Your COMPLETE Laymen’s Guide to Choosing Music for Your Traditional Catholic Wedding Mass

***Scroll all the way down for my FREE editable wedding music planner!***

After YEARS of playing for other people’s weddings, I finally got to choose the music for my wedding!

So I’m just putting this out there…my nuptial Mass was pretty awesome.

Not because of me, but because I got to hire my amazingly talented musician friends and colleagues to provide my wedding music!

I had a powerhouse combo of classically-trained singers who specialized in or had lots of experience with sacred music.

Before this, I was hired to play all sorts of weddings – and one of the biggest reasons I came to “capital-T” Tradition was because of my exposure to traditional Latin Mass (or “TLM”) weddings.

So let’s just say I’ve seen quite a few traditional Catholic wedding Masses! And not all of them had properly “sacred” music.

Today I’ll be sharing my own personal program and suggestions for your own wedding Mass music, in laymen’s terms, without all the gobbledegook!

My special opinion!

My husband would joke that he doesn’t like to give his “special opinion” to people, because it’s so special that you have to ask for it to have it!

In that same vein, I’ll start by saying *I’m just a laywoman* and have no authority to tell you what to choose. However since you ask my opinion, I’m here to point you in the right direction.

The only “official document” I could find in terms of specific music you can choose for Masses in general is a 1947 “White List” put forth by the Society of St. Gregory in America, which was spearheaded by the famous Nicola A. Montini (you’ll see his name in many Catholic hymnals abbreviated as N.A.M.), and I am thankful I came across this resource graciously through another traditional Catholic musician/choir director.
Here it is in its entirety – all 88 pages. It’s a little dense for the average layperson, so I’ll give you a Cliffnotes version in this blog post below plus my own sugestions which I believe follow these guidelines and what I’ve actually seen in practice.

Here’s my traditional Catholic wedding music program, from my own wedding!

Please note that while beautiful, the Elgar Ave Verum Corpus does NOT follow the guidelines and is not included in this white list. So I would not recommend it now, although at the time I had no idea about this White List.

Now you can copy/paste this program (except for the Elgar!) 🙂 or you can scroll down for my free template!

Traditional Catholic “Wedding Mass”…or is it?

In the liturgical books it’s actually called a “nuptial Mass” – the “wedding ceremony” or “marriage service” takes place before the Mass which is where the bridal party and bride walk in, rings/vows are exchanged, and the couple officially becomes man and wife!

Hopefully you and your fiancé have attended the appropriate “marriage prep” classes that communicate the awesomeness of this incredible sacrament.

And if you’re like me, your head is most likely spinning with all the “temporal” matters pertaining to a marriage – the church, the venue, the dress/suit, the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the rehearsals, the deadlines, and of course the music!

Luckily I’m here to help you make your traditional Catholic wedding Mass music decisions a little easier.

What kind of musicians should I pick?

First of all – your baseline minimum should be to hire an organist and 4 singers.

Anything else is just extra (many times whole parish choirs are trained/experienced in weddings), but this will allow you to access most of the beautiful sacred music repertoire appropriate for weddings.

Your church should have an organist on staff or one that regularly plays for your Sunday Masses. Track him/her down and ask them for their phone number/email so you can formalize the process! Email them, and if you don’t hear back within a week just call or text them to follow up.

But I only have instrumentalists!

No singers? No problem!

This most likely means you’ll be having a Low Mass. This means no singing on the part of the priest, and probably not the congregation either (nuptial Masses aren’t usually meant to have any sort of “congregational singing”).

You should have no issues with having beautiful, reverent music at your traditional Catholic wedding Mass. There just won’t be any sung propers, and you’ll most likely be looking at choosing music for the following:

Prelude (before Mass)
Bridal Party
Bridal Processional
Flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary

The specific time period (in which the music was composed) I suggest you picking from is the Renaissance period (1400-1600) and Baroque period (1600-1750) as there are lots of options for beautiful, reverent instrumental music (see my note below on why I like these time periods).

How much will musicians charge for traditional Catholic wedding music?

In terms of pricing, every geographical area is different. Most good professional organists will get paid upwards of $200 for traditional Catholic wedding music, and singers getting paid around $100-$150, or even $200. That was my experience up to around 6 years ago! Organists play more notes, that’s why they get paid more 😉 they’re also harder to find! Prices may have gone up, I have no idea since I’ve been out of the music world pretty much since I had children.

So total you’re looking at minimum $500. Look at it this way – this is the one time you will be investing in beautiful music for a once-in-a-lifetime sacrament! (at least for most it will be once in a lifetime)

And ask yourself – how much are you spending on photography/videography? Shouldn’t your traditional Catholic wedding Mass place more importance on the music since it’s an integral part of the liturgy??

I’ll just choose classical music…it’s all the same, right?


Among the different kinds of modern music, that which appears less suitable for
accompanying the functions of public worship is the theatrical style, which was in
the greatest vogue, especially in Italy, during the last century. This of its very nature is
diametrically opposed to Gregorian Chant and classic polyphony, and therefore to the
most important law of all good sacred music…

On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model
for sacred music
, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more
closely a composition for church approaches
in its movement, inspiration and savour
the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of
harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.

-Pope St. Pius X’s Motu Proprio, Tra le sollecitudini (On Sacred Music), 1903

Therefore sacred music should include or closely resemble chant, and polyphony (multi-voice works where each voice holds its own part independently) many times is just the next closest development from chant.

I prefer Baroque/Renaissance music for Latin Masses in general since music, like the rest of the arts, followed the ideals of the Protestant Revolution and the French Revolution following the 17th and 18th centuries. Without getting into technical details, this means composers made music sound sappy, romantic, and appealing to the emotions (or passions) as opposed to the intellect. There are some modern exceptions to the rule, like some modern composers who would compose pieces in a neo-Renaissance or neo-Baroque style.

Even sacred music became tainted with the style of secular compositions like opera and certain dances, and church composers were no longer earning a living composing exclusively sacred music.

But my singers are “classically-trained”!

When a singer is “classically-trained” more often than not this will mean they were trained in the secular, Italian school of singing which usually includes operatic training. Some may have experience singing sacred music (written mostly for choirs), some may not.

If you agree with my choice of style, it might be good to let your singers know you’re going for more of a Baroque/choral sound (think choirboys) than an operatic style of singing (no Pavarottis, as beautiful as they sound) – this means using less or no “vibrato” in the voice. They’ll know what you’re talking about!

Alright, alright, I’ve done all of the above – now what music do I pick?

Option 1: If you want to delegate the choices to your musicians:
Tell them you want Renaissance/Baroque pieces for your wedding, with a sung Gregorian chant Mass (if it’s a Missa Cantata or Solemn High Mass) or short polyphonic Mass from the same time period.

Option 2: If you want to choose the music yourself, read on, and don’t forget to download my FREE printable/editable wedding template at the very bottom 🙂

My music suggestions for your traditional Catholic wedding Mass!

Let’s break it down to the parts of the ceremony/Mass that usually require music. I’ll give my suggestions with some Youtube links below.

Note: before the marriage service begins, it is recommended to have instrumental music accompanying the “action” so to speak…therefore popular hymns are not encouraged for the congregation to sing for the bridal processionals/recessional as this is not necessarily a “congregational” function but a very solemn function – people are witnessing vows between a man and woman. This is why my recommendations before and after the Mass are all instrumental.

Prelude music

Most preludes, toccatas and fugues from the Renaissance/Baroque period will sound beautiful before the service begins to bring the minds of the faithful couple (and attendees) to contemplate higher things. Composers like Bach, Pachelbel, Lully, Handel, and Frescobaldi are pretty well known. Ask your organist/instrumentalists if they feel comfortable performing these…if not, ask them to choose their own from this time period. Some might be a little “showy” so try to find some that do not distract from the solemnity of the occasion.
I also recommend staying away from music that makes you want to get up and dance or programmatic music which was written for early operas or musical dramas.

If it makes it easier, you can see all my suggestions on this Spotify playlist:

Here are some of my favorites:

Suite Gothique – Boëllmann
This is my favorite organ prelude…while not strictly Baroque it is written in the early Renaissance/Baroque style.
The introduction (first movement) was played as a prelude before my marriage service. To me it sounds glorious, majestic, victorious…and I love the registration (the choice of organ sounds aka “stops” ) which the piece called for. It technically wasn’t a part of the service or Mass so I think this piece made the cut!

Toccata Avanti la Messa della Domenica – Frescobaldi

Bach Prelude in C Major


Bridal party*/Bridal processional*
(see the * in the recessional music below for suggestions)
This is where the bridal party walks down the aisle and takes their places in front of the communion rail. There is usually a brief pause before the doors open and the bride walks in. Two separate pieces are used for each of these, but the suggestions I’ve included can work for either one! These may also work for prelude if played quietly. Below are the pieces I’ve most commonly heard/played at Traditional Catholic weddings. That’s not to say there aren’t other pieces that would work just as well, I try to look for something that sounds regal/majestic but not over the top and distracting.

Flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Normally done after the marriage service is finished

Ave Maris Stella – Palestrina

Ave Maria – Arcadelt or Gallus (attributed to Victoria)


Note: This is broken down between propers and the ordinary of the Mass.

Propers include
1. Introit
2. Gradual
3. Tract or Alleluia
4. Offertory
5. Communion

The Ordinary includes
1. Kyrie
2. Gloria
3. Sanctus
4. Agnus Dei

Optional pieces are encouraged for after the offertory and communion antiphons while the priest is preparing the altar and distributing communion.

In a “low Mass” Nuptial Mass, the propers/ordinary are not sung but instead said by the priest. For a “solemn high Mass” or “missa cantata” the priest will chant the readings/intone the ordinary chants and the choir will sing the rest of the propers/ordinary.

The Propers and their melodies are already specified in the Roman Missal (and therefore no “options” to pick from) as well as the Ordinary text, but the “melodies” for the ordinary can be chosen from the Gregorian chant “Masses” or polyphonic Masses (many available for SATB – soprano alto tenor bass – use only if they are professionals and can sightsing well or ask if they have these in their repertoire).

I would double check with the priest about which Mass to use – perhaps he has preferences (since he has to intone certain parts) and he might not want a polyphonic Mass since they tend to substantially extend the duration of the Mass.

Chant Masses (Ordinary)

Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis) is most common.

Polyphonic Masses (Ordinary) – consult your priest/singers first!!

Missa Brevis – Palestrina

Missa O Quam Gloriosum – Victoria

Offertory Motets/hymns
These are some suggestions/standard motets.

Sicut Cervus – Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina

Exsultate justi – Viadana

Jubilate Deo – di Lasso

Communion Motets/hymns
Ave Verum – Byrd

Panis Angelicus – hymn (Lambilotte) or Casciolini

Recessional + Postlude Music*

*Suggestions that may be used for either bridal party processional, bridal processional or recessional:

Trumpet Voluntary – Jeremiah Clarke

Trumpet Tune – Henry Purcell

Prelude to the Te Deum – Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Rondeau – Jean-Joseph Mouret

Hornpipe in D – George Frideric Handel

Overture to the Royal Fireworks Suite – George Frideric Handel

I think there’s something so sweet about having the Prelude to the Te Deum as a recessional. It is an ancient hymn of thanksgiving that we have Gregorian chant for! The chant version used to be known by the laity in the Middle Ages, but this piece is from an instrumental/choral work by Lully.

And that’s it! Kudos to you if you’ve reached to the end, it’s a good sign and it means you’re invested in sacred music and putting God/the liturgy first! Be assured of my prayers for you, dear reader.

Click below for your free wedding music planner!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *