A brief guide on adding a wedding service bagpiper to your celebration
In my time in Houston and Texas as a bagpiper, I am often asked for advice on when and how the bagpipes are used at a wedding. Many people are familiar with a bagpiper at a wedding but are unfamiliar with the traditions or options they may have for their event. If you have any questions not answered below feel free to contact me. Cheers!
In maximizing the services of a bagpiper at a wedding service, reception, or even a rehearsal dinner, a few main factors should be considered
- Where should the piper play;
- When should the piper play; and
- What should the piper play
As a brief synopsis, the following are quick suggestions for incorporating bagpipes into a wedding celebration.
- Outside as guests arrive;
- Precede the bride into the hall or church;
- Precede the bridal party into the hall or church:
- Play one or more selections at some point during the service;
- Pipe the newlyweds out of the church or hall;
- Play at the end of the service as the guests leave;
- Play outside the church or hall as the guests leave;
- Welcome the newlywed couple into the reception;
- Provide entertainment music for the reception;
Where Should the Piper Play?
Couples typically have a bagpiper play at one or more of the following locales.
- At the rehearsal;
- At the church or hall;
- At the reception
When Should the Piper Play?
There is great flexibility depending on the desires of the couple. The following provides some
suggestions based on the location.
At a Church or place of service
Before the Service – A bagpiper can be used very effectively as guests arrive to create an air of
joy and happiness, particularly if guests are expected to arrive within a fairly short period of time (for instance, 15-20 minutes before a service begins). Additionally, the piper can meet a bridal party, if appropriate and start the processional of the service and lead them to either to the front door of the service or in through the congregants.
During the Service – Bagpipe music can be used throughout the service as the couple desires. One or more selections, such as Skye Boat Song, may be played at an appropriate time during the service.
Bagpipes can also be played ensemble with a pipe-organ or as a prelude to a choral.
At the end of the Service – The piper can lead the newlyweds and their retinue back down the aisle and out the door of the church. If the couple desires, the piper can play near the door as the guests leave. Additionally, a piper can stand nearby the entrance of a reception if it follows the service.
After the Service – When the service concludes, the piper will usually play an upbeat tune as the guests leave the chapel.
What should the Piper Play?
Scotland the Brave is perhaps the best-known, and most popular, composition performed on the bagpipe. However, there is a vast repertoire of appropriate music for wedding services. Hymns and Marches are the most appropriate type of music to play for a processional where 6/8 Marches, Reels, or Jigs with their upbeat swing make excellent recessional pieces. In addition songs of any nature may be performed during the service if requested.
Here is a list of tunes commonly played at weddings. Samples can be found by an internet search of each title:
- Ode to Joy
- Highland Cathedral
- Highland Wedding
- Scotland the Brave
- The Skye Boat Song
- Wedding March ~ Lohengrin R. Wagner
- Flower of Scotland
- Amazing Grace
- Athol Highlanders
- Bonnie Dundee
- Teribus ye Teri Oden
Many other special requests for music can usually be accommodated. However, it must be noted that the Bagpipe is not a fully chromatic instrument. A highly qualified professional musician should inform a couple if their musical request may sound different than they might expect due to this. However, all requests should and can be accommodated whenever possible. The individual needs of the couple should always be taken into consideration.