Fiddlin' AroundNancy Buchan

Wedding Music

wedding ringsBy Nancy Buchan

Wedding season here is kind of fizzling out, but I think it was a good one for the local event planners and for us musicians who enjoy playing weddings. It’s amazing how many folks come to this beautiful area for their nuptials – but then, who wouldn’t like to escape the northern cold and get hitched barefoot on a beach on a sunny day? Destination weddings are a big industry – a more adventurous experience for the participants, and even with airfare they are probably far cheaper than the same kind of event in the states. Geesh, they probably save a fortune in flowers and fruit alone. Many Costa Rican hotels cater specifically to wedding groups, and there are a bunch of professional wedding planners here who will take care of all the pesky details and customize the day to whatever the client wants. After all, it’s their date with destiny . . . their public and optimistic declaration of love and coupleness. Their ‘too late to turn back now, let’s bite the bullet’ moment.

Weddings with a theme seem to be big nowadays. I have played at a ‘Great Gatsby’ themed wedding where everyone wore flapper dresses and zoot suits. Another one where the guests all sported bright red and yellow goofy sunglasses, and another where the guests all bombarded each other with beach balls at the end. A wedding I played down in the Osa Peninsula was more like a 5 star circus, an elegant outdoor dinner with clowns and acrobats and guys banging on drums wandering around. Highly entertaining. A lot of brides are not so interested in hearing the traditional wedding processional as they walk in, but choose instead music that is more meaningful to them. I enjoy learning new songs and never really thought a lone violin does justice to the “Here Comes the Bride” piece traditionally played in a huge church on a huge organ anyway. Plus I can’t resist jazzing it up. Music is so often the sound track for our lives. It seems fair that a couple should hear what has been ‘their’ song as they are embarking on their journey together.

Of course every generation has their own music. My parent’s generation made the song “I Love You Truly” a wedding staple – it’s not even on a modern musicians radar. Bette Midler’s tear-jerker “Wind Beneath My Wings” was around for a decade or so and “Over the Rainbow” is having another run thanks to Bruddah Iz’s ukulele version. There are plenty of sappy sentimental modern songs to choose from, and many artists seem to write songs directed at the wedding market. They may not be getting residuals from a song being played at a wedding, but the sheet music sales probably make up for that. Al Green gave us “Let’s Get Married” and then the afterthought “Let’s Stay Together.” Ben Folds song “The Luckiest” is a favorite of the current marrying generation, as is Ben Harper’s “Forever” and “Marry Me” by the band Train. John Legend’s song “Stay With You” is a popular choice, and I’ve played Etta James great song “At Last” and Van Morrison’s “Someone Like You.” I recently had to learn a fairly annoying song by The Judds called “Love Can Build a Bridge,” and have done a Coldplay song as well as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” for the brides entrance. I once had to laboriously learn three really lame songs by Shania Twain that I could barely tell apart, only to have the wedding planner call me the morning of the wedding with the news that the couple had had a big fight the night before and left in separate cabs for San Jose. I promptly forgot the songs.

Just as there are songs that are played at weddings, there are songs written about weddings, and they’re not always so cheery and warm and fuzzy. The Carter Family had a hit years ago with the song “I Never Will Marry,” as did Carly Simon with her melancholy anti-marriage ballad “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be.” Country music is often said to be nothin’ more than three chords and the truth, and one of my all-time favorite country artists, Patsy Cline, laid it on the line with her song “I Cried All the Way to the Altar,” then finished the thought with “A Church, A Courtroom Then Goodbye.” Tammy Wynett gave out some lousy advice with her song “Stand By Your Man,” but followed it with the song “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” George Strait sang the touching love song, “All My Exes Live in Texas” and Tom Waits voiced his opinion in “Better Off Without a Wife.” But maybe the J. Geils Band rocker is my all-time favorite sentiment – “Love Stinks.”

My musical partner Ben Orton played a wedding recently where the ceremony was happy and beautiful and the music was wonderful, and afterwards he went upstairs to play for the reception party. Midway through the song “Don’t Worry – Be Happy,” the bride came in crying and obviously distraught, so of course his next choice was the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Stones. Ben said he never did find out what had set off the brides meltdown, but when he wished the groom well at the end of the night, the guy muttered “I guess I’ve got some explaining to do…”

I’ve played two weddings recently where they hired one of those freaky drone helicopter things to take pictures of the festivities from above. I have no doubt they got some beautiful shots flying over the jungle and coming up the side of a mountain to the infinity pool and site of the ceremony, but I thought it was a completely intrusive and noisy mechanical thing in an otherwise beautiful and natural setting. Years ago a man hired me to play his daughters beach wedding, and they had set up a nice arbor and shade structure for the guests out of bamboo and banana leaves. He hired a small plane to fly over and take photos of the wedding party on the beach after the ceremony – well, either they were early or the wedding was late, cause they buzzed overhead as the wedding was still happening, so they only got shots of the roof. The dad was frantically waving them off, as the sound of the plane was drowning out the vows and there was no one outside of the palapa to take pictures of anyway. The guys in the plane made a couple of passes, cheerfully waved back and left – their half hour was paid for and over.

Things are gonna go wrong. No amount of obsessing over details will guarantee that no one falls in the pool, or that the groom won’t have a hangover. To expect divorced parents to get along just for the sake of their offspring’s big day is probably unrealistic. A nice thought, but probably unrealistic. I believe most musicians try to create a positive musical experience when they play weddings – but hey, the drummer might forget his sticks or be the one to fall in the pool, so everybody relax and try to have fun and enjoy the moment! The sometimes wedding singer Ben Orton and I play most every Friday night at the beautiful and spacious Roca Verde, just south of Dominical. We are joined by Arturo Campo Alcocer on bass and Ojochal’s Tim Rath on drums. Come on out and hear some kickass rock and roll and maybe even a romantic tune or two. We promise not to play any Judds.

“To keep your marriage brimming with love in the wedding cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, shut up.” Ogden Nash “I was single for a long time, and I just got sick of finishing my own sentences.” Comedian Brian Killey

“My advice to you is to get married. If you find a good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher.” Socrates “It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life!” Comedi- an Rita Rudner
Lifelong professional musician Nancy Buchan and her husband Charley built a house in Dominical 20 years ago, and moved there full time after Hurricane Katrina swept them out of their beloved New Orleans. Nancy plays her 5 string violin in a variety of situations – from rock and roll with Ben Jammin’ and the Howlers to jazz with C.R. pianist Manuel Obregon to Bach at beach weddings. She has been featured on over 50 cds and teaches violin at the Escuela de Musica Sinfonica in San Isidro. Contact her at njbfiddle@aol. com.