A Guide to Traditional Wedding Music: Mendelssohn's ‘Wedding March’

February 08, 2013


 

As suppliers of entertainment for weddings, we’ve heard it all when it comes to wedding music. From Steel Bands to acoustic covers of Wild Thing, but by far the most popular options for wedding ceremony music remain the old favourites and that’s what we’ve been covering in this series of blogs. Last time we looked at Pachelbel’s Canon and saw how an almost forgotten piece of music became one of the most popular accompaniments to wedding ceremonies of all time. This week, we’re looking at another perennial wedding favourite; Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7_m1om82o4

Born to a wealthy banking family in Berlin, Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy – or Felix Mendelssohn as he’s better known – wasn’t just a talented composer. Mendelssohn spoke a number of languages as a child and was even a talented painter. His privileged background gave him plenty of advantages when it came to composing music, with his father hiring private orchestras so that young Felix could hear his music as he composed it. By the age of 15, Mendelssohn had composed his first symphony – whereas most of us were probably struggling with acne and deciphering Shakespeare in GCSE English.

 Turns out young Mendelssohn had no problem with that either. It’s well known that The Wedding March appears in Mendelssohn’s most famous work A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but perhaps less well known is the fact that Mendelssohn had two cracks at composing music for his favourite Shakespeare play; the first, a concerto when he was 17 years old and the second as incidental music for a production of the play in 1842, years before his death.

The Wedding March made its first appearance in the latter composition as the ‘intermezzo’ between acts IV and V (which, as you’d have guessed even if you didn’t study it at GCSE, features a wedding feast) and is reprised in the epilogue. In Western weddings the piece is often used as a ‘recessional’ to close the church service, the fanfare that begins the piece effectively introducing the married couple to the guests.

 Though the marriage of Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, oldest daughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Frederick William Prince of Prussia is often cited as the point at which the march became popular, the piece was first performed at a wedding over a decade earlier in Tiverton where Dorothy Carew wed Tom Daniel at St Peter’s Church. Sadly, Mr and Mrs Daniel couldn’t quite match the royals in terms of influence and following the royal wedding in 1858, the piece became a fixture at weddings.

Keep an eye on the blog for more posts on wedding music, and if you’re looking to hire musicians for a wedding – head over to our contact page and get in touch.

By Alice Chorley