The gown, flowers, photographer, and reception — each an exciting part of your overall wedding day. However, first and foremost is the service, especially if you are planning a Catholic wedding mass. One part of the service that everyone will hear are the wedding songs that you select, which is what we’re discussing in today’s article!
Just as weekly Sunday mass has a specific order of service, thematic scripture readings, and music, a Catholic wedding ceremony also has a required structure, called the “liturgy.”
Any wedding songs or music must be approved by the priest or music director of the church. You may have your heart set on a certain #1 billboard hit single, but unless it is approved by the priest, it may not be allowed for your ceremony.
Note: This post is sponsored by MyWeddingSongs.com
And to add more complexity to the situation, Catholic wedding songs must be religious in nature. However, the interpretation of that varies from parish to parish. Some instrumental pieces may be allowed that are not necessarily considered religious, for example, Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel.
How to Choose Catholic Wedding Music
When meeting with your priest, you’ll want to discuss ideas for a theme as well as scripture readings that fit your new life together as a couple. Once these essentials are chosen, the music can fit into a framework of relevant hymns and instrumental religious music.
If there is a music director at the church, they can also assist with song lists and suggestions that work well.
Another very important aspect of the music is the instrumentation. Will you have a cantor to lead the hymns and an organist for the service? Or how about a string quartet, guitarist, harpist, or wind instruments?
The type of instruments and number of musicians are factors to be considered with each song choice. Make sure the musicians hired have an understanding of a Catholic service and can lead the hymns if necessary. Most professional musicians will have played many types of wedding ceremonies, including Catholic ones.
Once the instrumentation is decided, ask for suggestions and discuss musical selections with the musicians. Most will have a wide range of song choices appropriate for various occasions. Note that a song originally for a rock band will sound very different played by a solo violin. Some music translates very well when played by different instrumentation from the original version, and some does not. Your musicians can guide you in this area.
Songs from Mass
Think about songs that you’ve heard during mass that speak to one or both of you. Is there a tune that you love to listen to or sing? Many of the musical selections will be sung by the congregation throughout the service, so it is best to choose hymns that are familiar to at least some of the guests attending the wedding.
What about a Playlist that’s already done for me?
Glad you asked! There are many online resources that help with wedding song ideas. One resource that we like with both classic and contemporary examples is myweddingsongs.com, which lists playlists as well as audio samples.
We spoke directly with the owner of MyWeddingSongs to get his advice on Catholic wedding songs. Here’s what Matt had to say:
“When planning your Catholic wedding songs, first and foremost, know how the music will be played or performed. You must work with your Priest to know the guidelines of your church. Second, typically the church can provide the standard wedding songs. You will need to ask if there are any additional fees for musicians.
In most cases, the song meaning and lyrics decide if a song can be played in a Catholic wedding. Songs like Beyonce’s Amazing Grace and Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah fit perfect. If you are looking for unique songs. peruse New Age music. I love songs by Enya and in particular Joy by George Winston.
Have a discussion with your Priest and know your Church’s rules and music capabilities.”
— Matt Campbell, Owner of MyWeddingSongs.com
Music is interspersed throughout the Catholic wedding liturgy. In the next section you’ll see exactly how many songs must be chosen and where they correspond within the liturgy.
Order of Catholic Wedding Mass
A Catholic wedding mass can either include or exclude the Eucharist (or communion). The order is slightly different depending on which type you choose. Those sections listed in bold are for a ceremony with communion.
- The Entrance Rite
- Processional: Entrance of the clergy and bridal party
Music for the processional should be a medium tempo, with a stately feel. It is the announcement to the congregation to be ready for the ceremony. Note that the wedding marches by Wagner and Mendelssohn are not considered appropriate for a Catholic ceremony as their roots are from the theatre.
Not to worry as there are many other classical, religious, and contemporary alternatives that are acceptable.
(Places with a * indicate where music is played and/or sung)
Gloria (*Glory to God in the Highest…)
3. Gathering Song* (optional)
4. Opening Prayer
5. Liturgy of the Word
6. First Reading
7. Responsorial Psalm (*check with the priest, they may choose this for you)
8. Second Reading
9. Gospel Acclamation (*Alleluia)
12. Celebration of Matrimony
13. Address and Statement of Intentions
14. Exchange of Consent (marriage vows)
15. Blessing and Giving of Rings
16. Profession of Faith
17. The Universal Prayer
18. (The Lord’s Prayer-said or sung is here without the Eucharist)
Liturgy of the Eucharist
19. Presentation and Preparation of Gifts (*Offertory Song)
20. Eucharistic Prayer
21. Sanctus* (*Holy, Holy)
22. Memorial Acclamation
23. Great Amen
24. The Lord’s Prayer
25. Nuptial Blessing
26. Sign of Peace
27. Lamb of God*
29. Reflection Song* (optional)
30. Concluding Rite/Conclusion
Recessional: clergy and bridal party recess down the aisle to a lively and upbeat tune, a joyful ending to a thoughtful and serious ceremony.
A Catholic ceremony without the Eucharist leaves out the areas in bold — Gloria, Liturgy of the Eucharist, and Communion Rite.
Best Songs for a Catholic Wedding
There are many lovely choices that will provide the proper aesthetic, along with a reflective, prayerful atmosphere for your Catholic wedding ceremony. Let’s take a look at a few below:
These selections are very traditional, but work well for many different instruments. Organ, piano, string solo or group can all make these sound beautiful and are the appropriate tempo for those walking down the aisle.
A classic from early contemporary Christian music of the 1970’s, This is the Day (Wedding Song), by Scott Wesley Brown, still remains relevant to any Catholic wedding service today.
Gathering Song (optional)
Unity Candle (optional)
Presentation of Gifts
Reflection Song (optional)
Which Catholic Wedding Songs will you Choose?
Hopefully you now have a good starting point from which to find more musical ideas to make your ceremony personal and memorable. Because a Catholic wedding ceremony is steeped in centuries of tradition, you may discover that the most traditional songs fit in best with all the other formal aspects of the liturgy.
Also, don’t forget to check out MyWeddingSongs.com! They are one of the best online resources for wedding playlists.
Most of all, enjoy the process. Choose music that touches you as a couple and it will be a memorable moment for the beginning of your life together.