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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A Barnful of Beautiful Music

A very tired 2❤Close Live Lounge Duo crawled through the door early on Sunday morning having played a whole hour longer than booked, following a series of additional requests made by guests after the bride and groom had left for their honeymoon!

Here’s a little more about the wedding of Beth and Sean, who booked a Dream Day Music Whole Day Package to pack their day full of live music, at Brownsholme Hall Tithe Barn: definitely one of the most romantic wedding venues in Lancashire.

A Stunning Setting

The new Mr & Mrs Moorhead’s intimate wedding was held in the Tithe Barn at Brownsholme Hall, near the Ribble Valley hamlet of Whitewell in the Forrest of Bowland, with about 40 guests for the duration of the day. This was a reunion of family and friends from all over the UK and Ireland, on a wonderful celebratory occasion.

A beautiful brown Blüthner grand piano, hired from Macclesfield-based Shackleford Pianos, was the showpiece of the room, immediately catching the eye of all of the guests, and rarely falling silent all day.

Beth hired a vintage Blüthner piano from Shackleford Pianos

Beth hired a vintage Blüthner piano from Shackleford Pianos

A Classical Ceremony

Beth was very active in choosing her music, and personally selected a programme of classical music to be played on the piano by Craig, the wedding pianist we provided for the day. Guests were seated to the sound of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No.16 in C Major and Craig’s piano arrangement of Bach’s Arioso.

Beth’s entrance was to a delicate version of Canon in D, based on an arrangement by Michael Silverman.

Prior to the signing of the register – during which Craig performed Bach’s famous Air and a version of Clair de Lune by Debussy, especially abridged to fit into this part of the ceremony – the guests were treated to a haunting clarinet solo performed by Beth’s extremely talented cousin Eoin. His tone and control combined with the fabulous acoustics of the Tithe Barn were truly breathtaking.

Finally, Sean escorted his wife back down the aisle to Bach’s classic Prelude and Fugue in C Major and the applause of their family and friends.

Chilled Champagne

The party made the short walk to the stylishly decorated upper barn for a cocktail and canapé reception, where Craig was waiting to entertain them on one of his electric pianos, with an hour of chilled-out lounge music.

The candlelit upper barn was decorated with photos of the couple with their grandparents; a splendid handmade chest for cards and gifts; a gorgeous guest book; and slate keepsakes handcrafted by father of the Bride, Iain.

Beth's father handcrafted some slate momentos for guests

Beth’s father handcrafted some slate momentos for guests

The Wedding Breakfast Banquet!

On their return to the ceremony room, the guests were greeted to the scene of a medieval banquet. A grand roasted beast was presented to the guests before carving!

Craig performed a selection of 30s-50s jazz and swing, many of the numbers selected by Beth, during the wedding breakfast. Irishman Iain led a chorus or two of New York, New York and Come Fly With Me towards the end of the meal. For the younger guests, there were also a few modern hits thrown in, such as John Legend’s All of Me.

The Beautiful Tithe Barn at Brownsholme Hall, set for The Moorhead's wedding breakfast.

The Beautiful Tithe Barn at Brownsholme Hall, set for The Moorhead’s wedding breakfast.

A Relaxing Evening

Following the meal and speeches, and a cheese and wine reception back in the upper barn, the guests once again returned to the main barn, which had this time been transformed for the evening reception. Round tables, a vintage record player in the corner, and the piano (now decked out with microphones and PA), all lit in hot pink and blue, turned the barn into more of a cool cocktail bar!

The happy couple’s first dance as husband and wife was to Moon River played on vinyl, a detail perfectly in keeping with the other vintage themes of the day. They were then joined by guests as Beth danced with Iain to Elton John’s The Heart of Every Girl, played by pianist-cum-DJ Craig.

West Park Videos were still filming as this dance finished, and 2❤Close Live Lounge Duo opened their first set with more requests from Beth, starting with A Thousand Years. The guests continued to sway through similar chill-out numbers like Fields of Gold, Make You Feel My Love and Your Song, Kate’s stunning heartfelt vocals really setting the romantic mood.

It was very important to Beth to keep the ambiance relaxed; given how far her guests had traveled, and how little the family comes together, it was vital that they were allowed to take the opportunity to chat and catch up during the evening, without the music being too loud. As such, we adapted her package to include two sets by acoustic act 2❤Close, rather than the set by a live band that would normally be provided.

Shortly after the slower requests, the duo moved onto some uptempo numbers, allowing the piano to ring out and the vocals to let loose with funky takes on songs by James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Duffy, and a groovy version of another of Beth’s requests, “Ain’t No Mountain high enough”. The guests were once again up dancing and singing along. It’s surprising the energy that a well-rehearsed acoustic act can create with just a piano and the voice!

A Sparkling Send-off

All too soon, it was time for the bride and groom to make their 10:30pm departure for their honeymoon flight to Corfu. Their guests formed a ‘guard of honour’ with sparklers to see them off!

This being the coldest night yet since summer, the guests were keen to warm up with more dancing, and instead of the mp3 playlist that had been arranged, they asked 2❤Close to carry on playing! Several requests later, including a special one-off rendition of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful (which they’d never attempted before!) for young bridesmaid Ella, the duo finally finished playing at about 11:30pm, an hour after the booking should have finished.

Even as they were packing up, Kate was interrupted with a request for one final “smoochy number” by a guest for his wife. Always obliging to their audiences, 2❤Close capped off a long day of live music with a totally unplugged, very personal, performance of Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are:

A now-empty candlelit barn, the unamplified voice singing to the piano with the two remaining guests gently swaying.

How romantic is that!?