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Why is the Pachelbel Canon so popular at weddings?

We must confess to having pinched this blog article from “16 Strings” but thought they did a pretty good job of summing it up!

Why is the Pachelbel Canon so popular at weddings?

The Canon in D by Pachelbel is perhaps one of the most well-known songs used during wedding ceremonies. Some people feel that it is overused, to the point where listeners have become jaded and no longer feel the same emotional response towards it. But we would tend to disagree because to us, Canon In D sounds like a wedding and it’s the perfect song to walk down the aisle to. Although it may have originally been only a small piece of work for a gathering  – the ‘canon’ of the title refers to a minor piece often played in the background at social events  – it is now so frequently used that some people are surprised when it is not part of the ceremony. So Why is the Pachelbel Canon so popular at weddings?

The Pachelbel Canon in D is perhaps favoured in part due to its religious connections, as Pachelbel is more well-known in classical circles for this religious or sacred music. In comparison with most of his other pieces, the Canon in D is a relatively light and minor work which would probably be rarely played today, except for the attraction that it has for some couples on their wedding day. This baroque piece was only discovered (or rediscovered) during the early part of the 20th century, and was then turned into sheet music. Again, it sank back into obscurity, only regaining its popularity in the late ’60s and ’70s.

The reasons why Canon in D became so popular after 300 years in the background still seem obscure. It was popularised in a film, Ordinary People, but this was not really connected with marriage. Instead, it seems to have been picked up from that film, and gradually become accepted in wedding ceremonies because of its extremely attractive sound. It is a typically baroque tune, in that it seems elegant and charming, but is very simple to play, with a repeating melody which produces good harmony and sound.

The easy tune and memorable harmonies mean that people have become familiar with the tune, and now have an attachment to it, due to the emotions that it stirs up. They might have heard it at previous ceremonies, and formed a mental link between the sound of Canon in D, and the memories of the emotions which weddings bring. When they come to choose the songs for their own weddings, the Canon seems appropriate due to the memories and feelings that it awakes in them. As it is so common in weddings, couples may feel that any other sound would be inappropriate.

There are other reasons why the Canon in D is so popular. For example, many people only have a limited knowledge of classical music, and most of the familiar songs are not appropriate for a wedding ceremony. So the Canon is selected as the most memorable and appropriate piece of classical music that the couple can remember. They may also be advised to choose it by their minister, the registrar, or even the musicians themselves, as it is a simple, repeating tune which can be played until everyone is ready, and then finished, without people feeling upset at the repetition, or at the sudden stop.

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