If you think a live wedding orchestra is the kind of thing only Prince Harry and Meghan Markle can afford, We’ve got good news for you: a wedding orchestra doesn’t actually have to cost an arm and a leg. The key is to understand how you can get the classic orchestral sound with just two or three string instruments.
Here’s a guide to bringing the sound of strings to your wedding without having to marry a prince.
Wedding Orchestra vs. Chicago Symphony Orchestra
First, let’s clarify some terminology here. The idea of a “wedding orchestra” can scare away some people (e.g., some generous parent-type people who might be helping to pay) because they immediately think of, say, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). We get it: the CSO has 109 members and tickets to see them aren’t cheap (though definitely worth it, if that’s your thing!).
A wedding orchestra, on the other hand, typically has two, three, or four people:
Even better: the number of people depends largely on what kind of music you want, how you want it to sound, and whether you want pure instrumentals or some vocals on top. Fortunately, Gussied can put together lots of custom wedding music options for you. As several of our players as classically trained, see Gussied's Kevin Smith, string instruments lend themselves well to romantic and beautiful ceremony music.
Another perk of having just a handful of musicians: most venues (including churches) can easily accommodate them. So whether you’re thinking of strings music to accompany your ceremony, cocktail hour, or dinner, the setup is typically a breeze. Also if you choose to work with us for your reception, it’s always a nice surprise for guests two see the “bluegrassical” duo change gears with a six piece full band for the reception!
Examples of Wedding Orchestra Music
So what does a two- or three-piece orchestra sound like? Glad you asked.
Here’s a recording of the Gussied orchestra section playing “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire,” a Bach wedding classic that you may not realize you totally know until you hear it. We arranged this for the processional of a ceremony (when the wedding party is walking in). It’s stately and mellow and a really beautiful, classic choice for a wedding.
We also play a lot of our music with a nod to bluegrass, so we’re happy to arrange music to have that irreverent, bluegrass lilt to it, as we did with this version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” We played this for the recessional when the happy couple danced out of their ceremony (and yes, they were literally dancing. It was great).
And finally, here’s “Staralfur” a song by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros that we arranged for strings. The song was really important to the couple’s relationship, and they wanted to walk down the aisle to an orchestral version. We were happy to comply (it sounds pretty gorgeous on strings, if we do say so ourselves).
All of these songs are arranged for two pieces: guitar and violin.
Choosing a Live Orchestra: 4 Questions to Ask
Thinking live orchestra music might be the right move for your wedding? When you talk to musicians you’re thinking of hiring, be sure to ask these questions:
Will you arrange music for us? How many songs? This is important if you want something like the Sigur Ros number above: it’s important to establish right away whether the musicians will arrange new music for your event.
Will you learn new songs for us? Most groups (Gussied included) have a stable of music they know well. And most groups are happy to learn new music for your ceremony. But be sure to ask. Generally speaking, learning a new orchestral arrangement is easier than arranging a non-orchestral song. So it’s reasonable that a group will arrange one song from scratch but learn two or three new ones.
What songs should we have? We are so happy to answer this! If you have one song you know you want (say, an arrangement of a song that’s important to you two) but aren’t sure what the rest of the night should sound like, we’ve got a ton of suggestions. That’s the benefit of working with folks who have been working in the wedding industry for years: we know what sounds good in a downtown loft or church or barn or field.
Do we need a bass player? A vocalist? If you’ve got a musical background, you probably don’t need to ask this because you’ll have a sense of what arrangements will sound like with the various orchestral pieces. But if you aren’t musically inclined, ask the musicians what they recommend for the music you’ve chosen. The last thing you want is for your perfect song to sound too light because there’s no bass player. Gussied is always happy to talk through your ideas and find the right music package for you.
How much will it cost? Not that we need to remind you, but it is important to establish this once you’ve got an idea of how many people you want playing, how much music you want them to learn, and for how much of your celebration you want them to play. Most bands don’t post prices online precisely because these variables make it tricky to offer a “standard” cost. So if you’re curious about how to bring the classic orchestral sound to your wedding, send a note to Gussied today.