The triumphant and ceremonial traditional bridal chorus with which we are all familiar (“Here Comes The Bride“) is from the Opera “Lohengrin” by Wagner. It has become a favorite bridal processional due to it’s stately and serious music, immediately recognizable from the announcement-like fanfare of the opening few notes.
UPDATE summer 2011: We now offer many new arrangements of the Bridal Chorus on our Bridal Chorus Variations album. Click on the words “traditional bridal chorus” in the first sentence of this post to listen to about 20 versions of this most familiar and cherished bridal processional. These include a majestic pipe organ version, many traditional piano recordings in various timings, reflective and gentle piano versions both short and longer, two orchestral versions in different lengths (click here for the shorter of the two), a medium paced piano arrangement that falls somewhere between the stately traditional and the very relaxed interpretation, and a string quartet rendition.
Originally written as a chorus to be sung by the wedding party at the beginning of the third act, the lyrics of Wagner’s traditional bridal chorus are rarely if ever employed in modern weddings. Though it has been performed by many different ensembles and instruments over the decades, use of the church organ to play this bridal processional has in decades gone been by far the most common instrumentation. Today, of course, there are almost limitless possibilities for arrangement of this standard – as evidenced by the 20 versions we carry!
In some weddings during the 1900′s, it was used as the processional for the bridesmaids as well, being performed at a much lower volume level, a dramatic increase in volume of the triumphant notes preceding the theme signaling the congregation to rise for the bridal entrance. It is commonly referred to by the title “Here Comes The Bride”, though that lyric is nowhere to be found in the original version.
“Lohengrin” is a tragic tale of love between Lohengrin and Elsa, whose marriage is never consummated after their wedding and who are forever parted shortly after they wed in this account of intrigue, suspicion, lies and ill will – not the ideal modern wedding story! But this most familiar tune has seen widespread use for at least a century, thanks to it’s appearance in a couple of royal weddings.
(Wagner was in exile when the opera premiered in 1850, staged in his absence by his friend Franz Liszt).
Mendelssohn wrote a “Wedding March” (as have many composers) that is sometimes confused with this piece because of the title (the Bridal Chorus is referred to by some as the Bridal March).
There have been numerous objections to the use of the traditional bridal chorus as wedding music, for various reasons: it is well documented that Wagner was an anti-Semite; hence it is rarely heard at a Jewish wedding. The Catholic church has at times opposed it’s use as well, due to the perceived ‘secular’ nature of the piece, which detracts from the sacred aspect of the wedding ceremony, and the assertion that it’s frequent use on television and in movies lend to it excessive sentimentality. The Missouri synod of the Lutheran church has disdained it’s use dating back to the early 1900′s because of the many pagan elements in Wagner’s works and a general opposition to the theater, though that stance may have been amended in the last 20 years.
Download our free Wedding Music Samples Album, available June 2011, to hear 3 or 4 different variations of the traditional bridal chorus.