String Quartets – 6 Step Wedding Music Guide
How much should a string quartet cost?
What sort of music will they or can they play?
Are you thinking about having a string quartet for your wedding ceremony?
We will endeavor to answers all your possible questions below. Read our simple Six Step Guide infographic. You can then delve into to our Comprehensive Guide to having a string quartet for your wedding ceremony.
1. HOW MUCH WILL A STRING QUARTET COST?
As a general rule of thumb a string quartet costs roughly €600 for a wedding ceremony. This is dependent on where the string quartet is based. If you hire a quartet for your wedding ceremony and they have to travel a significant distance to the church or venue then this will increase the cost as fuel and time will have to be factored in to the cost. Also you should consider the quality of the musicians. More established quartets will possibly charge a higher rate as they will be more sought after and will be generally of a higher standard. All this said, do shop around and seek at least three quotes to compare quartets to one another.
2.WHAT STYLE OF MUSIC ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
A good string quartet should be able to perform any piece of music or any song, so long as the sheet music is available. This could be from any style or genre of music including classical, jazz, pop or traditional music. Sheet music is available for most well-known pieces. Do contact in advance your string quartet if there is a particular song or piece of music that you would like in the wedding ceremony and you think it might be a little out of the ordinary.
3.WHAT PIECES OF MUSIC WOULD YOU LIKE?
To get an idea of what a quartet has performed in the past for the wedding ceremony, have a look at their repertoire page. You should see wedding songs and hymns there. Again a good quartet should have an extensive repertoire page where you can view their entire list. If you have a piece of music in mind but don’t see it listed on the repertoire page have a search on YouTube for string quartet arrangements. You might get some extra ideas for music that you would like played.
4.HOW MANY PIECES & WHERE DO THE PIECES GO?
Seven pieces of music should be chosen for the catholic wedding ceremony. You should be able to see sample ceremony programme on your string quartet’s website.
For a religious ceremony, pop songs should be left to the signing of the register – because the mass is over at this stage, and the priest shouldn’t have a problem with it. Or pop songs could be played at the beginning of the mass when the bride walks down the aisle (the processional) or at the very end (the recessional). Modern songs that might be considered as pop, such as You Raise Me Up (Josh Groban) or The Prayer (Céline Dion) would be fine at any stage during the ceremony, because they have religious lyrics.
Apart from that last point in relation to pop/modern songs, there aren’t really any other restrictions – but common sense should prevail, of course. Classical or traditional music pieces/songs are fine at any stage. And of course hymns could be played at any stage during the ceremony.
Processional: A piece of music that is upbeat, quick, and has a bit of rythm, is usually more appropriate for the processional (entrance) or the recessional (exit), as opposed to say at the communion. An example would be ‘Spring from The Four Seasons’, which you can listen to on the repertoire page. Popular choices here are Pachelbel’s Canon in D and Lohengrin’s Wedding March.
Occasionally a bride will have a large procession into the church i.e. flower girls, pageboys, and bridesmaids. And it might take some time for all of these people to make their way up to the altar. So sometimes people think it might be necessary to have two pieces of music – one for the bride, and one for everybody else. However, there is only need to choose one piece of music. Most pieces of music are long enough, and if necessary on the day, the string quartet will be able to extend out whatever piece, song or hymn has been chosen.
[Generally, there is no need to choose anything for either candle ceremony – the unity candle or the single candles – this is such a short piece of time that a full length piece of music wouldn’t fit in. Your quartet will simply play some background music, and will adjust the length of the piece on the day to suit the amount of time it actually takes to light the candles.]
Offertory: This is the part of the ceremony where normally the mothers of the bride’s will bring the gifts of the bread and wine up to the altar. The actualy time for this varies but the priest normally carries on with the ceremony while the music is being played in the background. Some suggestions here would be Clair de Lune (C. Debussy), Air on a G String (J.S. Bach) and Ave Maria (C. Gounod)
Communion: Two pieces of music should be selected for the communion. Occasionally there will be a very large congregation at the wedding ceremony i.e. 300 people. So communion will take more time than usual. However, two pieces of music are most of the time sufficient. The string quartet will make a decision on the day as to whether a third piece is necessary. If so they should be able to choose a piece – so no need to choose a third communion piece.
Signing of the registry: For the singing of the registry you are advised to select two pieces of music. At this point the ceremony itself is actually over so you are free to select whatever piece of music you like. So if there’s a special piece of music that you would like played but might not be suitable during the ceremony itself this would be the perfect time to have your quartet play it for you.
Recessional: Again, a piece of music that is upbeat and has a good rhythm to it is best for the recessional (the exit) from the church. Popular selections here are the Arrival of the Queen of Sheeba (Handle) or the Wedding March (Mendelssohn). Don’t be afraid to select a piece of music that you like rather than going with the popular choices. It is your wedding day after all and you want to make it personal to yourselves.
5.PRIOR ARRANGEMENTS THAT NEED TO BE MADE FOR THE CHURCH
A space for four chairs – without arms – available for the string quartet’s use. This space should be approximately 3 metres by 2 metres to allow sufficient space for the quartet play.
You should ensure that the church is open an hour before the wedding ceremony begins. If there is a gallery (choir balcony), this should also be open (or at least the key, if it is locked, should be made available). You will need to arrange this with the church sacristan or the priest.
Sometimes it is better, in terms of acoustics and sound, that the string quartet is positioned to the side of the altar – sometimes it is better up in the gallery. Your string quartet will make a decision on the day to where to position themselves. Some quartet may bring their own amplification and will use it if necessary. Normally there is no need to arrange microphones or speakers with the church.
If you have booked a singer to accompany the string quartet, eight pieces of music should be chosen. The eight piece of music will be the responsorial psalm, sung by the singer. This hymn is sung between the first and second readings. Also the singer will sing the Allelulia (except during Lent, which is usually between February and April), bringing the total number of music pieces to nine. The Alleluia need not be chosen by the coulple. The singer will normally choose their own Alleluia.
There is wedding ceremony guide on the website of ChurchMusic.ie, which is more specific to having singers. Please click here to view it.
You may also decide to hire an organist to add some contrast for the music for your ceremony. Your string quartet should be able to recommend one for you and make all necessary arrangements with them. If there is no piano in the church your pianist/organist brings normally will bring their own electric stage piano/organ, which is as good if not better than most church organs – which are mostly electric anyway. If the church has a full well-serviced pipe organ, the organist may use that instead.
A very small number of church’s insist that their resident organist is employed for the ceremony – and that no outsider is used.
This does not cause a problem, as the organist who plays with your string quartet will bring his own electric stage piano/organ, and doesn’t have to play the church’s – so no fee is due to the resident organist, nor is there an obligation to use the resident organist – simply because the church’s organ will not be used.