Confessions of a Wedding Singer

At my sister’s wedding in 2007

A professional musician is supposed to be ready for anything, so that no matter what happens, the wedding goes off smoothly. You’re supposed to leave your concerns at the door–this day isn’t about you, after all; you’re an employee.

But sometimes, life butts in.

There was that day when we were playing my cousin’s wedding, and my firstborn toddler, who had a sinus infection, was crying with his aunt a few rows away. So we brought him over to the music area. My uncle, the father of the bride, got up to sing the Ave Maria with Christian on piano and me playing harmony on my flute.

There’s some disagreement about what happened next. When Alex made a break for freedom via the alley beside the piano, Christian remembers hurling a foot out to block his way; I remember lunging forward and grabbing him with my right hand while I held some note that only required the left hand. We were trying not to make a scene, but, well, there’s no hiding something like that.

There was the time Nicholas, who was two or three months old and thus accompanying us to the wedding, decided it was time to nurse just as I stood up to go sing the psalm. Christian spent that psalm playing piano with two hands and one foot while the other rocked the car seat.

There was the day when I felt my voice preparing to crack as I headed for a high note on the psalm, and I managed to pull back in time to stop it…at the cost of a severe, uncontrollable coughing fit that lasted the duration of the psalm, which Christian finished out for me from the piano. (I felt terrible about that one.)

This weekend, the big football game started mid-afternoon; a much-needed storm moved in just before 3, when we were due at the campus chapel to get set up for a wedding. There were a lot of wet tuxedos entering the building, and a low, distant rumble of thunder. We played the prelude and the mothers walked in…and Christian’s iPhone, sitting on top of the old upright Steinway, dinged loudly.

(I guess I didn’t mention it’s a work phone, did I? Texts on Saturday afternoon = bad news for a university PR guy.)

I could see his entire body tense as his two jobs went to war with each other, but it was a short-lived struggle; the bridesmaids were ready to come in. He reached up and hit the “mute” on the phone.

I sidled around the piano and looked at the message:

They evacuated the stadium for lightning. Do you have a phone # for ____?

I whispered the message to Christian, who tensed further. “I do, but it’s on that card in my wallet in my back pocket. I’ll play the processional. You text him.”

(Actually, I don’t think he said most of that, but the advantage of playing weddings with your spouse is the mind-reading.)

Well, this particular chapel is set up with the musicians behind a vertical-wood-paneled screen, so he started the Canon in D and shifted his weight while I reached into his back pocket and started wriggling the wallet out.

And then he hit THAT NOTE. The note in which it becomes painfully clear to everyone in the room that the piano has not been tuned. We both froze. “FORGET IT!” hissed Christian. “PLAY!”

You all knew that weddings involved drama, but did you ever know how much happened behind the scenes?