First let me say congratulations on your upcoming wedding, and thanks for considering the tradition, thrill and spectacle of using bagpipes for your wedding ceremony music.
Having a piper at a wedding is an age-old tradition. Bridal parties were conveyed in procession from their homes to the site of the wedding. They were accompanied by pipers and a constant firing of guns which kept off evil spirits and brought good luck to the couple. Elements of these customs persist today in the tying of cans and shoes to the wedding car.
Another reason for their popularity at weddings and other celebrations has been that by hiring just one musician you could get enough sound for all to enjoy (no amplification required) and they are ideal for outdoor ceremonies.
“The ritual use of music, song and dance is common to all societies… The wedding tunes invoked fertility and good fortune… It has been noted that the giving of favors by the bride imbued fertility and it will come as no surprise to learn that it was the custom to tie a piece of the bride’s garter around the pipes to impart ‘fertility’ to the music, for good luck.” (from the book “A Scottish Wedding, woo’ed an’ married an’ a’, an exploration of Scottish wedding customs” by Gordon J. Mooney).
I regard being asked to perform at a wedding as an invitation to a sacred space. Each wedding I attend is an opportunity for me to uphold hundreds of years of social, musical and clan traditions.
What I Usually Do For A Wedding
Fifteen minutes before your ceremony I begin playing to entertain your guests as they arrive and take their seats. Traditionally this was to “wake up the town” and let them know something special was about to take place (and to bless the space.) The tunes I play are some of the most popular and familiar (I have over 100 tunes committed to memory.) When your bridal party is ready for the processional(s) I’ll move to the back of the congregation (this creates a nice dramatic pause and directs your guests’ attention.)
I can play any number of processional tunes such as for the seating of family members, for the groom and groomsmen, and for the bride’s maids and then a special tune for the bride. (I like the tradition of the piper preceding the bride and her escort.) Here I choose nice melodic tunes that are easy to walk to such as “Wedding March from Unst,” “Flower of Scotland,” and Highland Cathedral” (which was used in the kilted wedding scene in the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”)
During the service I sometimes play an anthem like “Amazing Grace,” often as a gesture to those who have passed away and could not attend the wedding.
At the end of the service, after the officiant introduces you as the new couple to the congregation, I begin playing a bright tune for the recessional, like “Mari’s Wedding, “Murdo’s Wedding,” or “Highland Wedding,” and follow you through the congregation. I’ll continue playing for background music as you receive your guests and pose for photos, and to announce your arrival at the reception; often with the same tune I used for the recessional.
There are a number of tunes appropriate for the processionals and recessionals and they are all easily searchable on the internet for sound samples or I can play them on my electric pipes with you on speakerphone. We can also meet in person of course, if that’s convenient. Sometimes there will be a favorite tune in mind for the bride’s processional or recessional. If it’s not a traditional pipe tune I can sometimes transpose it for bagpipes given enough lead time, although not all tunes translate to bagpipe because of the limited scale of the instrument. I’ve transcribed everything from “Commitment to Excellence” – the theme song for the Oakland Raiders – to the theme from Star Wars.
I require a $150 non-refundable deposit to book the date. The remaining fee is due on completion and your satisfaction is guaranteed.
Consider this, for over 200 years a Cummings has performed the duties of wedding bagpiper – aye! we’ve got it right!