Prayer and Worship Office
Guidelines For Wedding Music

Prepared by the
Diocese of San Diego

Adapted for use in the
Diocese of Albany


To the Bride and Groom

Congratulations! You stand on the brink of a sacred, exciting, lifelong adventure together. We know that this is a very happy and busy time for you and we share your hope that everything about your wedding day will be beautiful and joyous. These Guidelines for Wedding Music were created for this very reason.

When we think of weddings, we automatically think of the bride and the groom and their love for one another. There is much more involved in your love and your marriage, however, than just the two of you. There are your family and friends who have helped bring you to this point and who will continue to support and encourage you as you begin your new life together. And, most importantly, there is God who is the source of your love and whose love for you is reflected in your love for one another. That is why your decision to share your lives, and to grow together in Christian love calls for a special celebration in and with the faith community, the parish.

People in love make signs of love, not only to express their love but also to deepen it. Love never expressed dies, Christians’ love for Christ and for each other, Christians’ faith in Christ and in each other, must be expressed in the signs and symbols of celebration or they will die. (Music in Catholic Worship, #4)

Everything about the wedding ceremony witnesses to all those present your understanding that you are entering a sacred and holy union - a sacrament. Therefore, everything about the service, including the music, calls for careful planning that will contribute to this understanding. If it does not, then it is unsuitable for your wedding celebration because it is unworthy of the occasion. Everyone present at your wedding will be led by the dignity and beauty of the liturgy to a deeper understanding of Christian marriage and, consequently, to a greater commitment to it. In a sense, your wedding is your gift to your family and friends. It is your invitation for them to enter into and share your faith, your love, your prayer. We know that you are anxious to make it the best possible gift.

Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. Good celebrations foster and nourish faith.

Poor celebrations weaken and destroy faith. Music in Catholic Worship, (#6)

Because you have chosen to invite Christ to make your love a sacrament, the music you choose for your wedding must express this unique and distinct encounter. Just as you would not expect to pronounce your wedding vows in street language, so you would not expect to hear “everyday” love songs within a ceremony celebrating sacramental married love. Certainly “your song” will have a place later in the day’s festivities; but during the wedding liturgy itself the emphasis should be God’s love for you, your love for God, the love of the community for you, your love for them and how these support and confirm your love for each other.

Music in Catholic Worship states that to determine the value of a given musical element in a liturgical celebration a threefold judgment must be made: musical, liturgical and pastoral. (#25)

Musical Judgment

Is the music technically, aesthetically and expressively good? This judgment is basic and primary and should be made by competent musicians. Only artistically sound music will be effective in the long run. To admit the cheap, the trite, the musical cliché often found in popular songs on the grounds of instant liturgy is to cheapen the liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure. (Ibid. #26)

Liturgical Judgment

The nature of the liturgy itself will help to determine what kind of music is called for, what parts are to be preferred for singing and who is to sing them. (Ibid. #30)

The lyrics of songs chosen for the wedding liturgy express the Christian concept of life, rather than one which is purely secular. The liturgy of marriage celebrates not only the human love between two persons but also their relation to God who is love. The texts must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine, indeed they should be drawn chiefly from Holy Scripture, and from liturgical sources. (Constitution on Sacred Liturgy , Vatican Council II, #121)

Perhaps the best criterion is simply the question, “Can you pray the words of the text?” Does the music express and interpret the text correctly and manifest the meaning more clearly? Is the form of the text respected? In making these judgments the general classification of liturgical texts must be kept in mind: proclamations, acclamations, psalms, antiphons, litanies, hymns, and prayers. Each has a specific function and form which must be served by the music chosen for the text.

Special musical concern must be given to the roles of the assembly, the cantor, the choir and the instrumentalist. (Music in Catholic Worship, #33) Music chosen should be within the performance ability of all involved. The choices of sung parts, the balance between them, and the style of musical setting used should reflect the relative importance of the parts of the Mass (or other service) and the nature of each part. (Ibid. #31)

Pastoral Judgment

The pastoral judgment governs the use and function of every element of celebration. Ideally this judgment is made by the planning team or committee. It is the judgment that must be made in this particular situation, in these concrete circumstances. Does music in the celebration enable these people to express their faith, in this place, in this age, in this culture? (Ibid. #39)

Choose music that will be effective for the assembly and suitable for use in a religious, liturgical service whose primary concern is the worship of God. Therefore, the role of music in the celebration of the Eucharist and the sacraments is threefold:

Music must fulfill a role of service.

Music must invite and involve congregational participation.

Music must be an integral part of the liturgy.

Because of the communal aspects of the celebration, the role of the soloist has evolved into that of cantor or leader of song, thus encouraging the assembly in its rightful role of active participation rather than observation, while still providing some solo vocal pieces when it is appropriate and desired.

A worship aid/program helps the assembly fulfill their role of active participation in the liturgy. All music that the assembly is expected to sing should be printed in the program or have hymnal/music book reference numbers listed to facilitate their full participation and make the liturgy truly alive. Your parish music director or the Office of Prayer and Worship (518-453-6645) can assist you in obtaining the proper reprint permissions.

Place of Music Within the Wedding Liturgy

Music suggestions are merely indicative of the various types of music and texts which may be used at the Wedding Liturgy. It is necessary to consult with your parish music director well in advance of the liturgy to coordinate the planning of this important day.


The arrival of your wedding guests may be accompanied by instrumental music, a vocal solo, or choir. Select music that will be in keeping with the event to follow. It is not the time for performing a ‘favorite piece’ that is unsuitable within the ceremony itself.

Introductory Rights


The procession is a liturgical action described in the Rite of Marriage, as the ritual entrance of the ministers for the liturgy. The couple, as ministers of the sacrament of marriage, is included in the procession. This also reflects the Church’s understanding that the bride and groom are complementary in marriage. The actual order of the procession may be planned with the presiding priest or deacon, led by an altar server or cross bearer and a reader carrying the Book of the Gospels, but equal attention should be given to both families. The procession and the music accompanying it reflect the joyous dignity of the moment. Many appropriate selections were originally composed for royal or state, as well as religious occasions. On Sunday, the opening hymn acts as the “processional music”, and an opening hymn can accompany a wedding procession as well. Generally, however, wedding processions are accompanied by instrumental music (organ, brass, strings, etc.) or vocal music (solo or group).

The so-called “traditional wedding marches” by Wagner and Mendelssohn are not recommended. Both are “theater” pieces which have nothing to do with the Sacred Liturgy. The “Bridal Chorus” from Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin, actually accompanies the couple to the bedroom, not the altar! Mendelssohn’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream accompanies a farcical wedding (the play is a comedy). Your parish music director will be able to suggest and demonstrate numerous other compositions from which to choose, thus adding to the dignity and uniqueness of your wedding liturgy.

Some of the more popular selections include:

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring - J. S. Bach
Canon in D Major - J. Pachelbel
Trumpet Tune - Purcell/Clarke
Trumpet Voluntary - J. Clarke
(also known as The Prince of Denmark’s March)
Trumpet Voluntary - Stanley
Overture from Royal Fireworks Suite -
G. F. Handel
Rondeau from Premier Suite -
J. J. Mouret

Opening Hymn

An instrumental processional may be followed by a congregational hymn. The following are a few excellent choices that may be familiar to all:

Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling
Joyful, Joyful We Adore You
May the Grace of Christ

Penitential Rite

Reflecting the nature of the wedding liturgy, the penitential rite is kept very simple. It can be spoken or sung. If sung, a simple setting that has a short refrain for the assembly to repeat after the cantor would be best.


The Gloria is normally omitted unless the wedding within Mass takes place on a Sunday outside of Advent or Lent. The opening prayer concludes the Introductory Rites.

Liturgy of the Word

Responsorial Psalm

A brief period of reflective silence follows the first reading, then the responsorial psalm is SUNG. The assembly sings the antiphon with the cantor singing the verses.

Psalms 33, 34, 103, 112, 128, 145 and 148 are recommended in the Roman Ritual. Your parish music director will have settings of these from which you can choose.

Gospel Acclimation

The Gospel Acclamation (or Alleluia) must be sung. If it is not sung, it is omitted.

The most commonly used settings of this include the plainsong chant and the Celtic Alleluia. There are many other Alleluias and Acclamations that would work, especially if the music is printed in your worship aid.

Rite of Marriage

The actual Rite of Marriage does not call for any specific music, but a short acclamation of praise such as an alleluia refrain can be sung by the assembly after the exchange of vows and again after the exchange of rings.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Preparation of the Gifts

An instrumental or vocal selection or a congregational hymn may accompanying the presentation and preparation of the gifts. The music used here should not prolong this part of the liturgy. If a congregational hymn is chosen, it follows the same criteria stated for the processional hymn. If a vocal solo is done it reflects God’s love for you and his blessing on your marriage. A few ideas are:

Wedding Song - Peeters or Schütz
Be Thou With Them - J. S. Bach
The Gift of Love - Hopson
When Love Is Found - Wren
A Nuptial Blessing - Joncas or Proulx
The Servant Song – Gillard

Eucharistic Acclimations

In the eucharistic celebration the acclamations which are sung are: Holy, Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen. Familiar musical settings led by the cantor encourage participation by the assembly. Some of the most well-known Eucharistic Prayer acclamations include:

Mass of Creation - Haugen
Mass of Light - Haas
Community Mass - Proulx
Heritage Mass - Alstott
People’s Mass - Vermulst

Communion Rite

Lord's Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is the assembly’s common prayer, and the people must be able to participate. Generally it is spoken, but may be sung if the majority will be familiar with the setting. A solo version is not appropriate.

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God is a sung litany which accompanies the breaking of the bread.

Communion Song

Congregational singing is appropriate here because it gives expression to our unity in the Body of Christ. Preferably, a song with a refrain for the assembly would be chosen. Some ideas for communion songs are:

Gift of Finest Wheat
I Am the Bread of Life
Gather Us Together
Ubi Caritas – Taize, chant or Hurd
Eat this Bread
Taste and See - Haugen, Kreutz or Moore

Concluding Rite


A festive instrumental piece of music is most effective as accompaniment to the recessional. See processional list for some choices.

Devotion of Mary

Where the custom exists of placing flowers at the shrine of Our Lady, a Marian song, or an instrumental piece is appropriate. It takes place following the Prayer after Communion before the Dismissal.

Recommended Resources

All resources are available for use from the Liturgy Library at the Office of Prayer and Worship, (518) 453-6645.


Molly K. Stein and William C. Graham
Paulist Press


Paul Covino, ed.; The Pastoral Press

GIFT & PROMISE - bilingual

Instituto de Liturgia Hispana, Oregon
Catholic Press


Mary A. Simcoe, ed.
Liturgy Training Publications


Austin Fleming; Liturgical Training Publ.


Joseph Champlin; Ave Maria Press


Jeanne Cotter & David Haas; GIA


Paul Turner; Resource Publ.


Flor McCarthy, SDB; Costello Publishing Co, Inc.

YOUR WEDDING: A Planning Guideline

Greg Friedman, OFM; St. Anthony Messenger Press

Revised 06/10/03 - Office of Prayer and Worship
Approved by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard,
Bishop of Albany
June 13, 2003


Prelude Music:

Entrance Procession:

Gathering Song:

Old Testament Reading :


New Testament Reading :

Gospel Acclamation:

Gospel Reading :

Rite of Marriage

Musical Acclamations: _____________________________________________

*Preparation of the Gifts:

*Eucharistic Acclamations:

*Lamb of God:

*Communion Song:


Prelude Music:

*Needed only if Liturgy of the Eucharist (Mass) is being celebrated.