Along with your first dance, the song you walk down the aisle to will be the most important musical choice you make, and often can be the most difficult. You want something classic and elegant, but ‘Here Comes the Bride’ (Wagner’s ‘Bridal March’) isn’t really your thang, and Pachelbel ‘Canon in D’ is so overdone, (and will probably kill your ‘cellist) so what do you choose? Here are my suggestions for a beautiful and timeless entrance that’s just a little bit different…
- ‘The Swan’ by Camille Saint-Saëns Probably the most romantic and best known piece ever written for the ‘cello, ‘The Swan’ is a perfect choice for a bride to glide down the aisle to. At only 3 minutes long you can afford to have it played in its entirety: Make your entrance with the ‘cello, float down the aisle with all the grace and elegance of a beautiful white bird, then soak up the romance of the occasion with your adoring partner as you stand at the alter together… I can’t believe it isn’t more popular, and I’m on a one-woman crusade to change that…
- ‘Salut d’Amour’ by Sir Edward Elgar I am almost certain you will have heard this tune, originally written for violin and piano, but often arranged for string orchestra, and perfectly playable by any string quartet or soloist. With its lovely French title meaning ‘Love’s Greeting,’ at under 3 minutes long (without repeats), and composed by Elgar as an engagement present for his fiancée – in return she gave him a poem she had written – what could be more romantic than that?
- ‘Clair de Lune’ by Claude Debussy Very famous piece for solo piano, can be scored for string quartet and working brilliantly for any solo instrument plus piano accompaniment. The whole thing is a bit long, but the first section is only 2 minutes, and therefore the perfect length for a processional. ‘Clair de Lune’ means ‘moonlight’ (just in case you didn’t know), is very romantic and very French. Ooh la la!
- ‘Oh, Mio Babbino Caro’ by Giacomo Puccini Translating as ‘My Beloved Father’ this hugely popular – and very short at 2 minutes 20 seconds – operatic aria is sung by a young girl to her father, imploring him to help her to be with her lover (they are from two rival families…) or she will hurl herself off of the Ponte Vecchio. OK, the sentiment might be a bit full on, but the tune is hopelessly romantic and very familiar, plus, what could be more fitting for that emotional last promenade on your father’s arm? Sniff.
- ‘Gymnopedie No.1’ by Erik Satie Composed by Debussy’s friend and fellow Frenchman Erik Satie, this short piece for solo piano is instantly recognisable and beautifully lyrical in its simple melodic line. At just over two minutes, it is the perfect length and tempo, and can be played by a soloist or quartet (although your ‘cellist will keel over out of boredom). For the slightly funkier bride, Gymnopedie No.1 has also been interpreted by jazz musicians as it has a rather snazzy major sevenths chord progression – Nice!
- ‘Ave Maria’ by Franz Schubert and ‘Ave Maria’ by Bach/Gounod These firm favourites made it to my list simply because they are both too beautiful to be ignored, but do make sure to specify which version you want!! The Bach/Gounod version is 2 and a half minutes long and is a melody by French composer Charles Gounod played over a Bach Prelude (No.1 in C major) – so you really do get two for the price of one from both ends of the classical spectrum. The Schubert melody is often played as a ‘cello/piano arrangement, is elegantly lyrical and probably the better known – and hence popular – of the two pieces. Each verse is 2 minutes long, so once around is probably enough to make your entrance, unless you are getting married in an Abbey or have a huge bridal party. Both equally suited to church or lay weddings alike, and de riguer for a Catholic Wedding Mass, I was once asked to play the Schubert version in a Jewish ceremony, which didn’t go down so well with the Rabbi – always check with your celebrant before the day!!
- ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ by W.A. Mozart Ideal for a church wedding because of the associated religious text – but more commonly used as a Eucharistic Hymn than a Processional in a Catholic Mass – this 2 minute snippet of Mozart is truly lovely tune and sounds much more modern than you might expect from the Maestro. It also has a natural break at around 1 minute if your aisle is very short or maybe you are just appearing in a doorway… If you are not having a religious ceremony, do check with your celebrant that it is OK to include it, as some have very strict rules on the use of music containing religious figures or references, although this is becoming less of an issue as humanist blessings and destination weddings increase in popularity.
- ‘Arioso’ by J.S. Bach (from Cantata BWV 156) You can’t go wrong with a nice bit of Bach, innit? This is a gentle melody, most famously arranged for ‘cello and piano. If you like Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’ – which I guarantee it will make you think of – but find it a little over-exposed, this is a refreshing alternative by the same composer, but without the sniggering and cigar-ad flashbacks. It is conveniently written in two repeated sections, which gives you lots of options for length (from 45 seconds to 4 minutes) without any nasty editing issues.
- ‘Nocturne’ by Borodin This is the slow movement from Borodin’s String Quartet No.2, but has a life all of its own due to its simple elegance and classical charm. The whole movement is rather long, but can be edited down (to under a minute, 2 minutes or 2 minutes 30 seconds) according to your requirements. Two more reasons to choose it: It’s just a really pretty tune, and your ‘cellist will give you a big hug afterwards…
- ‘Softly Awakes My Heart’ from Samson and Delilah by Saint-Saëns One of my all time favourite operatic arias, in a stupidly difficult key for a stringed instrument (D flat), but all the more beautiful for that, ‘Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix’ (literally, ‘My heart opens itself to your voice’) is a gorgeous mezzo-soprano aria sung by Delilah as she attempts to seduce Samson. From this piece of music you can see why she succeeds. The complete song is 6 minutes long (verse, refrain, verse, refrain) but one repetition should see you and your bridal party safely down the aisle in stately style. If you are observing the US/Australian tradition of having your maids of honour come out first, this piece is perfect for you: Ask your maids to come out to the verse, and you make your entrance as the exquisite refrain begins. There won’t be a dry eye in the house. C’est promis!
Still haven’t hit the nail on the head? Or maybe classical just isn’t your bag? Then check out my repertoire and listen – over 9 hours of music spanning all genres, that’s why they call it ‘crossover…’ 😉 Bisous xx