Music and weddings go together hand in hand—in fact, music gives voice to the celebration in ways no other medium can! While the church considers weddings to be private family events, the gathered guests, who function as the congregation, can and should have opportunity to praise God joyously, pray for the bride and groom’s new life together, and encourage them with Scripture. Much of this can happen in song!
This article provides resources for congregational singing at weddings. Each song text has been published in either of two new hymnals: Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2006) and Singing the New Testament (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2008).
If a soloist or small group sings during the ceremony on behalf of the congregation, I recommend the pairing of text and tune the hymnals provide. For some songs, I’ve recommended alternate tunes in case the suggested tune is unfamiliar to the gathered guests. Some songs will have no alternate suggestions, reflecting a “matched” text and tune.
Additional suggestions for wedding music can be found in RW 16 and 56.
O God, Beyond All Praising
This strong hymn of praise provides a wonderful opening hymn.
O God, beyond all praising, we worship you today
and sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder at every gift you send,
at blessings without number and mercies without end:
we lift our hearts before you and wait upon your word,
we honor and adore you, our great and mighty Lord.
The flower of earthly splendor in time must surely die,
its fragile bloom surrender to you, the Lord most high;
but hidden from all nature the eternal seed is sown—
though small in mortal stature,
to heaven’s garden grown:
for Christ, your gift from heaven,
from death has set us free,
and we through him are given the final victory.
Then hear, O gracious Savior,
accept the praise we bring,
that we who know your favor
may serve you as our King;
and whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill,
we’ll triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise.
—Words: Michael Perry © 1982, 1987 Jubilate Hymns, admin. Hope Publishing Company. Tune: THAXTED (Worship 880)
Jesus, Come! For We Invite You
The text of this opening prayer balances the remembrance of Jesus’ role at the wedding at Cana with the present request for his presence at this wedding.
Jesus, come! For we invite you,
guest and master, friend and Lord;
now, as once at Cana’s wedding,
speak and let us hear your Word:
lead us through our need or doubting,
hope be born and joy restored.
Jesus, come! Transform our pleasures,
guide us into paths unknown;
bring your gifts, command your servants,
let us trust in you alone:
though your hand may work in secret,
all shall see what you have done.
Jesus, come! In new creation,
heaven brought near in power divine;
give your unexpected glory,
changing water into wine:
rouse the faith of your disciples—
come, our first and greatest Sign!
Jesus, come! Surprise our dullness,
make us willing to receive
more than we can yet imagine,
all the best you have to give:
let us find your hidden riches,
taste your love, believe, and live!
—Words: Christopher Idle © 1982 Jubilate Hymns, admin. Hope Publishing Company. Tune: UNION SEMINARY(Worship 312). Alternate tunes: REGENT SQUARE, JULIAN, JENNINGS-HOUSTON
Although I Speak with Angel’s Tongue
Andrew Donaldson’s versification of 1 Corinthians 13 can serve as an encouragement to the wedding couple.
Although I speak with angel’s tongue,
my faith, my knowledge all surpass,
but have no love, my gifts are vain
as clanging gong or blaring brass.
For love is patient, love is kind,
and never vain with boasting pride;
love bears all things, all things endures.
All things must end; love will abide.
For now we peer at darkened glass;
our visions end, our tongues cease.
In part we know, in part now see;
then we will see Love face to face.
The gifts are many, the body one,
and into one are all baptized.
Beloved, share one heart, one mind,
one hope, one faith, one love in Christ.
—Words: 1 Corinthians 13, paraphrased by Andrew Donaldson, © 1995 Andrew Donaldson. Tune: SHE'S LIKE THE SWALLOW (SNT 161). Alternate tunes: O WALY WALY, PUER NOBIS, ROCKINGHAM
Where Love Is Found
This setting of 1 Corinthians 13 could be sung responsorially—the verses by a soloist or small group, the refrain by the gathered guests and wedding party.
Where charity and love are found,
there will the face of God be seen.
The love of Christ will bind our hearts;
as one body we will be.
Love is patient, love is kind,
never boastful, never proud.
Love is hopeful in its waiting,
ever trusting in God’s light.
Love is steadfast to the end,
ever ready to endure.
Love is gracious in its kindness,
ever ready to forgive.
Though I speak with angel’s tongue,
I am nothing more than sound.
I am but a cymbal clanging if I sing without God’s love.
There are three things that will last:
there is faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of all blessings
is the faithfulness of love.
—Words and music: Dan Schutte © 2001, Dan Schutte. Published by OCP Publications (SNT 162).
Beloved, God’s Chosen
Susan Palo Cherwien’s poetry, based on Colossians 3:12-17, can serve as encouragement for daily Christian living together.
Beloved, God’s chosen, put on as a garment
compassion, forgiveness, and goodness of heart.
Above all, before all, let love be your raiment,
that binds into one every dissonant part.
Within, call forth Wisdom, to dwell in you richly;
Let peace rule your hearts and that peace be of Christ.
And from the heart’s chamber, beloved and holy,
let singing thanksgiving to God ever rise.
—Words: Susan Palo Cherwien © 1994 Susan Palo Cherwien, admin. Augsburg Fortress. Tune: ANDREW'S SONG (Worship 648]. Alternate tune: KREMSER
Those Who Are Holy
Christopher Webber provides another paraphrase of Colossians 3:12-17.
Those who are holy, loved of God,
those whom God wills to bless,
must put on kindness, patience,
peace, compassion, gentleness.
Whatever grievances you bear,
forgive them readily;
forgive as Christ forgave,
and live in love and unity.
Let Christ’s own peace rule in your hearts
for you were called to peace;
as those who share a common life,
let thankfulness increase.
In love admonish, wisely teach,
let Christ’s Word dwell in you;
Sing psalms and hymns and songs of praise;
give thanks in all you do.
—Words: Christopher L. Webber © Theodore Presser, admin. by Carl Fischer. Tune: ST. ETHELDREDA(SNT 203) Alternate tune: MORNING SONG
Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life
This poem from the early seventeenth century has overtones of the Song of Songs. Evoking Jesus’ words in John 14, this text calls for the marriage relationship to reflect the love Christ demonstrates for his church.
Come, my way, my truth, my life:
such a way as gives us breath;
such a truth as ends all strife;
such a life as killeth death.
Come, my light, my feast, my strength:
such a light as shows a feast;
such a feast as mends in length;
such a strength as makes his guest.
Come, my joy, my love, my heart:
such a joy as none can move;
such a love as none can part;
such a heart as joys in love.
—Words: George Herbert P. D. Tune: THE CALL (Worship 816). Alternate tunes: ORENTIS PARTIBUS, TEBBEN
This Is a Day, Lord, Gladly Awaited
Jeffrey Rowthorn’s text includes a prayer of joy and thanks alongside requests for guidance through years of married life. This prayer could serve well as a corporate sung prayer following the giving of vows.
This is a day, Lord, gladly awaited;
thankful our hearts, Lord, joyous our praise.
See here before you two whom we cherish;
keep them beside you all of their days.
Bless now their vows, Lord, sealing commitment;
deepen their trust, Lord, lovingly won.
Working your wonders, knit them together
so nothing sunders two become one.
Sow in their hearts, Lord, seeds of compassion;
reap in their lives, Lord, care for your earth.
May they encourage others by being signs
of God’s new age coming to birth.
Hallow the years, Lord, they spend together,
growing in love, Lord, as you intend;
freely forgiving, time without number,
selflessly living, time without end.
—Words: Jeffrey Rowthorn © 1992 Hope Publishing Company. Tune: BUNESSAN (Worship 586)
On Eagles’ Wings
This refrain, taken from a longer responsorial setting of Psalm 91 could be used effectively as a sung response interspersed through a pastoral wedding prayer.
And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.
—Words and music: Michael Joncas © 1979 OCP Publications (Worship 787)
Hear Us Now, Our God and Father
A spoken benediction could follow the singing of this corporate prayer for the couple and their shared life.
Hear us now, our God and Father,
send your Spirit from above
on this Christian man and woman
who here make their vows of love.
Bind their hearts in true devotion
endless as the seashore’s sands,
boundless as the deepest ocean,
blest and sealed by your own hands.
Give them joy to lighten sorrow,
give them hope to brighten life.
Go with them to face the morrow,
stay with them in every strife.
As your Word has promised,
ever fill them with your strength and grace,
so that each may serve the other
till they see you face to face.
May the grace of Christ, our Savior,
and the Father’s boundless love,
with the Holy Spirit’s favor
rest upon them from above.
Thus may they abide in union
with each other and the Lord,
and possess in sweet communion
joys which earth cannot afford.
—Words: Harry N. Huxhold, sts. 1-2; John Newton, st. 3, alt. sts. 1-2 © 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, admin. Augsburg Fortress. Tune: HYFRYDOL (Worship 585) Alternate tunes: ABBOT'S LEIGH, BEACH SPRING, PLEADING SAVIOR