grounds – my favourite professional wedding photo of 2016 [photo: Stella Photography]

The Wedding Breakfast

Soon it was time for the guests to be seated, and they were once again entertained by Natalie, Matt and I. We took turns playing short sets, me starting off the music with some solo piano including (and then inspired by) another of Emma’s requests, Carter Burwell’s “Bella’s Lullaby”, from Twilight.

Natalie and Matt took over with a selection of acoustic favourites before I rejoined them for some of Natalie’s cabaret set – songs such as “At Last”. I carried on playing with them on songs we hadn’t rehearsed or found music to as well, as they moved into some more modern numbers, such as “Hold Back the River” by James Bay, and Justin Beiber’s Love Yourself. I love the spontaneity of playing with musicians I haven’t worked with before, and I’m lucky to work at the level where we can all “just do it”, playing by ear. The guests loved the music, and probably got a more exciting and dynamic set as a result of much of it being improvised. It was this part of the day that makes my top 10 moments for 2016.

After the wedding breakfast, as I was packing up, Emma came over for a chat. The bride and groom were thrilled with the music, but the best bit was that Emma had no idea the musician Donna had booked to play piano friends with her back in the day – Emma was good friends with my sister at school, maybe 17 years ago! It’s a small world, and it made it that little bit more special to be involved in this particular wedding!

The Evening Reception

The evening reception saw Natalie continue to perform a further two sets, this time solo to backing tracks, including the first dance, for which Emma and Joe chose “Fools Rush In”.

The happy couple recieved a guard of honour from their guests with a sparkler send-off as they left their family and friends to party after midnight.

Other Suppliers

It was a pleasure to share the work on this wedding with Natalie McGrath, Donna at Pure Elegance Weddings and Events Ltd, Stella Photography (see more photos of this wedding here and here!) and Bride Sew Beautiful.

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Wedding Venues with Pianos in Lancashire

Here’s our little round-up of the best Lancashire wedding venues we’ve supplied that have their own piano. Some are modern places; some are far more traditional. Either way, it seems that having a grand piano in the venue is a key factor in many couples’ decision to book. It’s a statement of style and class, and played by an experienced wedding pianist, that piano can really help to shape your dream day into the fairytale you’ve always wished for.

Eaves Hall

Let’s start off with one of the venues for which we take bookings most regularly (in fact, we’re here playing modern piano hits this afternoon!). Eaves Hall is a beautiful country manor house of red brick and stone, close to Clitheroe. A long driveway leads you up the hill to the courtyard in front, and a walk through the grand columnar veranda takes you into the entrance hall, where you can’t fail to miss the beautiful gloss black grand piano.

The vast majority of our bookings here are for drinks receptions. The positioning of the piano immediately as you enter the building is perfect for welcoming guests with fantastic live music. The fact that Eaves Hall is such an elegant blend of tradition with modern decor means that any style of music fits perfectly.

The Eaves Hall entrance hall, with splendid black gloss grand piano. Photo by Chris Jackson: http://www.chrisandhazel.co.uk

Mitton Hall

Owned by the same company as Eaves Hall, Mitton Hall is another glamorous country pile. Another venue that combines antiquity with modernity, with the main wedding suite is fantastically on trend, with some almost-Mediterranean pagodas in the outside areas. The location of the grand piano at Mitton Hall, however, is in a much older, almost Gothic, setting.

Dark wood paneling, plush soft furnishings, a roaring log fire and chandeliers make this a scene of real brooding grandeur, and a real opportunity for some striking photographs.

Mitton Hall’s piano is often used to accompany singers – a great way to use the piano in a less predictable way!

Mitton Hall’s grand piano. Photograph from shackletonslifestyle.co.uk.

Mytton Fold

Close to Whalley (and Mitton Hall) is Mytton Fold, a golf complex and wedding venue that has a grand piano in its main wedding suite. This is a large light room, that offers limitless decoration options (and looks fab lit with up-lighters), and a stage for the top table (a really nice touch), next to which the piano is situated.

Given all of the options open to couples in choosing their visual theme at this venue, this is another room in which the piano lends itself to a range of styles from modern, to jazz and swing to classical. We’re usually booked for wedding breakfasts at Mytton Fold, so a diverse set list with something for everyone is always a popular option.

Mytton Fold: the piano is to the left of the top table, behind the happy couple.

Samlesbury Hall

A short drive west along the A59 from Mytton Fold will see you pass one of Lancashire’s most recognisable buildings, Samlesbury Hall. In the Great Hall of this stunning black and white building with history going back several centuries, can be found a lovely Bechstein concert grand piano, situated in a stained glass bay window of its very own.

In another room used mainly for wedding breakfasts, this is another piano where we’re booked for a wide range of musical styles, although the breath-taking setting of the Great Hall perhaps lends itself best to classical and lounge piano music. Unusually, your pianist will have his/her back to you, which means you’ll be able to see their hands as they play. It’s another little feature that can make the event special, and it’s great for children, who are able to come and watch!

Samlesbury Hall’s Bechstein. Photo: Charlotte Boothman of Lottie Designs, via http://www.pocketfulofdreams.co.uk’s blog about a Vintage Military Wedding at Samlesbury Hall

The Villa

By contrast to ancient (and haunted!) Samlesbury Hall, The Villa, in Wrea Green, is a very modern venue, set within the grounds of a country house. Their piano is an electric grand, located in their cocktail bar space and usually used for post-ceremony drinks receptions. The room is full of clean lines; bright and airy, with a large super sleek bar area and plenty of seating. Running along two sides of the room is a grand staircase and landing, again modern in appearance in light oak.

It is beneath this staircase that the electric piano can be found. One super feature of an electric grand is that it has a controllable volume; you can choose exactly how much of a feature you wish your entertainment to be.

The super cool surroundings of this cocktail bar lend themselves perfectly to suave swing numbers and ultra modern chart hits.

Dream Day Music wedding pianist Craig at The Villa

Dream Day Music wedding pianist Craig at The Villa

Pop over to www.dreamdaymusic.co.uk for information on wedding pianists in Lancashire who’ll play piano in the style of your choosing, whether it’s romantic classical piano you’re after or if you prefer smooth contemporary hits. There are also a few ideas you might not have though of, such as a saxophonist or singer accompanied on that all important grand piano.

We’re also able to advise on places to hire a piano, which is just what Beth has done for the wedding we’re supplying on Saturday, having booked a beautiful antique walnut grand, which will go perfectly with her vintage theme! She’s booked a whole day package, using the piano for her ceremony and drinks reception, wedding breakfast and evening reception too! Some of the music will be provided by 2Close Lounge Piano Duo: