Outdoor Weddings — the Joys and Sorrows

JH Wind blownI don’t do outdoor weddings. Weather can wreak havoc. But when my nephew asked me to play for his wedding I responded with a heartfelt resounding, “yes!” To say I was blown away by the ceremony is an understatement.

Duo in E-Flat Major for Viola and Cello, WoO 32, “Mint 2 obligaten Augenglasern” (With 2 Eyeglasses)

The couple and I decided on the music after a flurry of emails went back-and-forth over several weeks— while the wedding party lined up I would play Béla Bartók’s Roumanian Folk Dances, during the ceremony I would play Beethoven “Eyeglasses” Duo for Viola and Cello as well as a traditional wedding song. For the bride, we’d play her personal favorite Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed. I was fortunate to elicit the services of a colleague who plays both violin and viola.

Paul McCartney : Maybe I’m Amazed

The venue, a golf club, was out of town. Not having seen the place or the length of the aisle, I walked up and down the hallway at our home thinking that perhaps 10 seconds per person for the bridal party to walk to the front might be a good estimate.

Taking into account switching the sheet music in between, I timed each piece over and over. I was convinced that I had it down. I specified that we needed two flat-bottomed chairs, space to play and a tent to shield us from the sun.

The day of the wedding the rain predicted didn’t materialize. I arrived early to the venue to scope out the arrangements but no one in charge was in sight. In my long dress and high heels I climbed the 18 stone steps going back-and-forth, up and down trying to find someone to speak to.

Although it was a gloriously sunny day, the wind had reached epic proportions. To top it off, the seating was perched on the top of a hill creating a wind vortex. My heart sank. There was a flimsy tent erected to shelter us and it was situated at the back of several rows of white folding chairs. It was teetering perilously, one of the four poles dislodged and in the air. It danced furiously and threatened to collapse at any moment.

Finally I found the wedding planners and suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea for us to be able to see the wedding party marching up the aisle, to watch the ceremony and be heard! Could we be moved up to the front? Reluctantly they agreed to move us but there was no way to move the tent covering without putting us on the grass of the golf course and risk being bonked by a golf ball.

Imagine playing in a hurricane! There was nothing to do to secure the music or the music stand. The pages flopped; the stand toppled our hair swirled. To hold onto our instruments and music even before the wedding we lunged and pirouetted. An employee hurried over with a handful of large rubber bands and four paper clips. I added two or three hairpins to the mix. Soon one of my pages flew away — fortunately the Bartók, which I could play from memory. The violist had multiple single pages and they dangled, flailed.

I signaled my husband in desperation. He moved to the seat right in front of me and held my music unwittingly obscuring some of the notes on the page. But that didn’t matter much with the sun beating down on us. I was blinded anyway. My glasses had turned a dark grey.

Playing in the Wind

No one thought to inform me that the wedding party would be taken by golf cart into the forest. Their walk was a long distance to get to the wedding aisle. All my fussing about timing was for naught. The groomsmen and bridesmaids trudged against the strong wind up the hill through the trees dresses billowing, stiletto heels plunging into the grass.

We started the Beethoven. The journey was taking much longer than anticipated. I couldn’t see the bridal party so I shouted, “let’s play it again from the top!”

As a surprise to the bride, bridegroom and the bride’s grandmother, who played the mandolin in a woman’s mandolin orchestra, we had arranged one of the pieces for cello and mandolin. I mentioned to the wedding planners several times that we needed a few moments not only to re-secure the music between pieces but also for my colleague to switch instruments. Perhaps the wind made her nervous! As we struggled with our hair clips and rubber bands, buffeted in the gale, she sent the wedding participants down the aisle completely ignoring us.

Somehow the participants got to the front and the bride and groom exchanged their vows. The canopy gyrated. We baked. I didn’t mind a tan. My concern was for my cello of course. My colleague handed me a large scarf from her violin case and I draped it over the top of the cello to protect it from the sun.

The ceremony was every parent’s dream —the marriage between two wonderful young people, she a lawyer and he a doctor and the rings didn’t even fly away.

As the ceremony ended, we played our last piece with lots of hoopla. Then everyone disappeared anxious to get to the food. We were left high and dry to unravel the elastic bands, paper and hair clips, pack our instruments, fold our three stands, retrieve the music that had blown down into the rough on the golf course and to manage all our equipment while negotiating the stone steps in long dresses and high heels. We straggled inside somewhat embarrassed. As we made our way my husband said, “Well this is the first time I’ve ever been a music stand!”

How could it possibly have sounded any good with all that scrambling and lunging for the music? I was surprised to hear that our playing genuinely moved the guests.

I don’t do outdoor weddings. I’m convinced that’s a decision I’ll stick with, at least until my nieces get married!

Bartok Roumanian dances Starker

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