Monday, October 15, 2012

Singing in a humanist ceremony

Dean Martin, he knows a good singalong song!
When I meet wedding couples there's one element of the wedding they usually have very strong feelings about: singing! Many are adamant that the thought of communal signing is cringeworthy, whereas others feel that a sing song will add to the joy of the ceremony and give everyone a way to contribute.

My own personal opinion is that I like singing but only when it's done in an (almost) foolproof way. So if you like the idea of communal singing at your ceremony here are some things to consider.

Is the song easy to sing? You'd be amazed at how many popular songs aren't designed for communal singing. Hymns are composed for this purpose but pop music rarely is. One song that many couples ask about which is a no-no is Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles, it just doesn't work as the melody of the verse is too weird. If you can imagine singing a song on a football terrace chances are it will work for your wedding. You're looking for an easy melody and steady rhythm.

Is it a song everyone knows? You can't pick anything obscure and a song for everyone to sing has to cross the generational divide too.

Are your guests enthusiastic types? You have to be up for a bit of fun for a singalong and there has to be plenty of you to make a good sound. Nine out of ten times I usually make sure the guests are standing to sing. I never suggest they just sing along 'if they feel like it'.

What are you going to sing along to? Most people play the original song nice and loud and we sing to that but if someone has a guitar or plays the piano that works well providing they lead the singing too.

One effective compromise is that a singer or little choir sing the verse and everyone else joins in on the chorus. This happened at a recent wedding where a group of the bride and groom's friends sang Happy Together by The Turtles and we all joined in for the easy parts. It was even done with no backing music at all.

At another ceremony all the guests had come up from England where legal Humanist weddings aren't legal yet, so as the marriage was in an old ruined chapel they were all expecting something churchy. So as not to spoil the surprise the guests were handed sealed envelopes with song lyrics in them on arrival and I instructed them to open them just before we fired up the music to sing It Must Be Love by Madness. It worked really well and the guests couldn't have been happier.

Here are some songs that have been fun to sing:

Madness, It Must Be Love
The Turtles, Happy Together
Dean Martin, That's Amore
The Proclaimers, 500 Miles
John Denver, Annie's Song
The Beatles, When I'm 64

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