Many of our local churches have found it wise to adopt a policy concerning weddings held in the church. Over the years certain practices in the conduct of weddings have grown up, and to avoid the inroad of secularism and sentimentalism some churches have drawn up regulations to govern all weddings in the church. This is a step in the right direction.
The church should guide young people in this matter, so that the wedding ceremony and the entire occasion may reflect the church's views of the sanctity of marriage and the seriousness of this step in the lives of young people.
It is not necessary that all weddings follow the same pattern. It is essential, however, that certain principles be kept in mind in planning weddings. A wedding service in a church should be a sacred service, and the principles that govern our sacred services should also govern weddings. This means simplicity, sincerity, sacred joy, rather than ostentation, expensive decorations, and levity in the service. Church weddings need not and should not be expensive affairs.
Musically the service should be characterized with the type of music suitable for use in a church. Sentimental love songs and popular music of a secular character have no place in church weddings. The church organist should be the one to play for the wedding, and his advice should be sought in the selection of music.There is a little pamphlet entitled "Wedding Music," by Regina Fryxell, published by the Augustana Press in Rock Island, Illinois, which gives excellent lists of music suitable for use in church weddings.
Every part of the wedding service needs to be carefully worked out as having meaning and purpose in its relation to a religious service. We are concerned here especially with the music, although other parts of the ceremony sometimes become sentimental or showy unless good taste is exercised.
The music for the wedding performs the function of creating a beautiful and fitting atmosphere of religious joy. The few numbers played by the organist while the guests are being seated should be religious and joyful, not secular or depressing. Suitable numbers are "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," by Bach; "Lo, a Rose Breaks Into Bloom," by Brahms; "Prelude on Song 13," by Willan; "Adagietto," by McKay; and other music of this character. If vocal music is used, selections from "Wedding Blessings" by Paul Bunjes are appropriate. One should carefully avoid the popular love songs such as "Because," "Oh, Promise Me," "I Love You Truly," and others of this character, which are more sentimental and secular in character than religious. There is a place for the sentimental love song, but it is not in church. It is only sacred love that should be voiced in song in the church.
For processionals it is best to avoid the hackneyed wedding marches, and use music such as "Trumpet Tune," Purcell; "Aria in F," Handel; "The Heavens Declare," Marcello; "Sinfonia, God's Time Is Best," Bach; "Prelude on Rhosymedre," Vaughan Williams; and other selections of similar quality. There are hymns that may be used, such as "0 Perfect Love," No. 416; "Love Divine," No. 142. The singing of appropriate hymns by the congregation is not out of place at a wedding. Every effort should be made to make the service religious, as well as beautiful and impressive.
The custom of singing the Lord's Prayer in an operatic setting at the close of the service is not a good one. A short choral Amen, or a stanza of a prayer hymn would be better, although no music at this time in the service adds to the solemnity.
Since there are so many opinions and there is no standard practice in our churches, and since there is danger of bad taste and secular practices coming into our wedding services, it is wise for each church to draw up a few principles to guide young people in the conduct of church weddings. Some of our churches have done this to their benefit. Such matters as decorations, type of music, fees for the organist, janitor, and the use of the church, picture taking, and any other item can be stated clearly on a printed folder that is given to each couple when they request the use of the church for a wedding. This will help to avoid embarrassing and unfortunate services, which bring no credit to our churches.
The author has prepared a list of music for weddings, which he will be glad to send to anyone requesting it. The La Sierra Seventh-day Adventist church has prepared a folder that is a guide to the proper conduct of weddings.