Question: What qualifies a hymn as a wedding hymn?
Answer: If you want to include it in your wedding, it’s a wedding hymn!
The most loved and requested hymns fall into these broad categories:
~~ Majestic hymns of praise, worship, and celebration of God and His good creation, sometimes touching specifically on his design of marriage for us, but often only by implication.
These hymns tend to be more lofty and noble, and are often classical in style. Appropriate for prelude, recessional, seating of family, or during your ceremony. Common wedding hymns of this type:
- May Jesus Christ Be Praised
- All Things Bright And Beautiful
- O Praise Ye The Lord
- How Great Thou Art
- Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing
- I Need Thee Every Hour
- Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us
- O Worship The King
- This Is My Father’s World
~~ Second, there are hymns and spiritual songs that are gentler in style, and ask specifically for God’s intervention in the affairs of his children, and his guidance in their lives. These are appropriate almost anywhere before, during, or after the wedding.
- Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace
- Be Our Chief Guest Lord
- Bind Us Together
- Household of Faith
~~ Other wedding songs and wedding hymns that do not fall naturally into these categories:
- Amazing Grace
These are some of the most common wedding hymns heard frequently in wedding ceremonies and wedding preludes.
Some considerations as you choose your wedding hymns:
- Some hymns tell a story, or were written as one unified thought; think carefully through the lyrics of the hymns you choose and decide if it is most appropriate to sing all of the verses, or if the sense flows well when certain verses are left out. Consider the length of the ceremony when you choose your wedding hymns and the length of each one.
- Consider the singing range – does the melody go too high or too low to be comfortable for the congregation? Some hymns can be sung more easily if they are transposed (played and sung in a different key than the original), but many musicians are not comfortable transposing songs without the music written out in the new key. Let’s consider an example. (feel free to skip this part if you aren’t a musician) “For The Beauty Of The Earth” has a range of 1 octave, but in some hymnals is in the key of Ab (4 flats in the key signature) which makes the highest melody note an Eb – probably too high for the average congregation. The key of G would be better, and the the key of F would be even more singable. If you love this hymn, and Ab is your only option, I would counsel you to include it, as there are certainly some singers for whom the higher notes pose no problem.
- There are no rules for where a hymn might be appropriate. I have played many wedding preludes that were largely composed of hymns; I have sung and led congregations in hymns during the ceremony; hymns have been used when the couple is at the altar in prayer, and I have played hymns following the recessional. Sometime a hymn IS the recessional. At our wedding we turned to face the congregation and sang “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” together. We sang one or two verses with the congregation and then left as the last verses were sung.
- Will you need someone to direct or lead the hymn, or will those attending the wedding be reasonably comfortable without such a person? Your answer may be affected by your faith tradition – some houses of worship regularly sing hymns with no song leader, while others rarely do so. (If there are auxiliary musicians playing at your wedding, it may be that one of them can help direct the congregation through subtle body movements – for example, a confident violinist can indicate where the congregation is to sing with a natural movement into his/her instrument, if they are visible to most, and a pianist or organist can do the same).
- How many musicians will be involved in playing the hymns? (This can get a bit complicated, and is aimed more at musicians) Consider using talented musicians who can simply play one of the 4 parts out of a hymnbook and enrich the texture of the music. Bear in mind that some instruments, such as trumpet and clarinet, are transposing by their nature, and so would require different music than the hymnbook unless the musician can easily transpose on sight. And of course if you are not musically gifted, you should lean heavily on the opinion of those who are.
- You may be very opinionated when it comes to the question of how fast or slow to sing a particular hymn or song. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion discreetly at an appropriate time to the accompanists or song leader. It is, after all, your wedding, and the tempo of your wedding hymns should set you at ease during the ceremony, rather than being a distraction.
- Will the congregation be seated or standing when they sing? There is no right answer here, but generally, it seems appropriate to stand for at least the more majestic and worshipful hymns. Consider who is in attendance that would not be able to stand – e.g. elderly parents or grandparents, and consider if this would be an uncomfortable situation for them.
Listen to short examples of wedding hymns and other classic wedding songs on our Wedding Music Samples album.