Church wedding music has evolved over thousands of years. As you decide what to choose for the ceremony that marks your marriage, take some time to learn about song in the church. This is the music, after all, that celebrates the most important day of your life.
Anthropologists know that the earliest worship music was performed by the Greeks. There is also strong evidence of Syrian and Hebrew contributions. Most of the earliest examples were composed of only one tune or sung with one voice—also called monophonic—but instrumentation was permitted.
Both Syrians and Hebrews used antiphonal music, which involved the religious leader singing praise and the congregation answering. This is still common in many worship services today, particularly Hebrew. And over the years, verses from the Hebrew Book of Praises were set to music. Hymns were developed based on chants.
The earliest Christian music was very complicated and bound by many rules. It was not until the 1700s that composers took matters into their own hands and created beautiful music intended to worship yet express joy. Bach, Mozart, and Haydn were among the composers who presented their work to the Church. By the end of that century people were taking popular tunes and writing religious words to fit them. Songs began to veer away from the solemnity to express more of the celebratory aspect.
If you have an older Catholic relative, you can ask him or her how wedding music in general or specifically Church wedding music has changed in recent decades. Back in the Sixties, everything was sung in Latin, with intimidating organ accompaniment. As the Church realized the need to modernize itself, English words became acceptable, and guitar worship services grew popular.
As you make your decision about Church wedding music, you should remember that you are choosing songs to celebrate an occasion that is reverent and sacred. When your marriage is performed by your religious leader in front of your witnesses, you are dedicating your love to the God that you worship. It’s best to choose something appropriate, and save the pop songs for the reception.
You will need music for at least three parts of your wedding ceremony. While your guests enter, you need pre-service music. When you walk down the aisle, you need processional music. And after the ceremony, as you exit, you should have recessional music. Here are some suggestions guaranteed to please:
Before the Ceremony
- Air (from Water Music) composed by Handel…the violin expresses this wonderfully.
- 24 Preludes, Op.28-13 by Chopin…piano.
- Cello Sonata in G minor by Chopin…cello.
- Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach…this is immensely popular, done in violin, piano, or any of the many versions available.
- Jesus, Priceless Treasure, another Bach…performed by guitar or other methods.
- King Arthur, or The British Worthy as performed by the English Concert…a trumpet piece.
- Processional in D…by Pachelbel…also known as Pachelbel’s Canon.
- Sheep May Safety Graze…another Bach piece…orchestral and stately.
- Aria in Concerto Grosso No. 12 by Handel.
- Air from Water Music Suite…if you haven’t used it pre-ceremony, use it here.
Check out more modern processional song ideas here.
- Andante from Organ Concerto II by Handel, with our favorites in harp or recorder.
- Now Thank We All Our God by Bach.
- The Emperor’s Fanfare, by Soler.
- Toccata by Monteverde, grand and stirring.
- Marche Nuptiale by Mendelssohn, beautiful with trumpets, and also give the Sassmanhausen violins a listen.
Catholic Wedding Music
When you’re planning a wedding, the music is an important part of the ceremony. It sets the mood for the ceremony, and you want the music and lyrics to perfectly describe how you feel about your fiancé to your friends and family. If you’re planning a Catholic wedding, the music isn’t only important to set the mood, but also to celebrate the liturgy of the Mass, making it even more important to select the right music.
Catholic wedding music can really set the mood for a wonderful ceremony. The music used in Masses is rich and beautiful, and many people find that music speaks to them more than poetry or other readings. As with every other part of your wedding planning, you should be careful about the music you select to make sure it says what you want your wedding to say.
Once you’ve selected your wedding date and venue (for Catholics, it’s nearly always in a Catholic church), your best bet is to speak to the music minister at your local parish. He or she will have all the information you need about Catholic wedding music for your ceremony, including the sheet music for you.
You’ll need more music for a Catholic wedding than for a Protestant or secular one. However, some of the music will need to be chosen from a specific list of music since the music will be incorporated into the liturgy of the Mass.
The Catholic church has standards set for the music used for wedding Masses. This is where speaking with the music minister at your local parish can be very helpful! He or she can help you select appropriate songs for the overall theme of your wedding ceremony.
Some parishes also require that non liturgical music, such as the processional, unity candle song, and recessional, are selected from a specific list of music, as well. So before you pick those pieces and order sheet music, talk to your music minister or priest to make sure you can use those songs.
When I married my college sweetheart, I took more time in selecting the Catholic wedding music than almost anything else for the ceremony! I knew that the music was what my friends and family would remember from the ceremony, and since there was so much music, I wanted to be sure that I loved every song that was played. After our wedding, my husband and I got many compliments from our guests about the music choices.
Don’t Get Too Distracted!
When you start to plan your wedding ceremony, don’t get so caught up in the decorations and programs that you neglect the ceremony music! Music speaks to people, and Catholic wedding music can be the most beautiful part of your ceremony. Choose carefully, and you’ll be sure to have a perfect wedding!
All the best with your special day,