I recently had the pleasure of playing during a wedding ceremony followed by an evening party with Festival Heart at a separate wedding.
The first was in a church near Bristol, the second not far from Plymouth. It's a long time to spend on the road but the good news is, I didn't burst into flames upon entering a church.
When planning the logistics of such an eventful day it's important to bear in mind that for most people, a wedding is one of the most important days of their lives. So after booking a budget hotel for the evening, filling up the car, making a playlist of all the songs I've had to learn to rehearse on the journey I set off and arrived at Winscombe Church, stupidly early, as always.
As much as I love church ceremonies, I always feel a little uneasy when all the gates and doors are locked with no sign of anyone upon arrival. Which surprisingly happens quite often.
Only after absconding a dog walker did I feel better when it was confirmed that this was in fact the only church in Winscombe and there definitely was a wedding ceremony at 1:00.
First win of the day.
After waiting a little while, I was able to enter the church to set up and run through a few of the requests the Bride and Groom had for their service which included a few vocal songs for during the register signing. This sound-check time is the best time to play all my favourite songs in a venue with perfect sound quality and beautiful acoustics.
I actually held back this time and didn't play Smack My Bitch Up or Milkshake by Kelis.
But I wanted to.
With hymns, prayers, readings, vows and various reasons to stand or bow or kneel or sit or clap, a religious ceremony can last up to an hour, so when the first guests started arriving at 12:30, I knew I had to get comfortable.
Always make an effort to speak to your musician. It really does make a difference when a groom goes out of his way to say hello and ask how you are. A simple handshake will make who ever you've hired feel a part of the wedding rather than a forgotten necessity.
Mat knew this. Thanks Mat.
The ceremony itself was a refreshing mix of tradition and audience participation, It was made clear in the introduction that by no means would anyone leave the ceremony without feeling like they've had a part in it. And it worked.
All the wedding guests were answering the vicars questions in unison as well as singing all the hymns.
A different register signing
This is the part where I play two or three songs as background music to give the audience something to listen to and ensure there are no gaps or lulls in the ceremony. On this occasion it became clear that rather than quietly talking amongst themselves, everyone was listening intently. It was a shock to receive an applause because I usually watch for a signal to finish by the vicar or registrar. This time, everyone was waiting for me.
As I finished their song to walk out of the church, I was treated to another round of applause by the remaining guests waiting to file out of the church and I felt a little bit bad that I had to leave so quickly. I was in the car and gone before I had a chance to introduce myself officially to the bride and wish them both the best.
I was on a tight schedule, I had a 2 hour drive to the next venue and had to check into my hotel on my way through.
*Videographer for the wedding was Ben from 'A Perfect Memory.' I'm really looking forward to seeing more of his work. For more information about Ben and all the other suppliers for the wedding, you can find more information on his Facebook page.
I've always liked hotels, I like not having to clean up after myself and having a lay in in the morning so I rolled up to the Travel Lodge in the Exeter services feeling quite excited.
Still dressed in my formal shirt, tie and waist coat. I could have been a jet setting international beard wax salesman. Instead, I was a lonely wedding bloke checking in to speed eat a plastic covered sweating ham salad sandwich and crisps.
After I shook off the initial feeling of a lonely travelling musician, I hit the road.
The Evening Party
New Barton Farm
It was foggy in Wembury, and very wet. My satnav took me straight to the venue with no issues and upon arrival, I met the rest of the band who had mixed feelings about me staying in a hotel.
On one hand, I was able to go to sleep 3+ hours earlier than them.
On the other hand, I paid a big chunk of my pay for the privilege.
Being the oldest in the band, I don't have the luxury of sleeping all day like the other three teenage dribblers so it's an early night for me.
We played in a converted barn which had really cool portholes embedded in the walls to reveal a view of the winding coast. We couldn't see it though, because it was so foggy, I was half expecting to be torn apart by mutant nurses (Silent Hill reference).
We started the night with Lovely day by Bill Withers for the first dance and from the get go, everyone
was on the dance floor. We had an absolute ball and as the night went on and the audience drank more. We started to see the usual wedding party sights-
Tie round the head - check
Barn dance style hoe-down - check
Bride and groom lift in the air dance - check
Extremely sweaty man screaming and playing my music stand like a piano.... Yeah, that's a new one. But whatever floats your goat.
It was an absolute pleasure to be part of such a fun crowd and I'm so glad that even though the 'lawn games' sign looked a little miserable, the weather made no difference to everyone's ability to have a good time.
I do not envy my other band members for getting in around the time I got up but at least they weren't eating crisps in a single hotel bed at 2:00am, questioning life and feeling more like David Brent every time a crum falls on their half unbuttoned shirt.
Rock n roll.