Where do songs even go?
This is a question I’m asked nearly every time I speak with a couple!
The first thing I ask is “Are you getting married in a church? Or are you having your ceremony in a hotel or other venue?”
The reason that’s important is simple. Church weddings are traditional and there is a formal structure they follow, so I can easily show you where to place music throughout the mass and also what type of song suits each place, i.e long or short, sung or instrumental, hymn or contemporary.
(Of course the question of hymns and contemporary music for church weddings is a whole other can of worms but we’ll save that for another day!)
Humanist, Spiritual, Celtic or Civil ceremonies are a little bit different. As most often it’s the couple themselves who write the ceremony (with the help of their celebrant of course), so the structure differs from ceremony to ceremony.
Let’s start with the traditional structure of a Church wedding.
(Feel free to scroll down if you’re not getting married in a church)
Here are the parts of the Church Ceremony where normally music is included:
- Responsorial Psalm
- Gospel Acclamation
- Lighting of the Marriage Candle
- Offertory Procession
- Sign of Peace
- Signing of the Registrar
This is where the bride enters with her bridal party and walks up aisle to her groom! This piece in important as it sets the tone for the whole ceremony. Choose something with some meaningful lyrics and a slow pace. Depending on the size of your bridal party the length of this song may vary. A lot of priests will bring the couple straight up to the alter to light the individual candles during this song also.
If not I suggest a short instrumental to be played while the candles are lit, as this really takes less than a minute.
It is always nice to include a musical Psalm in the ceremony. It breaks up the readings nicely and it also gives you one less person to convince to do a reading! This piece needs to be an actual Psalm, as it’s part of the mass. Here’s a list of suitable Psalms. (Insert Link)
Otherwise known as an Alleluia. (Not to be confused this with Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah!) This can be a full Alleluia hymn, or simply a chorus of Alleluia. Here’s a few samples: (Insert samples)
Lighting of the candle
This is the second lighting of the ceremony. Where you each take the flame of your own individual candles to light the marriage candle together. Again this is only a short moment of time. So it is up to you if you would like something short to be sung just while you’re lighting the candle or a longer piece which you and your guests can sit back and listen to and reflect on.
You can chose anything really to have played here really, but it is a nice opportunity to include another one of the hymns you promised your priest!
Sign of Peace
This is the part of the mass where you get to shake hands, hug and kiss, some of your nearest and dearest for the first time as a married couple! I always say take your time! Get around to as many people as you like, it’s a happy moment that you and your guests will enjoy. Instrumentals work well here, but you can really choose anything.
How many songs to include during communion depends on the size of your wedding. But generally two is plenty. You can choose anything here. My thoughts would be to put your favourite pieces here. As this is the last part of the ceremony where you and your guests will really get to listen.
Signing of the register
The mass has ended at this point so you will find that there will be a lot more noise and chatter and photos being taken from all sides. Some easy listening to settle in the background suits. Generally one song is enough but sometimes its nice to include a second song if you want more time for photos!
You’re married! it’s time to walk down the aisle as all your friends and loved ones cheer you on! Something upbeat and fun always works really well here! After all its time to celebrate!
(There is also the option of having the “Our Father” sung in Irish)
So as you can see church ceremonies are straight forward enough.
You can download a handy template for choosing your music here: Church CeremonyTemplate (1)
Let’s move onto other ceremonies!
As I mentioned above, usually these ceremonies are written and personalised by the couple and their celebrant.
Whatever way its written though there’s three parts you can be sure to have music for.
- Bridal entrance
- Signing of the register
These parts are the same as a church ceremony so if you scrolled down earlier maybe scroll back up again! 😀
Depending on what you want, you can include as many or as little music in addition to this. Perhaps a song in between some readings or poems read by your guests? Or an instrumental bubbling in the background during your sand ceremony or candle ceremony. Or a song for a reflective moment after your vows.
Again it really depends on what you want to include in your ceremony.
So that sort of sums up where to place music in your ceremony. Whatever type of ceremony you choose to have, you can be sure that music will add so much to it. Music has the power to create an atmosphere, to bring tears to eyes and to make hearts flutter. It is worth spending some time thinking about what music you would like to hear on your day!
If you have any questions feel free to pop a comment below. Or shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org