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«Music Guidelines for Wedding Liturgies The following guidelines have been developed by the Music Sub-commission of the Diocesan Liturgical ...»

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Music Guidelines for Wedding Liturgies

The following guidelines have been developed by the Music Sub-commission of the Diocesan

Liturgical Commission. They are set forth to help all ministers who work with the preparation and

celebration of wedding liturgies in parishes of the Diocese of Columbus. These guidelines offer

guidance and uniformity with regard to music, which is integral to all Catholic liturgies.

Among the many signs and symbols used by the Church to celebrate its faith, music is of preeminent importance. As sacred song united to words it forms an integral part of the solemn liturgy. Yet the function of music is ministerial; it must serve and never dominate. Music should assist the assembled believers to express and share the gift of faith that is within them and to nourish and strengthen their interior commitment of faith. It should heighten the texts so that they speak more fully and more effectively. The quality of joy and enthusiasm which music adds to community worship cannot be gained in any other way. It imparts a sense of unity to the congregation and sets the appropriate tone for a particular celebration. (Music in Catholic Worship #23) While the celebration of the marriage rite is an intensely personal event, it is more than a personal or private function. This ceremony takes place in the presence of a community of worshipers in the Catholic Church. The worshipers feel a natural desire to join in this event and to express their support, joy and faith through prayers, acclamations and songs. Music at any worship service is integral to the purpose of the rite. Consequently, music should be chosen to express and support this fundamental understanding of the ceremony of marriage. However personally meaningful some music may be to the couple, the principle that governs its sacredness and consequent acceptability is this religious aspect of the wedding as distinct from the social reception for family and friends.

The essential principle to be kept in mind is that music is a part of the liturgy. Thus, the compositions that are sung, the persons who sing them and the times they are sung are to be in accord with the liturgy that is being celebrated and with the general principles of the liturgy.

According to the statement by the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Liturgy, "Music in Catholic Worship",

the following judgments are involved in selecting music:

1. The musical judgment: Is the composition good and artistically sound, whatever the style?

2. The liturgical judgment: Is the selection appropriate for the particular part of the liturgical celebration? Do the words speak of Christ, community worship, the mysteries of faith and love?

Are the people enabled to fulfill their role in singing the parts especially pertaining to them? Is the music religious in its associations?

To help determine the appropriateness of any given piece of music, the following question should be asked: Does the music in question bring to mind associations of the theater, opera, movies, commercials, television shows, or other secular connections? If so, it is probably not a suitable choice for the liturgy, although it might be very appropriate at the rehearsal or reception.

3. The pastoral judgment: Will the piece of music help those in attendance to pray and express their spirit of joyous worship? If persons of other faiths will be attending, will the hymns selected include some in which all faiths are able to participate?

1 Theological adequacy must also be used in the selection of music. When judging musical texts for theological adequacy, one should be guided by the following wording from the proposed “Directory for Music and the Liturgy for Use in the Dioceses in the United States of America” (USCCB, 2006), which in part, states that “Individual songs should be consonant with Catholic teaching and free from doctrinal error.” Guidelines for the Selection of Suitable Wedding Music The Church, in encouraging couples to take an active part in the preparation of their wedding liturgy, recognizes that the Sacrament of Matrimony is both a public testimonial and a personal commitment.

Each marriage ceremony is a unique event in the lives of two people- indeed, in the lives of all present.

The liturgy should reflect this uniqueness - it should be a reflection of all those present.

In planning for such a liturgy, the following statement from the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy

should be carefully considered:

Great care should be taken, especially at marriages, that all the people are involved at the important moments of the celebration, that the same general principles of planning worship and judging music are employed as at other liturgies, and above all, that the liturgy is a prayer for all present, not a theatrical production. (Music In Catholic Worship. #82) In all liturgies, each person who takes part in the service must be considered. In a wedding ceremony,

the following persons or groups of persons are present:

–  –  –

4. Ministers, servers, musicians, singers, et al.

There must be a harmonious blend of meaning for all these people as well as for the bridal couple itself.

The bridal couple should consult with the above mentioned groups to insure a liturgy that is both expressive and appropriate.





An important criterion in selecting music is its ability to elicit a prayerful response for this particular community. When the sacrament of matrimony is celebrated within the Mass, the centrality of the Eucharist must be understood. In addition to the covenant love being celebrated, the unifying mature of the Eucharist should be emphasized. Everything else surrounding the ceremony should be supportive, including the music.

Since the Church urges the assembly’s participation, it is important that all present take part in the singing of hymns, acclamations and other appropriate responses. The Second Vatican Council restored the cantor to lead the congregation in the singing of the responsorial psalm and the gospel acclamation.

When soloists are used, they should be good musicians and assist in the development of a prayerful setting; they are not to be considered or give the impression that they are “entertainment.” 2 One should always remember that the organ and orchestral instruments have always been associated with the liturgy. “While the organ is to be accorded pride of place, other wind, stringed, or percussion instruments may be used in liturgical services in the dioceses of the United States of America, according to longstanding local usage, provided they are truly apt for sacred use or can be rendered apt.” (GIRM #393,2) In assisting the bridal couple in design the music program, it should be noted that different combinations of instruments can be used effectively. The availability of instrumentalists will often be the deciding factor.

The wedding ceremony celebrates the covenant relationship: the total gift of self to another. Human love of husband and wife is perhaps the most perfect sign of God's love for His people. Holy Scripture abounds with such references. In the Old Testament, two entire books speak of the sacramentality of human love: the Book of Hosea and the Song of Solomon (Canticle of Canticles). In the New Testament Jesus calls himself the Bridegroom (Jn 3:28-30: Mt 22:1-14; Mt 25:1-13). St. Paul compares the love of husband and wife to that of Jesus for His Church (Eph 5:22-33). Finally, in the Book of Revelation which speaks poetically of the Kingdom that is to come, the Church is the new Eve adorned for her spouse, the Lord (Rev 19:7-8; 21:1-2).

The following three principles are to be kept in mind in selecting suitable music for a wedding liturgy.

–  –  –

There are many songs which speak of love in merely a physical sense or in the context of selfish pleasure. A particular meaningful song which may not be sung at the liturgy itself might better be used at the reception.

Music "should be considered a normal and ordinary part of [this] liturgical celebration" (LMT, #13).

More often than not, the bridal couple needs guidance in the selection of music. It is imperative that this guidance be provided by a minister/musician competent in both music and liturgy. When couples have a good understanding of the elements of the marriage liturgy and the scriptures have been chosen carefully, music selection follows more easily. This guidance is best done in a personal manner; working with couples one-on-one or in small groups.

A musician has a serious responsibility, not only in guiding a couple toward fitting music, but also in making the ceremony a prayerful, memorable and meaningful one for all those involved. A couple, when consulting with musicians about wedding music, should bear in mind both the expertise and abilities of the musician with whom they consult. In this way, care will be taken in the planning of a wedding liturgy, insuring wholeness and harmony in all elements of the liturgical celebration.

The preparation of a wedding liturgy is at once a profoundly beautiful opportunity for Christian witness and catechesis, as well as a delicate task of balancing human sensitivities. It requires time and effort, sensitive prudence and cooperation.

–  –  –

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy makes it clear that the members of the assembly are to dispose themselves to that which is about to be celebrated. Prelude music, therefore, should foster an atmosphere of prayer and reverential silence while members of the assembly are gathering and being seated. Several selections may be used; combining instrumental as well as appropriate vocal pieces.

Procession / Entrance Song

Music for the entrance song should focus the assembly’s attention on their role as active participants of the liturgy. The procession and entrance song should be appropriate. Whether instrumental or sung, the entrance song should be an appropriate hymn of praise or a hymn of petition, asking God’s blessing on the couple to be married.

Responsorial Psalm

The musical setting of any psalm is appropriate here, provided it is responsorial in style, i.e. the cantor sings the verses and the assembly responds with the sung refrain. Psalms 33. 34, 103, 112, 128, 145, and 148 are very appropriate for weddings. The psalm should be sung. Songs based on psalms which paraphrase the text of the psalm are not to be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm.

–  –  –

The gospel acclamation should always be sung. An appropriate setting of the "Alleluia" or acclamation of praise during the season of Lent can be chosen.

–  –  –

Because in the context of a wedding this ritual action does not take a long time, it is important that music not be so long as to interrupt the flow of the liturgy. Often solos will do just that and place undo importance on this part of the liturgy. Instrumental music is highly recommended for the preparation of the gifts.

Eucharistic Acclamations

The Preface Acclamations, Memorial Acclamation and Concluding Doxology should be chosen from settings that are familiar to most practicing Catholics. As a matter of course, guests who make up the assembly often come from different parishes. Keeping in mind the active, full, and conscious participation of the assembly, the setting of these acclamations should be familiar and easy for the assembly to sing.

–  –  –

The music for the communion procession should be Eucharistic in nature, i.e., expressing praise and thanksgiving and stressing our oneness in Christ. Ideally, a short, simple refrain to be sung by the assembly with the verses sung by a cantor should be selected.

–  –  –

The music at the Nuptial Procession is traditionally instrumental and joyful in nature. The style may vary from traditional to the avant-garde or from stately to dance-like. The operative words here are appropriate and dignified.

–  –  –

In keeping with the General Principles on the Structure of the Liturgy, Liturgical Music Today (1982) offers the following guidelines on "Recorded Music."

60. The liturgy is a complex use of signs expressed by living human beings. Music, being preeminent among those signs, ought to be "live". While recorded music, therefore, might be used to advantage outside the liturgy as an aid in the teaching of new music, it should, as a general norm, never be used within the liturgy to replace the congregation, the choir, the organist or other instrumentalists.

The Unity Candle

The lighting of the unity candle to symbolize the uniting of two individuals or two families is not part of the Catholic wedding liturgy. Candles lit during the liturgy represent the light of Christ, not an individual or family. The use of candles to symbolize something other than Christ weakens the value of the symbol. The union of the couple is ritualized in the wedding liturgy by the exchange of consent, vows, rings, nuptial blessing, and (for two Catholics) within the context of a Mass, by the sharing of the Eucharist. It is advisable to light a secular candle "symbolizing unity" at the wedding reception.

Marian Devotion

It is hopeful and encouraged that a couple has a spiritual devotion to the Blessed Mother as part of their married life together. The practice of bringing flowers to the Marian shrine, however, is not part of the Catholic wedding liturgy. This practice stems from different cultures and ethnic traditions and has grown "popular" in recent times.

–  –  –

Oftentimes when a couple is overwhelmed with the preparations for its wedding and desires to print a booklet or folder containing the texts and the hymns for the wedding service, the necessity of obtaining copyright clearance for the use of materials is overlooked.

After selecting the texts and the music, it is helpful to list the titles, the composers and authors, the title of the book in which these were found, and the name and address of the publisher or copyright owner.



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