Why I Love Playing Weddings
by Dennis Winge
A wedding is a couple’s event of a lifetime, one that they will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives. When a musician like me is hired to perform for such a magnanimous occasion, I feel it is an honor that the bride and groom trust me to deliver exactly what they want. It is a privilege to be given such a significant amount of control over the energetic direction of such an important event.
Then again, everything is yin and yang, like Lau Tzu writes in the Tao Te Ching, “whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.” In other words, a good band leader doesn’t attempt to control a crowd. Rather, he observes their collective energy and responds to it musically. A good band leader always seems to know the perfect song for each moment simply because he is reading into the moment and giving it a perfect song.
If this sounds too mystical for you, note that some of this process is formulaic. You start out typically with more subtle repertoire, and gradually build. You take it down during dinner, then really get in their faces during the after-dinner dancing, only to wind down gently at the end. Yet while events do frequently take on similar shapes, every event is completely different, and, for my bands at least, we never play the same sets, or even the same songs, from one event to the next.
I personally enjoy the ebb and flow of an event, and I enjoy having a huge repertoire and a band of very versatile musicians who are ready to switch things up on a dime if necessary. I not only enjoy playing songs we love, and that the bride and groom love, and that the guests love, but I also enjoy sculpting out the entire engagement from the first note to the last. I like balancing the predictability of a structured event as well as the spontaneity of taking requests, letting a guest of honor sing or sit in with the band, or going in an unexpected direction.
When one has 30 years of performing experience as I do and you’ve played everything from punk to reggae, from classical to jazz, and you’re surrounded by first rate musicians, you’re truly ready for anything. Being a wedding musician enables me to draw upon the length and breadth of my experience and direct it to make people happy; hopefully extremely happy.
When we play a wedding, the wearing of our best suits, the ultra-friendly and professional demeanor with which we treat all guests and staff, the preparation we have devoted, and the scale of compensation we receive are all a testimony to the value the couple and their guests will have received and will always remember. Truly for me, there is no greater and more satisfying win-win performing situation.