Help, please! A wedding issue.....
  • Please advise me here. This email is directed to my pastor and two heads of our newly formed (and being formed) Parish Liturgy Committee. Any advice and counsel would be so helpful.

    Good morning, gentlemen!

    I am hoping for some backup counsel here. There is a wedding coming up in October and we are negotiating music. The groom to be has been in touch with me, and requested two secular songs for the ceremony. I am fine with playing Yiruma instrumental; it is piano, and there are no lyrics attached. It is pretty 'new age' music. They did change the recessional to the Mendelssohn Wedding March, so that is good. And, although they only want the instrumental music for the Christina Perri song, I find it problematic for this reason. Once we open Pandora's box for instrumental to popular music, than anything goes; tunes from musicals (Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, are popular ones) and secular love songs. I have even had a request for the music to "Send in the Clowns". Folks do associate with the words, so I think it is much better to stick to a policy, rather than make an exception.

    Do I have your backup and support with this? I think we can move forward without a lot of hassle, and I will contact the couple and offer other options. I can even volunteer to come play the music at their reception.

    Thank you and blessings!

    Mary Beth

    Yiruma - River flows in you
    Jesu joy of men’s desiring
    Ciara’s processional:
    Christina Perri - A thousand years

    Ellie Goulding - love me like you do

    Heart beats fast
    Colors and promises
    How to be brave
    How can I love when I'm afraid to fall
    But watching you stand alone
    All of my doubt, suddenly goes away somehow
    One step closer
    I have died everyday, waiting for you
    Darling, don't be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
    I'll love you for a thousand more
    Time stands still
    Beauty in all she is
    I will be brave
    I will not let anything, take away
    What's standing in front of me
    Every breath, every hour has come to this
    One step closer
    I have died everyday, waiting for you
    Darling, don't be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
    I'll love you for a thousand more
    And all along I believed, I would find you
    Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
    I'll love you for a thousand more
    One step closer
    One step closer
    I have died everyday, waiting for you
    Darling, don't be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
    I'll love you for a thousand more
    And all along I believed, I would find you
    Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
    I'll love you for a thousand more

  • KARU27
    Posts: 120
    I personally can't stand the "Thousand Years" song, and it is one of many reasons I have quit contracting weddings for my string ensemble, but the lyrics for the Ellie Goulding song seem even worse (you can find them on the youtube video).
    Would it cut any ice with the committee that people may associate the songs with the movies that featured them?
    Twilight (vampire romance) for "Thousand Years" and "Fifty Shades of Gray" for the Ellie Goulding one?

    Will the committee likely stand up for sacred music, or cave in to parishioners? Maybe it depends on whether any of the wedding party is comprised of big donors to the parish.
  • So often, that has been the case....
  • Thank you for your helpful comment!!
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,929
    I am sure we have had this discussion before...
    A search for wedding music will provide plenty of interesting material.

    The last wedding we sang at I gave the following as suggestions,
    So far we have the Propers,
    And the Dixit Maria Mass,
    Te Deum as the Recessional

    As for other polyphony, we have time for 3 pieces...
    Signing of the Register, Offertory and Communion.

    Is there anything you would like… some suggestions,
    Sicut Cervus / Sitivit, Palestrina
    O Sacrum Convivium, Pelagosi
    O Salutaris, de la Rue
    Ave Maria, Parsons
    Ave Maris Stella, Hassler
    Dixit Maria, Hassler

    The couple opted for the emboldened pieces.

    This was of course the EF so some of the more secular pieces are really not an option. I think the best idea is to have a list of suitable music the couple can choose from, with the suggestion of Romantic secular music is best played at the reception!
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Mary Beth,
    You are not wrong to say no to secular music at the wedding. I avoid it at all costs. The thing to remember is they are coming to church for a religious ceremony. They can have all the secular music they want (till the cows come home!) at the reception. Thousand years could be the first dance, for instance. IMHO, it's best not to confuse the two things: sacramental rite & party afterwards. It's also a serious help if you can have a policy on the books before scheduling with a couple. For instance, for funerals at our parish, we do not permit many of the popular through-composed psalm settings that are so popular at progressive parishes because they are tropes of the psalms and do not actually present the full lectionary text. This is a big help when people (inevitably) request them even though we never do them at our parish. So, a policy of standard repertoire and hymnody familiar to the parish is a safe bet to avoid things like this from happening.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • There is also an explicit note in the introductory materials given to the couples that the music director and pastor have explicit right-of-refusal for all submissions. Not always endearing but necessary.
    Thanked by 3rich_enough JL tandrews
  • You are not wrong to say no to secular music at the wedding
    , except that if you've already allowed the Mendelssohn and the "new age" stuff, you're sawing off the branch on which you're trying to sit.
  • From my perspective, you have said what you need to say respectfully and with the goal of defining a protocol. I don't see how any of them can take offense or view your email as negative or anything but an earnest desire to establish the ground-rules.

    Good luck!
  • Ok, folks....thanks for the comments. Yes, I agree with you about the Mendelssohn and the “new age” music. (At least that is my description...) But, I have NOTHING definitive on which to stand from the Archdiocese. So, I am desperately trying to negotiate a middle ground, lest I be tarred and feathered even more than I already am. I send out a document for planning music to the couples from the first contact, and make clear the expectations, but they sometimes ignore it, or just ask anyway, for this ‘one exception.’ We do not sing paraphrases of the Responsorial Psalm either. Honestly, I steer folks away from the Mendelssohn, but at this point, that is the least of my worries. I just want to avoid being a ‘piano bar’ on the choir loft.......
  • I think setting a firm policy is the best thing you can do. By allowing the Mendelssohn and Yiruma, you've now exposed yourself to criticism that you won't play the others because of your personal taste, rather than an easy-to-understand sacred/secular dichotomy. While many here, myself included, understand your reasoning for choosing those as the lesser of evils, I worry the distinction would be lost on people who seem to clearly have no idea what is appropriate for a sacred space (or, alternatively, simply do not care).

    I'm assuming this is a full Mass; if so, you don't need anything from your archdiocese. The GIRM will suffice (failing common sense, of course)
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,382
    The Mendelssohn is not that hard to defend. Hardly anyone recognizes it as having come from an opera, let alone the plot of the opera. And it has no bothersome lyrics. For most people, it's just conventional procession music for a wedding,
    Thanked by 2tomjaw ServiamScores
  • I agree; that being said, it opens a slippery slope to much worse selections based on the only criterion that most people in this position will understand.

    Someone who's taken the time to provide a comprehensive list like this has obviously put thought into the selections that will not be defeated by "this is inappropriate for Mass." There are a thousand (bad) arguments against that - "it's emotional", "it's about love", "I hear similar music in my local parish", &c. If it were that easy, we wouldn't be in this entire mess right now.

    The one "saving grace" of Haas/Haugen/et al is that, if nothing else, at least it professes to be Christian, if not sacred. Even if in name only, and the musical equivalent of a C & E Catholic, it still makes that pretense. The music listed above does not, and that is the avenue which will most easily dissuade its use - "it's not sacred". If even a document like this that calls MCW "excellent", insists there's a "recessional [song]" in the Mass, and provides "One Bread, One Body" as a recommendation is 100% firm on this point, then using that as an argument is bulletproof.

    That's more difficult in this case because of allowing the above, in my mind.
  • By and large I find things that are typically billed as "classical" music are acceptable; especially if they never had lyrics. There's definitely an argument to be made against the Mendelssohn (and things like it) but at this point the piece is so far removed from context (and in fact has a living tradition of its own within a liturgical context) that I can see past it even if I'd prefer against it. At least classical music tends to be high art music—something that certainly cannot be said for modern pop music. I recently saw a meme floating around that compared a page of Beethoven to a page of Justin Bieber... it was rather comical although an affront to Beethoven.

    I actually provide my brides with a long-form email that lists appropriate pieces of my repertoire or things I'd be willing to learn that are also well suited to processionals/recessionals. They all have links to recordings so they can sit down one evening with YT and make a choice. This avoids some of the odd requests because they are usually happy to choose from one of the 30 options provided. I'm rather proud of next week's bride for even picking a rather unknown piece for her recessional. (

    I steer my brides to pick hymns from the hymnal rather than introduce novel songs during the liturgy. I do wish we could have a break from the Schubert though... that poor Ave (speaking of things that were never originally sacred...) needs a rest. sigh.
  • Have a pre-selected list o'stuff, then say, "Because these are the pieces we can easily prepare and adding other pieces would add considerable practice time, we really can't diverge from this list." This is more or less what I do at my parish, and I haven't had any complaints yet.

    At a wedding at not-my-parish-but-I'll-take-their-money-if-they-want-me-to-play-as-long-as-I-don't-have-to-pick-the-music, I recently played a generic instrumental piece from the soundtrack of "Love Actually," a movie I have not seen nor plan to, plus accompanied a quasi-religious-but-not-really John Lennon song released posthumously ("Grow Old with Me"). (The rest was actual religious music.) Not my circus, not my monkeys. I know what I do at my parish, but I don't dictate what goes on elsewhere.
    Thanked by 2tandrews JL
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,169
    Hardly anyone recognizes [Mendelssohn] as having come from an opera
    No, me neither!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,382
    Oh, right. I was thinking of Wagner. Thanks. What's the Mendelssohn people object to? Nobody's asking for the "Baal" choruses from Elijah at a wedding, are they?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,652
    The Wedding March from the incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's on the old Black List, with the Waggoner, erm, Wagner.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,137
    "Nobody's asking for the "Baal" choruses from Elijah at a wedding, are they?"

    That's an interesting idea for some weddings...
  • I'm hard and fast with no secular music with weddings.

    -My basic go to is laying the foundation that music at mass must be sacred.
    -Then I emphasize that "sacred" literally means "set apart." You can go into examples of other "sacred" items at mass ie vessels are made of gold or precious materials and not tupperware of pyrex.
    -I also have a couple of pop-ish sounding songs for the bride that really wants a contemporary sounding entrance or recessional.
    - How Beautiful (Twila Paris) when done on piano is a gorgeous processional and I have won not a few brides over from Christina Perri and Adele!
    - Joy a syncopated arrangement of Ode to Joy

    I have also arranged a few hymns to be played upbeat (In Christ Alone. Contemporary Christian music is at least a step in teh right direction. It is helpful when I have something to offer after that firm "no." This wont' solve all the wedding issues, but it keeps things somewhat on even keel while keeping pop music out of the mass.

  • Polsak,

    How is Twila Paris's work not secular?
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,190
    She was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in May 2015.
  • AndrewK
    Posts: 41

    Nothing says marital fidelity like "50 Shades of Grey". Just say no; drop the axe.
    Thanked by 3tomjaw BruceL Earl_Grey
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,652
    "Nobody's asking for the "Baal" choruses from Elijah at a wedding, are they?"

    That's an interesting idea for some weddings...

    Yes, to be paired together with that horrendous "Hallelujah" thing by what's his name.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Chris- she's a Christian artist.
  • Again, even though I haven't had the song sung, I wouldn't object to it being sung as a prelude or offertory. Quite surprisingly, it lines right up with Catholic theology of marriage, including the juxtaposition of Christ and his Church with a verse about a groom and bride, happily (to me) reminding us that we as Church are bride of Christ and showing the love that bride and groom are meant to be. This wedding song emphasizes service instead of "love love love, me me me."

    1.How beautiful the hands that served
    the wine and the bread
    and the sons of the earth.
    How beautiful the feet that walked
    the long dusty roads
    and the hills to the cross.
    How beautiful
    how beautiful
    how beautiful is the body of Christ.

    2.How beautiful the heart that bled
    that took all my sin
    and bore it instead.
    How beautiful the tender eyes
    that chose to forgive
    and never despise.
    How beautiful
    how beautiful
    how beautiful is the body of Christ.

    Bridge: And as He laid down His life
    we offer this sacrifice
    that we will live just as he died:
    willing to pay the price
    willing to pay the price.

    3. How beautiful the radient Bride
    who waits for her Groom
    with His light in her eyes.
    How beautiful when humble hearts give
    the fruit of pure lives
    so that others may live.
    How beautiful
    how beautiful
    how beautiful is the body of Christ.

    4.How beautiful the feet that bring
    the sound of good news
    and the love of the King.
    How beautiful the hands that serve
    the wine and the bread
    and the sons of the earth.
    How beautiful
    how beautiful
    how beautiful is the body of Christ.
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • KARU27
    Posts: 120
    I always figure that brides like "How Beautiful" because they literally hear someone singing "How Beautiful" over and over again as they walk down the aisle.
    But maybe not.
  • Polska,

    If someone is a "Christian artist", do you mean that her principle musical output is a work of evangelization, or do you mean that she's Protestant? After all, James Martin, SJ, is a Catholic priest, but I'm fairly sure I won't be using any of his output (even if he has written some music) at Mass. The St. Louis Jesuits were Catholic priests, too, and ostensibly musicians, but I wouldn't use anything they've written now. (When I was younger and hadn't learned better, I think I used a few of their pieces.)
  • TCJ
    Posts: 705
    Funny. I just refused to play How Beautiful at a wedding. Mentioned the text to the pastor, he agreed.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,382
    Well, let's give it a listen and form a more complete impression:

    Apart from the text, there are musical characteristics that make it less suited for use at a wedding. At 4:40, it's overly long, and it seems pretty dramatic to me, which is not a good thing for a procession. I'm wondering if it could be made acceptable, and how much change would be involved. I'd want to start by cutting much of the repetition. It would be more discreet to sing the words "How beautiful" only once per stanza rather than thrice. (Noble simplicity, please! :-) ) Also, the pop-song "bridge" would have to go and the repetition of the refrain after it. Also, I'd want to change the abrupt modulation (another pop convention) to a composed one.

    The text's theology also has a problem: it moves from speaking of the church at large in v.1 to speaking of the bride in v.3. In the context of a wedding, that invites people to think of the Church as pointing to the individual, but that's the inverse of a sound theology: bride and groom point to Christ and the Church, not vice versa. Perhaps a bit of Evangelical Protestant ecclesiology is slipping in.
  • The repeated reference to serving wine and bread is, surely, troubling?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • TCJ
    Posts: 705
    CGZ, that is what I pointed out to my pastor.
  • Musically, there are issues, which chonak aptly pointed out. I set those aside.

    I can't see the problem with the repeated (i.e., two-fold) reference to serving wine and bread. It seems a clear reference to the Last Supper, and the hands in question are Christ's, and there are exactly two references to it, at the beginning and end, which seems a fitting literary device to frame the remainder of the song, and indeed, as their framing, to put the other lyrics into an appropriate context.

    More generally (about the words), of course it is possible, in one's understanding, to twist the lyrics from "how beautiful is the body of Christ" to "how beautiful is the woman walking down the aisle", but I can't place the blame for such twisting on the lyricist. It is a willful contortion of the text. Perhaps the lyricist could have been more explicit about the proper relationship between the human bride and the Church as Bride, but I don't think that the text *encourages* a misunderstanding, here. (And 'more explicit' is not necessarily a good thing in lyrics.)

    [OK, I can't resist: for the reasons mentioned, the song seems fine to me for a campfire gather-round or some other event outside of mass. Not as a part of mass. That's not a comment about the words, but about the music. It is too reminiscent of popular music (which, I hasten to add, I enjoy, in some of its forms).]
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • I think the risk with "wine and bread" is the denigration of the Eucharist to something far more mundane, without additional clarification on, say, "heavenly bread".
  • You could say I'm a "christian artist" too, but that doesn't mean that everything I compose is "sacred". I get the gist of the idea, but that doesn't change the fact that How Beautiful is, in fact, pop music, de facto based on style, that just happens to have christian lyrics. This is my issue with praise music in churches writ large. It is fundamentally emulating a secular style, and slapping a coat of christian paint on it. It is not, at its core, "sacred" music.
  • I play "How Beautiful" instrumentally. The words are not an issue. I usually only play one or two verses. I never play the bridge. It fits as a processional that way.

    Serviam- I would not put How Beautiful in the same style of Praise Music. It is different in form and lyrics and style. It is definitely more developed. I say it is a hybrid of hymn and pop ( the bridge and chordal structure at the bridge really bringing in the pop).

    Chris asked how her work is not secular.
    I said because she is a christian artist.
    He asked what makes her a christian artist.
    I will respond the theme of her work is Christian and she is a Christian.
    I am comfortable playing the chords and melody of a song describing the relationship of christ and his church as a processional.

    I've used it as a single pianist with an andante tempo, instrumental, no bridge, it has worked really well as a processional musically and liturgically.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 409
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,005
    Weddings... I stay away from weddings if I can.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 843
    FWIW "How Beautiful" was included in the first edition of the Saint Augustine Hymnal, not sure about later editions.

    To original poster mentioned:
    But, I have NOTHING definitive on which to stand from the Archdiocese.

    Have you tried contacting the Archdiocesan director of music to request such a policy be implemented? Short of that, having a parish policy in place that will be enforced by the pastor is necessary.