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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.