This is a guest post written for you by ‘Ed the Piper’. I hope you enjoy it, feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions, or contact him directly through his website (link at the bottom of the post).
A Musician For Your Wedding
Music and weddings go together like toast & jam, cereal & milk, oops no hang on…. ah that’s it… HORSE & CARRIAGE!
The history of music and wedding ceremonies falls back to the 16th century and earlier, going back to the days when church organs were constructed in churches, abbeys and cathedrals alike to praise God through song. From composers like Bach who created music for pipe organ which became adapted for orchestral arrangements performed in churches and orchestral halls, etc. In time, the progression and stylings of music showed how each composer showed their speciality, techniques, history, etc until we reached our point today.
Within traditional aspects, Church weddings have a particular format of engaging the organist and sometimes the church choir to entertain and perform at a wedding. The reason behind this stems back through history on a series of traditions from the Catholic and Anglican faiths in particular. Most notably that of high profile / society weddings / royal engagements, etc. For those particular weddings, the finest of Baroque, Plain-Song, Early classical and classical music has been composed especially for such events, hence the composition and arrangements of a few key pieces. The Wedding March in C Major composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1842, Wagner’s Bridal Chorus in C Major (though other arrangements exist) in 1845,  Ennio Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe played in D, though other arrangements exist and of course Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria played in a number of temperaments and keys, though nost notably in C, D, G and B Flat. These particular pieces have been part of the traditional wedding repertoire  for many years, though before these particular pieces were composed, the tradition was even more instantiated  by large choirs and orchestras or the organists of the day, OK, in the 17th century and the likes of, pipe organs were not as grand as they are seen in today’s churches and cathedrals where 3 and 4 manual organs with 32ft pipes give deep, rich, majestic tones, back then, it was more the meaning and thought by various composers and arrangers to use certain music which we would listen to or perform today that wouldn’t actually be considered Wedding Music by today’s standards.
Unique Wedding musician - meet the Uilleann Piper
The other school of wedding and ceremonial music, which I come from, though I share the classical side as an upbringing, is that of the Irish school of music. As an Uilleann (pronounced “illun”) piper, my instruments are the distant cousins of church organs, but with a twist. You see, back in history, when the Irish churches, in particular, catholic churches were closed down centuries ago, Mass would be said in the fields, with that there was a particular piece composed which translated to English means, “were you at the rock or at Carrig?”. when mass used to be said on the rock. Within the evolution of Irish music, Uilleann pipes were at the head of the line as these instruments were played by the masters of the tradition, Over the centuries, the old traditions are passed down and inherited and as it stands, I’m a proud carrier and teacher of those traditions and that of piping.
Unique Wedding musician - meet the Uilleann Piper
The Irish way of music isn’t just for the Irish, it’s for everyone, doesn’t matter what religion or what church or venue you have your ceremony at, Irish music has a heart, a soul, a romance and celebration to it, it’s what we hold close in our hearts. From slow airs which show a romantic side, tell stories, to dance pieces, reels, slip jigs, polkas and free form music, the sound of folk music, whether pipes alone or as a group setting with fiddles, flutes, low whistles, bodhrans, guitars, accordions, etc, all to bring a touch of occasion and a toe tapping time of it too.
Unique Wedding musician - meet the Uilleann Piper
From a modern standpoint having performed for various weddings over the years, I’ve lost count of the requests made to me to perform, it’s with that as a piper, I have to think fast on my feet and either remember certain pieces or to adapt them, though I draw a line and that line for me is very clearly marked by about God knows how many Irish pipers throughout history. For me though I’m not just a piper, I’m also a church organist, pianist and flautist. Not only a performer of traditional material but also a composer / writer. I firmly believe that in my role as a musician, it’s my duty and tradition in music to tell a story. Weddings in particular, it’s about the happy couple, those around them and the location, sometimes material takes new forms through inspiration and that’s part of what makes the work I do unique.
Today’s wedding scene has changed so much, though it’s still known for traditional weddings in churches and traditional meets modern formats still within churches, Today’s generations are changing the trends by undertaking “Venue” weddings where a wedding is undertaken at a hotel, guest house, field, or other venue which is licensed to hold weddings. There’s a number of factors to these new ways of ceremonies such as traditions disappearing from new generations, religious or non religious backgrounds, financial considerations, personal attitudes, social requirements and functional demands within a wedding. Take as an example a wedding I once performed at, I have to say, I rather enjoyed it. It was a wedding at a rather classy location where I was hired as a piper for the day, from the ceremony itself to the reception entrance and the final part of the event where the happy couple left hand in hand. The location was such that everything had been organised to be run from either within the venue or through marquees etc including catering, DJ’s etc. My role in this particular wedding  was to perform not only traditional material, but composed works with a Concert D set of uilleann pipes.  Before the wedding, a discussion between myself and the bride was to go over material and ideas etc, she had expressed interest in having some modern material by other artists performed which were “pop music” related. This particular bit causes me serious legal issues. When someone asks a musician to perform at a venue wedding, the musician either performs material self or band copyrighted or checks with the venue if they have a public performance license for copyrighted material, etc. As someone who’s produced music for various artists, copyright law and performance of material without the artist’s permission is a touchy subject, but I’m just putting it here that if you’re intending on using a CD, iPod with original artist’s material, please check the venue has a public performance license for copyrighted material, otherwise it’s robbing creative artists of their material and careers. needless to say that in this particular wedding, that wasn’t the case as, even tough requests for certain pieces were made, there’s nothing to state that arrangements cannot be made. So, with this in mind, 2 pieces were completely re-arranged for pipes but still gave a flavour of the original music requested, the rest of the material was traditional works or my own compositions. It was a stunning event that put a smile on my face.
Unique Wedding musician - meet the Uilleann Piper
This brings me though to part of this article that needs to be read and read carefully as an advisory. If you go to a registry office, public venue etc and take an ipod or CD with you for wedding music, you MUST check that the venue has a public performance license or Musician’s license under the Musician’s Union. The reason for this is based on particular ethics and legal terms. If you play a CD in a public building, yes, you may have purchased the CD or downloaded a paid piece of music from itunes, etc, but that’s for personal use, like as would be said for using an artist’s material for a youtube video, breach of copyright is the term applied here. Yes, your guests may enjoy listening to James blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” for 50 times in a loop, but the artist isn’t paid royalties for this nor is it part of the permissions of it being a wedding video inclusion unless permission is granted by producers, etc if used as a public performance or online broadcast of any nature. Oops, that’s the legal bit of me speaking.
From an ethical standing, the role of a performing musician is  to entertain and tell the story of the subject matter in question, as is my role in a wedding. I absolutely love weddings, there’s something magical about a wedding that brings the real music in me out, the magic in the fingers as I hold the chanter in my hands, drive the bellows which breathe the magic of air into the drones, regulators and chanter to bring music of passion, romance and joy to an occasion, either that or from an organists and pianist’s perspective, writing music for magic. What I do for a wedding is tell your story, how you want to portray it is what you tell me, from there I weave the magic for you. Without music at a wedding, it’s a silent wedding, no soul, no love, no mystery, etc it’s all a part of what’s created for you.

Some advice on choosing your hymns & Wedding music…

Music, within any occasion is not only important in it’s content, quality and meaning, but it is also the glue that brings an event together and fills a venue with warmth, that is of course, dependant on the musical intention, selection of material, musicians and instruments used. With weddings, this is a particular matter of discussion and also of importance when conveying your true love to each other and to that of the congregation before you. Within the traditional mode of a church wedding service, an organist would advise you on some ideal hymns, as well as the Grand Entrance and other material, usually it’s found that the organist might also include material to blend in with the event’s intention.
The common hymns I’ve been asked to play including Morning Has Broken, All Things Bright & Beautiful, amongst others I can think of. Now, from my own experience from both classical and Irish backgrounds, I call upon material that may be known or may not be known, I also write material for the occasion if requested. It’s important that your wedding shows you off to your best and as part of that, the music you select tells your story. Common themes include:
Pachelbell’s Cannon in D, 
Wagner’s Wedding Chorus,
Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, 
Handel’s Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba,
To give you an idea of the musical format, here it is…
Prelude: As guests gather…
Processionals: bridesmaids walk down the aisle before wedding couple…
Bride Entrance: Just as it says on the tin…
The Ceremony: Calming music including hymns.
Interlude: signing of names, gap filler, meditations, etc…
Recessionals: Music played as wedding couple exit with guests…
Post-Wedding: music to create a carpet whist sipping a glass of your favourite…
Bouquet toss: Ah ha, a joyful tune whilst that bouquet flies through the air missing a pigeon…
The Wedding Breakfast: Music for atmosphere.

Besides the above as common formats, there are many other ways around this, As a musician myself, not only as a performer and arranger, but also a composer who’s produced for artists in the past, I compose wedding music and themes to show you at your best, OK, you might not think uilleann pipes ideal, but believe me, they are the most romantic instrument of our time, like the oboe, church organ, harp, etc. the way a traditional wedding from a musical standard works is this, entrance / background music for the guests to enter and be entertained, the grand Entrance for you, hymns and themes including the signing of names, (signing of names gives the organist some flexibility in material to play whilst you’re recovering from nerves) and of course the recessional / grand exit. With this, as a piper, my job is done within the church, that is until the entrance to the reception, this is a tradition of mine and of course an option but it’s part of my ethics and tradition. Whether composed or traditional music, the entrance to the reception, for me as a piper, gives me a particular favourite piece to play and it’s technique and sound will get you toe tapping.

Here’s a rather useful couple of links for wedding hymns and material just to listen to, read the lyrics, etc and get a feel for what could be done, but of course, you might want to break from tradition and do something unique, you might not want hymns, you might just want music, or you might just feel like playing a CD (please don’t…. lol). 
The Hitched Guide to wedding music…
Royal School of Church Music…
Hymns For Your Wedding: Church Of England Guide…
Of course, the above links are a guide of what to play or what you could consider, but remember, your wedding is YOUR DAY and you’re telling the story through your music choices, If you were to hire a musician like me, I would tailor your day musically with romance. After all, it’s not every day you get an Irish Uilleann Piper at a wedding…


Winter and Spring weddings seem now to be of interest and I have to say, personally, I love winter and spring weddings, in particular weddings within the Christmas calendar. Winter weddings have that magic about them that to me just puts a real beaming smile on my face. yes, of course winter weddings can be a bit on the tricky side as a musician where my pipes are concerned, but saying that, as long as I’m in a reasonably warm isn or dry church or vene, that’s fine. Whe it comes to winter weddings or spring weddings, the music options become even more interesting and to be honest, more romantic. A particular favourite for organ and uilleann pipes which I’ve been working on of late is Malcolm Archer’s Creator of the stars at night” which is part of the advent liturgy for Advent Mass, etc, it’s a beautiful meditation sung by choir and has a really romantic feel for the Christmas season and rather charming for a wedding I think… There are many other pieces suitable for winter weddings including Christmas music and hymns, but for spring, that’s the time for me as a piper when a certain, time honoured piece can really be played, it was composed by the late, great Seamus Ennis, a master piper of our time in the piping world, a man I admire and respect and hold close to my heart. the piece is called “Easter Snow” and traditionally played as a solo for uilleann pipes but can be accompanied by an organist. though I’m working on a version of this for an orchestral arrangement. If you’re interested in finding out about having a piper perform for winter and spring weddings and the real magic to be found, why not contact me through the details at the end of this article.

I’ve often thought about the day that I might be married, how I’d like a wedding to be, but within that, I know that music is the important factor in that. Even if I had to perform as part of it, which would be rather entertaining….. just picture it now… Hang on my love while I just play this serenade  in E, then we can do the next bit.” Joking aside, music is the life blood of everything in this world, not just weddings, music is applied by intention, from the knock on a door from it’s rhythmic and tonal behavior, to the sound of rain on a church roof, bird song, an organist weaving his or her spell, a harpist  broadcasting song through the strings or a piper like me filling the air with a heavenly instrumental voice, that’s the mystery and intention of music. 

Unique Wedding musician - meet the Uilleann Piper
Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope from these words, you get to appreciate music’s intention in your wedding. May the words from this page and the meditations from my heart be acceptable in thine eyes.
for more information on my services, why not visit where you can hear music recorded and see video clips of me at my best.
All the best and congratulations on your upcoming wedding day.