Playlist: Religious Wedding Music


For your ceremony

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Playlist: Religious Wedding Music | A Practical Wedding

In recent months, we’ve worked to put together some playlists to help inspire your music selection for your ceremony. Sure, ceremony music is possibly less FUN than cocktail hour music, but it can also be far more meaningful. In our first go-round, we crowd sourced classical music selections for non-cheesy traditionalists. In our second go-round, Maddie collected some hip ceremony music. (Which? Confession time: I thought I wasn’t going to love, but I did.)

Religious ceremony music needed its own playlist. Originally, it had been grouped with classical music, but it took me five seconds to realize that you don’t have to be religious to love Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, but you do need to be religious to want “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in your service. (I’m not being ironic in the slightest here, by the way. That was one of my grandmother’s favorite hymns, and is also one of mine.) So in that spirit, here is a serious compilation of completely un-cheesy religious music for your wedding. It’s mostly Christian, with a few Jewish selections thrown in. In my experience, Christian weddings are loaded with music in a way that Jewish weddings are not (possibly because they are also about four times as long), so the balance is skewed for that reason. Some of these are beautiful covers of hymns that you’ll probably have the congregation sing, some are instrumentals that you would most likely play a recording of. We didn’t include music from other religions because we didn’t have that knowledge base, but if you do, please please please share in the comments. I’m very excited at the idea of learning more. Without further ado, beautiful religious music for your excellent wedding.

Religious Wedding Music from practicalmaddie on 8tracks Radio.

  1. “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” as performed by Ella Fitzgerald
  2. “Amazing Grace” as performed by Soweto Gospel Choir
  3. “Dodi Li” as performed by Oranim Zabar Troupe
  4. “Down by the Riverside” as performed by Etta James
  5. “Oh Happy Day” as performed by Aretha Franklin & Mavis Staples
  6. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” as performed by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
  7. “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” as performed by Cambridge Choir of Kings College
  8. “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart” as performed by Stacy Kowalczyk
  9. “Bless the Lord, O My Soul” as performed by Gunter Schwarze
  10. “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” as performed by Naomi Shemer
  11. “Ave verum corpus” as performed by Westminster Abbey Choir
  12. “Magnificat” as performed by Pavol Brslik
  13. “Ubi caritas et amor” as performed by Cambridge Choir Of St. John’s College
  14. “Sheva Brachot” as performed by Ribi David Kadoch
  15. “Thou Art the Vineyard” as performed by Nana Peradze And The Harmony Choir
  16. “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates” as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra And Choir

 

Playlist: Religious Wedding Music | A Practical Wedding

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Photo by APW Sponsor Gabriel Harber

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • Maple

    Ooo, another one I like is “Come Thou Fount” found on Sufjan Stevens holiday album (don’t worry! It’s not a Christmas song!). Very folksy and beautiful.

    • Laura C

      In a similar vein, there’s Crooked Still’s version of Ecstasy.

      I’m thinking of having Amazing Grace, but a different than usual tune with banjo and voice like so.

      • Kara

        If you like a bluegrass / folksy sound, you might also consider “I’ll Fly Away”.

    • alyssa

      Yep! We had this during communion. Still brings tears to my eyes!

    • Jennifer

      I love “Come Thou Fount’! Definitely one of my favorites. I’m not sure how much music we’re going to have – our Episcopalian ceremony is long enough without adding extra music! Plus neither my fiance nor I have actually attended an Episcopal wedding, so we’re flying a little blind in our planning.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        No advice. Just good luck.

        I’d attended only one Anglican wedding before my own, and the church part of planning, try as we might, and well-intentioned as our Priests were, was the most stressful part.

      • Emily

        Talk with your minister, he can help guide you through planning out the ceremony. I’ve been to several Episcopal weddings that were pretty long and traditional, but when I was married Episcopalian last year, my minister and church was very open to some non-traditional elements. We kept it very simple, sticking to the basic ceremony layout in the Book of Common Prayer and just adding a few things where it is called for. We did not have communion which cuts the length of the ceremony in half (we chose this for personal reasons, not just to have a shorter ceremony, so if communion is important to you I would keep it), we had the organist play instrumentals of some of our favorite (modern, non-hymn) songs for the processional and recessional, and had a friend sing a short (also modern) song after the readings. The Episcopal church is fairly open-minded, at least in my experience. Good luck!

      • Whitney

        We didn’t do communion, but our Episcopal wedding was only 30 minutes and included a multiple verses sung from For The Beauty of the Earth in addition to the procession/recession songs.

    • TeaforTwo

      It IS a traditional advent hymn, though. And I am hoping to walk down the aisle to Come Though Fount, played by a brass quintet. It’s one of my all-time favourite hymns, and I think it’s particularly apt for weddings, especially the last verse:

      “Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be
      Let thy grace now like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee
      Prone to wander, Lord, I fear it, prone to leave the one I love
      Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

      • TeaforTwo

        Forgot to add: I only point out that it’s an advent hymn because I am being married during advent. And I think that advent themes (hope, expectation, waiting for something unknown that will change everything) are very relevant to getting married.

    • Faith

      Come Thou Fount was used for our processional, intrumental. It is simply beautiful!

  • http://anniecardi.com Annie

    Another I’d suggest–”The Prayer of St. Francis” as performed by Sarah McLachlan. And yes, I may have first heard this on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

  • Megan Mack

    This was probably one of the hardest things I had to do for my wedding. My husband and I are both practicing Christians, but we both come from a family of non practicing Catholics and Protestants. I had to walk a very fine line because my father’s family does not like the fact that I am no longer Catholic… This is a whole different thread. However, I found some amazing songs for my Ceremony and was lucky enough to have my cousin play and have the worship pastors from my church preform. The contemporary Christian songs mad my very Catholic nana cry.

    Prelude instrumental piano Beautiful Things by Gungor
    Seating of the parents instrumental piano Divine Romance Phil Whickham
    Bridal Party Processional instrumental piano You’re Beautiful Phil Whickham
    Bridal Entrance duet Set Me As a Seal on Your Heart Matt Maher
    Communion sung by Josh Jacob Lamb of God by Tenth Avenue North

    • Jennifer

      Gungor is wonderful, and Beautiful Things is by far my favorite of theirs.

  • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

    We’ve been engaging in a search for non-religious religious ceremony music. :) (Which is to say, I hunted up a Unitarian version of a Lutheran hymn I like, which fits a wedding and doesn’t mention God explicitly, so that my atheist fiance wouldn’t be in an odd position, in terms of ceremony and religion.)

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      One song that always gives me chills is You Raise Me Up- Josh Groban has a version, but there are lots of others I’m sure. I guess it depends on the sound you are looking for. Many classical/instrumental pieces would be appropriate.

  • InTheBurbs

    Having a Catholic, hymn filled wedding in 4 days, here is what we’re using…
    Processional: Gather Us In – Haugen
    Psalm: Psalm 95: If Today You Hear God’s Voice – Hass
    Gospel Acclimation: Celtic Alleluia
    Preparation of the Gifts: Covenant Hymn by Rory Cooney, Gary Daigle, and Therese Donohoo
    Service Music: Mass of Remembrance – Haugen
    Communion: Prayer of Peace – Hass
    Recessional: Canticle of the Sun – Haugen

    Planning the mass/music was one of the more challenging pieces of wedding planning for us – but the most fun…

    • http://suzyrichardt.com Suzy

      As a fellow Catholic (albeit not often practicing) and someone who loves to sing, I second anything by David Haas or Mary Haugen! I think we used “You are Mine” at our wedding, and “Blest Are They” – which is the text of the Beatitudes, or Sermon on the Mount – for its focus on justice.

      • Elizabeth

        Awww, those are my favorite Catholic songs too. And “Ave Maria” is always a classic Catholic wedding choice, IMO.

    • KW

      Late to the game (yay vacation!) but I have to say, I love Covenant Hymn! I first learned it for a wedding between fellow church choir members, and then sang it solo for my sister’s wedding. We essentially eloped and had an entirely secular wedding, but on my cell phone ahead of time, I recorded myself singing it a capella so I could play it for my husband when we were alone.

  • C

    I’ve been trying to play “Great is thy Faithfulness” every so often for my fiance to see if I can get him on board with playing it at our wedding. It’s one of my favorites.

  • ErinC

    I’m a fairly conservative Lutheran and also a frequent vocalist, so when it came to wedding music I was fairly certain of what I did NOT want. Nothing mushy, nothing tacky, and as my fiancé and I are not fans of the genre in general, no “Adult Contemporary” or “Inspirational” music. I wanted good, solid music that was traditional, but not over done.

    I walked down the aisle to John Rutter’s “As the Bridegroom to His Chosen”. It’s beautiful, elegant, non-cheesy and just perfect for a processional. Durufle’s “Ubi Caritas”, as mentioned in the original post, was also on our list. The lyrics are about coming together in love, so totally appropriate and the music is gorgeous to boot.

    If you are having a church ceremony, my advice would be to check out the hymnal used by that church. Many hymnals have small sections dedicated to hymns appropriate for weddings and/or family, that could be an excellent jumping off point for finding music. Our recessional was “Go My Children, with My Blessing” (look for the tune AR HYD Y NOS, it’s Welsh) sung by the congregation. It was a great moment to leave the ceremony to sound of the voices of those we love.

    Other good choices:
    “The Road That Never Ends” -Jim Kimball (A little on the cheesy side, but far better than some things that are out there.)
    “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” (tune: ST. COLUMBA)- A Celtic inspired setting of the 23rd Psalm. There are a lot of nice versions of this hymn around and it’s especially useful for Roman Catholic services as special music during communion.

    • MDBethann

      I wholeheartedly second “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” – it was one of the hymns at our (very) Lutheran wedding last year. I LOVE Lutheran hymns and music in general (as a trumpet player, having good ceremony music, some of it trumpet, was extremely important to me). We also had “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” during the ceremony and our communion hymns were “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart” and “As the Grains of Wheat.”

      For the processional & recessional music, I went classical, though with a religious bent for some of them:
      “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (for the moms’ entrance)
      Canon in D, Pachebel (bridal party)
      Prince of Denmark’s March, Jeremiah Clarke (me)

      Wedding March, Mendelssohn (recessional)
      Hornpipe from Water Music, Handel

      I also second the advice to look through the church hymnal, though be willing to look beyond the “wedding” hymns. Not all of the ones I picked were “wedding hymns” and frankly, as much as I love the Lutheran hymnal, I wasn’t thrilled with the “wedding hymns.” Your pastor or the church’s music director may have some good suggestions too, so don’t hesitate to ask (I relied on my non-officiating minister father for hymn & lesson advice)
      Ninth Symphony (Ode to Joy), Beethoven

      • SF 2014

        We are having a Lutheran (ELCA) ceremony, and our hymns will be “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”, and “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry”. The first two have been mentioned here I think, but the last one is just beautiful (I can never make it through without crying). I think it’s perfect for other life events (baptisms and funerals) as well.

        I love “As the Grains of Wheat”, but we aren’t doing communion…
        I wanted to add more hymns (I love “Let All Things Now Living” because it’s so joyful!, and Haugen’s “Now the Feast & Celebration” liturgy), but we only have so much time! We haven’t settled on our processional and recessional music yet, but our organist is happy that we want so much music so he’s going to do a prelude and postlude as well!

  • Kara

    “Be Thou My Vision (Oh Lord of My Heart)” – translated by Mary Byrne is beautiful and classic for some churches.

    Also, I’d recommend “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”. However, I’ve heard it most often played at funerals–gets me teary-eyed every time. It’s still a beautiful song!

    • lisa

      Love Be Thou My Vision! We are using that too in our wedding…on Saturday. Whoa, Saturday. But great song.

  • Cass

    We played – The Wedding Song (There is love) by Peter, Paul and Mary during communion and signing of the marriage license, and it was beautiful. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZbhrO4IEtI). While its not exactly a traditional hymn, I loved the sediment and it was a hit people who attended!

  • http://blindirishpirate.blogspot.com Blind Irish Pirate

    Ugh, I should have submitted “Set Me As a Seal,” which I first heard as a women’s acapella, then a mixed choir acapella, THEN by Matt Maher. I loved it so much I asked our family friends who were in a folk band to do it for the processional. With a DULCIMER.

    • KC

      DULCIMER!

      That is all.

  • Johanna

    Every since I heard this song at church on Sunday, it struck me as the perfect wedding song. It is called “The Servant Song” and contains beautiful lyrics that seem to encapsulate what marriage is all about- serving each other and sharing a live together. My favorite lines :

    “I will weep when you are weeping.
    When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you.
    I will share your joy and sorrow
    Till we’ve seen this journey through.”

    • InTheBurbs

      Love that piece! If the programs weren’t already headed to the printer I’d be tempted to use it…

  • Theodora

    As someone who has been involved in music ministry with multiple congregations, *please* check with the organist, choir director, cantor – whoever is responsible for a particular congregation’s music – *before* you get your heart set on certain music. Some are quite strict and you must choose your religious music from a set list. Others are more willing to work with you.

    On the matter of bringing in outside vocalists/musicians and various instruments: some will allow it, others won’t. Pipe organs are very complex instruments and congregations understandably want their organist to play it.

    I’m Russian Orthodox (in an English speaking parish), and I’d like to give some suggestions for pre and post wedding hymns. Note: the Orthodox do not use any instruments at all. Everything is voice only. The ceremony music is strictly set by the choir director – at it will be only Orthodox (the Orthodox ceremonies do not have bits you can choose options for), although I’ve known some directors to be open to the suggestion of Orthodox hymns before and after the ceremony.

    I’m in my parish’s choir and these are often sung before/after weddings:

    “Praise the Name of the Lord” (composer: Archangelsky)
    http://youtu.be/BW9RpFmCE4Q

    “Praise the Lord from the Heavens” (composer: N. Rimsky-Korsakov)
    http://youtu.be/tPptuIE9Lj4

    “Georgian Wedding Hymn” (text from Psalm 45):
    http://youtu.be/FInkrOzJeO0

    “What Shall I Render to the Lord?” (composer: J. Erickson)
    http://youtu.be/zckb7F_DKP4

    The Lord’s Prayer (composer: N. Kedrov, Sr.)
    http://youtu.be/K6_AudIvBBE

    “A New Commandment” (arranged by Archbishop Job)
    http://youtu.be/mvDJQeyLkyk

    In Orthodox weddings, the enters the church to a hymn for the Virgin Mary. During Easter season, that is a beautiful seasonal hymn. “The Angel Cried” arrangement by M. Balakirev is beautiful

    http://youtu.be/pj_iQ6_jpJ8

  • http://acceptorchange.blogspot.com YetAnotherMegan

    We’re having our choir director sing “In This Very Room” during the signing of our marriage license and unity sand ceremony. Love. It.

  • Brytani

    I’m super late to this but if anyone is looking to get away from hymns, it recently occurred to me that Relient K’s “Getting Into You” and Jars of Clay’s “I’m Only Alive With You,” are great wedding songs. They both compare the love of Jesus to the commitment of marriage.

    • Faith

      Relient K in a wedding? Okay!

  • alpelican

    “A Simple Song,” from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, might be the most beautiful piece of music ever written.

  • Faith

    I wlaked down the aisle to “In Christ Alone” instrumental. It is a beautiful piece of music and the entire walk I was singing the words in my head. I also felt like it was a sweet and subtle statement about myself as I entered into marriage.

  • heres_a_llama

    I hate traditional Jewish wedding music. So we’re not using it. Whatever music we want used will be Jewish wedding music because we’re Jews and we’re getting married.

  • Aine

    My favourites from our wedding hymns: Wherever You Go, I Will Go (Straight out of the book of Ruth) and Lord of all hopefulness’. We had a Catholic service with a full Mass, so lots of songs.

  • Chiara M

    My absolute favourite hymn is “How Great Thou Art”. It makes me cry every time, and it’s been covered by everyone from Elvis to Johnny Cash to Carrie Underwood. It’s not a wedding song per say, but I LOVE it. Makes me cry every time.

  • Katie

    We had an Episcopal mass, and as we’re both in our church choir we had the full choir for our wedding. It was amazing and one of the things people still comment about after the wedding.

    We had:
    Processional: Vaughan Williams – Let all the World
    Hymn: Your love, O God, has called us here – Tune: Gonfalon Royal
    Anthem: Wood – True Love’s the Gift
    Signing: Howard Goodall – Love Divine (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tis8E7IZDBU)
    Eric Whitacre – This Marriage (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD6qvqo_bOc)
    Psalm 121 to Walford Davies chant (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjuL6DJfpOY)
    Recessional: Vierne – Gloria from Messe Solennelle

    We also considered Greater Love by John Ireland (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc4RUeKzddg)

    Important to note is that (in the UK at least), if you have live music and have your ceremony recorded, it will increase the fee of the musicians by 50% for audio only and 100% for video, which will get expensive!