Most priests, if they are lucky and smart, have a trained music director or organist to whom they can refer the Bride (sometimes with the groom) to finalize music for weddings. Then he can refer them and avoid a ton of trouble. Yet, occasionally he has to duck for cover when the flak from the battle between bride and organist gets thick.
Don’t get me wrong, everything generally goes fine and most brides and grooms are just fine. But every now and then, there’s a bride (and sometimes a groom) who are the irresistible force that meet the immoveable object (i.e. the organist).
Sometimes it is also the organist. At times in my 23 + years I have actually wondered why certain organist were so adamant about not playing certain songs, e.g. the Wedding Marches by Wagner (from Lohengrin) and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March (from Mid Summer Night’s Dream). They seemed classical, what’s do bad about them? “But doesn’t the bride know that one of them is the wedding march of a prostitute?!” protests the organist. “No,” say I, “And neither does anyone else.” So sometimes its the organist.
But more often it is the couple wishing and desiring their favorite song(s). Perhaps it was the song playing in the bar when they first met. Or the theme song from the first movie they saw together. You get the idea, charming, but secular and egocentric. The unchurched or lukewarm couples have the biggest struggle understanding that some songs just aren’t good for church, or for processions, which should be stately and measured.
The dialogue with the organist usually goes something like this:
Bride: I want “Baby it’s You” sung as I come down the aisle.
Organist: That’s not a very good idea.
Bride: Why not?!
Organist: It’s secular, it’s not right for Church
Bride: But it’s my favorite song and its my wedding.
Organist: It would be better to save it for the reception, maybe the first dance.
Bride: We already HAVE a song for the first dance. I want “Baby it’s You.”
Organist: (shaking head) nahw…….Here listen to this song, It’s called Jesu Joy of man’s desiring, it’s so pretty.
Bride: (ignoring the playing of the organist) But it’s MY wedding!
Organist: I don’t think so…..we just can’t do it.
Bride: Don’t you understand?! It’s my wedding and I’ve always dreamed of walking down the aisle to this song.
Organist: But the song just hit the charts last year.
Bride: It’s my wedding.
Organist: No, “Baby it’s You” just won’t work.
Bride: (motioning to groom) John, we’re leaving, I will take this up with the priest…..
I only mention the bride her because she does most of the talking in 99% of the cases. Weddings are by and large days crafted by women. Most men would have it done quietly and quickly.
Now again, most couples aren’t this insistent, but there are some. Thankfully I am blessed with a great Music Director and my brides of recent years have been very understanding of Church norms. But I’ll say I’ve been involved in some pretty big “set-to’s” in the past.
The fact is too many weddings are seen as “this is my wedding.” Actually it is not. The liturgy belongs to the whole Church and some limits must be involved. Efforts are usually made to accommodate legitimate requests of couples and families, but in the end, the Church is not just a movie set on which to conduct, “my special day.” Neither is the Church simply a backdrop for photos, or a hall that is rented. It is God’s house, it is the temple of the Lord, it is the sacred liturgy. Marriages are not a ceremony, they are a Sacrament, and, as in every Sacrament, the focus is to be more on the Lord and what he is doing, than things like dresses, flowers, and camera angles.
It is understandable that, at the human level, there are traditions and wishes to be respected, but the concerns above must balance the idiosyncrasies that too often set up. The Church has rules, ultimately, to avoid fights, not cause them. When there are limits and norms, that are understood and agreed upon, the whole matter goes more smoothly. And most of these norms are founded in long human experience. For any one couple this may be their “big day” and something they do only once (we pray). All the more reason to look to and respect norms and traditions gained from years, even decades and centuries of experience. And all things should be done decently and in order. (1 Cor 14:40)
Just a few thoughts on a Friday evening where, no doubt, more than a few wedding rehearsals have take place in Catholic parishes. And please take all this in the spirit of levity that it is offered.
Here’s a fun video from Tim Hawkins on inappropriate wedding songs: