41 Classic and Modern Wedding Hymns


A mix of the new and old, plus a handful of all-time staff faves

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

The selection of wedding hymns is one of the main ways you can personalize your religious service (since if you’re getting married in a church, you may not be able to write your service or your vows from scratch).

Bride and groom during wedding ceremony with text "wedding hymns"

So if you’re having a church wedding, we’ve rounded up some wedding hymns beloved by the APW community, along with a few other hymns we just flat out love. Call this our best wedding hymns roundup, and use it to get to work on making your wedding ceremony feel like your own. (Please ignore how cheesy many of the You Tube videos are, this is just to give you a reminder of the tune.)

When selecting wedding hymns, think about hymns that have some relation to your wedding ceremony thesis (what does marriage mean to the two of you?), hymns that will set the tone for various parts of the service, and hymns you just flat out love… a specific relationship to love and marriage is in no way needed. We haven’t divided these wedding hymns by denomination, but have instead divided them by style, figuring you’ll pick hymns that are familiar to your religious practice.

Let’s get to the singing.

Best Classic Wedding Hymns


“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God


“Abide with Me”


“All Beautiful the March of Days”


“All Creatures of Our God and King”


“Amazing Grace”


“Ave Maria”


“Be Thou My Vision”


“Blessed Be the Tie That Binds”


“Canticle of the Sun”


Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing


“Earth and All Stars”


“Eternal Father Strong to Save”


“Faith of Our Fathers”


“Gather Us In”


“Great Is Thy Faithfullness”


“Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”


“Love Divine All Loves Excelling”


“Oh God Our Help in Ages Past”


“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (1982 Hymnal #390)”


“Praise My Soul the King of Heaven”


“Simple Gifts”


“The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended”


“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Best Modern Wedding Hymns


“All Are Welcome”


“Celtic Alleluia”


“Covenant Hymn”


“Endless Is Your Love”


“For the Beauty of the Earth”


“How Great Thou Art”


“I Have Loved You with an Everlasting Love”


“Morning Has Broken”


“O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”


“O God, Beyond All Praising”


“Prayer for Peace”


“Psalm 95: If Today You Hear God’s Voice”


“Set Me as a Seal”


“Spirit of Life”


“The Servant Song”


“To Everything There Is a Season”


“What Wondrous Love Is This”


“Wherever You Go (Song of Ruth)”

tell us: what wedding hymns did you use?

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com. #NASTY

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  • Lisa

    I love hymns, and I love this round-up!!

    …but are we really calling “For the Beauty of the Earth” modern? It was written in 1864, which doesn’t strike me as particularly new. (And not to bash — I just love this tune. It was my bridal entrance!)

    • Christy

      And I wouldn’t call Gather Us In particularly classic. I mean, it *is* a classic, but it was only written in 1982. Shrug. I was brought up on Marty Haugen and David Haas–I’m loving this roundup.

    • Nope.

      Just chiming in to put “Morning has Broken” in that same category – Cat Stevens recorded a version in the 70s, but the actual hymn is much older. My grandparents sang it at their (morning) wedding. “What Wondrous Love” is a shape note song, dating from at least the early 1800s.

      Also, this is kinda my pet peeve – “Ave Maria” is not a hymn. It’s a religious text set to music. The actual song isn’t the full text of the “Ave Maria” prayer – it opens with the words “Ave Maria,” because the song as Schubert wrote it was actually about a Scottish woman praying while she was hiding from some warring clans. Then, the rest of the song is in German and talks about her plight hiding on a mountain. Many people today sub in the full Latin text, but it’s not a “hymn” the way most people think of it – please please don’t have your congregation sing along to it.

  • InTheBurbs

    Loving that almost every hymn from our wedding is here…and I may have just listened to Covenant Hymn and got a little teary…

  • sara

    But if you’re having a religious wedding service, writing anything from scratch is usually pretty much off the table.

    I would not necessarily assume this! It completely depends on your church and officiant. Our minister worked with us to design the service and we wrote our own vows. In fact, our church does not traditionally have you say “I do” (the wording is a little different and you say “I will”), which I really did not like, so she let us change that (that was probably the wording issue that took the most convincing!). Then on the other hand, I also had some friends whose minister agreed not to talk about certain things (specifically around gender roles in marriage) during the ceremony, but then he snuck it back in at the last minute. So I guess the lesson is, know and trust whoever you choose to officiate your religious wedding! And if customizing the ceremony is something you want, that is completely possible depending on your denomination and who you ask.

    • Christy

      Yikes! I would be super upset if the minister added stuff at the last minute that we’d specifically agreed to omit. We are having a Presbyterian minister officiate our secular wedding, and she’s agreed to not even mention God–my fiancée is a staunch atheist and it’s important to her. (I’m a former Catholic and I basically think if God’s gonna be there, He’ll be there with or without mention, and I don’t know if I want Him there anyway, because feelings.) But if our minister added God in, even though she’s totally happy to omit Him, my fiancée and I would be quite upset.
      (Side note, I’m shocked she agreed to omit mention of God, but I’m pretty sure she thinks He’ll be there even if he’s not mentioned. And that’s ok.)

      • Eenie

        Most awkward ceremony ever was one where the officiant talked about the future kids of the couple for a solid ten minutes when the couple was very public about the fact that they were not having kids. Didn’t bother asking if them if they hadn’t told the officiant or if the officiant was just trying to change their minds.

      • Jess

        This is actually exactly why the preacher-we-know (we don’t attend but we have lots of faithful friends, so, our circle includes him) is getting vetoed as a candidate for officiating. I am SO afraid that he would stick in something about having lots of babies, or obeying, or maybe about “traditional marriage”.

        A big ol’ bag of nope.

  • Lu

    I wish the post clarified in the title that this isn’t for generally “religious” ceremonies, but rather for Christian ceremonies. I’m sure it’s implied by ‘hymns’ but it seemed sort of out of APW character (in my humble opinion, of course!) to imply that religious meant christian. not a big deal though, very interesting for me to see these hymns I didn’t know.

    • Alexa

      I agree. There’s also the implication that “religious” means “conservative” (I say for lack of a better word, specifically meaning placing a higher importance on structure and tradition) with the second sentence of “if you’re having a religious wedding service, writing anything from scratch is usually pretty much off the table.” We had a UU ceremony in a UU church, by a UU minister, I’m not sure why that would count as less “religious” than my cousin who got married in a Catholic ceremony. (I can think of a couple of possible answers, but none that I agree with.)

      Our minister did send us a sample ceremony to work off of, but if we’d wanted to do something completely different that would have been fine as well. And I know other friends of various religions and denominations who had significantly more influence in there ceremonies than song selection. I’m not trying to imply that there’s anything wrong with forms of organized religion that has a highly structured, traditional ceremony—I loved Meg’s article about hers here: http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/09/making-a-traditional-service-your-own/ —but I don’t think it’s fair to treat that as synonymous with “religious”, and certainly not to (presumably unintentionally) imply that “religious” means Christian.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        I think when we talk about “writing things from scratch” its coming from the scope of non-religious ceremonies. My recessional song was an instrumental of a Journey song. I could be wrong (because my Catholic upbringing does lead me to believe that church is about RULES), but Journey would not fly at even the least traditional church, right? Or is there a church out there that will support my love of 80s hair bands in wedding rituals? (Please say there is.)

        • Alexa

          I mean, some things depend on individual ministers and congregations, and I’m sure there are some songs with lyrics that could be concerning (not necessarily to Journey songs, but I wouldn’t play, say, NIN’s “Closer to God”), but every Unitarian Universalist church I’ve attended would be 100% fine with a Journey instrumental, and probably fine with playing the actual song.

          I also grew up with a gay, female minister in the 90s, so I can see where it would be incredibly different from any experience with the Catholic church.

        • M

          I think there’s also a difference between a religious ceremony and a ceremony in a church with lots of rules. Our ceremony was definitely religious, but it was outside, our minister was a dear friend, and we could essentially do whatever we wanted. We wrote our vows, pieced together ceremony bits that we liked from different denominations, and used whatever music we wanted to use. Our recessional song was Michael Franti. So, I agree with Alexa – I don’t think religious was the right word choice here. It is fun to see all the hymns, though!

          • Meg Keene

            I’m speaking generally (I’m using the word “usually”, which I’ll stand by). But I agree, outside of a church or a religious institution, you’ll generally have more flexibility. (Our wedding was outside, but we are still practicing Jews who are part of a congregation, so we were working within the limits of liberal judaism, for example. Besides, it’s traditional for Jewish weddings to be outside! The nuances are endless.)

            Anyway, because of that endless variation, I used a general word “religious” and kept it broad with “usually,” and then when talking about hymns switched to “church wedding.” And that’s why I made those choices, for those of you interested.

            I did change the title to “church weddings” though. Again, it has limits (you could use these outside), as does “Christian” (you could use them in an interfaith or more secular wedding), but I agree it’s probably better (abet imperfectly) than “religious,” where we we were just depending on the modifier of “hymns”, which is pretty specific to Christian practice, to clear things up.

        • Jess

          I mean, I’ve heard songs from Phantom of the Opera and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and various pop artists at church weddings. So… conceivably they could also be down with Journey (and, for real, who hates on 80’s hair bands?!)

        • Amy March

          The United Methodist Church I grew up in was pretty welcoming to non-religious music. I never heard Journey in particular, but I could definitely see the Church embracing a song called “Don’t Stop Believing”- like, that’s kind of the main point of church after all!

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            “I could definitely see the Church embracing a song called “Don’t Stop Believing”- like, that’s kind of the main point of church after all!”

            All the upvotes for you.

        • Angela

          I don’t know about Journey specifically but we’re having pop songs at our Anglican wedding ceremony at our church. ‘All I Want is You’ from the Juno soundtrack and ‘Something’s Gotta a Hold on Me’ by Etta James. I think the Catholic Church is a stricter kettle of fish though.

        • Rebekah

          I dunno, Maddie. I got married at a Methodist church and processed to the intro of Sweet Child of Mine.

        • Tree

          Depends on your church. Catholic churches will generally only permit specifically religious music (which may have varyingly strict interpretations), but many Protestant churches will allow for -appropriate- secular music. For example, the wedding march would generally be frowned upon in a Catholic church but accepted in a Protestant, as far as I understand things.

      • Meg Keene

        I actually try to fight back on the implication that religious means conservative and use it anyway. And obviously a UU service is a religious one, regardless of how much you’re going to get to write. I know that some religious services do let you write stuff, though I think it’s the rare service (liberal or conservative) that lets you write tons and tons… and awesome that you had one! Usually you’re working within a pretty set structure, and going from there. How much flex you have obviously depends. (For the record, we are part of a very liberal form of Judaism, but we are practicing… IE, working within a congregation. We had some flex, probably much more than I would have had in any of the liberal protestant denominations I was a part of. But I was never UU! Also!)

        Specifically, I used the term religious wedding at the outset, because I was speaking more generally—most religious weddings of every stripe have limitations on what you can write. After that, when referring to hymns, I used the term “church wedding.”

        But I did change the title!

        • Alexa

          Thank you for the response and explanation. I appreciate it.

    • Meg Keene

      I clarified below why I used religious weddings in some parts of the post (I was speaking more broadly on purpose), and church weddings in other parts. I did change the title to church weddings though, good point!

      • Lu

        Oh wow. Yes, I completely agree on your point that the text does apply more broadly to any religious ceremonies. And thanks for taking on my point about the title!

  • Kayjayoh

    While I can see where it is coming from, I never would have thought to consider “Abide With Me.” I love it, but it is such a funeral hymn.

    • TeaforTwo

      Agreed! It seemed like a bit of a downer for a wedding to me.

  • Kayjayoh

    I’m a big fan of Finlandia, and the Unitarian hymnal has a setting with wedding appropriate words.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMn0QdiTzQM

  • RosemaryUK

    Any suggestions for if the majority of your guests are from religions other than Christianity? The only ones here that other religions wouldn’t feel weird singing are For the Beauty of the Earth and All are Welcome.

    • ParkSlopian

      We’re having a civil ceremony with some interfaith elements, and thinking of using To Everything There Is A Season (I want to go with the Byrds version, but I think the classic hymn works too, lyrics-wise!).

      Depending on your situation, maybe check out Unitarian hymns as well… my recent experience with UU hymns is that they have many of the classics from my Protestant upbringing, but the lyrics are altered so they are not as specifically Christian.

    • Alexa

      As someone raised Unitarian Universalist I second the suggestion of looking there as a source of hymns that aren’t particular to Christianity. Some have Christian origins and others less so, but they will pretty reliably reference things like “love” or “spirit” or occasionally “God” rather than Jesus, Christ, “the Lord,” etc.

    • ParkSlopian

      Hmm also, what about the really popular ones like Amazing Grace and Joyful Joyful? They are definitely Christian hymns, but the lyrics are pretty broad. And maybe they are so common in pop culture that people wouldn’t feel so awkward singing them? Also if one part of a song is a sticking point, you can always skip a verse or two (like, sing only verses 1 and 2, or 1 and 4).

      I’d also love to hear other suggestions as I’m in a similar boat. Now off to add some Sister Act 2 to my wedding ceremony brainstorm list!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaEH1e_DLm0

    • jubeee

      I am no longer Catholic or religious but I love The Prayer of St. Francis(Make me a Channel of Your Peace) which is a Catholic hymn.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI1Gst7pEqc

    • Meg Keene

      I actually think the most respectful thing is for you to do you. I deal with this question pretty constantly in my life, as part of an interfaith family. I often find it vaguely offensive when people are trying to pander to the fact that say—our part of the family is Jewish—when we’re joining them for an expression of their faith. I mean, trust me, we wouldn’t pander to them in a Jewish service ;)

      We just had two funerals back to back in my family. One was Jewish, one was Episcopal. I actually wrote the latter service. Anyway! I picked hymns that were appropriate, and that was that. In our particular family, we sing along, but don’t sing bits about Jesus. Other folks will handle it differently, but I don’t think you have to take care of the non Christians in the crowd!

      Others will disagree, but that’s my two cents!

    • TeaforTwo

      I think the other thing to consider is whether your guests will feel comfortable singing at all.

      I grew up going to church, and although I have a terrible singing voice, I loooove singing hymns in a congregation. For our church wedding, though, we knew that the majority of guests didn’t go to church, or hadn’t gone to church in decades. The religious tone of the songs probably wouldn’t have bothered them, but singing along with a group was something that many of them hadn’t done since elementary school. And congregational singing when only a third of the congregation sings sounds weird and stilted and sad. So we didn’t have hymns.

  • Alexa

    From a Unitarian Perspective (though I know some are also used in other congregations):
    “Though I May Speak”—aka “The Gift of Love” (I was a little surprised this wasn’t on here, since it’s basically Corinthians 13 set to music, and that’s a really common verse for weddings) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etIeXlCozCI
    “A Prayer for this House” is one of my, maybe less widespread favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNlLUE3Lo00

    • ParkSlopian

      Love finding different versions of old favorites! The tune for this is a Scottish folk song, “The Water Is Wide”… which come to think of it, would also be really beautiful for a wedding.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvbEgPlvgGE

      • Alexa

        Yeah, I love that song as well. We actually considered it for our wedding, but the lyrics in the third verse are kind of the opposite of what I think of as wedding appropriate: “But love grows old/ And waxes cold/ And fades away like Summer dew.” *shrug*

        • ParkSlopian

          Haha yeah that is… not an up note to end on. :) Good point!

      • Anne

        We used a setting of this titled “When Love is Found” – really beautiful and totally wedding appropriate.

  • Cleo

    Can we be real here and stop calling this for your “religious wedding?” This is straight up for a Christian wedding.

    I came to this post hoping to see some traditional songs/hymns that were for religions other than the broad scope of Christianity. But nope.

    I’m not offended by other religions not being included, but it’s annoying to have called all these hymns “religious” when they’re actually just Christian.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Hey Cleo, while I was not the one who wrote this article, I believe the intent here was that hymns automatically imply Christian (correct me if I’m wrong, but are there other religions in which the songs are called hymns?) Whereas you can be Christian and not have a religious ceremony, these are for Christians who ARE having a religious ceremony. So the implication isn’t that all religions are Christianity, but rather that we don’t wan’t to assume all ceremonies are religious.

      • eating words

        I’ve heard the word “hymn” applied to plenty of Jewish music as well. Count me as another person who was surprised by the100% Christian content of this post.

        • Meg Keene

          I actually have not ever heard hymn used in Judaism, ever. It’s considered a pretty Christian word, and I’d never mix Jewish music in a post on hymns (as a practicing Jew). Anyway, title changed.

          • Rhie

            Agreed, I’ve always seen/heard Jewish songs that are analogous to hymns referred to as zmirot, or zmiros if you’re Orthodox. Mid-century classical Reform congregations might have used the word hymns but that would have been for the specific purpose of making the synagogue service more like a church service and therefore more Americanized and less threatening/different, which is what the Reform movement in its original incarnation–definitely not true today–used to aim for.

      • K.

        For most of the Western world, the word ‘hymn’ *typically* refers to Christian songs. But *technically*/definitionally a hymn is any religious song, from any religion. And there are definitely other religions (such as Sikh and Judaism, as someone mentioned below, though I’m not sure at what frequency) that refer to their religious songs as hymns (when speaking English).

      • Cleo

        Yes, hymn is usually used in a Christian context. I have heard others use it as a word to apply to other religious songs, mostly to create a common vocabulary between two parties.

        Regardless, seeing “Religious” (in the initial post) made me assume that we’d be diving into various religions because APW is usually so inclusive, or if not, on point with language use. And because of the above, I took hymns to mean religious song in a general sense.

        Anyway, thanks for the response. :)

    • Meg Keene

      See above notes! I also changed the title, but if you want a deep dive into linguistic choices, see above.

      And no, to answer Maddie’s question, there are not other religions that use hymns, that I know of. That’s actually why I was leaning on it as a modifier of religious, but I switched up the title.

      • Cleo

        Thanks for changing the title!

        In a western world where words like Piyyut and Zmirot would be out of place, the general “religious” made me assume hymn was being used in a very general sense of the word.

  • Kelsey

    Not really a hymn (not the best to sing along to) but we had our friend sing “Bread and Wine” by Josh Garrels for our ceremony and I highly recommend it for a wedding song. It is a Christian song, but nothing about it could not apply for someone who is Jewish (2 scripture references are old testament, and wine and bread are also important symbols of community in Jewish culture). I’ve written about it before, but I love that it celebrates relationships but in a way that doesn’t elevate marriage above friendship.

  • Hannah-Marie

    The Summons is a beautiful hymn with a traditional Scottish melody and modern lyrics. If we’d had the church wedding we were planning instead of the courthouse one, I would’ve used that and Simple Gifts for sure. One Bread, One Body is a good communion hymn if you are Catholic (all the Catholics probably know it already but whatevs).

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  • Maria Bowman

    We didn’t have any hymns in our own wedding (neither my husband nor I are religious/Christian now). However, I grew up in the Church of the Brethren (a Christian sect of Anabaptists with much in common with modern Mennonites and other “peace churches”). Both of my grandfathers were ministers. A popular hymn in my extended family for both weddings and funerals is “In the Bulb There Is a Flower”. I also found it on YouTube as “A Hymn of Promise”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_0_dYF04s8