According to The United States’ Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy’s guide – Music in Catholic Worship – the best way to choose music for liturgy, including your wedding, is to judge the piece of music according to three criteria:
1. The musical
“Is the music technically, aesthetically, and expressively good?” This speaks of quality, not taste. Whether the piece of music is classical or contemporary, jazz or gospel, the musical judgment asks, “Is this piece of music the best quality it can be?” Your wedding deserves only the best. And musical quality is not determined by whether or not “I like it.” Musical quality is best judged according to standards of beauty and skill – standards that your parish music minister is trained in discerning.
2. The liturgical
Does this piece of music fit the liturgy and work well with what the liturgy is trying to do? An aria from an opera might be exquisite from the musical judgment: In terms of musical quality, it doesn’t get any better than this. But the liturgy properly understood does not offer much opportunity for solo singing, and singing about being lovesick because the one you love doesn’t love you back is not at all what the liturgy celebrates.
3. The pastoral
Will this piece of music enable the liturgy to be a prayer for all present and not just a theatrical production? The primary kind of music in the liturgy is communal singing. Replacing the Lord’s Prayer with a soloist singing a classical rendition of the prayer is a bad idea, for example, because it literally takes the words out of the mouth of all present. Better to have all sing the chant that all know than to have a soloist “steal” the prayer.
As a result, many local parishes have dispensed advices to couples getting married from the type of music to choose and even issued some recommendations.
A. Avoid secular music.
While a beautiful love song that made the top ten on the radio might be appropriate in a wedding reception, however, it is not to be used prior to or during the liturgy. Music and the texts chosen must celebrate the sacrament of marriage and prepare everyone to lift up their hearts to God. Also, if a son is inappropriate to be used a the wedding because of its text, it is also inappropriate as an instrumental version.
B. Get prior authorization before employing your own musicians
Chances are that your church has policies on visiting organists, soloists, the use of other instrumentalists, etc. Therefore, it is important that you make arrangements with the parish music director and the priest about your use of any visiting musicians well in advance of your wedding.
C. Print a program booklet
A program booklet for your wedding is helpful to guests, especially those from other faiths, and encourages everyone to sing their parts of the liturgy. However, make sure you obtain reprint permission from copyright holders of song texts or music you wish to use.
To have a better understanding of music guidelines for Catholic weddings, I encourage you to also read our articles on Catholic wedding music recommendations and the typical catholic music wedding program.