Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs for Weddings
Some weddings are primarily a dialogue between the wedding couple and the presiding minister, but it needn’t be so. Inviting the gathered wedding guests to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” provides a corporate opportunity to express musical praise for God’s love to us, to offer sung prayers for the wedding couple, and to encourage everyone to practice the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love.
Psalms or hymns that praise God’s covenant love are increasingly used as processional and/or recessional songs. Songs that are prayers are most useful in conjunction with the speaking of the couple’s vows or as sung prayers when the couple kneels. And finally, songs of dedication and blessing are most appropriate at the conclusion of the wedding service and in many cases may serve well as corporate recessional music.
The psalm, hymn, and Scripture song suggestions for weddings that follow would be appropriate for many other worship occasions as well. Four songs are presented with music; other texts are offered with familiar tune suggestions; still other tune titles are listed with their sources. Not mentioned are the texts that Roy Hopp included in Reformed Worship 16 (June 1990, pp. 20-22). A number of those newer hymn texts have now been published in hymnals; for example, Brian Wren’s “When Love Is Found” is in the Canadian Presbyterian Book of Praise (1997) set to o waly waly (for the tune, see p. 23). Hopp named various tunes as suggested melodies for the wedding texts in his article and inferred that they should be familiar tunes. That is excellent advice, as a wedding ceremony is not the place to learn a new hymn tune! Furthermore, wedding guests often come from different Christian traditions of song, and it is surely best to choose tunes that are ecumenically known.
NOT FOR TONGUES OF HEAVEN'S ANGELS
First Corinthians 13 is a popular biblical text for wedding ceremonies. One of the widely used paraphrases of this “love chapter” is by the Anglican clergyman Timothy Dudley-Smith. It is here offered with Peter Cutts’s tune bridegroom, which in many modern hymnals is also used for Carl Daw’s text “Like the Murmur of the Dove’s Song.” My organ trio can be used as a prelude or as an alternate accompaniment for this tune; it could also be played with a solo instrument on the melody. “Not for Tongues of Heaven’s Angels” may also be sung to Roy Hopp’s tune reinlyn, which is available as a regular hymn or as an anthem or hymn concertato (see options on this page).
& The anthem based on Roy Hopp’s tune has become very popular at weddings. Consider the following options:
- Sing as a congregational hymn.
- Have a soloist sing, with everyone joining on the last phrase of stanzas 2-4.
- Have two soloists sing, with one singing descant on last stanza.
- Add a solo instrument on the prelude, interlude, and soprano part on stanza 4.
LIVE IN CHARITY- UBI CARITAS
Dating from the ninth century, the Latin text “Ubi Caritas” is useful as a wedding song to encourage the bride and groom to live in love together, to experience their human love always with a sense of “Immanuel”—God is with us. The Taizé setting by Jacques Berthier is here offered in two versions: one with the melody in the soprano, the other with the tune in the tenor; the latter may be used as an alternate accompaniment. While many Christians know this Taizé song by memory, in communities where it is unfamiliar you may wish to have a small group sing the song. For those who wish a longer text, Omer Westendorf has made a six-stanza paraphrase of “Ubi Caritas” in his “Where Charity and Love Prevail,” a hymn text published in the United Methodist Hymnal ( 549).
OUR GOD CREATION'S LOVING SOURCE
Joy Patterson wrote this hymn text at the request of a campus minister to conclude a series of sermons on human sexuality. It is ironic that “sex” is not mentioned in many traditional wedding texts or wedding sermons, even though that is one of the prime reasons for marriage. Sex isn’t specifically mentioned in Patterson’s hymn either, but she certainly offers a rich array of words and phrases to contextualize the expression of sexuality according to biblical norms. The tune o waly waly is a traditional English folk song, which is here offered in its original triple meter. Hal Hopson has stretched this same tune (then often known as gift of love) into duple meter for his hymnic paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13, “Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire,” to enable canonic singing.
A NEW COMMANDMENT
The outburst of Scripture choruses in the latter half of the twentieth century also produced an anonymous setting of Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35, “A New Commandment.” Made accessible by several repetitions of textual and musical phrases, this chorus may be sung (once is sufficient, given its internal repetition) not only as a specific charge to the wedding couple by the gathered congregation but also as mutual encouragement for everyone to live in love as Christ’s disciples. One of my favorite practices is to combine such a chorus with a traditional hymn in which the chorus functions as “bookends” or a “frame” around the hymn. For example, sing “A New Commandment” once, follow it immediately by all stanzas of “Christian Hearts in Love United” (PsH 513), and conclude it with singing “A New Commandment” once more.
ADDITIONAL WEDDING HYMN TEXTS
God Who Blesses New Beginnings
The original stanzas 1-2, beginning “Hear Us Now, O God, our Father,” were written by Harry Huxhold in 1971 for the wedding of his son; they were joined by the well-known blessing stanza of John Newton. The version printed above is that found in Voices United of the United Church of Canada (1996). This 87 87 D text sings well to a stately and well-known tune such as hyfrydol and could be used as a processional hymn or at some point later in the wedding service.
God who blesses new beginnings,
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 our Maker’s boundless love,
with the Holy Spirit’s favor,
rest upon them from above.
May they live in lasting union
with each other and the Lord;
finding joy in hearts’ communion:
joy to share in lives outpoured.
Text: st. 1-2 Harry N. Huxhold,1978, st. 3 John Newton, 1779 st. 1-2 © 1978, Lutheran Book of Worship (Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN 55440. 1-800-421-0239. Used by permission.)
Lord and Lover of Creation
Supremely useful as a prayer hymn after the speaking of the wedding vows, this text was written by Graham Maule, an associate of the Iona Community in Scotland, which is also the home base for his hymn-writing colleague John Bell. Several modern hymnals set this text to the festive tune westminster abbey, but other 87 87 87 possibilities are regent square or picardy; the latter suitably supports the prayer character of this text.
Lord and lover of creation,
bless the marriage witnessed now:
sign of lives no longer separate,
sealed by symbol, bound by vow,
celebrating love’s commitment
made to live and last and grow.
Praise and gratitude we offer
for the past which shaped today:
words which stirred and deepened conscience,
family life, good company,
friends who touched and summoned talent,
nourished all words can’t convey.
On your children, wed and welcome,
here among us, we request
health in home and hearts, and humor
through which heaven and earth are blessed;
open doors and human pleasure,
time for touch and trust and rest.
Take them hence that, in each other,
love fulfilling love shall find
much to share and more to treasure,
such that none shall dare unbind
those your name has joined together,
one in body, heart, and mind.
Text: Graham Maule, © 1989, WGRG The Iona Community, admin. by G.I.A. Publications, Chicago, IL 60638. 1-800-442-1358. Used by permission.
Come to a Wedding
Shirley Murray wrote this text for the wedding of her youngest son “down under” in her native Welland, New Zealand; it was published in her hymn anthology In Every Corner Sing (1992). Note the interactive option of inserting the wedding couple’s names in stanza 4. Because everyone can sing it, Shirley recommends the tune bunessan, a Gaelic melody usually associated with “Morning Has Broken” or “Child in a Manger”. “Come to a Wedding” fits well as a “gathering” or processional hymn.
Come to a wedding, come to a blessing,
come on a day when happiness sings!
Come rain or sun, come winter or summer,
celebrate love and all that it brings.
Thanks for the love that holds us together—
parent and child, and lover and friend;
thanks to the God whose love is our center,
source of compassion, knowing no end.
Love is the gift, and love is the giver,
love is the gold that makes the day shine;
love forgets self to care for the other,
love changes life from water to wine.
Come to this wedding, asking a blessing
for all the years that living will prove:
health of the body, health of the spirit—
*[name] and [name], we offer our love.
*or, “now to you both”
Text: Shirley Erena Murray Text © 1992, Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Contact Hope Publishing for permission to copy this text, 1-800-323-1049.
Now in View of All God’s Mercies
Faced with a request for a wedding hymn on Romans 12 from some friends who also specified the use of blaenwern, Christopher Idle produced this text ten months in advance of their wedding and then also published it in his own hymn anthology, Light Upon the River.
I suggest singing this after the wedding sermon as a summary of the passage. BLAENWERN is eminently singable, but there are many other choices in 87 87 D meter.
Now in view of all God’s mercies,
love that rescues, makes us whole,
let us offer up in worship
mind and body, heart and soul,
to the Lord whose hand has formed us,
blood has cleansed and word sustained:
Jesus Christ whose cross redeemed us,
earth renewed and heaven gained.
Let our varied gifts be ready,
burning zeal with love sincere,
hope rejoicing, patience steady,
open door and listening ear;
laugh and cry with one another
through the joy or pain God sends;
welcome neighbor, sister, brother,
giving time and making friends.
Let us bury greed and grudging,
find how meekness is most strong,
leave to God the place of judging,
not repaying wrong with wrong.
See the rule of Christ advancing,
let his will be understood;
praying, working, peace-enhancing,
evil overcome with good.
Fill these two, we pray, with blessings,
faith in marriage, church and home,
hopes ahead beyond our guessing,
love’s surprises yet to come:
let no wealth or want oppress them
as they build their lives on you;
Father, Son and Spirit, bless them
now in truth made one, made new.
Text: Christopher Idle © 1998, Jubilate Hymns, admin. by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. 1-800-323-1049. Used by permission.
How Good a Thing It Is
Settings of Psalms 23, 45, 103, and 128 are certainly appropriate at weddings, as is this metrical paraphrase of Psalm 133, which extols the blessing of unity among God’s people. This was a favorite theme of James Seddon, an Anglican clergyman and missionary to Morocco, who got this text published in Psalm Praise (1973). Sing this after the wedding vows to a SM (66 86) tune such as st thomas (by Williams), which is associated with “I Love Thy Kingdom [Church], O Lord.”
How good a thing it is,
how pleasant to behold,
when all God’s people live at one,
the law of love uphold!
As perfume, by its scent,
breathes fragrance all around,
so life itself will sweeter be
where unity is found.
And like refreshing dew
that falls upon the hills,
true union sheds its gentle grace,
and deeper love instills.
God grants the choicest gifts
to those who live in peace;
to them such blessings shall abound
and evermore increase.
Text: James E. Seddon, from Psalm 133 © 1982, Jubilate Hymns, Ltd. Admin. by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 1-800-323-1049.
Will You Let Me Be Your Servant
Best known as “The Servant Song,” this text and its associated tune were written by Richard Gillard in Auckland, New Zealand, and became popular throughout the world in the Scripture in Song ministry. At one memorable wedding I attended, the bride and groom sang alternate stanzas of this song to each other (following their vows) and then joined for a duet on stanza 5.
Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I might have the grace to
let you be my servant too.
We are pilgrims on a journey;
we are travelers on the road.
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the nighttime of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we’ve seen this journey through.
Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I might have the grace to
let you be my servant too.
Text & tune: Richard Gillard © 1977 Scripture in Song , a division of Integrity Music, Inc.
Mobile, AL 36695. 1-334-9000. Used by permission.
Hymnal Abbreviations Used in This Article
CBP Book of Praise, Canadian Presbyterian
CH Celebration Hymnal
CVH Covenant Hymnal
PH Presbyterian Hymnal
PsH Psalter Hymnal
RL Rejoice in the Lord
SFL Songs for LiFE
TH Trinity Hymnal
TWC The Worshiping Church
UMH United Methodist Hymnal
Suggestions for Psalms at Weddings
Psalm 23: “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want” CBP 11, CVH 92, PH 170, PsH 161, RL 89, TH 87, TWC 330, UMH 136
Psalm 46: “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” CBP 30, PsH 46, RL 102, TH 40
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (based in part on Ps. 46) CBP 315, CVH 464, PsH 469, RL 179, TH 92, TWC 43, UMH 110
Psalm 84: “How Lovely, Lord, How Lovely” (Duba/Hopson setting) CBP 53, CVH 339, PH 207, TWC 333
Psalm 103: “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” CBP 407, CVH 35, PH 478, PsH 475, RL 144, TH 76, TWC 26, UMH 66
Psalm 121: “To the Hills I Lift My Eyes” CBP 82, PH 234, PsH 121, RL 131
More Hymn Suggestions for Weddings
“Christian Hearts in Love United” PsH 513
“Fill Thou [Now] My Life, O Lord, My God” CBP 653, PsH 547, RL 147, TH 589
“For the Beauty of the Earth” CBP 434, CVH 56, PH 473, PsH 432, RL 5, SFL 89, TH 116, TWC 353, UMH 92
“God, the Father of Your People” (has John Newton’s “May the grace of Christ. . .”as st. 2) PsH 322
“Lord of all Hopefulness” CBP 748, CVH 89, PsH 558, TWC 369
“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” CBP 371, CVH 439, PH 376, PsH 568, RL 464, TH 529, TWC 558, UMH 384
“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” CBP 740, PsH 545
“May the Mind of Christ, My Savior” CBP 644, CVH 366, PsH 291, SFL 72, TH 644, TWC 560
“Now Thank We All Our God” (use as a recessional) CBP 457, CVH 31, PH 555, PsH 454, RL 61, SFL 33, TH 98, TWC 374, UMH 102
“Take My Life and Let It Be” CBP 637, CVH 375, PH 391, PsH 288-289, RL 475, SFL 74, TH 585-586, TWC 568, UMH 399
Other Song Suggestions for Weddings
“Bind Us Together, Lord” (appropriate with braiding cords as an alternate symbol to a unity candle; see p. 8) TWC 690
“In My Life, Lord, Be Glorified SFL 71, TWC 537
“May the Lord Bless You” CBP 553, SFL 80
“Shalom, My Friends, Shalom” CBP 731, SFL 84, TWC 599, UMH 667
“You Shall Go Out With Joy” (as a recessional) CVH 663, PsH 197, SFL 196 (has a 2nd stanza), TWC 272