Wedding Hymns, Songs and Music


A church wedding


Planning your wedding music

We often get asked for help in planning the music for a wedding. You'll find plenty of information on this page, but we have now also produced a detailed 62 page downloadable guide to planning the music for a church wedding, or any wedding using traditional music like hymns. In the guide you will find:

  • Guidance on the different musical options at each stage of the wedding
  • A plan to ensure everything is organized for the music
  • 21 suggestions for "in and out" music, with links to hear the pieces
  • 38 suggestions for wedding hymns and songs with links to hear the music
  • 26 suggestions for anthems and solos to provide a musical highlight, with links to hear the music
  • a range of suggestions for background and interlude instrumental music
  • Complete words of 21 of the most popular wedding hymns, ready to copy into your order of service
Stacks Image 240
Buy the Ultimate Church Wedding Music Planner, a bargain at less than £2 - click through to Amazon to either buy or download a sample


CDs of Wedding Music

We have some excellent CDs/downloads of the essential music for weddings. Our CDs have no singing (we list some CDs with singing on further down), so you can use them as a backing track if required.

Stacks Image 226
You can buy both volumes of Organ Music for Weddings as a 2 CD set at £19.99 - or you can download the tracks you need from iTunes or Amazon. You can also here samples of all the tracks at iTunes or Amazon.

Stacks Image 256
If you want more choice for before and after, during the processions or during the signing, take a look also at our Organ Miscellany CD. This features 22 extra organ pieces from well known music like the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria and Haydn's St Anthony Chorale to some secret gems that will make your wedding special. Available as a CD or as downloads from iTunes or Amazon.

Stacks Image 268
It's difficult to find a single CD that has a good selection of both background music and hymns to get some inspirations for a wedding - this is probably the best choice around. There are the inevitable Wagner & Mendelssohn wedding marches, with several other organ options for in and out, some good anthems to be sung during the signing of the register (though as usual rather randomly chosen) and some of the most popular wedding hymns from the inevitable Love Divine (and why not - it's a good hymn) to less common choices like Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Perhaps the oddest choices are Elgar's rather weak Ave Verum Corpus (if you don't want Mozart, Byrd's is so much better), Walton's Set Me as a Seal and strangest of all Irish I Would be True. But it's still a very useful starter to explore some potential wedding music.


Wedding Hymns

If possible, borrow a copy of the hymn books used in the church and get the words in your service sheet copied from there. Many hymn books have subtle variants of words, and the choir may well use the hymn books to sing from so they have the music - they will do their best to use the service sheet words, but it's safer to stick to the same version. It also helps if you can provide enough service sheets for the choir! (If you want the hymn Love Divine, check the info below before getting your service sheet printed.)  For most of the hymns we've got a MIDI file that will give you and idea of what the tune sounds like - click on the hymn name or tune name to hear it.
  • All People that on Earth do Dwell - slow and solemn, very traditional, another hymn that is good for celebrating the joy of a wedding.
  • All Things Bright and Beautiful - quite often chosen for weddings for those opening words and because it is dimly remembered from school, but to be honest it's a bit tedious. Only go for this if it's a personal favourite. There are two tunes, the more common All things bright and beautiful (- AMNS), and slightly less common, Royal Oak.
  • Amazing Grace - slightly more informal but likely to be widely known, the words aren't actually ideal for a wedding, but it remains popular. This one isn't in either of the main hymn books, but can be found in Songs of Fellowship, and most choirs can dig out a copy.
  • As Man and Woman we were made - modern words, specifically written for weddings, fitting the lilting carol tune ‘Sussex Carol’. Worth trying out first: the last line of the words can be a bit tricky to fit to the tune.
  • Give Me Joy in My Heart (AMNS) - this joyful hymn is a relatively modern wedding favourite with its chorus of "Sing Hosanna" (it misses off the first verse often used in schools that starts "Give me oil in my lamp")
  • Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer - rousing hymn with probably the best known of the great Welsh hymn tunes, incorporating that Rugby crowd echo towards the end. A good choice and popular.
  • I vow to Thee my Country - increasingly popular at weddings, the words of the hymn aren’t particularly relevant to weddings. If you like the tune, consider the alternative words ‘We pledge to one another.’
  • Jerusalem (And Did Those Feet, in Ancient Times) - this setting of Blake's poem, featured on the last night of the Proms, probably isn't really the ideal wedding hymn, but it is often chosen and is certainly moving.
  • Lead Us Heavenly Father, Lead Us - again a reminder that marriage will have problems as well as easy parts, and we need God's help to get through.
  • Lord of All Hopefulness - sung to the attractive Irish folk hymn tune Slane, the positive feel of this hymn works well in weddings.
  • Lord of the Dance (AMNS) - really not appropriate as a wedding hymn because of the focus on the crucifixion, but sometimes chosen either for the "dance" word or because it's remembered from school.
  • Love Divine - probably the classic wedding hymn, a joyous "love" based hymn. Watch out, though - there are two popular tunes which influence how the words should be printed in your order of service. If you choose the more rousing Welsh tune Blaenwern, there are only half as many verses as when you choose the equally popular Love Divine - Blaenwern is twice as long, and pairs of the short verses are combined.
  • Make Me a Channel of Your Peace - lovely words, based on writings of St. Francis, with an acceptable modernish tune, an increasingly popular choice.
  • Morning Has Broken (NEH) - one of the better choices for a wedding and increasingly popular, the tune is familiar to many and the pleasant folk feel works well. There is an alternative set of words that begins "Come to a wedding", but they are not very good.
  • Now Thank We All Our God - a stately hymn that has a good celebratory tone.
  • O Jesus I have Promised - a general, well known hymn that is fine for weddings. Confusingly has several separate tunes in the UK: first there's Wolvercote, then there's Thornbury or you can have Day of Rest or the "modern" tune Hatherop Castle. Also sung to the very Victorian Angel's Story.
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty - slightly more upbeat in tempo but still very traditional and positive hymn
  • The King of Love My Shepherd is - perhaps surprisingly, this hymn version of the 23rd psalm is popular at both weddings and funerals. Again two tunes - perhaps more common is Dominus Regit Me, but spare a thought for the rather lovely St Columba (NEH).
  • The Lord's My Shepherd - like "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" a setting of the 23rd psalm that is popular both at weddings and funerals.
  • We Pledge to One Another - a modern set of words specifically for weddings to the tune of ‘I vow to Thee my Country.’

To hear any of these hymns - and many more - played properly, you can use the downloads from iTunes/Amazon for the Organ Music for Weddings CDs above.


Organ Music - ins, outs and during the signing of the register

  • Wedding March (Wagner) - it's "here comes the bride", still the most popular choice, but it is a bit samey! Only for the way in!
  • Wedding March (Mendelssohn) - the traditional exit music, and much more classy than the Wagner, so still recommended. Only for the way out - all the rest would work for either.
  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Handel)
  • Grand March from Aida (Verdi) - suitably operatic and, as the name suggests, grand!
  • Toccata from Organ Symphony 5 (Widor) - superb processional music with the big BUT that it requires a good organist and a good organ. Many small churches just can't manage it, so check!
  • Trumpet Tune (Purcell) - like the trumpet voluntary, works best with a real trumpet or a big organ
  • Trumpet Voluntary (attrib. Clarke) - great if you have a friend who is an excellent trumpeter, or a big church where the organ has a trumpet stop. Good but less impressive on a smaller organ
  • Water Music (Handel) - a couple of pieces from this suite are regularly used for the processions: Hornpipe (actually "Alla Hornpipe", suite in D)   and the Air (suite in F)

  • During the signing
  • Ave Maria (Schubert or Gounod )
  • Canon (Pachelbel) - this is sometimes used as a processional but it is very slow to get going, so is not ideal
  • Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach)
  • Whiter Shade of Pale - if your organist isn't too stuffy, the old Procol Harum number Whiter Shade of Pale sounds good on the organ. The words aren't appropriate, but the music on its own works well
  • Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) - several possibilities but one part most often played
  • ... and many other pieces your organist can suggest


Choir anthems

It is worth having a choir even if it is only to help with the singing of the hymns, as many wedding guests aren't very familiar with them these days - and they add to the ceremonial procession. But most choirs can also sing an anthem during the signing of the register if requested. Here are some of the more popular wedding anthems:

  • A Gaelic Blessing (John Rutter) - Rutter is the most popular and tuneful 20th century church composer. His Gaelic Blessing is peaceful and lovely in both words ("Deep peace of the running wave to you, deep peace of the flowing air to you...") and music.
  • Ave Verum Corpus (various) - there are very many settings of these Latin words. Not to be confused with Ave Maria, Ave Verum Corpus is not really a good choice for weddings unless you are having communion in the service. It means "hail the true body [of Christ]" - it's specifically about the communion service. Mozart's is the best known setting, but Byrd's is the most outstanding musically.
  • Cantate Domino (Pitoni) - this short, lively Latin anthem (it means "sing unto the Lord a new song") is in the repertoire of many church choirs and is a pleasant filler for the signing of the register.
  • God be in My Head (Walford Davies) - a simple little piece used at both weddings and funerals (don't let that put you off).
  • Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach) - with interspersed twiddly bits on the organ, a serene and ever-popular choice
  • Lead Me Lord (S. S. Wesley) - a pleasant, short, simple little piece
  • The Lord is My Shepherd - there are a number of anthem versions of the 23rd psalm. Perhaps best known outside church is Howard Goodall's delightful setting that is the theme for the TV show The Vicar of Dibley - some choirs will have the music for this.
  • O Come Ye Servants of the Lord (Tye) - this short, very positive anthem has a good sound for the signing of the register and is known by many choirs.
  • Panis Angelicus (Franck) - one of the most flexible pieces around, Cesar Franck arranged it for solo, duet and four part choir. The simple, flowing tune is very popular.
  • This is the Day That the Lord Has Made (anon) - an ideal short anthem for during the signing, the words carry on "we shall rejoice and be glad in it". Very positive and effective.


Music for hymns

We quite often get asked where you can get sheet music for a particular hymn. Few hymns are available as separate sheet music. All the hymns and tunes we mention above are in both the main Anglican hymn books: Ancient & Modern and The New English Hymnal, except for the two worship songs, which are from Songs of Fellowship 1 (River Wash Over Me) and Songs of Fellowship 2 (I, the Lord of Sea and Sky). See our hymn book page for information on buying these from Amazon, but check with your organist first - many will already have access to copies.
If there is no organist available, you might find our hymn accompaniment CDs and downloads useful - they enable you to sing hymns without anyone to play.