Traditional catholic weddings

It’s my understanding that even in the new rite the wedding marches by Wagner and Mendelssohn are forbidden. I guess this is because they originate in the theater and are considered too secular for church. Are there any hymns or organ pieces that are standard in Catholic weddings, especially those celebrate according to the traditional rite? Also, I know that it’s customary in the NO rite for brides to place a bouquet of flowers before a statue of our Lady. Was this allowed in the old rite and, if so, at what point in the ceremony does it take place?

I processed in to Gounod’s Ave Maria

As for the Mary statue… I believe it’s customary in the old rite.

Ave Maria is the biggie for a traditional Catholic wedding. You have to work it in someplace. I’d try for the prelude before the wedding begins, or during the seating of the mothers.

I can’t think of any music in particular because I went to them as a child. I do know the vows back then are now known as “Form II”.

Brides have been leaving a bouquet or going to briefly pray at Mary’s altar since before VII.

The music used for the processional, and the bride’s placing flowers in front of Our Lady are pious customs, present in both the old and new rites. They are/were not part of the liturgical rite, but are/were allowable customs.

The ritual books, then or now, do not bar Wagner or Mendelssohn, and these are widely used. Some bishops and pastors, though certainly not all, permit these procesionals, while others forbid them because of their secular background.

I was specifically told, in multiple places, that Wagner and Mendlessohn were not to be used for any reason, because they are not liturgical.

"*The wedding marches are an interesting topic, sure to spark debate. It has become really traditional to use the Bridal Chorus from Wagner’s opera Lohengrin for the Procession, and the Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s ballet Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Recession. Observe the words “opera” and “ballet”. Both of these marches were written for the theater stage. Both are fine pieces of music, but are tied into stories of fantasy, murder, sex, and other delights. Are they suitable for Catholic weddings? It should be an easy answer, but it is not. Back in the 1930s or so when the Society of Saint Gregory published its Black List and White List of Catholic Music, those marches were absolutely forbidden, sent to the Black List, and no more discussion, thank you. Today it is left to the local Ordinary (the head of your diocese). Some places have no restrictions, since that music has become so traditional, but some still forbid them. Some have made no statements one way or the other.

Are those pieces truly traditional? I remember attending a marvelous performance of the Mendelssohn ballet. When all the odd creatures came dancing out of the forest, a woman behind me gasped, “They’re playing There Goes the Bride! Why are they playing There Goes the Bride?” In the popular culture, those two pieces are universally known, incorrectly, as Here Comes the Bride, and There Goes the Bride. Most Americans, alas, are unfamiliar with classic opera and ballet and do not know the dramatic references in the music. Even trained musicians I know will call the Bridal Chorus by its Here Comes the Bride alias."* (

I would suggest that even if you are not told not to use them (hope that made sense), you avoid them like the plague. They are overrated and cheesy, IMHO Why use those when you have wonderful traditional, and liturgical, music?

Here are some suggestions:

Actually, it’s interesting that Adoremus refers to the Mendelsshon piece as a ballet. It’s not, although the great choreographers Frederick Ashton, Marius Petipa, and George Balanchine used the music for ballets based on Shakespeare’s play. Originally, it’s from incidental music that Mendelsshohn composed for the play.

I just found it to be a helpful article.

I agree. But I love classical music and mistakes like that annoy me :smiley: .

Pachelbel’s Canon in D segues beautifully into the Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke (sometimes attributed to Purcell) for a very tasteful and non-controversial processional.

For a recessional, Handel’s “With Trumpets and Horns” is excellent; anything from the Fireworks Music is also excellent. The Allegro movement from Vivaldi’s La Primavera (Spring) has been transcribed for organ and is also a good choice, as is Widor’s Toccata. Any of these would be appropriate for a traditional or post-Vatican II wedding.

Attended a Nuptuial Mass not long ago…it was fabulous, the itty bitty bride was at the sanctuary and her train went the whole length of our itty bitty chapel…:smiley:

Pachelbel’s Canon in D segues beautifully into the Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke (sometimes attributed to Purcell) for a very tasteful and non-controversial processional.

I love “Trumpt Voluntary” and used it as our processional. Purcell’s “Trumpet Tune” in C Major was the recessional; these two are almost companion pieces to me.

I agree that Wagner and Mendelsshohn should be avoided, due to their theatrical roots. I was simply pointing out that there is no offcial stance from the Church on this; it is left up to bishops and pastors.

I would suggest (if the organist is good enough) a Bach organ prelude. Canon in D and Trumpet Tune are well and good, but are so overdone that I refuse to have either song at my own wedding. I have a couple of friends who have married in the TLM, and they used traditional chant and Palestrina mass settings. Luckily they got married at a parish with a good choir!

The Wagner is definitely out of the question. I think if more people knew the origin of the Wagner Bridal Chorus, it would not be as popular!

Pope St. Pius X’s motu proprio was written to curtail the prevalence of operatic and “entertainment-like” pieces, as well as restoring Gregorian chant and polyphony to it’s rightful place. The issue was not the words but rather the style. It was commonly understood (at the time) that the Bach-Gonoud Ave Maria fell into this forbidden category.

Why not
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach???

My dh plays that piece when the moms are seated.

The beauty of music is that it is quite subjective, and it can mean to one person something completely different than it means to another. Time and culture also change perceptions of music.

I think tac has pointed out something interesting – the Bach/Gonoud Ave Maria was transformed from something that at one time may have been perceived as forbidden due to style. The singer’s style has much to do with any perception of this piece as operatic, but regardless, I think most of us today simply hear a beautiful classic tribute to Our Lady.

The same can really be said even of Wagner’s Wedding March and any other purely instrumental piece in the class/romantic style. If it has no lyrics to remind us of its origin, the music itself will determine its perceived appropriateness. Wagner will not bring to mind the opera scene for most people, but will bring to mind big church weddings, which our culture (and Hollywood) has tied it to. Obviously, if a diocese has forbidden it, it is forbidden; but if not, then I look at it as a piece of music that is purely instrumental, which gives it a versatility far beyond Wagner’s original purpose.

And of course, our church has a history of blessing the profane through sacred use (pagan holidays, for example). It’s part of our tradition!

P.S. Before y’all start lecturing me on Wagner’s Wedding March, let me say that I personally discourage it, simply because I think there are better choices. So if the story of its origins doesn’t work, then I move on to talk about how music is appropriate or inappropriate in large part by the images and associations brought to mind by that music. If even one child starts singing "Here comes the bride, all fat and wide . . . " later at the reception, is that the image she wants brought to people’s minds? :eek:

I’m no big fan of the Wagner and Mendelssohn pieces, but I have always wondered why it’s OK and even recommended to substitute other secular works which were written for the King of England’s social events for the usual “Here Comes the Bride.” Granted, the king’s parties didn’t include the scandals of the theater, but secular is secular, is it not?

CarrieH, former organist who had none of the above at my own wedding

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