Jamie Bailey
March 18, 2016 9:20 am

My first role in the wedding industry was as a flower girl. My parents were the first in their group of friends to have children, so by the time their friends were tying the knot, I was old enough to carry the flowers down the aisle for numerous weddings. I was a pro, and I got to wear several pretty dresses. I loved it! As I grew older, however, my view on weddings suddenly changed. I remember attending a wedding with my grandmother at age 11; when a groomsman took my arm to usher me to my seat, I darted out of his reach and exclaimed, “I can seat myself!” I was so embarrassed at the showiness of it all.

I had no idea that only three years after that particular moment of embarrassment I would become an integral part of that “show.” I began taking piano lessons in kindergarten, and in those early years, I was a very impatient player, pecking at the keys and making little progress. By the time I was a pre-teen, however, I had grown to adore performing and was doing very well. I played piano for my very first wedding at the age of 14. A family member had asked me to play at her ceremony, and I was honored.

It was a small wedding, with mostly relatives. Plus, it was my first paid gig as a musician. After that, I played for at least one wedding a year in my teens, and by the time I was 19, I played frequently at weddings for people in my community. Eventually, I branched out and began playing in other cities, mostly for friends or acquaintances. Weddings have taken me to many places and given me many experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, such as playing a ceremony in the palm room at a conservatory, where I played Jewish songs on a small keyboard under a palm tree. I also got the experience of playing in the penthouse of a swanky hotel, where I played jazz at the reception and had fancy cocktails delivered to me at the piano. Despite all the theatre productions I have played for, some of my favorite musical memories come from weddings.

When I started, I didn’t look like a wedding player, as I was obviously very young. I am grateful that so many couples put their faith in me, even though I was not as experienced as pianists who had been playing since before I was born. After all, many of the most important moments of “the big day” are organized around music. Those moments have weighed on my shoulders countless times. From the processional to the recessional, while all eyes may be on the bride and groom, all ears are on the musicians. Several times, especially in my teens, I held my own as the sole musician at weddings. In addition to other musicians and vocalists, I have worked with planners, pastors, and entire wedding parties to ensure that the day goes perfectly.

I always respect the couple’s musical wishes, and I think it’s really cool when they request something nontraditional that represents their unique love. I’ve played everything from Aerosmith to songs from the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. I particularly love when clients request Disney show tunes. I enjoy being able to help couples achieve their vision together on the day they make it official forever.

Over the years, I became so accustomed to my job that it took me a while to realize I had a front row seat to the most intimate of moments. I have learned that emotions can run just as high at receptions as they do at the actual ceremony. I’ve played through many first dances, and have been moved to tears by the speeches of fathers, mothers, and best friends I don’t even know. Ultimately, I have learned that the sound produced at my fingertips will influence the quality of someone’s dance or kiss. And that’s a great feeling.

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