by Sylvia Woods
Anyone who plays the harp at weddings has lots of "horror stories" of things that have gone wrong on those special occasions. Here are a few of my most "memorable" weddings.
The longest procession
This wedding was on the grounds of a large hotel. There were about 200 chairs set up for the guests. The procession was going to come down a long path from the hotel . . . about a 2-3 minute walk (at the procession pace). The bride had requested that I play All I Ask of You from "Phantom of the Opera" for both the procession for the bridesmaids AND for the bride. When it was time for the wedding to begin, there were only about 10 people in the audience. I started playing All I Ask of You and the procession began. First came the 10 bridesmaids, followed by about 150 guests! EVERYONE was in the procession . . . including babies in strollers! I just kept playing until everyone was finally in their seats. Then the bride and groom arrived in a horse-drawn carriage. I played "All I Ask of You" (for the millionth time) as the groom got out of the carriage and offered his hand to help the bride. Unfortunately, the hoop skirt on her wedding dress got caught in the carriage, and she couldn't get out. After some bending of the hoop, she was liberated and the wedding finally began.
The noisiest wedding
I played a wedding on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on the site of the old Marineland park. The wind coming up over the cliff was so strong that it set the strings of the harp vibrating like a wind harp. This was not just a gentle breeze, making a soft soothing sound . . . this was WIND, and my harp was so loud, it was drowning out the minister. And so, throughout the entire ceremony, I had to sit with my hands AND ARMS damping as much of the harp as possible, to keep it quiet.
The most annoying happening
The wedding was in a small backyard with a swimming pool. I was set up right next to the pool, behind all the guests. The yard was decorated beautifully. They had blown up hundreds of balloons, and floated them on the top of the pool, creating a carpet of color on the surface. Unfortunately, during the wedding the wind came up. From then on, I was constantly barraged by wet balloons flying into my harp and my body! Luckily, they weren't filled with water, they were just wet on the outside.
The most precarious position
In another backyard wedding, they had my chair set up on the end of the diving board, hanging out over the pool. That's where they wanted me to play.
The most appropriate animal noise
This wedding was in the courtyard of an apartment complex. First of all, we could hear someone singing in the shower in a neighboring apartment during one of the prayers. But then, when the minister asked if anyone had any reason why the bride and groom should not be wed, a dog started barking, as if on cue, very loudly and insistently. Everyone laughed, and the minister said "I don't think he counts, so let's continue."
The worst minister
In the ceremony, directly before the vows, the minister said (and I loosely quote): "You both have been married before, so you know how bad marriage can be." I expected him to then say something like "But you now know true love and I'm sure you'll live happily ever after," or something like that. But no, his next words were: "Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband..." I think my answer to that question probably would have been "NO!"
By the way, I've never played a wedding where the bride or the groom failed to show up. However, I have done several where the minister never arrived!
This article was first printed in "The Harp Lover's News" Volume 4, Issue 4, 2nd Quarter, 1997, published by the Sylvia Woods Harp Center.