Life is punctuated with music, from the ordinary moments of driving in the car with the radio playing to the more singular moments of humming a lull-a-bye to a sleepy newborn or singing the national anthem when our country’s athlete wins the gold medal. Music – especially singing together – allows us to experience the height and breadth of love. Our minds and hearts – even our bodies – soar with good music. So when we gather as baptized people to give praise and thanks to God, we sing the liturgy, too, and take up every instrument we are able to play well to make music before God.
How do you know what music to choose for your wedding?
Spend some time with and trust the liturgical music minister in your parish. Your parish’s liturgical music minister has knowledge of music and liturgy, training in accompaniment, and experience in getting everyone present to sing from their hearts. Work closely with him or her and your wedding music will be the better for it. You may also download the following guidelines to help assist you: Music Guidelines for a Catholic Wedding Booklet
What is the criteria for choosing music?
The United States’ Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy published an excellent guide to music in liturgy called Music in Catholic Worship
. It says that the best way to choose music for liturgy, including your wedding, is to judge the piece of music according to three criteria: the musical, the liturgical and the pastoral.
The musical judgment asks: “Is the music technically, aesthetically, and expressively good?” This speaks of quality, not taste. Whether the piece of music is classical or contemporary, jazz or gospel, the musical judgment asks, “Is this piece of music the best quality it can be?” Your wedding deserves only the best. And musical quality is not determined by whether or not “I like it.” Musical quality is best judged according to standards of beauty and skill – standards that your parish music minister is trained in discerning.
The liturgical judgment asks: Does this piece of music fit the liturgy and work well with what the liturgy is trying to do? An aria from an opera might be exquisite from the musical judgment: In terms of musical quality, it doesn’t get any better than this. But the liturgy properly understood does not offer much opportunity for solo singing, and singing about being lovesick because the one you love doesn’t love you back is not at all what the liturgy celebrates.
The pastoral judgment asks: Will this piece of music enable the liturgy to be a prayer for all present and not just a theatrical production? The primary kind of music in the liturgy is communal singing. Replacing the Lord’s Prayer with a soloist singing a classical rendition of the prayer is a bad idea, for example, because it literally takes the words out of the mouth of all present. Better to have all sing the chant that all know than to have a soloist “steal” the prayer.
What about secular music?
From the good three-part criteria of musical, liturgical and pastoral judgments, it’s pretty clear why love songs from musicals and the current top ten list from radio or MTV don’t measure up. Such songs aren’t bad in and of themselves – and in fact, the DJ that you hire will probably ask you for a list of such songs that you like. Play them at the reception, but leave them out of church. Some examples of inappropriate music are as followed: Sunrise, Sunset, Theme from Ice Castles, Amazing Grace, Because, All I Ask of You (Phantom), We’ve Only Just Begun, or any “Love Song” not speaking of Christian love that would be appropriate at a wedding reception.
Can we employ other musicians?
Ask your parish musician and the priest with whom you are preparing regarding policies on visiting organists, soloists, the use of other instrumentalists and the like. Do this well in advance of your wedding date. The professional expertise of your parish music minister and priest can make your planning less frustrating, and the musical results more exciting.
May we print a booklet?
You may want to print a program booklet for your wedding, especially if it will encourage all to sing their parts of the liturgy. A booklet can be most helpful in assisting your guests, especially those from other faith communities, with their participation in your wedding liturgy. If you plan to print song texts or music in your program, reprint permission must be obtained from the copyright holder. Acknowledgment of this permission will usually be required in your program. If you do not do this, you or your parish could be sued in court and fined. The parish musician can usually offer guidance in the preparation of a program booklet.