How to Choose Catholic Wedding Music

Congratulations! You have decided on a date and a place, and the two of you are off to a great start on your life together! Most brides know just what they want their big day to look like, but when it comes to music for your wedding, you may not have any idea where to even begin. Following are a few pointers on what to do and what not to do when planning your ceremonial music.


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    Contact the Music Department at the church where you will be getting married. The Music Director usually has a list of music specifically tailored for weddings that you can choose from.
    • If you are looking at the list and have no idea what these songs sound like, ask to meet with the organist to hear them played.
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    Consider what each piece brings to the ceremony. All signs should point to your relationship with God as individuals now becoming a couple. If you have a favorite pop song that you want done, have it done at the reception.
  3. Image titled Choose Catholic Wedding Music Step 3
    Choose music for the following spots of the Catholic Wedding Mass:
    • Prelude (3-5 pieces, vocal or instrumental to be played while guests arrive). Your prelude should not be any longer than half an hour, which is usually about 5 or 6 songs.
    • Piece for the Mothers. This is a piece played right before the processional and, although it does not have to be anything special, it is nice to let Mom know when she walks down the aisle that you appreciate her.
    • Processional. Sometimes, you will want two processionals: one for the wedding party and one for the Bride. It actually works better for the organist if you can choose a piece that gets louder and more festive as the piece continues so that the big finish is when the bride is walking down the aisle. It builds continuity for your ceremony. Keep in mind that any hymns that you sing should be pointing to the reason that you are there: The love of God for his people.
    • Responsorial Psalm. Psalms should be sung whenever possible. The cantor for your wedding will want to have plenty of time to prepare the psalm, so don't put off choosing your readings. Choose a Psalm from the wedding planning book you get from the parish when you register to have your wedding. Also, be sure to tell the musicians whether you have chosen to have two readings and a Gospel or just one reading, so they know when to start the Gospel Acclamation.
    • Gospel Acclamation and Mass Parts. It is usually nice to use Mass parts that the people attending your wedding will be familiar with. If your family is not Catholic, be sure that your cantor knows to sing out. If you family is Catholic, but is from another parish or another city, be sure that the musicians help you choose something that they will know, so they can participate fully in the Mass.
    • Unity Candle. The Unity Candle is not included in the Rite of Marriage in the Catholic Church. If this is a symbol that you would like to utilize on your special day, consider doing it at the Reception. Have the parents come in and light their candles, and when the Bride and Groom enter, they can kick off the festivities with lighting their Unity Candle on the Head table. If your parish does permit the Unity Candle to be used, be aware that there is never enough time for a whole song to be done. You will want to have the organist pick something short and lovely to play while you light the candle and get back to your places.
    • Offertory. This should be some sort of song of praise. It can be vocal, instrumental, or even a hymn. Again, consider choosing music that points up God's part in your marriage.
    • Communion. This is the consummation of the Sacrifice of the Mass and it is the actual high point of your Catholic Wedding. Not only are you two united by the vows you exchanged, but also in the Body and Blood of Christ. As such, your Communion Music should be completely focused on the Eucharist. Choose a song that talks about the Eucharist and why it is important in your life as an individual and as a couple. Depending on how many of your guests are Catholic and will be receiving Communion, you could need a lot of music. Have the organist prepared to play a meditative piece, if you run out of music. Consider your guest list and then decide accordingly.
    • Meditation. Usually, this is the time when the bride carries her flowers to a statue of Mary and dedicates her newly married life to Mary, the Mother of God. That is why the "Ave Maria" is most often done at this point. The "Ave Maria" is the prayer "Hail Mary" in Latin and set to music. If your parish does not allow the devotional practice of consecrating your marriage to the protection of Our Lady, and you still want this song done, consider it for the prelude.
    • Recessional. This is the big finish. Usually, the recessional is a big, organ intensive piece played with all the stops out to mirror the joy in your hearts as you first walk down the aisle as Mr. and Mrs. Newlywed.


  • Not sure what to think of Latin words? Check out a Translation site to help you make sense of the lyrics.
  • Above all, relax...even if everything isn't perfect, it will still be beautiful! Perfection can only be found in Heaven!
  • If you are paying your musicians by check, be sure to get the correct spellings of names to avoid any difficulty at the bank. Also, consider send payment ahead of time, so that you have one less thing to keep track of on the Wedding Day.
  • Consider adding an extra touch to your ceremony with a different musician. You can use brass instruments (trumpet, trombone, etc...) in the Processional and Recessional to make a bold statement. You may want to consider a string quartet or a violinist to add color to your musical choices. Another consideration for smaller more intimate weddings is a Harpist. I had Bagpipes and Drums at my wedding to pipe us out of the church (but some pastors don't like those, so check first!)
  • To help with hearing music, try using Napster or iTunes to listen to 30 second samples of music. Just do a search for the title or artist (composer) of the piece you want to hear.
  • You can also pick up Wedding planning tapes and CDs at music stores and from online services such as to get ideas for music. Just be aware that some of the choices on those recordings will not be appropriate for a Catholic Mass.
  • Be sure to budget enough money for your musicians! Ask for their prices up front so there are no surprises. Preparing music for a wedding takes a lot of time and work so prices for musicians can sometimes be high. Know, in advance, what you will be paying and what you will be getting for that money.
  • Have the musicians send you a wedding plan when you and they have completed the musical selection for your wedding. That way everyone knows what is going on and mis-communications can be cleared up before the big event!


  • Just a note on Recessionals: If you plan to come back into the church and dismiss each row of guests yourselves, please think again. When you are in the church, all of your attention should be focused on the Blessed Sacrament. You and your guests are HIS guests! It would be better to move that type of activity to the outside of the worship space if at all possible!

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Categories: Catholicism | Wedding Planning