Tag Archive | Wedding Music

Bigger Weddings Linked to Better Marriages

It did my heart good to find that a recent report by the National Marriage Project claims that bigger weddings are linked to better marriages. Especially since today I am playing for a BIG wedding at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.

The Big Fat Greek Wedding Factor. Americans who had more guests at their nuptials are more likely to report high-quality marriages than those with a small wedding party, even after controlling for their education and income.”

Others factors, of course, factor in. Specifically: previous relationships (“What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas) and the level of per-marital commitment (“Sliding versus deciding).

As someone who performs many weddings every year — and probably approaching 1000 over my career — I often think: “I hope that these sweet kids make it!” I recently played for a Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary Party. It was a joyous experience with a “young” couple who had made it work for five decades.

Every marriage should have its romantic moments, whether in its first month or its fiftieth year but I think that, in addition to the “hearts and flowers” a key element is the ability for a couple to work together. Planning a big, fat wedding together can be one of the first great tests of your relationship.

According to this study:

“Among couples who had weddings, the sample was divided into those who had weddings with 50 or fewer attendees, 51 to 149 attendees, or 150 or more attendees. Among each grouping, 31 percent, 37 percent, and 47 percent, respectively, reported high marital quality.

“In what might be called the ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ factor, this study finds that couples who have larger wedding parties are more likely to report high-quality marriages,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. “One possibility here is that couples with larger networks of friends and family may have more help, and encouragement, in navigating the challenges of married life. Note, however, this finding is not about spending lots of money on a wedding party, it’s about having a good number of friends and family in your corner…

Our bottom-line advice to Americans hoping to marry is this: Remember that what you do before you say ‘I do’ may shape your odds of forging a successful marital future.”


Outdoor Weddings

Outdoor Weddings al fresco!

Getting married is certainly one of the great events in your life. Having the Ceremony and/or Reception in the Great Outdoors just adds the right amount of romance to make your Wedding a spectacular event. At least that is the theory!

For those of us living in the Midwest with its variable weather, planning outdoor Weddings can be a really tricky affair. In the Midwest the “outdoor season” for Weddings is short: late May into early October if we are lucky.

The fact is: really awful weather can happen any day of the year!

The Boomers go Hippie

Interest in outdoor weddings increased dramatically during the sixties when the Baby Boomers started getting married. Up until that era, almost all Weddings were strictly indoor events. The exception would be if you were a celebrity or a member of a country club.

As part of the counter-culture swing against anything that your folks did, adventuress Boomer couples literally headed for the forests and fields for their Weddings. As a wedding musician, I am very glad that wedding trend has now faded into history.

Getting Civilized

Today, Brides who are interested in an outdoor Wedding are looking for a much more civilized natural experience than their Hippie grandparents. Now, “back to nature” usually means a patio, deck or golf course.

What follows is a gallery of photos from outdoor Weddings that I have played for recently. I hope that they give you some inspiration as well as some practical hints on how to deal with the Midwest’s changeable weather.

Outdoor Weddings… What to Expect

Outdoor Wedding Milwaukee County War Memorial

Milwaukee County War Memorial

Being outdoors doesn’t always mean being surrounded by nature. The Milwaukee County War Memorial is right on the shore of Lake Michigan.

This set up on the huge “patio” put me halfway between the site of the Ceremony and the site of the Reception (out of the picture to the right). My sound system is powerful enough to be heard from quite a distance as you can see here.


Outdoor Weddings Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee

The Gazebo at Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee



This is my idea of a perfect outdoor set up with adequate protection from the sun, wind and precipitation.




Outdoor Weddings Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee

Absolutely Perfect – Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee



The Gazebo at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee and the surrounding grounds are beautifully landscaped.




Outdoor Weddings Koshkonong Mounds Country Club

Koshkonong Mounds Country Club



This wedding was at the Koshkonong Mounds Country Club in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. It was a torrid day so I sought some shade under a tree.

Again, my sound system handled the distance without a problem.



Outdoor Weddings Glacier Canyon Lodge

A frigid Glacier Canyon Lodge

This was by far the coldest outdoor Wedding I have ever played. It was at the aptly named Glacier Canyon Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells. It was late-October and the temperature was in the forties. I could barely move my fingers even though I wore gloves between songs!

There was a “Plan B” to move inside the Lodge but it was not used. Lesson: Always have a “Plan B” and when necessary use it!



Outdoor Weddings Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee

Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee

The use of a tent for outdoor weddings is highly recommended. The Bride in this Wedding at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee was one lucky lady.

When I arrived — as usual —  an hour ahead of the Ceremony it was pouring rain. Shortly, and I mean shortly, before the music was to begin the rain let up and the skies cleared. If it wasn’t for the tent the Wedding would have had to have moved indoors.



Outdoor Weddings Cornfield Wedding near Columbus, Wisconsin

Cornfield Wedding near Columbus, Wisconsin


Modern brides rarely get married in the middle of a field but this Wedding near Columbus, Wisconsin, cam pretty close. The site was surrounded by lush corn fields. The shelter where the Wedding was held as a “sun shower” swept through during the service.



Outdoor Weddings Patio Wedding in Merton, Wisconsin

Patio Wedding in Merton, Wisconsin


Here is a patio Wedding in Merton. Again, it was a very cold October day. I was glad that we were able to place the keyboard inside and the sound system speaker outside. Sounded great and my fingers were able to move without gloves.



Outdoor Weddings A Mequon bluff overlooking Lake Michigan

A Mequon bluff overlooking Lake Michigan


This was one of my favorite outdoor Weddings. The May Wedding was in a park in Mequon, Wisconsin, on the top of a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.


Outdoor Weddings Lakeside Wedding in Mequon, Wisconsin

Lakeside Wedding in Mequon, Wisconsin



I had discussed with the Bride ahead of time my concern about being exposed to the elements with, literally, no shelter with 100 yards of the site of the Wedding Ceremony.


So, she had a beautiful tent erected to protect not just me but everyone from the potentially awful lakeside weather.


Outdoor Weddings A Room of My Own

A Room of My Own



I was even provided with my own little “room” to set up in. This kind of accommodation by the Bride helps make this one of my all-time favorite Weddings.



Outdoor Weddings New Berlin Hills Golf Course

Porch set-up at New Berlin Hills Golf Course



Porches are welcome shelters especially when the elements are not cooperating. This Wedding was at the New Berlin Hills Country Club.



Outdoor Weddings Roof Top Patio Wedding at Silver Springs Golf Club

Roof Top Patio Wedding at Silver Springs Golf Club



Silver Springs Golf Club in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, has a very nice roof-top patio. It is protected by a “permanent” tent structure the walls of which can be opened on a nice day and quickly closed when the weather is uncooperative.




Outdoor Weddings Blue Mound Golf and Country Club

On the tee at Blue Mound Golf and Country Club



A tee at the Blue Mound Golf and Country Club was the site for this outdoor Wedding. It was pretty nerve-wracking as there were thunderstorms in the area. The rain never came but I was very relieved to end the Recessional and pack up my equipment.




Outdoor Weddings Milwaukee Yacht Club

A sunset Wedding at the Milwaukee Yacht Club




A beautiful sunset Wedding at the Milwaukee Yacht Club. Again, a proper shelter makes everything go more smoothly.



Patrick Byrne, Piano

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.

This entry was posted on February 28, 2014 and tagged .

Debussy, Brahms and Wagner

Claude-Achille Debussy (1862-1918)




This week, on August 22, will be the 150th anniversary of one of the greatest composers of piano music: Claude-Achille Debussy. Debussy lived until 1918 and during his lifetime, spanning the American Civil War and World War I, he created some of the most beautiful piano music ever written.

The amazing thing about Debussy’s music is that just like Chopin a generation earlier, Debussy created beautiful music that in terms of technique, harmonies and tonal colors far exceeded just about anything else written by his contemporaries.

Compare “Claire De Lune” which was written between 1890 and 1905 with a more typical popular piano piece from that era “Star of the East” (1883):

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)





In the realm of classical piano music, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) created a marvelous series of ground-breaking piano pieces near the end of his life like this Op. 118 Intermezzo which was written in 1893:

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)


Both Brahms and Debussy despised the man who was — for better or worse — the main musical influence of their lifetimes: Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

Wagner clearly wanted to create a Music of the Future which is the catch phrase that he created to describe his music when he wrote a book of that title in 1861. At the time it was published, the impertinence of the struggling opera composer seemed ludicrous. But Wagner definitely had the last laugh on his many detractors as his musical style dominated music for over a century.

Both Brahms and Debussy rebelled against the Wagnerian tsunami that swept across Europe and America during the late-19th and early-20th Centuries.

Wagner undoubtedly wrote some marvelous masterpieces. His egoistic personality led him to the long drawn out form of the music drama (i.e. opera) and works like Tristan und Isolde, the four-part Ring Cycle and Wagner’s final music drama Parsifal (1882) which weighs in at about four hours.

Here is the “Good Friday” Scene from Act III of Parsifal.

It was this glorious heavy, plodding Wagnerian sound that dominated European and American classical music well into the 20th Century.

In fact, the Wagnerian influence lasted up through our own day when it comes to movie music. The clearest example of this is the 1981 film Excalibur. The movie’s score not only copied the Wagnerian style but actually uses substantial portions of Wagner’s music such as here in the opening of the film:

I can’t listen to a movie composer like John Williams (Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters, Harry Potter, War Horse, etc.) without thinking of Wagner.

It was the turgid, mythical Wagnerian style that Debussy fought against by composing miniature masterpieces for the piano like “Golliwog’s Cakewalk”.

Debussy, displays his Gallic wit by “quoting” a Wagnerian phrase (1:10-1:45) and adding his own anti-Wagnerian laughter in the upper registers. It still brings a smile to my face every time I play it!

Saying ‘I Do’ to Wedding Planning

Robins and flowers are sure signs of Spring. Also, for some lucky couples, Spring is the time of year to plan for their wedding.

Despite the bad economy, natural disasters and cut-throat politics, people still fall in love. Most Americans get engaged during the Holidays. They also prefer to get married during the Summer. This makes a lot of sense in Wisconsin since during those months you have a fair chance of having good weather.

An article on Sunday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives brides and grooms a nice peek at about half a dozen books about wedding planning. I am sure that these titles only scratch the surface.

If you are still planning your wedding for 2011 and have not yet booked a musician, I urge you do so ASAP. In fact, it is not too early to book me for 2012.

Elsewhere on my web site you will find specific information that will help you plan the best music for your special day.