May 28, 2006

#131: Wedding Gigs

Shirley from NY writes:

Our group has been asked to do a wedding this fall...all the music, including the service. Have any of you done weddings?

I've probably done about 50. I love wedding gigs, generally. They give us a chance to be "bluegrass missionaries", because many people will get their first exposure to bluegrass there, and some will really like it and maybe even want to start playing. Letting people come up from the audience to sing is fun, if it can be managed. You can also count on the wedding party wanting to use the sound system for toasts and such. You can facilitate by mentioning that ahead of time, and letting them know they're welcome.

What did you use for processional, recessional, and special music during the service?

Music during service: Walk Through This World With Me (George Jones, and I think the Seldom Scene) is just a great wedding song. Joan and I do it trading off lines, going into harmony sometimes, quite effective. Processional: any dignified sounding music, probably not with the banjo in the lead. Needs to sound somewhat tender, but sturdy. A fiddle tune like Billy in the Lowground or Soldiers Joy, played slow and steady, would do fine, or any song, an instrumental version, played slowly. Needn't be recognizable. Recessional: You Are My Sunshine is one of the best feel good songs ever. Except all the verses are about heartbreak, so just sing the chorus a time or two, with instrumental solo between (the crowd will keep singing over the instrumental solo, probably).

Did you do any neat songs that are good for the reception?

They're going to want to dance, of course. They always need a slow-type song for the "first dance", which tends to go on for a while. Blue Moon of KY, instrumentally, works fine. Songs with a bouncy beat (Hold Watcha Got, Sleep with one Eye Open, etc.) and any waltz (TN, KY, AL, Shenandoah, etc.) interspersed will keep them on the dance floor. Most people don't have the knowhow or stamina to dance to uptempo bluegrass. But sometimes they will give it a try, and then watch them, and maybe shorten the tune if it looks like they're about worn out. An absolute winner is a simple square dance or two, and especially a Virginia reel, which is pretty easy to call and not at all hard for the dancers, however inexperienced. Something like this becomes quite joyous, and maybe even helps the two families mix, and helps make the overall event a HIT. First is the announcement and call for dancers. Once you get the first couples, more can be shamed into getting up there. The caller describes the moves on mic to the dancers before starting any music, then the band plays any instrumental, endlessly, and can switch tunes while keeping tempo. Wedding gigs are rarely "career advancing" but can pay well, and lead to more of same. Or sometimes, people who hear you at the wedding become fans who come hear you at other places. There's a section of my book, How to Make a Band Work, on weddings, where there's more info yet!

Pete