The music used for wedding services in our churches reveals wide differences of opinion as to what is appropriate for such occasions. There seems to be little agreement on this subject. Each pastor and each congregation is free to govern its own practice as to the conduct of weddings in the local church. It is with no thought of changing this type of control that the writer submits these principles, but it is with the hope that the general standard of our wedding music might be improved.
No doubt everyone will agree that only religious or sacred music should be used in our churches for any of the services conducted in church. The church is dedicated to the worship of God, and it is not in keeping with the sacredness of the church to perform distinctly secular music in a place of worship.
Many do not understand this distinction be tween the secular and the sacred when it comes to music. Because music is abstract and free from words, some are unable to distinguish be tween the secular and the sacred. Most musicians are aware of this difference. A well-trained musician will recognize that there are styles and kinds of music suited for church. Some music has definite religious associations, and by its character is suited for use in religious services. Other music is very decidedly secular because of its very nature and associations.
Now, it would seem only proper that the music for a church wedding should come under this classification of sacred music. It should be music that one associates with religion. It should be free from secular associations.
A wedding may be looked at from several viewpoints. The young people involved are inclined to be absorbed in the romantic love that draws them together. This may be beautiful in itself. Then there is the sacredness of the union of two lives. This is the viewpoint of the church which is to perform the ceremony that asks the blessing of God on this union. This is the religious side of the occasion. It is serious, solemn, and dignified, and should be in keeping with the religious nature of the church. There is also the social side to a wedding, when the friends of the couple wish them happiness and joy in their life together. These wishes are usually expressed in a reception following the ceremony.
Sometimes church weddings show a total lack of understanding of these various aspects of a wedding, and the service in the church is a con fusion of the secular and the sacred. The romantic love-making of the couple should be done in private and not publicly before the wedding guests. A long embrace and kiss at the close of the ceremony become sentimental and are in very bad taste. True lovers need not make this part of the ceremony conspicuous by any undue emphasis.
Hymns and Songs
Love songs, many of them traditional, are mostly secular in nature, and give prominence to the romantic and secular side of love. They are better omitted from the church ceremony, but may find a place at the reception later. The better practice today is to keep the romantic love song out. Its place should be taken by religious songs, speaking of the guidance of God and asking for the blessing of God on the serv ice. Hymns such as "O Perfect Love," "The Lord's My Shepherd," and "O Happy Home" (Church Hymnal, Nos. 416, 260, and 412), are in excellent taste, and should be more frequently used.
The instrumental music should all be of a religious nature. A short program before the ceremony should be made up entirely of reli gious music suitable for performance in church. Even the traditional marches are now consid ered questionable by many, but there are other processionals available that are well adapted for the purpose. Processionals are not the same as marches, and in a processional one does not need to keep step to the music. One does not march in a processional, but walks. Choir and academic processionals are very effective when the participants walk slowly, with no attempt to keep amilitary step. So the wedding processional may be beautifully effective when the individuals enter the sanctuary in an orderly procession to the playing of a hymn or other sacred music.
While the bride traditionally has her way in planning her wedding, she should be guided by her pastor and organist in the planning for the church ceremony. She should follow counsel, in order that her wedding may be in keeping with the sacredness of the church. There are other matters besides the music in which the advice and counsel of the pastor should be followed such items as the decorations, the taking of pictures, et cetera.
Some may feel that these things do not concern the church, but a church wedding does reflect upon the ideals and standards of the church, and it is the responsibility of the ministry to hold a high ideal before our members. A beautiful religious wedding ceremony in one of our churches will bring honor to our name. An excellent list of suitable organ music is given in The Vogue Book of Etiquette. Three books of wedding music published by the Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, Missouri, have also been found very helpful in selecting wedding music.