Wedding Songs

I’d always dreamed about my wedding gown and having all my family and friends together to share our special day: the photos, the romance, the fun. I could even imagine whirling around the dance floor with my fiance. But I’d never considered the music in advance. Big mistake.

I learned what music not to have at my wedding through cold, hard experience. My college roommate, Cynthia, had recently gotten married and the affair was not at all what I’d expected. Cynthia always wore perfectly matching outfits, and seemed to know just the right pleasantry to add at the right moment. I anticipated that her wedding would be equally elegant. But as I made my way up the hotel’s grand staircase and began to feel the thump-thump-thumping of an electrified bass-line throughout my body, I knew this was not to be the sedate and cultured affair I had imagined.

I hesitated before stepping inside the ballroom. An 80’s mirrorball careened overhead and the pump-pump-pumping was almost too much to bear. “Like a virgin!” the slim blonde singer screamed, “for the very first time!” How could four seemingly low-key musicians create such a racket? I vowed that my own wedding, less than a year away, would not have a live band.

Of course, I had already vowed never to have a disc jockey a number of years earlier. When my girlhood chum, Michelle, tied the knot, we were treated to the mostly banal but at times obnoxious commentary of her D.J. His choice of music, itself, could not be challenged. But again, it was loud. So loud that I couldn’t understand a word of my brother’s political commentary from the next seat over or my sister’s Galapagos vacation stories from directly across. Instead, I concentrated on the Chicken Paprikash and dumplings and tried to shut out the overly-cheerful disc jockey.

“What should we do about the music?” I wailed to my fiance, David. “I have no ideas.”

He paused a moment to consider, then thoughtfully replied, “Don’t worry. You’ll think of something.”

I had grown up singing in the grade school chorus, studied piano, and later played the flute in the high school orchestra. I loved every minute of it. I adored classical music and Broadway standards: I knew what I liked and the wedding music was important to me.

Help soon seemed on hand. My parents attended the wedding of a second cousin and had come back oohing and aahing about the talent. “This guy is fantastic!” my dad raved. “He’s the voice, he’s the accompaniment, he’s the rhythm section!” Dad had even accosted this musical magician on a break and had gotten his business card and a number of his future booking dates. We were all set for a try-out.

“You won’t believe what he can do!” my mom echoed. “I can’t wait!”

The best David and I could deduce was that the musician had an electronic keyboard that played an automated tango, hustle, rock or cha-cha beat. He sang and played the keyboard, which could sound like piano, guitar, woodwinds, even an organ. To me, it was not promising. “I don’t want our wedding to sound like a roller-rink,” I moaned.

David paused some time to think it over, then sensibly reassured me: “Don’t worry. It’ll all work out.”

That Saturday, we drove over to my folks on the way to the Brighton-Mayer wedding, where Ralph the music-man would perform. My mother and dad were all dressed-up, as if they were attending a real affair. “We want to blend in,” Mom scolded me. “We don’t want them to think we’re just in off the street.”

The wedding was in a lovely smallish hall at a secluded lakefront setting. Ralph was on a break when we arrived, but my father quickly sought him out and they chatted like old friends. Soon, Dad was accepting a cocktail from one of the waiters and Mom was nibbling hors d’oerves from a proffered tray. “When will Ralph be starting?” I asked her, embarrassed.

“We’re his guests. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable,” she replied. “But I think he’s starting soon.”

It started slow, tempo di beguine as my music-master would’ve called it. Then the voice of Ralph, croaking through half a cigar and half a whiskey sour. “When they begin… the beguine…” This was worse than either Cole Porter or I could’ve anticipated.

David looked at me in silence over his champagne glass, as my mom accepted a dance from a strange man. “Member of the groom’s family,” she later confided.

“Who did you say you were?” I demanded, “Member of the entertainment’s acquaintance?” I ran out; David soon followed. “What will we do?” I cried. “It’s hopeless!”

“Don’t worry,” David said as he put his arm around me and finished his mushroom canape. “We have eight more months.”

What would I have done without David? So realistic, so level-headed, so nonplussed.

Time wore on and indeed, we had no ideas. But I didn’t let it worry me, having confidence that it would all certainly work out in the end. David was right — things always did, somehow. Then one day, listening to my favorite classical station on the radio, I had an inspiration. What I really wanted was to hear my favorite — a flute, with perhaps a string quartet. It took very little time to visit a local group giving a concert and even less to invite them to play for our wedding day. And it was truly perfect to hear the lilting melody as I walked down the aisle.

Dad raved, “They’re fantastic!” Mom graciously accepted the guests’ compliments, as if it were all her own idea. David just smiled. And I had given myself a memory I’d never forget.

© Karen Christino – All rights reserved. Originally published in For the Bride.