By Guest Contributor and Bagpipe Artist: Darius Kaufmann
Bagpipes! For many, it is a sound they will never forget: The distant call of the pipes, the stirring notes of a joyful march or a lively dance tune…And who would not be impressed by the sight of a piper in full kilt! For centuries, bagpipes have been played at weddings, banquets and social occasions of all kinds. In the past few years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the pipes for weddings.
What a spectacle!
The sound and music of the pipes is stirring and uplifting, and a piper in full regalia is a beautiful sight – Imagine going to a wedding, hearing the pipes calling from a distance as you get out of your car, and then as you approach, seeing the piper in full kilt standing on the steps of the church!
If bride or groom is of Celtic ancestry, the pipes can be used to honor their heritage. This is particularly nice if there are guests or relatives there from the “old country”.
Considering the amount of money you can spend on a wedding, the bagpipes can be a very affordable way to have music – I often provide all the music for a ceremony, including Processional and Recessional, sometimes even without even a organ, and for a few hundred dollars, that’s a pretty good deal!
A picture with the piper, for both couple and guests, can be thrilling AND a great addition to the photo album.
Guaranteed to be memorable
In the end, the bagpipes can be one of the most unique and memorable parts of a wedding. I often receive the feedback that the pipes “made” the wedding — A great honor indeed, and one of the reasons pipers love doing this.
Are the Bagpipes Irish or Scottish?
They’re both! The bagpipes that most people are familiar with from St. Patrick’s Day are known as the “Highland Pipes” or “Great Pipes” (as opposed to the softer “smallpipes” and “Irish” or Uilleann” pipes.) Although often seen as a national symbol of Scotland, the bagpipes historically were in Ireland first, and are now enjoyed equally by the people of both nations.
“But I’m not Irish or Scottish!”
More and more couples from different nationalities are now incorporating bagpipes into their weddings. For example, I have played the pipes at Indian, Orthodox Jewish, Hispanic and Greek weddings, to name a few. In fact, I find that the “non-Celtic” folks often respond even more to the pipes than the Irish-Scottish crowd, because it’s new to them. The bagpipes do indeed seem to strike a common chord among people.
“What is the best time for the pipes to play?”
This is totally up to the couple! Here are some suggestions to choose from:
Before the ceremony as guests arrive: If the ceremony is at a church, the piper can play outside the entrance. If at a banquet hall, the piper can either stand outside the entrance, inside the lobby, or by the door to the ceremony room.
Processional (beginning) up the aisle: Often the piper plays one tune for the bridal party and then a different tune as the bride walks up.
Recessional (end) back down the aisle: A fun idea is a “dramatic ending”, where the piper marches up the aisle playing a march, then turns and leads the couple back down with a lively dance tune.
Briefly during the ceremony. For example, during the Unity Candle. I often play the shuttle pipes (softer “smallpipes”) or the Irish whistle (flute) during a candle lighting or Communion.
As the couple exits the church, while rice is thrown or bubbles blown! (This is where the pipes can be used as a fun surprise for either the bride or the groom). After the ceremony, as the couple greets guests or has photos taken, until guests depart.
Cocktail Hour – As guests arrive. If asked to play for the entire cocktail, I will sometimes alternate between bagpipes, smallpipes, Irish whistle and flutes – This allows me to walk among the guests with the softer instruments, and provides diversity to keep listeners’ interest.
Dinner – Generally, the piper leads the couple and/or family in for their formal entrance.
“Are the bagpipes too loud for the church?”
During the ceremony, playing the pipes for a few minutes up or down the aisle works perfectly, because you WANT a commanding sound that draws attention at those points. In the hundreds of weddings I have played, I have never received one complaint about the pipes being too loud. (If playing before or after the ceremony, the piper generally plays outside the church, or in the lobby if the ceremony is at a banquet facility.)
“What songs will the piper play?”
Any piper will have a repertoire which the couple can choose from. I offer to learn any tune requested, as long as it “fits” on the bagpipes’ 9-note scale. Most pipers can play combinations of songs, marches and dance tunes. Two examples of Non-Celtic music that work beautifully on the pipes are “Here Comes the Bride” and “Ode to Joy”.
An ancient tradition returns! More and more couples are discovering what an impressive, fun, unique, and memorable addition to their wedding day the bagpipes can be!
The Irish Whistle (aka “penny whistle” or “tin whistle”) is a small, sweet-sounding flute which can play either gentle melodies or quick dance tunes. The flute can add a lovely, intimate touch to a ceremony in quiet sections such as candle-lightings, readings, or Communion. It is also perfect for outdoor ceremonies, where it can also be played as guests are arriving. And it makes a great addition to the pipes at cocktails and receptions. (Fun fact: You can hear the whistle in the Titanic and Lord of the Rings theme songs!)
For additional information audio clips, more pictures, bio, testimonials, schedule and more see my web site or contact me any time!
Bagpipes and Celtic Music