“The focus of the wedding liturgy, like every other liturgical celebration, is the worship of God. Music, which is an integral element of the celebrations of Christian marriage, enables those who assemble to express their faith, to enter into the worship of God, and to give thanks for the mystery of divine love that is revealed in the union of husband and wife.”

A Companion to the Catholic Book of Worship III: Guidelines for Liturgical Music, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 105.

 Music for the wedding liturgy differs from secular wedding music in that it does not merely provide a background or mood for the occasion, but expresses the common prayer of those assembled. The most important musical elements in the wedding liturgy are the responsorial psalm and, in the nuptial mass, the other communal acclamations (“parts of the Mass”) led by the cantor and accompanied by organ.

Popular songs and secular pieces, while they may be very appropriate for a wedding reception, are not permitted in the wedding liturgy. Similarly, certain works such as Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” which are traditionally associated with weddings, are not used in the Catholic wedding liturgy because of their strong secular associations.

The Principal Organist is responsible for assisting you in choosing appropriate music and musicians for your wedding, working to ensure that the music is of high quality, and enhancing the prayerfulness, joy, and dignity of your celebration of the sacrament of marriage.

 

ELEMENTS OF THE WEDDING LITURGY

Preludes

Prelude music is customary in the 10-15 minutes before the wedding liturgy begins to welcome the assembly and set an appropriately prayerful and joyful tone. Preludes are usually left to the discretion of the organist or other musicians, though solo voice suggestions below may be chosen to be included instead of instrumental ones:

  • Laudate Dominum, Vesperae solennes de confessore (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
  • The Call, Five mystical songs (Ralph Vaughan Williams)

Processional

The processional represents the gathering of the whole community and the procession of the ministers of the sacrament, i.e., the bride and groom. As such, only one continuous processional piece is permitted; no one person is highlighted by the processional music.

The processional can be either an organ/instrumental piece, or a hymn sung by the assembly. The mood of the processional may be stately or meditative; both are equally appropriate.

Examples of Instrumental Processionals:

  • Canon in D (Johann Pachelbel)
  • Trumpet Voluntary/Prince of Denmark’s March (Jeremiah Clarke)
  • Prelude, Te Deum (Marc-Antoine Charpentier)
  • Air, Water Music (George Frideric Handel)
  • Overture, Fireworks Music (George Frideric Handel)

Examples of Processional Hymns:

(A cantor is recommended to lead the singing. Numbers refer to Catholic Book of Worship III.)

  • Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, #625
  • For the Beauty of the Earth, #531
  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell, #578
  • This Day God Gives Me, #650
  • God Beyond All Praising, #561

Responsorial Psalm

The Psalm follows the first reading and is sung by the cantor, with responses sung by the assembly. (Note: wording may differ slightly from readings in the wedding guide, Celebrating Our Love: please follow wording as given in the hymnal)

  • Psalm 33: May your love be upon us, O Lord, #47
  • Psalm 34: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord, #170
  • Psalm 103: The Lord is kind and merciful, #52
  • Psalm 128: May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives, #191
  • Psalm 145: The Lord is close to all who call him, #184

Gospel Acclamation

Outside of Lent, this consists of an “Alleluia” response, led by the cantor, and a scriptural verse chosen from the three options below. If it is not sung it is omitted, rather than being spoken. The musical setting is the same as the one in use at weekend masses at the time of the wedding.

  • “If we love one another, God will live in us in perfect love”
  • “All who live in love, live in God, and God in them”
  • “God is love; let us love one another as he has loved us”

Presentation of the Gifts (Nuptial Mass)

The presentation of the gifts, if it takes place, is generally very brief and calls for brief, often improvised music.

Eucharistic Acclamations (Nuptial Mass)

These parts (including the Sanctus, Memorial acclamation, Amen, and Agnus Dei) are normally to be sung by the whole assembly, led by a cantor. Otherwise, they are recited. The Lord’s Prayer is generally not sung. The musical setting is the same as the one in use at weekend masses at the time of the wedding.

Communion (Nuptial Mass)

A song to accompany communion can be sung by cantor and assembly, such as:

  • Gather Us Together, #601
  • Gift of Finest Wheat, #603
  • When love is found, #629

Alternatively, the cantor may sing an appropriate song, such as:

  • Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (Sebastian Temple)
  • Panis angelicus (Cesar Franck)

The choir could otherwise provide its own Eucharistic offering:

  • Ave verum corpus (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
  • Coenantibus illis (Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina)
  • O Lord, give Thy Holy Spirit (Thomas Tallis)
  • O sacred feast (Healey Willan)
  • O sacrum convivium (Thomas Tallis)
  • O taste and see (Ralph Vaughan Williams)

An instrumental piece, or organ transcription thereof, may also be used:

  • Air, Water Music (George Frideric Handel)
  • Air, Ouverture No. 3, BWV 1068 (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • Jesu bleibet meine Freude, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 (Johann Sebastian Bach)

Signing of the Register

Although the signing of the register is not a sacred liturgical action as such, the music chosen must still be appropriate for the liturgical context surrounding it. A vocal solo may be sung, such as:

  • The Call, Five mystical songs (Ralph Vaughan Williams)
  • Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (Sebastian Temple)
  • When Love is Found, #629

Alternatively, another piece may be sung by the choir:

  • God be in my head (Herbert Howells)
  • If ye love me (Thomas Tallis)
  • Sicut cervus (Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina)
  • Ubi caritas (Maurice Duruflé)

Any of the organ/instrumental pieces listed for Communion would also be appropriate for the signing of the register.

Recessional

  • Trumpet Voluntary/Prince of Denmark’s March (Jeremiah Clarke)
  • Trumpet Voluntary (John Stanley)
  • Trumpet Tune (Henry Purcell)
  • Hornpipe, Water Music (George Frideric Handel)
  • Prelude, Te Deum (Marc-Antoine Charpentier)
  • Rondeau, Sinfonie des Fanfares (Jean-Joseph Mouret)