We recently provided live wedding ceremony and cocktail hour music for a beautiful couple at NW Portland’s hip venue, Castaway. Our violin/guitar duo was the chosen ensemble and our clients selected an eclectic playlist ranging from the Beatles and James Taylor to Foo Fighters and Queen.
I always want to give our clients the best possible experience with their live wedding music but for this event, I knew the standards would be exceptionally high as our client was a graduate of the prestigious Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and a current rock star at Expedia– if anyone knows what good customer service looks like, it would be her; given that Cornell University’s Hotel School is the nation’s oldest and most respected Ivy League school of hospitality management.
We want the music at every wedding we play to be just what our brides and grooms envision and I’m so happy to share that our clients loved what we did. Check out their review on Wedding Wire!
“We had a fantastic experience with Wendy and Effesenden Music both in the lead-up to as well as on the day of our wedding. Wendy is very communicative, professional, and flexible, and she and her team are incredibly talented. With an extensive repertoire and willingness to accommodate custom music selections, Effesenden has such a diverse offering (and rock-star musicians), making for a beautiful and customized day-of experience. Unequivocally better than any DJ or recording. Thank you again for making our wedding day so special!”
We are so excited this week to be chosen to represent Portland’s wedding musician community by Best Wedding Oregon for a spot about wedding ceremony music. You can check out the full article here.
They had great questions for us about the role that live ceremony music plays in enhancing a wedding celebration. They also allowed us to share some important tips that we wish more brides and grooms were aware of. Here’s a recap of a few of those bits of advice:
Choose your ceremony musicians 8-12 months ahead of your wedding date, especially if you have one of those popular summer Saturday weddings. You’ll ensure that you get the best musicians and that they have time to properly prepare your wedding music selections– especially if you’re opting for something customized like pop strings.
Many industry resources advise brides and grooms to scout their ensemble by going to hear them live. This advice is great for a band but really doesn’t apply well for a string quartet. Oh how we wish that every club in Portland was featuring 2 violins, a viola and a cello every night performing classical, jazz and contemporary music on strings but the reality is that those venues don’t really exist.
If you want to see our musicians in action, you’ll need to check out ensembles like the Oregon Symphony, Ballet, Opera etc but the best way to really get a feel for what wedding ceremony musicians might sound like at your event is to listen to their sample material and/or watch their videos. We try to be really transparent about what you get by posting as much live recording and video footage as possible so you really get a sense of what it would sound like live at your wedding or event!
We have been involved with the Portland wedding industry since 2002 as well as interacting with national organizations such as Style Me Pretty, The Knot, Wedding Wire, and JuneBug weddings. We really like Best Wedding Oregon’s approach of research based information. Normally vendors like us are solicited to purchase advertising and then rely on customer reviews to fill out the picture as far as what our brides and grooms can expect. Best Wedding Oregon took the time to learn about our company and in turn hopefully provide valuable advice for brides and grooms looking for live wedding ceremony music– whether they choose to work with Effesenden Music or another company. Thanks Best Wedding Oregon for checking out our music and giving us a chance to talk about what we love: providing customized live music for weddings and events in our beautiful city of Portland, Oregon!
I started playing for weddings long before I established Effesenden Music. One of the first weddings I played was as a young high school student at the beautiful Willamette Valley vineyards near Salem, Oregon. It was very windy and the little metal folding music stand I was using blew over during the prelude– music went everywhere! Then for the recessional, the guests had been given these wax paper envelopes which contained freeze dried butterflies which were supposed to, when opened, spring to life and flutter gently out of their slumber, surrounding the happy couple with beautiful, brightly covered wings. Instead, these butterflies were like Snow White without the kiss. The envelopes were opened. . . .nothing happened. When guests tried to dislodge them, they just dropped stone dead to the ground. Talk about not a good way to start things off… but then, as my husband and I well know, sometimes the epic fails end up being the best stories that we are still laughing about years later.
While still in college, I was asked to play in a string quartet for weddings. We would ride around in this windowless white van that sort of had the serial killer vibe– there weren’t even seats in the back, just musicians rolling around with the rest of the gear from one wedding to the next. Sometimes the other violinist was super drunk but he still managed to play really well in tune. I don’t know how! Sometimes we would have three weddings in one day– luckily traffic wasn’t as bad back then as it is now in the metro area! Everyone has their crazy college stories and many of my fellow musicians went on to have incredible careers but I knew that when I started Effesenden Music, I really wanted to do things differently. I wanted to place my focus on relationships, kindness, enthusiasm, quality and attention to detail.
Here are eight of my favorite wedding memories as the owner of Effesenden Music.
Performing for a wedding reception with violin, guitar and cello, the groom’s 90 year old grandfather came up to say hello. He then proceeded to pull a harmonica out of the pocket of his plaid suit coat and asked if he might join in for a set.
Playing Canon in D for that critical moment of the bride’s procession at a gorgeous outdoor venue in Clackamas. Suddenly, A spider dropped from my hair and began repelling down towards my violin. I HATE bugs but I kept playing. I am self controlled when I need to be!
The night my guitarist, Nate and I had played for the ceremony live but stayed to provide DJ services for the reception at the Abernethy Center in Oregon City. As we were starting to pack up our gear, amidst the black coiled sound cables, was a black coiled LIVE snake. SO glad I didn’t pick it up and bring it home.
I’ve played violin since age three but a few years ago, I learned to play the Ukulele for a wedding that needed it. Because of this, I was able to help a young boy tune his ukulele to perform a special piece for his dad, the groom. I am not a great ukulele player by any means but it was great to be able to have the skills to help out. That same night, on my way to the venue I accidentally took a route that put me in the path of the infamous Portland naked bike ride. GPS doesn’t warn about things like that!
When our string quartet performed for a stunning wedding ceremony and reception in Maui, Hawaii, we discovered that a number of the guests were professional hockey players. I’ve never seen a hockey game in my life but our Canadian born cellist was absolutely beside himself.
Playing solo violin for a wedding ceremony at a private home in Sellwood. The catch was that none of the guests knew they were coming to a wedding–they though their friends were just throwing a party! I love seeing community in action.
When I broke my pinkie toe on my music stand- I never forgot about the tipping metal stand of my teenage years and bought a super heavy stand that would withstand gale force winds, however, my fellow musicians and I nicknamed it the “Stand of Death.” Why? Because every time I would use it, there would be an injury.
The ongoing opportunity to work with so many awesome musicians who I love and admire. The daily challenge of taking a song that maybe was never meant for strings and finding a way to create an arrangement that makes my clients smile.
So far this year, our outdoor wedding musical adventures in beautiful Oregon have included a thunder and hail storm, soft sneaky rain that kept appearing and disappearing prior to the ceremony—just toying with us, 90 degree heat and 54 degree temps with periodic downpours intermixed. There were also a few of those amazing Oregon summer days that we try to keep secret from the rest of the country so we can maintain our reputation for being a rainy, flannel wearing kind of place.
We at Effesenden Music LOVE your unique venue ideas. We are all for bringing beautiful musical atmosphere to match your gorgeous outdoor venue and with just a little forethought, you can ensure that your music will be great no matter what Mother Nature decides to present on the big day.
Here I was in mid May, rocking my black winter scarf and down vest. During the prelude and ceremony, it kept raining on and off so we were under shelter but then the sun came out and created the most beautiful natural lighting so we were able to setup al fresco for the cocktail hour.
If rain is not a concern, setting the musicians up under the shade of a tree is usually totally adequate to keep instruments safe and music sounding awesome. If you’re dealing with a drizzly forecast or epic summer heat, here are some tips on how to ensure that your music will not be negatively impacted by the elements.
What’s the big deal about violins in the rain?
Okay Lindsey Stirling, seems able to play her violin in a pirate costume surrounded by Bellagio-like fountains and Cirq du Soleil worthy dancers… but take a close look at that fiddle:my soon to be blissfully wedded friends, it is a specially made electric violin.Now if you’re interested in this type of musical performance at your wedding, let’s chat.I really like the guy with the harpoon. . . but assuming you’re thinking of more like professional musicians dressed in classy black and performing beautiful music for you and your guest to enjoy for prelude, processional and cocktail hour please read on about how to make music possible outdoors even in um…challenging weather.
What happens to a violin or cello if it gets wet?
Kennedy Violins has a wonderful blog post you can check out to get the full details. In a nutshell, wood is porous and if the wood of an instrument absorbs water, it can expand causing major damage like warping and cracking.(Shudder.This is R rated stuff for a string player to even think about!)… and to put it simply, thousands of dollars of damage or possibly irreparable damage can be caused to instruments that are often hundreds of years old. You don’t want that bad juju happening at your wedding!
Okay but it’s sunny! Not a cloud in the sky— so I’m good right?
Unfortunately direct sunshine and heat can do serious damage as well if temperatures are hot.Remember the whole porous thing… if the wood gets direct sunlight and high temperatures, it can shrink those pores and again cause cracking, warping and discoloration.All this stuff that costs a lot of money and a lot of worry to repair.
This is not about high maintenance vendors trying to ruin your day, but rather that we really really want to play for you and make it awesome and share all the music we’ve prepared just for you.
Okay but lets say you are an evil person who does not care about other people’s prized musical instruments… why does it still matter to you?
Because when instruments get exposed to weather extremes, they go out of tune.They sound bad.They sound like this guy:
SO What to do?
If we’re talking rain, and you are not planning to tent the ceremony area for your guests, consider renting or purchasing a 10×10 open-sided canopy tent and setting up your musicians to the side or behind the guests. The music will still sound great. The tent won’t inhibit the view or pictures if positioned behind and your musicians can concentrate on beautifully performing all of those songs you carefully selected.
Here’s a video of our String Trio and Guitarist performing on a 90 degree+ day at the Resort at the Mountain in Welches. The elegance of the acoustic instruments and more importantly, the gorgeous sounds they create more than make up for a little infrastructure amidst the natural beauty.
What type of tent should I get?
This tent pictured below from Costco sells for just $149.50 and would be totally adequate for providing shelter for your live music if needed. Ask around too… often there is someone on your guest list who already owns one and would be happy to help out!
You should plan on having a tent for the musicians even if your backup rain plan involves moving to an indoor area. Why? Because many times, if you’re just seeing a little bit of drizzle, you’re going to want to go ahead with your original plan. Your guests can snuggle under umbrellas or pull out a jacket but the musicians are then left with the problem of not having a way to protect their instruments from that precipitation.
A word of caution, many people think of possibly using a circular bistro umbrella (such as the one pictured below). They look really classy but the problem is that they do not provide enough shelter for more than maybe a soloist. The central base takes up the most sheltered area of the umbrella. What’s worse is that I have personally seen them catch wind and tip over on more than one occasion, especially for Gorge weddings: there’s a reason that Kite Boarding and Wind Surfing are so popular around here! This is not only a liability for the musicians but for your guests as well!
Most Oregonians really pride themselves on being creative and undaunted by crazy weather. When we accept the responsibility and privilege of providing the live music for your wedding, we want to absolutely ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. By taking just a few precautionary steps, you can relax in the confidence that live music is possible just about anywhere you can imagine getting married in this beautiful state!
We love performing for events at the McMenamins Edgefield! This popular Portland area venue combines the quintessential Portland quirkiness with our amazing Pacific NW natural beauty. On Friday, we stayed cool in the shade of the meadow next to Blackberry Hall as our Acoustic Duo performed for an utterly delightful wedding of some of the kindest, sweetest clients we’ve ever interfaced with. And boy, these days with everything going on in our world, we need a little more nice-ness! Pay it forward, pass it on. . . just be nice, whatever… thank you friends for allowing us to play and sing for your special day!
Now then, the music was a great blend of acoustic selections– prelude featuring Irish and Americana music + some super classic recognizable melodies like In My Life by the Beatles.
For the bridesmaids and groomsmen’s entrance we sang Stand By Me. The bride entered to Canon in D and their adorable recessional selection was Walking on Sunshine.
In case you missed this wedding, here are some links from a live recording we made at the event.
In My Life
Something in Blue (an original piece by Wendy Goodwin and Nolan Staples)
Stand By Me (Bridesmaids, Flower Girl and Ring Bearer)
We at Effesenden Music are fiercely proud of the natural beauty of our Pacific NW home. It is always so cool when we get to work with couples from out of state who choose to celebrate their wedding day in our beautiful Columbia Gorge! Danielle and Ernie are a gorgeous couple, incredibly sweet and obviously very adventurous: the “hike” to the ceremony site was something I’d normally be donning my backpacking boots for thanks to a seriously crazy rain and hail storm that arrived just before the ceremony. Still, we managed to make our way up the trail to this hobbit-like venue and provide music for Danielle’s entrance. We don’t know how she did it in those shoes and without a speck of dirt on her stunning gown!
Also love it when we find ourselves featured on the wedding style blog Junebug Weddings. Though the musicians often are not pictured since our role is about the sound versus the look, we feel honored to be in such chic and creative company.
Two weeks ago Effesenden Music’s acoustic duo performed for an awesome wedding at Bridal Veil Lakes. Though Mother Nature decided to bestow buckets of Oregon spring rain on that Sunday afternoon, a spirit of joy and authenticity prevailed as the happy couple, their bridal party, guests and our duo stayed dry under canopy tents that didn’t diminish the gorgeous lake and forest view.
This wedding is representative of some really great trends we’re noticing in 2017 weddings and how they impact live ceremony and cocktail hour music.
1. Wedding style and choices are made by couples instead of one person.
In our case since we offer live music, it’s something that almost everyone has their preferences about so I’m so glad to see both partners sharing their ideas and favorite songs. This most recent wedding featured for processional, the theme song from the classic 80s Anne of Green Gables show (the bride’s pick)! For the groom, we wrote a custom arrangement of the theme from Indiana Jones.
2. Game of Thrones music.
I . . . don’t know . . .but it’s SO fun to play!
Okay, maybe I DO know. People don’t really get married anymore because it’s the “thing responsible people do.” It’s all about finding someone to share a journey with and I think this theme music, like many other movie soundtracks that have become classics, really captures that spirit of adventure!
3. Many couples want a more relaxing, laid back ambiance as guests arrive.
From ideas like party games to pre-wedding beverages to the fact that I frequently see members of the bridal party mingling with guests before the ceremony begins, there seems to be a lot less emphasis on the formality and structure that one used to see at a wedding ceremony. Music choices for Prelude can do a lot to set and enhance a relaxing vibe. Some of my favorite prelude music choices include:
Classic Jazz Standards
What a Wonderful World
When I Fall in Love
Pop Ballads and Classics
The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson
Don’t Know Why by Norah Jones
You Are the Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder
Stand By Me
Can’t Help Falling in Love
If I Fell by the Beatles
Celtic and Bluegrass Ballads
While most people don’t recognize specific names of fiddle tunes like Star of the County Down or Banish Misfortune, they love the vibe and sound of Irish music. I think interestingly this may have become popular back when Titanic came out and has just never dissipated!
What about you? Where are you getting your ideas for your wedding ceremony music? As a guest at other weddings, what makes you feel relaxed and happy?
Last night’s wedding featured one of my favorite ensembles to work with– our Acoustic Quartet. With Piano, Guitar, Violin, Bass and a couple of vocal things it really is an incredibly versatile ensemble. We performed live prelude music, ceremony music and cocktail hour music before handing over the “baton” to the DJ.
Our clients requested a couple of Pearl Jam tunes and Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” so I spent some time immersing myself in that music in order to write the arrangements.
We’ve been writing and performing our custom arrangements of popular music since 2002 but in recent years a few artists have really helped popularize the very style of music that we provide. These artists are violinist Lindsey Stirling, the Piano Guys– a violin and cello duo, and the Vitamin String Quartet. I’m so glad that these musical groups are out there! If you’re not familiar, check out the links below, some of my favorite songs by these groups. Beyond the usual repertoire lists and musical advice you find on wedding websites like the Knot, Youtube is a great place to get inspired and it also helps your live musicians really get a sense of what you like if you send them a link to your favorite songs.
John Legend & Lindsey Stirling~ All of Me
Also, check out our recording of the quartet performing this piece during last night’s prelude!
Here’s another of my favorites– from The Piano Guys!
The Piano Guys~ A Thousand Years (from the motion picture Twilight)
I would SO love to play with these guys. I really appreciate their musicality and they have demonstrated to 93 million YouTube viewers that instrumental covers do NOT have to become the dreaded “Elevator Music!” Oh and also how cool to have a piano in the middle of a beautiful nature setting!
The bottom line is that you should not be limited to whatever the “Wedding Sampler album of Baroque music” might have on it. While Classical music is awesome and we love playing it for weddings and elsewhere, the sky is the limit as to what you can have performed live when you work with quality musicians.
As far as our own recordings, I was really surprised when I looked at the listening stats to learn that the three most popular songs we have recorded on our demo material currently are: The Kiss from the motion picture Last of the Mohicans, Single Ladies by Beyonce, and Now We Are Free from the motion picture Gladiator. The clips are below, listing their instrumentation.
The Kiss ~ from the motion picture Last of the Mohicans
String Quartet + Vocals and Percussion
Single Ladies by Beyonce
String Trio with Guitar Percussion
Now We Are Free ~ from the motion picture Gladiator String Quartet + Vocals and Percussion
There’s that scary saying “you don’t know what you don’t know!” With weddings and planning big events, there is a lot to know and a lot to learn. To be honest, ceremony music often finds itself on the list of last minute additions. So to help you think about what the wedding ceremony standard musical moments are, we’ve compiled a little list.
PRELUDE aka Music As Your Guests Arrive:
Typically 15-30 minutes of background music. This sets the vibe of the room.
If you have a more formal ceremony in a church or similar venue, traditional classical music can be a great choice. String Trios and Quartets know a lot of great repertoire so unless you’ve got the time and desire to spend time with Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart and Dvorak, you are safe telling your musicians to play something formal, classical and beautiful.
If you’d like to set a more casual tone, prelude music is a great way to give your guests a cue that this is a laid back event. Some of our most popular choices include Beatles, Jack Johnson, etc.
A third option that is particularly great for outdoor weddings or a rustic, organic vibe is acoustic music. This can include Celtic, Americana, movie themes, basically beautiful music that doesn’t have the formality of classical yet retains its beauty.
SEATING OF FAMILY
The seating of family is usually the transition point from the prelude to the ceremony. Often cued by the entrance of the officiant and sometimes the groom, this musical moment can be short (1 minute) if only the couple’s parents or longer (up to 3) if seating other family members such as grandparents. Most people opt for something a little more traditional here but every family is different and we have plenty of Led Zeppelin in our repertoire if needed.
The bridal party entrance consists of bridesmaids, groomsmen and flower girl /ring bearer (if using.) The music for the entrance of the bridal party is often a really fun moment to bring some of your personality into the music. Few of us will soon forget that bridal party entrance to Chris Brown’s Forever. In case you missed it, 2009 was the year that changed the idea of walking down the aisle from something very straight forward to the “sky’s the limit.” With over 90 million views, this video is pretty amazing!
If you’re not quite ready to become the next youtube sensation, there are many wonderful classical choices that have stood the test of time– pieces like Canon in D also known as Pachelbel’s Canon, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, Vivaldi’s Spring and more. For a nonclassical vibe, some great choices include Viva La Vida or Clocks by Coldplay, Starlafur by Sigor Ros, La Vie en Rose by Edith Piaf, All You Need is Love or In My Life by the Beatles, My Girl by the Jackson Five and At Last by Etta James.
Here’s a clip of Effesenden’s acoustic trio doing our own rendition of Guns N Roses Sweet Child of Mine:
Another popular choice for bridal party entrance music is a movie theme. One piece that has been gaining traction the last few years is the Game of Thrones theme. Here’s a clip of Effesenden performing it a few years ago at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland.
Other popular movie themes include The Kiss from Last of the Mohicans, SHE from Notting Hill, the theme from Top Gun and more.
BRIDE or COUPLE PROCESSION
We get asked all the time if playing “Here Comes the Bride” is required. The answer is “nope!” This classic wedding piece by Richard Wagner is actually played far less frequently for a bride’s procession than you might think. In all honesty, the most popular bride’s procession in our experience is still Canon in D. Choose a song that is really meaningful to YOU. If you’re worried that guests won’t know when to stand, make sure your officiant knows to provide a cue “please rise” or have the guests seated in the very front row given a cue to stand– everyone will follow suit!
RECESSIONAL Right after you are pronounced as a married couple, this is the piece of music that plays as you, your bridal party and your family exit the ceremony venue. We typically recommend 2 songs to play so that most guests are serenaded out as well. The most traditional choice is the Wedding March from Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn, but many other songs are frequently played ranging from classical music to pop to jazz.
Above all, when choosing your ceremony music, let it reflect your style and the vibe you want to create. Don’t do a piece of music just because it’s usually done but if you love the tradition, go for it! We love helping our clients discover their perfect wedding ceremony music!
Live music is hard to quantify because so much of it has to do with the listener’s personal taste. Reviews are certainly helpful in many genres and I rely heavily on review sites when I’m shopping for things like hotels or when I’m in a new city and I want to find the best coffee. For Effesenden though, lately I’ve been less inclined to promote our ensembles on sites that are driven heavily by reviews.
Every time I work on the music for someone’s wedding, I love getting to know a little about them and their musical styles and I really want the music to be special for them. Feedback is great but when I’m reaching out over email to couples who are getting spun up on life as newlyweds…maybe knee deep in thank you cards and HOPEFULLY traveling the world together for a year before they return to “civilization” I don’t love the process of sending those pesky “Will you please review me” emails. I’d rather just let people express their thoughts as they see fit. So .. . that’s why you won’t find a lot of review sites with super recent reviews for our work at this time.
In the past, we’ve been active in these areas so if you want to leave us a review or read what some of our past clients have to say, please check out the following links:
A couple of my favorite wedding blogs are Style Me Pretty and JuneBug Weddings– several weddings we have performed at have been featured on the pages of these totally amazing wedding inspiration blogs. If for no other reason, go there and have fun looking!
A while back, I ran into one of the first brides I ever worked for. I was at the Portland Children’s Museum of all places. She caught me as we were chasing our respective kids through the maze of activity and expressed how much she had loved her wedding music– all these years later it was still with her. THAT was the best review I could have gotten, knowing that it mattered to someone all these years later.