My ceremony! Instrumental or sung? Who is playing?

If you’ve attended any weddings as a guest, have you happened to see an evening party that doesn’t take off, a desolately empty runway an evening party with very high expectations left unexpected?

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During our specialized consultations, when we first meet with young married couples, after outlining the type of ceremony they are leaning toward and the mood they would like to give it, it becomes crucial among the first things to identify the lineup that will accompany the ceremony.
This choice is not so obvious or so trivial given that, the bride and groom after having identified an ideal lineup, will begin to choose, for the different moments when music is planned during the ceremony, the songs that are most in line with their tastes and the imprinting they want to give to the ceremony but this choice may affect the previously indicated lineup.

Instrumental or sung ceremony

When choosing songs for the ceremony, it is crucial as a first step to understand whether the bride and groom have always dreamed of an exclusively played ceremony or a ceremony that is also sung because based on that indication, a voice will or will not be provided within the lineup.
There is not much difference between choosing an instrumental or sung ceremony, however, one should not forget that:

  • If the bride and groom’s choice falls on an instrumental ceremony, they may also use only one musical instrument for the entire celebration but they should be aware that 2 songs will have to be forcedly sung because the liturgy stipulates that at the Hallelujah and the Holy there should be an exaltation of the moment through song. The musician on duty will then go with a few notes to set the tone for the celebrant who alone or with the assembly will go to accompany these 2 moments with song. It goes without saying that for these 2 moments the choice of song should be judicious, preferring songs known to the celebrant and the assembly.
  • If the bride and groom’s choice, on the other hand, falls on a sung ceremony, then a lineup with vocals that can be female or male should be provided. The choice in addition to taking into account the taste of the bride and groom will also influence the repertoire as it must be said that at the level of repertoire to draw from, female voices compared to male voices have an advantage. Within our Team also we offer 3 types of female voices just to try to meet all different tastes of the bride and groom and they are:
    • Lyric – Qualified singers in opera singing
    • Pop – Graduated singers in modern singing
    • Mezzana – Qualified singers in both opera and modern singing

Your choice of voice type will go on to influence the repertoire you later go on to choose and vice versa.

How to compose the formation

When wedding couples begin to think about the most suitable formation for their ceremony to guide their choice most often is the memory of what they have seen in another wedding or time-honored legacies from hearsay or something seen on TV or social media.
However, there is a more technical way to construct the musical accompaniment i.e. just follow these few rules to best structure your lineup for the ceremony:

1.Choose a basic or main instrument-These are instruments that can also accompany the entire celebration on their own, and usually the most suitable ones are the organ, keyboard, harp and more marginally the guitar but let’s look at them in detail:

    1. ORGAN – An eclectic instrument, in fact while being an accompaniment, it can be a soloist and thus perform the entire set list on its own. The label would like it precisely because of its versatility to always be present during wedding ceremonies as it provides the harmonic base for solo instrumentalists such as violin or singer. Although it is strongly recommended by the celebrants to ensure solemnity to the ceremony we personally feel that an entire liturgy accompanied only by the organ can be overly burdensome and put the guests’ minds back to those often interminable and unlively Christmas or Easter masses. So unless you are particularly keen on using your church organ, we advise the bride and groom to opt for a more pliable keyboard or a mix between the two instruments by choosing keyboardists who are also organists such as those on our Team
    2. KEYBOARD – From the point of view of versatility, it is definitely the ideal instrument since in addition to offering different sounds (Organ, Violins, Piano, etc.) it allows one to accompany classical or modern pieces with absolute pliability and at the repertoire level it does not present any constraints. Solo instrument that can be matched with a voice, a solo instrument, or both. It does not necessarily have to be amplified, and this also results in a cleaner appearance during the ceremony.
    3. ARPA – Elegant and refined embellishes any ceremony with its presence alone. Its plucked notes gently caress bride and groom and guests, and again despite the fact that we tend to identify this instrument as only related to the classical repertoire it may surprise you by venturing into modern pieces; In very large rooms or with a large number of guests it needs amplification, and as with the keyboard the harp is also a solo instrument that can be paired with a voice, a solo instrument, or both.
    4. GUITAR – Don’t think of the instrument often strummed boy scout style in Sunday celebrations, an acoustic guitar placed in the skillful hands of a professional musician with a conservatory degree will know how to accompany classical and less classical songs with persuasive mastery between arpeggios and solos that will not make one regret more structured instruments such as those listed above. Obviously it has some restrictions on repertoire compared to colleagues however the effect certainly remains pleasant and elegant

Remember that these instruments should be chosen and used individually, one excludes the other; In the case of the keyboardist/organist I can use both instruments but never simultaneously with the same musician.


2. Choose voice or solo instrument – Having chosen the main instrument, you will go and enrich the lineup with either a voice or a solo instrument if you deem it appropriate. Among the tools you can choose from:

    1. VIOLIN – Parent of the string family, it is definitely the instrument that everyone thinks of first and foremost when it comes to church music since its romantic sounds blend well with other instruments. In case a voice is also present, he will know how to scale down in the sung songs by making the sung part stand out with a slight counter-singing, then taking the stage in the songs where he will be the solo element. There are no limits as far as repertoire is concerned and it goes well with both organ, keyboard, and harp, while with guitar the pairing is a bit forced.
    2. TRAVERSO FLUTE – The progenitor of the woodwind family, it is definitely the offside instrument, the twist, the instrument seldom used in church and religious ceremonies in general, but its blown notes and delicate harmonies will amaze even the most skeptical person about it. As with the violin in case a voice is also present, it will know how to scale back in the sung songs by making the sung part stand out with a slight counterpoint, then taking the stage in the songs where it will be the solo element. There are no limits as far as repertoire is concerned and it goes well with both keyboard and harp, whereas with organ and guitar the pairing feels a bit forced. Different sounds between Violin and Flute whose inclination toward either instrument by the bride and groom will be characterized solely by a choice related to personal taste.
    3. FEMALE OR MALE VOICE-As anticipated at the top of the article, the choice in addition to taking into account the taste of the bride and groom will also have to be made according to the type of repertoire to be chosen; A classical repertoire can be done exclusively by an opera singer, while a modern repertoire exclusively by a pop singer. We usually advise the bride and groom not to use vocals during the bride and groom’s entrances to prevent the guests’ attention from turning to the singer instead of to your entrance and to keep speeches to a maximum of 6 to 7 songs (see this article regarding when music is provided during a religious ceremony).

3.Choir – Again, the choice to entrust the musical aspect of your ceremony to a choir is entirely personal; Let’s analyze the 3 most popular types:

    1. Parish choir – In some cases it happens that the celebrant tends to advise the married couple to turn to the parish choir, or it is the couple themselves who choose it for various reasons. There are several very structured and professional amateur parish realities that will surely be able to cheer up the ceremony in the best possible way, however on the flip side there are also realities that should be applauded for their commitment, but are not absolutely suitable to accompany such an important event as your wedding both from the point of view of repertoire (Old, Approximate) and vocally. The wedding is yours so it is only up to you to choose who you will entrust with the musical aspect of the ceremony, however, if you are leaning toward choosing the parish choir ask to attend a rehearsal, have them send you the repertoire you will then have a way to see if it is indeed the choice for you. Each parish setting is different however you will have to Quote the possibility of having to forgo some classical pieces (because the singers or musicians who make up the choir are unable to do so) as well as possible mistakes related to the pressure and emotion of the moment. Often we are asked to support these realities with our musicians but it is almost always impossible also from the economic point of view as the preparation of a wedding between different realities would involve several hours of rehearsals together with the choir and privately; however we happen with our Team to support these solutions by dividing the different musical moments.
    2. Polyphonic cho ir – For couples who do not want to give up the effect of the parish choir without, however, incurring all the uncertainties that this solution brings, an excellent solution is to choose a polyphonic choir; The characteristic of this solution is to have a much smaller number of professional singers 5/6 people each of whom is entrusted with a sonority (Sopranos/Contraltos/Tenors/Basses). The word is derived from Latin chorusefrom Greek χορός. This term is also used in architecture to indicate the apsidal area usually occupied by the cantors during liturgical services in the church, or the place where the cantors’ seats, called stalls, or stools, were placed; the term choir also indicates a musical composition written for such a staff. This choir is usually accompanied by only 1 instrument (Organ or Keyboard).
    3. Gospel Choir – The term gospel can refer to 2 seemingly related genres of music: one, closely related to sacred music, much like the spiritual choral song, which emerged in African American Christian-Methodist churches in the 1930s; the other, to religious music composed disseminated and played successively by artists of any faith or ethnicity, especially from the southern United States of America, and then spread to the rest of the world. This style of music was often (and still is) in solo vs. chorus mode, that is, a short singing phrase, performed by a single cantor was alternated with a response from the entire chorus. While the spiritual remained simpler musically, the gospel was refined and enriched over time, with the addition of rhythmic bases from the blues and rhythm and blues, and spread markedly throughout the Western world. The term gospel, in English, means gospel, good news, “word of God”: in fact, the lyrics are inspired by the Bible (especially the book of Psalms). Despite being for all intents and purposes a religious music genre, bridal couples who want to take advantage of this lineup will have to obtain the not-so-easy approval of the “host” who are often reluctant to turn the wedding ceremony and consequently the celebration into a copy of the movie “Sister Act”!

4. Choosing a string trio or quartet – You will surely have witnessed or seen on TV weddings accompanied during the ceremony by a string duo/trio/quartet. Very elegant, classical and refined solution but why choose a string trio or quartet? It is often thought that in addition to the personal taste of the bride and groom, there is also partly a desire for “opulence” on the part of the couple, the need to appear and show off, but this is not true! Certainly guiding the choice is the personal taste of the bride and groom, but you should know that string and wind instruments are mono-harmonic, meaning they only cover 1 sound out of the 4 that make up the harmony. In fact, the harmonic aspect is guaranteed by 4 sonorities

      1. Alti (Strings Violin I / Winds Flute Traverso)
      2. Middle High (Strings Violin II / Winds Oboe)
      3. Middle Bass (Strings Viola / Winds Clarinet)
      4. Bass (Strings Cello / Winds Bassoon)

This explains why I must necessarily have 3 to 4 string or wind instruments during a religious ceremony; They serve to ensure the harmonic aspect of each piece. It happens sometimes to structure ensembles even with only 2 instruments such as Violin and Cello, however, we feel we would advise against this as the formation would lack the intermediate sounds. Hardly any of your guests will say, “The middle sounds were missing,” but in well-known songs to more than a few they will sound strange because the known harmony will be different from the one proposed.

That said.

We are aware that choosing the lineup for the religious ceremony is not easy, however, we hope you have found helpful insights, ideas and advice on this article;

I am Paolo Furlan founder of the music agencies Wedding Symphony specializing in ceremony music and Wedding Music Fun specializing in wedding music and entertainment. Follow our social channels to stay up to date with the latest news and get helpful tips on how to best plan your wedding!
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