Top Ten Moments of the 2016 Wedding Season: Charlotte & Matthew

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

Charlotte & Matthew – Last Drop Village – 13th August

Charlotte & Matthew married at The Last Drop Village in Bolton on 13th August 2016. I was commissioned to write some unique piano and violin versions of their ceremony songs, which, along with Violinist Jill, I played on the day during the civil ceremony.

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Charlotte & Matthew after the ceremony [Photo: Martin Stembridge]

Before the ceremony, after Charlotte and Matt’s photographer, Martin, had taken a few photos of us warming up, Jill and I played a selection of modern pop and classic songs as entertainment, which were selected to match the couple’s ceremony choices in style. Their guests snapped away with their camera phones and filmed some of our set as they excitedly awaited Charlotte’s arrival.

The songs chosen for inclusion in the wedding ceremony music were heavily influenced by the bride and groom’s favourite film music and TV themes. Over the last fifteen years, since I played by first wedding, I’ve noticed that the best wedding song choices always come from the couple and mean something to them so I never give couples a list of songs to choose from; your wedding music, especially ceremony songs, should always be really personal to you, in my opinion.

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Piano and Violin arrangement especially arranged (written) by Dream Day Music.

Charlotte’s entrance music was a beautiful piece of music by Sleeping At Last, called “Turning Page”. I wrote the piano and violin version based upon an instrumental version used in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, which you can listen to here.

There’s something so touching and uplifting about the blend of piano and strings. As a composer, I use this combination a lot (as in the theme for a documentary I worked on a few years ago, called Justice for Matthew) so I always enjoy writing piano and strings arrangements of people’s wedding songs, and playing any violin and piano duet for weddings.

This combination has the ability to bring a tear to the eye like no other small ensemble can, too, as pointed out by Charlotte a few weeks after the big day:

My husband and I would like to say a massive thank you for the beautiful music you arranged and played at our wedding on the 13th of August at the Last Drop Village. My entrance music was just perfect and even though the day went by in such a blur, I’ll always remember hearing it before I came in the room, it had me in tears! It was all so beautiful and our guests loved it.

Charlotte’s entrance was my favourite part of their lovely, intimate wedding ceremony, which was filled with emotion, from Charlotte’s tears as she walked down the aisle, to Matthew’s nerves and then a lot of laughter from their guests. It’s the bride’s entrance that makes it into my top ten favourite wedding moments of the 2016 season.

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Charlotte’s emotional entrance didn’t have her in tears for long… the couple were all smiles as the ceremony progressed! [Photo: Martin Stembridge]

For the signing of the register, Charlotte and Matthew chose our popular violin duet arrangement of another Breaking Dawn song in “A Thousand Years”, a song which has been by far my most popular request of the year. They also added a violin and piano version of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” nearer the big day (most ceremonies require two songs for the register signing).

The couple exited to the cheers of their guests, and to the theme to Matthew’s favourite series, Game of Thrones.

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The Game of Thrones Theme arranged for piano and violin, especially for the groom!

After the ceremony, the new Mr & Mrs Capel and their guests moved out to the grounds of the hotel for photographs, and, from the look of Martin’s photographs, had a fantastic reception at Last Drop Village!

Obviously, all my brides and grooms are great, but sometimes you just meet a really really lovely couple. It was an absolute pleasure to work for Charlotte and Matthew, and to play a part in their Dream Day.

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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!?

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:

There’s nothing like being busy..!

It’s been an awfully busy summer (if being busy can be awful?!) here at Dream Day Music. The much-discussed hang-over from brides reluctant to marry in the 13th year of the millennium has seen an unprecedented amount of Thursday weddings during the 2014 season, as the most popular North West wedding venues struggled to fit everyone in. We’ve had several Thursday weddings to add to our usual host of Friday-Sunday nuptials, and we’ve loved every minute!

We’ve also been absorbed into Lancashire music promotions company, Soundsmiths Promotions Ltd, and have been able to launch some fantastic new offers and discounts as a result.

One Thursday, Back in Time

One Thursday wedding was our first visit into the wonderful boutique hotel that is Oddfellows in Chester, for the lavish Great Gatsby themed marriage of Chris and Jen. Our in-house wedding pianist Craig entertained a guest list of dashing tuxedo-ed gents and their partners in stunning cocktail dresses with a mixture of jazz and swing for the drinks reception, held in Oddfellows’ stylish bar and outdoor terrace areas. There was a memorable moment for all when keen rock ‘n’ roll dancer James requested “something uptempo and Latin”, Craig grooving Mas Que Nada as James grabbed wife Nia and the couple dazzled onlookers with an impromptu routine.

Moments like this are a great reminder that your wedding music is as much about your guests as it is about you; choose music that they’ll love and there’ll be some magical memories made!

Chris got in touch on Monday to say:

Craig played piano for our wedding reception this summer. I cannot thank him enough for what he did for us. As well as a fantastic musician, he’s an all round top bloke to work with too! The choice and variety of music for the whole day was so well suited. Our guests are to this day still mentioning him and his music. Being a professional musician myself I knew from the second I booked him he’d do a sterling job. Cannot recommend Craig highly enough. If you have a wedding, party, special occasion BOOK Craig.. he’ll be the talk of your event!

Chris and Jen are well regarded in the world of fashion magazines and blogging, and as you’d expect, no expense was spared on photography. A blog by their photographer James Farley contains some of their pictures, which must be seen to be believed! They’re some of the best wedding photos we’ve seen, and we see a lot!

Their evening reception entertainment was performed by fantastic, energetic Merseyside folk-rock band Jessicas Ghost, with the groom even stepping up to play a few numbers on violin too!

New Offers

Joining Soundsmiths Promotions Ltd has allowed Dream Day Music to introduce some superbly priced offers that won’t be beaten anywhere in Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside or Greater Manchester, subsidised by our parent company.

For a limited time, we’re offering couples the chance to book our classy piano/vocal duo for either their wedding ceremony or drinks reception, and get solo piano entertainment in the style of their choice for the other part totally free! This means two musicians and music for two important parts of your big day, for between just £220 and £280.

We’re also offering, for bookings taken during the rest of 2014, amazingly priced whole day packages, which will see us provide for as little as £1299:

  • Pre-ceremony entertainment by the solo musician or duet of your choice
  • Ceremony music (entrance, exit and 2x signing of the register) chosen by you performed by the same musician or duet
  • 60 minute performance during your drinks reception by the same musician or duet
  • Wedding breakfast entertainment by a solo pianist
  • Evening entertainment function band

All of our offers can be seen at www.dreamdaymusic.co.uk

Keep an eye open for our next blog: a little review of the best Lancashire wedding venue hotels with pianos…