The Wedding March for String Quartet – If you were to ask any professional wedding string quartet which were the four most frequently asked for pieces of music for a wedding ceremony, the answer would almost certainly be Pachelbel‚Äôs Canon in D, Clarke‚Äôs ‚ÄòTrumpet Voluntary‚Äô (also known as ‚ÄòPrince of Denmark‚Äôs March‚Äô), Wagner‚Äôs ‚ÄòBridal Chorus‚Äô (from ‚ÄòLohengrin‚Äô) and Mendelssohn‚Äôs ‚ÄòWedding March‚Äô (from ‚ÄòA Midsummer Night‚Äôs Dream‚Äô). But they would also tell you that there is often a degree of confusion over the last two.
The ‚ÄòBridal Chorus‚Äô is often distinguished as it neatly fits the words ‚Äòhere comes the bride‚Äô (even though these have nothing to do with Wagner‚Äôs libretto whatsoever!). Although the Mendelssohn piece is not usually sung to any particular words it is now almost an essential part of any church wedding. The Wagner piece has its rightful place as the processional (or entrance) music of the bridal party, whereas the Mendelssohn piece is usually performed as the recessional (or exit) of the married couple.
The use of Wagner‚Äôs ‚ÄòBridal Chorus‚Äô as an opening to wedding ceremonies is baffling, as in the original 1850 opera it is sung by the females of the wedding party after the ceremony itself. Not only that, but the wedding between the characters Elsa and Lohengrin is a disaster as Elsa doesn‚Äôt even know the name of the knight she is marrying, and before he gets a chance to tell her, he is attacked and kills a character called Telramund. So within minutes of marriage he has already committed murder!
The Mendelssohn ‚Äòwedding March‚Äô had a slightly happier inception, as it is one of the most popular pieces from the incidental music he wrote for Shakespeare‚Äôs ‚ÄòA Midsummer Night‚Äôs Dream‚Äô in 1842. It gained huge appeal when Queen Victoria‚Äôs daughter (also called Victoria), The Princess Royal selected it in her wedding to Prince Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia in 1858. The princess had known Mendelssohn personally, being privy to the great composer‚Äôs keyboard displays when he visited England.
So there you have a brief history of two wedding marches, which despite their origins are destined to be played as the mainstay of the wedding string quartet repertoire for many years to come.