Wedding Music

Wedding Music 150 150 Nathaniel Lee Hansen

It’s the end of May, and the wedding season is well upon us. Whenever I attend a wedding, my attention veers to the music more than any other element. You see, by my estimate I’ve played and/or sung music for 19 weddings. This Sunday afternoon’s wedding will be number 20.

As someone who has played pre-ceremony, ceremony, and post-ceremony music there are nerves even as I take pleasure in playing. I’m not nervous about the songs themselves. Will I remember the words? Will I remember the notes? Will I remember the phrasings? No, it’s about the timing of everything—extending a processional, cutting a verse from a song during communion, starting a certain song when the bride is ready to enter the sanctuary.

Last Saturday I played for another wedding. I didn’t know the bride or the groom, but I knew the father of the bride. A good friend—who is also the worship pastor at my church—asked me to play with him. I suppose I appreciated the opportunity more because of the time I’ve had to take off because of pain in the right arm—this was my first time playing piano in three weeks.

Up until this month, every Sunday I would spend several hours with this friend, as well as with other talented and humble people, and we would play our instruments and sing, leading the congregation in worship. As I commented here before, I value that time, those people, and these few weeks “off” have been simultaneously challenging, restful, and humbling.

It’s so gratifying playing music with someone when you know the other person’s tendencies, maneuvers, and techniques. You’re past the point of having to discuss the minute particulars. Yes, there might be something to clarify, but you follow each other and lock in without trying. That’s what happened on Saturday night. I played with an enjoyment and a lack of nerves that I hadn’t expected. Maybe I’ve matured as I’ve aged? I’m definitely more easygoing than I used to be.

This Sunday, I’ll play at another wedding, this one in Indiana. I’ll be playing with other good friends, for other friends—those weddings are most special. So I will strum chords, friends on either side of me, watching friends walk up the aisle.

Nathaniel Lee Hansen

I’m a poet, fiction writer, and essayist. My chapbook, Four Seasons West of the 95th Meridian, was published by Spoon River Poetry Press (2014). My work has appeared in Christianity and Literature, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Blast Furnace, Driftwood Press, Whitefish Review, The Cresset, Midwestern Gothic, and South Dakota Review, among others. I currently serve as an assistant professor of English & Creative Writing at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. I also edit Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature and direct the annual Windhover Writers’ Festival. When not writing or teaching, I run, read, play piano, listen to music, and play disc golf. My greatest joys are my wife, my son, and my daughter. I was born in southern Minnesota, but while growing up, I had little interest in the Plains and opens spaces. A stint at a rural state liberal arts college in southwestern Minnesota, as well as grad-school stints in northwestern Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota, altered my interests. @plainswriter,, &

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