We’re up in the Highlands with this one, and have selected our top 10 bagpipe songs for a wedding! We’ve added some information about each tune, giving you a little backstory you may not have known before. We’ve also included some clips from our Encore bagpipers to show you just what they can do.
Most songs for bagpipes are Scottish (but not all), and are often traditional tunes that have been passed down for generations. That said, the sound of the bagpipes are truly timeless: the immemorial sound of Scotland. Bagpipes are also a mainstay of Scottish weddings, and are usually played to pipe in the bride to ceremony. A wedding bagpiper can also play as guests arrive.
A very popular tune for bagpipers, it is notorious for its relative difficulty and use as a competition march. The original melody, a 2/4 march, had been attributed to a composer from the 1800s. This song will certainly set the mood for a highland wedding, especially if you want to be piped into the ceremony.
Encore bagpiper, Matthew McRae, performing Highland Cathedral in traditional Highland dress
The Skye Boat Song
Although the story behind this one is more than a little dramatic (let’s just say it involves a boat, a prince running from enemy troops after a failed battle, and the beautiful Isle of Skye), it certainly is a nice tune. It has well and truly entered the modern folk canon, and has been covered by musicians such as Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, and Tori Amos.
The Wedding March
Probably the most well known of all wedding tunes, the Wedding March was originally written for the pipe organ (in 1842 by Felix Mendelssohn). However, it works equally well for solo instruments, and even more so as a wedding song for bagpipes. This is because the drone of the pipes acts as a sort of organ drone itself, allowing the melody of the piece to ring out beautifully overtop.
This song was originally about Mary C. McNiven winning a gold medal in the Royal National Mòd. But the song has since taken on a wider resonance. It celebrates the joy of marriage, and the feeling of endless possibility that accompany the event. The lyrics that accompany the song sound like something out of a modern pop song, with each verse ending on a similar refrain to Bruno Mars’ Marry You—“…oh! I’m going to marry her.” As far as bagpipe music goes, this is high on the list.
She Moves Through The Fair
At first glance, this is a song about a narrator who, seeing his lover walk through the fair, looks forward to their soon-coming wedding day. However, soon after the song’s initial publication, some extra verses were found. They seemed to imply that the lover was actually a ghost! An interesting and perhaps morbid backstory, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of people making versions of their own: Van Morrison, Sarah Brightman, and Josh Groban included.
Scotland the Brave, performed by Encore bagpiper, Callum Russell
Flower of Scotland
Composed by Roy Williamson (from the folk band, The Corries) in the 1960s, Flower of Scotland has since become the unofficial national anthem of Scotland, and a well-known standard for bagpipers and pipe bands. It makes sense that this song should be included as a bagpipe tune at a highland wedding (usually alongside Scotland the Brave).
All Those Endearing Young Charms
Set to the tune of a traditional Irish air, this song had lyrics added to it by the Irish poet, Thomas Moore. The poet’s wife was worried that her good looks might fade; that she might not be beautiful forever. The lyrics are a reassuring reminder of inner beauty and its lasting nature. The melody itself is also endearing in a way Irish airs never fail to be.
Whisky in the Jar
Associated with the southern mountains of Ireland, and specifically mentioning the counties Cork and Kerry, Whiskey in the Jar is a traditional Irish song. It is probably one of the most widely performed traditional Irish songs and has been recorded, covered, and recomposed by dozens of artists over the years. The most famous of these recordings is by The Dubliners, who have since made it their signature tune.
Encore bagpiper, Eddie Seaman, performs an Irish tune alongside singing guitarist, Luc McNally
Here Comes the Sun by George Harrison
Here Comes the Sun is not very well known for being played on the bagpipes, but we assure you: it sounds just as good (albeit quite different to the voices of George Harrison or Nina Simone)! The song celebrates the arrival of spring, so there is no doubt it works pretty well for celebrating a marriage too.
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
Apparently written in only 45 minutes, 500 Miles was an absolute smash-hit when it first came out. It’s a simple tune, but is ridiculously catchy (as anyone who has heard or sung it can attest)! In fact, it charted in more countries than I could possibly list here. Pretty impressive stuff for a song written in 45 minutes.
Cover image courtesy of Tony Hurst