Mendelssohn's Wedding March for a Catholic Wedding
  • BKJOEBKJOE
    Posts: 3
    While planning a ceremony for this couple to be married in June, they requested Mendelssohn’s Wedding March be played as the recessional. After informing the couple that music which portrays fantasy, murder, sex, and other delights would not be appropriate for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, she choose another piece without hesitation. So they pick Vivaldi’s Spring, in which I said that unless drunkards falling asleep, lack of physical or mental energy, and barking dogs is a Sacred piece that characterizes your marriage and the Sacraments, then how about we do Mouret’s Rondeau or Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary? Rondeau it is!

    Now they sit with Monsignor, a catholic priest, and he suggests that they do Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. “It’s been the recessional at all the weddings he’s done so far, and would be a good idea for ours” he says.” Now I fire off a hot email to the bride saying he’s in err and will be speaking to him first thing Sunday morning and will get back to her.

    I spoke to Monsignor and cordially voice my opposition that this march is associated with fantasy, murder, and sex and that I cannot allow such a piece to make a mockery out of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or the Sacrament of Matrimony. “But the meaning of things change over time.” REALLY? Fantasy, murder, and sex have the same definition today as it did 2,000 years ago. However, he said he would research this a little more and after retreat, would set a meeting to discuss this.

    I would like the opinions of other musicians so I can successfully defent my case that such an atrocity should be banned from being used in any liturgy.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 843
    Fraternal correction:

    Now I fire off a hot email to the bride saying he’s in err and will be speaking to him first thing Sunday morning and will get back to her.


    I don't think this is ever a good idea. It's not the bride's fault. She doesn't know any better. You need to address this with the priest, and ultimately he's in charge not you. While you can make a good argument against using the Mendelssohn at Mass, one could also make a compelling argument for not excluding it.

    With all the liturgical abuses out there, I personally find this to be a minor one, and a battle not worth fighting. For future weddings you could offer a list of approved selections from which to select, but even that will require the backing of the pastor.

    I see your point about the piece in question, and I think it's a valid one, but this is one instance where the pastoral "trump card" should be played. And I don't think you handled the situation well, specifically with your communications with the bride.

    I trust that I won't be condemned in the final judgement for refusing to play less than ideal music at Mass because the priest said it was ok.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    Pieces do change. Do you know the original text to "Ode to Joy?" Definitely not appropriate during church, and what that has developed into ("Joyful Joyful") is one of the few actual sacred pieces that I do for recessionals!

    The tune for "O Sacred Head Surrounded" was originally a love song. At what point did it become acceptable to use during church? The list could go on. and on. and on...

    While I *never* offer the Wedding March as an option, and would try to discourage a bride from using it, this is not a hill I would die fighting on. At this point, I think far more people are familiar with "The Wedding March" as a recessional at a church wedding than the original context, so the question is asked again: At what point DOES it become "ok" to use in church? Like the other pieces I mentioned, when is it far-enough removed from its original secular source?
  • The poor bride must be at a loss. As far as the music is concerned, if there is conflict, I would go directly to the monsignor and say nothing to the bride until I've had my conversation with the monsignor. It's never a good idea to go against the priest in the presence of the bride. If, indeed, the monsignor is incorrect, you could always respectfully go to the bride and say you've spoken with monsignor and, after careful consideration and research, you both feel the Mendelssohn is inappropriate for a Catholic mass.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,457
    Part of the problem, of course, is that the Monsignor has no idea that he is incorrect. These conflicts often take time and patience to iron out and there may be music you may rather not play along the way (though there are many selections I would avoid at all costs).
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,382
    Anyway, BKJOE, welcome to the forum. Obviously you care about doing The Right Thing, so this is the right place!
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "I would like the opinions of other musicians so I can successfully defent (sic) my case that such an atrocity should be banned from being used in any liturgy."

    My opinion as a musician is that you are wrong. It's a decent piece of music, and the associations of it are far-divorced (pun intended) from it. Just like the Phrygian mode no longer excites men to lascivious behavior, and triple ("perfect") meter is more likely to recall a waltz than the Holy Trinity.

    For whatever my opinion may be worth to you.

    More objectively, you do whatever the priest says. You should have talked to him about wedding music when you began working with him - wedding music a topic I swiftly bring up with new employers, to find out their own policies on such pieces. Because at the end of the day, the priest decides the appropriateness of the music, not you, I, or the bride.
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  • It seems like this conversation comes up a lot on this forum. Just for the record, I have no problem with the Mendelssohn March at Weddings (as people walk out of Church). I like it, and I think it's dignified. But others will disagree.
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  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,349
    Well, I played for several hundred weddings before presbyteral ordination in 1973, and a few dozen since then. I never played either the Mendelssohn or Wagner. As pastor they were never played in my parishes. I hear them on occasion when I preside at weddings in other parishes.

    BKJOE, I do question your reference to "fantasy, murder, sex, and other delights." Are you confusing the Mendelssohn and the Wagner? The Mendelssohn is part of his incidental music for Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is all about a pagan god and goddess, and many fairies. There are no murders.
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  • I agree wholeheartedly with Gavin and Paul_Onnonhoaraton (and others) on this one. The arguments made about the inappropriateness of this march are based solely on perceptions that simply no longer exist. It's a sad truth that you could play the Mendelssohn at 100 weddings, and there's a good chance that not a single person in the pews will have read or seen a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." It's time to put this argument to rest.

    HOWEVER, if you want to make a rational argument against its use, cite its modern popular portrayal. Nearly every wedding scene in every movie filmed in the past 50 years has this march played badly by some Left-foot Lucy on a terrible spinet organ. No bride wants their recessional music to remind the congregation of that.

    If you do play it, play it well, and take the time to learn the whole thing. It's wonderful music!
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,165
    ...music which portrays fantasy, murder, sex, and other delights...


    Shall we assume this preposterous claim is being made out of ignorance rather than willful dishonesty in imposing one's own tastes on the poor bride? A Midsummer Night's Dream is worth reading once, and even rereading. It ends with preparations for a triple wedding, and has never included a murder; fundamentalists have attempted to ban it for depicting fairies though, so maybe there's a case to be made on grounds of 'fantasy'. I would suggest though that if it's good enough for Queen Victoria and Monsignor you might instead look for a more graceful way of bowing out.

    The plays for which Purcell wrote theatre music on the other hand include Abdelazer or The Moor's Revenge, A Fool's Preferment or The Three Dukes of Dunstable , Amphitryon or The Two Sosias, Aureng-Zebe or The Great Mogul, Bonduca or The British Heroine, Circe, Cleomenes, the Spartan Hero, Distressed Innocence or The Princess of Persia, Don Quixote, Epsom Wells, Henry the Second, King of England, The History of King Richard the Second or The Sicilian Usurper, Love Triumphant or Nature Will Prevail, Oedipus, Oroonoko, Pausanias, the Betrayer of his Country, Regulus or The Faction of Carthage, Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, Sir Anthony Love or The Rambling Lady, Sir Barnaby Whigg or No Wit Like a Woman's, Sophonisba or Hannibal's Overthrow, The Canterbury Guests or A Bargain Broken, The Double Dealer, The English Lawyer, The Fatal Marriage or The Innocent Adultery, The Female Virtuosos, The Gordian Knot Unty'd, The Indian Emperor or The Conquest of Mexico, The Knight of Malta, The Libertine or The Libertine Destroyed, The Maid's Last Prayer or Any Rather Than Fail, The Marriage-hater Match'd, The Married Beau or The Curious Impertinent,The Massacre of Paris, The Mock Marriage, Theodosius or The Force of Love, The Old Bachelor, The Richmond Heiress or A Woman Once in the Right, The Rival Sisters or The Violence of Love, The Spanish Friar or The Double Discovery, The Virtuous Wife or Good Luck at Last, The Wives' Excuse or Cuckolds Make Themselves, andTyrannic Love or The Royal Martyr

    I'm not sure which of these restoration delights the trumpet tune was originally meant to accompany, but who knows what sinful orgies might have been portrayed: I don't think I'll ever be able to listen again without being distracted by private speculations... There, now it's ruined for everyone :-P

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  • Andrew Motyka
    Posts: 931
    I'm (sort of) with njgw, above. It's tough to make this argument from the historical use of the piece; it's so far removed in common usage that it's pretty much moot.

    I would add that discouragement from using the pieces should come not just from popular portrayal, but also from the fact that it's incredibly cliched. It's like yelling "play ball" after every national anthem, or being the kid that has to have the last clap after a round of applause. There are just so many better choices.

    If you want to make the case against the pieces from historical origin, though, please don't throw around descriptions like this:


    After informing the couple that music which portrays fantasy, murder, sex, and other delights would not be appropriate for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, she choose another piece without hesitation. So they pick Vivaldi’s Spring, in which I said that unless drunkards falling asleep, lack of physical or mental energy, and barking dogs is a Sacred piece that characterizes your marriage and the Sacraments,


    They really aren't helpful, and often stop a conversation before it's started. There are ways to guide couples (and pastors) away from troublesome pieces without throwing the jerk card.

    Instead, making the same points, approach it with a bit more good humor, like Gary Penkala:

    http://www.canticanova.com/articles/feedback/arteg1.htm
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,658
    I have played that piece on occasion, but it isn't requested so much any more. However, this is not worth antagonizing your boss over, and could come back to bite you on the rear. Choose your battles wisely.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,135
    1. Don't contradict the boss to one of his flock. It's a capital offense in Roman Catholicism. No matter how right you are in substance. Unless there's a crime (a real crime) going on. Even then, be prepared for blowback.

    2. Never overstate your case. No matter how right you feel you are. Overstating your case is a sure way for your audience to hit the Ignore button. If you're lucky. Whispering is often more successful than shouting, subtlety more than bludgeons; if you have the patience required.

    3. Cultivate patience. And detachment.
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  • I don't know if I would have done exactly what you did, but you're absolutely spot on that this piece should not be played at Mass, period. That which is designed for the profane doesn't belong in the Sacred. The fact that the overwhelming majority of people in our own age are ignorant of its pagan roots doesn't absolve us of responsibility if we do know. Most people think contraception is fine and abortion is a little problematic; most people think divorce is unpleasant but acceptable; how many don't have any sense that, at Mass, they encounter Christ at Calvary?

    What is Mass? It is the un-bloody representation of the sacrifice of Calvary, and a foretaste of Heaven. It's not a perpetual workshop, and -- by its nature -- isn't anthropocentric.

    Sometimes we make progress slowly, and sometimes we lose ground in spite of our best efforts --- but not to try is to forget who really is our boss.
  • WiesOrganista
    Posts: 128
    I don't suggest it (I have a very nice 4 page worksheet with all appropriate suggestions), but I wouldn't refuse it.
    And I CERTAINLY under no circumstances, ever, would suggest to a bride (customer) that the priest (boss) doesn't know what he is talking about.
  • WiesOrganista
    Posts: 128
    And by the way, the "Recessional" is after Mass, as so many on this forum like to point out from time to time.
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  • ^^
    Yes, it's after Mass, and it's an instrumental fanfare type of a deal. It is in a church, but it is never sacred music. It is important to the bride and groom, and often to the organist, but it should be remembered that a postlude is not a prayer offered by the priest or faithful or both. The standards are looser.

    I would not contradict the pastor to one of his flock, even if his music history knowledge is scant. I think it also unfortunate if the pastor didn't talk with you and hear your reasoning before emailing the bride that you were in the wrong... that doesn't show enough respect for the parish musician.

    Fwiw, this piece and the Wagner are also eschewed and not used at my parish.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I am somewhat sad to see I started a sort of pile-on of BKJOE, as that wasn't my intent. BKJOE, we're all glad you're here.

    You'll have to make your own call for your own parish, in cooperation with the pastor. As I said, I personally have no problem with the Mendelssohn. Others have pointed out issues with part of your rationale, but still leave you some reasons to oppose it. I try to make it a policy of mine that I can't stop someone else from doing something I don't like in their own church.

    That being said, you (and I mean everyone here) REALLY need to communicate openly with your pastor about these kinds of issues. You don't need to agree, but you do need to understand each other. My first wedding, I asked the pastor as soon as it was on the schedule, "What's your policy on the Mendelssohn and Wagner?" He said, "I don't mind them, but I will stand behind your own judgment on the issue." I don't have a (moral) problem with either. Done.

    Much better than waiting until the pastor decides it should be used to express your opposition.
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  • Chrism
    Posts: 725
    music which portrays fantasy, murder, sex, and other delights


    Well there goes my personal favorite romantic wedding processional, the Dance movement from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.
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  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,650
    Thankfully for me the Pastor has banned this and the Wagner, so that is my argument: I have been told not to play it, so I can't.

    Aside from the play and opera that these two pieces are part of, the real argument here for me is that these are pieces from theatrical productions, and were intended as such; they are by no means sacred or even religious pieces. That is the fundamental argument: they are not appropriate because of their intended use, not per se the story the depict.
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  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,659
    I tell them to get the permission of the pastor and celebrant of the wedding. Typically they hear that it is going to take them two conversations and/or phone calls and they pick something else.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,658
    Perhaps some will understand why I don't do weddings, and contract them out. They are a real pain to deal with, and so are the people.
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  • jpal
    Posts: 365
    CharlesW, I wish I had that luxury! Weddings and funerals are a big chunk of what pays off my student loans.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,658
    And I often wish I were still your age, which I am assuming is much younger than mine. LOL.
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