Author: Campbell, Bruce

Wedding Gigs - Gotta Love 'Em!

If you play music for money, you’ll play a wide variety of gigs. A WIDE variety. More than you may have thought there could be. You expected bar gigs – that’s a part of it. And festivals – that’s a worthwhile and rewarding goal. Then it starts to get weird (car shows, rodeos, corporate events). One of the best types of gigs are wedding gigs.

The upside of wedding gigs is, first and foremost, the fact that a wedding is a glorious occasion. It’s an honor to be part of a day that will never be forgotten by at least two people at the wedding. They also tend to pay well.

Possible downsides include anxious or difficult wedding planners, oddball song requests, frequent and unpredictable stops and starts to the proceedings, long hours in fancy clothes, limited access to fantastic food and drink being enjoyed the guests, to name a few.

The pressure of being a part of such an important day for my customers used to give me a little anxiety, but I learned early on that wedding guests are not there to critique the band. They’re there to have a great time, and the band only has to NOT prevent that from happening to be considered a great success.

Song requests can be a challenge, but I’ve been lucky to be in bands where at least one member has savant-like abilities to hear a song once or twice and know how to play it. Half the time, the folks who requested those songs aren’t around to hear them when you play them anyways.

The processional can be an interesting adventure. This is the tune that the band plays as the couple makes their entrance, usually from separate directions. Sounds simple, right? Well it is, really - generally the music chosen is light and lovely. The downside is the interval. In a church, we’ll get the cue to start the processional by someone who sees the couple are ready to begin, a room away. For outside weddings, however it can be a much less exact science. I played a wedding in Santa Cruz which was outside on the beach, and the couple took a VERY long time to find their way to the altar. The tune we played was “When We Were Young, Maggie”, and we played it over and over and over. The audience was getting fidgety, necks were craned this way and that as they tried to spy the lucky couple, who seemed to be about a mile down the beach.

At another wedding I played in the Trinity Alps (20 miles down a dirt road), the couple was supposed to gallop out of the woods on white horses. We got the cue, and began playing “Midnight on the Water” – a beautiful waltz. For the first 6 or 7 times through, we delivered that tune with unmatched beauty. Once again, necks in the audience craned as folks scanned the woods for signs of the couple. Off in the forest, we heard birds singing, leaves rustling, and horses whinnying – but no sign of the wedding couple. I was bowing the bass, and after 20 minutes or so, the rosin was wearing off, and my deep thrums took on a wheezing tone. I could see everyone else in the band was wondering how long we could possibly keep playing “Midnight on the Water” before one of the instruments simply wore away. Finally, the couple emerged triumphantly on their stately steeds and the crowd erupted in a gleeful roar. The combination of the dramatic entrance AND the sight of a energetic dancer breaking through the plywood dance floor ensure that this couple had a wedding they would never forget!

As for me, I don’t think I’ve played “Maggie” or “Midnight” since. I figured I’ve done my time on those tunes!

Posted:  7/13/2011

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