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The role of the Harp (and the Saxophone!) in Irish Weddings

By Guest Blogger and Professional Harpist in Ireland, Sarah McVeigh.




 

The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and is synonymous with Irish music, folklore, and culture. For couples looking for a traditional Irish wedding with a Celtic feel, the Harp is the perfect instrument for this

 

Sarah McVeigh has 15 years' experience in the wedding music industry plying her trade as a solo singer/harpist and as part of the award-winning wedding band, Funk ‘N’ Disorderly.


 



 

 

POPULAR GENRES AND SONGS  


A few genres really stick out to me as becoming more popular in recent times; with the rise of movies and tv shows being filmed in Ireland, couples are increasingly interested in hearing their favourite theme songs performed live. For example, the Game of Thrones theme is a very popular choice for couples from the US. As well as this, couples are choosing to have their favourite film and game soundtracks played on harp. 

The most popular themes I’ve learnt for couples recently include, Concerning Hobbits from Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park theme, Toss a Coin To Your Witcher from The Witcher, and For the Love of a Princess from Braveheart. I personally, really enjoy learning these types of song requests and enjoy seeing the guests try and recognise where they have heard the song before! 


Other movie and game themes I have learnt include Across the Stars from Star Wars, Married Life from Up, Songs from The Legend of Zelda, Harry Potter, and even songs in different languages such as Suteki De Ne (Korean) from Final Fantasy, and Itsumo Nando Demo (Japanese) from Spirited Away. I have also learnt songs in Irish for couples looking for a very Irish themed wedding. 


I have found the most popular weddings songs of 2023 were:


●       I Get to Love You, Ruelle (Popular for entrance)

●       I Choose You, Ryan Darling (Popular for entrance)

●       Take My Hand, Picture This (Popular for exit)


Wedding songs that are always popular and have been for years:


●       Can’t Help Falling in Love, Elvis Presley (Popular for entrance)

●       Pachelbel’s Canon (Popular for entrance)

●       You’re Still the One, Shania Twain (Popular for entrance)

●       This I Promise You, Ronan Keating (Popular for signing the register)

●       Dreams, The Cranberries (Popular for exit)

●       Stand By Me, Ben E.King (Popular for signing the register)

●       A Thousand Years, Christina Perri (Popular for signing the register)

 


THE 90’s ARE BACK!


With Girls Aloud, The Sugababes, and Busted all reuniting in 2023, there’s no better time than now to embrace those 90’s guilty pleasures! People who grew up in the 90’s have reached that age where they are getting married or at least know someone who is. I’ve seen a lot of brides and grooms in their early 30’s who want to incorporate some of that nostalgia from their youth into their wedding. One way they are doing this is through their music choices. Here are some recent 90’s songs I’ve been asked to learn for weddings:


-Kiss Me, Sixpence None The Richer

-Runaway, The Corrs

-Truly, Madly, Deeply, Savage Garden

-Kiss From a Rose, Seal

-2 Become 1, Spice Girls

-All My Life, K-Ci & Jojo


I’ve also heard lots of Westlife being played by the DJ at wedding after parties!




 

THE HARP’S GROWING POPULARITY  


Ireland is becoming more and more popular for a destination wedding with couples from abroad, whether planned years in advance or a last-minute elopement, Ireland appeals to lots of people from all over the world. Alongside this, the Harp is growing very popular as the instrument of choice for Irish weddings. 


The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and is synonymous with Irish music, folklore, and culture. For couples looking for a traditional Irish wedding with a Celtic feel, the Harp is the perfect instrument for this. Music on the harp can be emotive, delicate and very romantic. Most harpists will be able to play a mix of genres to suit all...from traditional Irish music, Irish ballads, Celtic music, and film music. As well as this, most harpists will be able to play modern music on the harp for that Bridgerton feel of classic traditional meets modern. 

The Harp not only sounds beautiful but looks beautiful too and definitely adds an elegant feel to your ceremony! It can also convey a very relaxing and ethereal atmosphere and help calm those nerves before the service. As a harpist myself, I find a lot of guests are always surprised and impressed when seeing a harpist perform as a lot of people will have never seen a harpist before.


Just picture this...you’re getting married in an old Irish castle, surrounded by the luscious green countryside...you’re about to walk down the aisle and hear the beautiful harp strings plucking your favourite song...perfect 😊

 



 

FULL DAY MUSIC PACKAGES


Recently, I’ve seen a lot of couples choose a full day music package with the same supplier. This means the same supplier will take care of the full day from ceremony to the end of the night. This helps keep costs down as most suppliers will offer discounts for booking the full day with them, and it means you only have 1 deposit to pay instead of 3 or 4 with different suppliers. 


I find it’s a lot easier for the couple to communicate with one supplier regarding their music as it means they can completely tailor their day to suit them, and it ensures the whole day will run smoothly and seamlessly. I find it also makes things more personal as you can really get to know your couple and their taste in music. Recently, couples have decided to book my full day musical package and a popular day will consist of:


Pre-ceremony & ceremony – Harp and Vocals

Drinks reception – Acoustic guitar and vocals (Live Longue style)

After dinner – Full 6-piece band 

End of night – DJ/DJ & Sax

 


DAY 2 Wedding Celebrations


A huge trend in weddings in 2023 was the rise of the Day 2 Celebrations. I am a huge fan of day 2 celebrations, if you have the budget why not extend the party another day?! For a lot of couples, their big day often goes by in a blur, the second day celebrations give couples a chance to relax a bit. There’s less pressure, it’s more intimate and anyone who missed your big day can show up for the day 2. 


For the music, I’ve seen couples go for a band in the garden playing background music, trad bands playing Irish music almost like a pub session, singer-guitarists that you’d find in your favourite pub and ‘Ibiza style’ saxophones and DJ’s. It really depends on the tastes of the couple, but I find the saxophone/DJ option works well. The vibes are chilled out, it's all very low key, the music is more in the background which gives guests a chance to talk and just hang out. There’s something really special about a day 2 wedding in the summer, outdoors under a marque, sipping cocktails and listening to some smooth saxophone beats. That brings me to my next observation in recent wedding music trends...the saxophone!

 

 

RISE OF THE SAXOPHONE


Another popular instrument I’ve seen at a lot of weddings in 2023 is the saxophone. Wedding platform ‘Encore’ predict that the Saxophone will be the ‘must have’ instrument at weddings in 2024. The saxophone is a versatile instrument; whether it’s classic jazz standards, modern covers, or Ibiza tunes, the saxophone can bring a refreshing and unique sound to your wedding. 


As well as this, saxophonists are mobile and can walk around with their instrument, interacting with your guests encouraging them to dance and enjoy the music. The saxophone is perfect for drinks receptions, after dinner entertainment, and day 2 celebrations. To keep up with the trend, I’ve teamed up with a saxophonist to provide up-beat vocals and sax beats at drinks receptions. The set is very adaptable, and we can do pop covers, funk and soul, Motown and more. Our DJ and Sax package is very popular for the end of the night celebrations, the saxophone can add smooth soulful sounds and captivate the crowd with their energetic performance. It makes for non-stop entertainment where guests are always engaged.


 



 

 

JUKE BOX STYLE DRINKS RECEPTION


This is a very recent trend I’ve seen at weddings in couples who are looking for something different and unique. It usually takes place during the drinks reception which are those couple of hours in between the ceremony and meal. It works in a few different ways:


1.     Before your wedding, ask your guests to pick their favourite song, the musician will then have a list of all your guests’ favourite songs to play for them on the day.


2.     The musician has a list of songs covering lots of different genres and the guests can come up and pick one to be played live on the day.


3.     Slightly more modern: the musician has a QR code leading to their online setlist, and the guests can pick their requests via the QR code which then gets sent to the musician. 

This only works if your drinks reception musician can play lots of different genres of music, and if they have a large repertoire of songs to choose from. It’s an interesting and fun way of keeping those hungry guests entertained before dinner! Personally, I’ve done this once before and it was a lot of fun for myself and the crowd. I’ve had requests from ‘Caledonia’ to ‘Nothing else Matters’, ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’ to ‘Sweet Caroline’!

 



 

 

Not your typical wedding bands  


People are moving away from the usual rotations... Mr Brightside. Wagon Wheel. Footloose. Songs of that variety may get the dancefloor jammed at the local pub on a Saturday night, but for the modern couple looking for an individualised and bespoke wedding experience, the ‘tried and tested’ has become the ‘stale and cliched’.


Being part of a modern wedding band, we get requests all the time from couples who are looking for something different, not cheesy...something unique. Brides and grooms don’t want to hear the same music that was played at their best friends' wedding, or their guests' wedding. 


Funk ‘N’ Disorderly have a unique line-up of instruments including trumpet and saxophone, we offer modern couples something different; a non-stop party, a dancefloor constantly filled with people grooving out to the best funk, soul, disco and Motown hits. 

  

 



 

 

Sarah McVey

 

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