So You’re Getting Married and Having a Traditional Catholic Wedding – what Music Should you Choose for Mass?

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A professional musician hired to play for weddings finally gets to choose her own music!

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 TLM wedding Masses!

Today I’ll be sharing my own personal program and suggestions for your own wedding Mass music.

“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 fiancee 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!

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

How much will musicians charge for a wedding Mass?

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

Anything else is just extra, 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.

In terms of pricing, every area is different. Most good professional organists will get paid upwards of $200 for a wedding Mass, 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 šŸ˜‰ 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 event!

Classical music…it’s all the same, right?

Wrong.

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).

I prefer Baroque/Renaissance music for Latin Masses in general since music – like the rest of the arts – followed the ideals of the Protestant Reformation 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…

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/pure 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?

Let’s break it down to the parts of the ceremony/Mass that usually require music. I’ll give my suggestions with 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 processionals/recessional as this is not necessarily a “congregational” function but a very solemn function as 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 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, and Frescobaldi are pretty well known. Ask your organist if they feel comfortable performing these…if not, ask them to choose their own.


Here are some of my favorites:

Suite Gothique – BoĆ«llmann
This is my favorite organ prelude…while not strictly Baroque it is written in the “Gothic” style.
The introduction was played as a prelude before my marriage service. To me it sounds glorious, majestic, victorious…

Toccata Avanti la Messa della Domenica – Frescobaldi

Bach Prelude in C Major

—-MARRIAGE SERVICE—-

Bridal party*
(see the * for suggestions)
This is where the bridal party walks down the aisle and takes their places in front of the communion rail.

Bridal Processional*
Where the bride walks in!

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)

—-NUPTIAL MASS—-

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 seasoned 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 Tune – Jeremiah Clarke

Trumpet Voluntary – 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

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