The Catholic Church regards marriage, or matrimony, as a sacrament that involves not only the couple who enter into a marriage contract, but the entire church community and even in some senses the larger world community. Thus, the Catholic Church looks upon the marriage rite as an occasion of liturgy, or public worship, and requires that all elements of the rite--including the music--conform to liturgical standards.
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Within the Catholic religion, the wedding rite is regarded as emphasising the spiritual development of love. The wedding ceremony, therefore, concerns itself with the love of God as the source of all love, not solely with the romantic love of the two partners for each other. In keeping with the wedding rite's nature as a spiritual liturgy, most secular music is not allowed, although some secular music that focuses on love between God and humankind may be permitted.
The fundamental aspect of marriage in the Roman Catholic Church, and thus of the wedding rite itself, is that of sacramentality. The Catholic Church regards matrimony as one of seven sacraments that function as special channels of God's grace. This still more profound aspect of the spiritual nature of the wedding liturgy enforces the general perception of the spiritual nature of the Catholic wedding rite. As a result, the Catholic church encourages the wedding rite to occur in the context of a nuptial Mass, including music appropriate to the liturgical celebration of a Mass.
Typically, the church's musicians provide the music for the Catholic wedding ceremony. The primary parish organist/music director also may arrange for performances by professional musicians who may not routinely play in daily or weekly liturgies, but with whom the music director has a working relationship for special liturgies such as weddings, funerals, baptisms and similar occasions. For those who would like to engage other musicians, individual parish policy determines whether or not doing so is permissible.
The Catholic wedding ceremony involves music at five occasions during the wedding rite: procession, psalm (responsorial), preparation of the gifts, Eucharist and recessional. For all of these occasions, the couple must choose appropriately worshipful selections in consultation with their music director/organist. Depending on availability of appropriate musicians, you may have other instruments such as flute, trumpet and guitar included in the playing of the wedding rite music.
The website for the Diocese of Venice, Florida, provides a good list of suggestions for appropriate music choices for a Catholic wedding rite. Processional and recessional music suggestions include, for example, Stanley's "Trumpet Voluntary," Handel's "Aria," Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."
Suggested psalms/responsorials include the sung version of Psalm 34, "Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord"; Psalm 98, "All the Ends of the Earth"; and Psalm 139, "Oh God, You Search Me," among others. Music for the preparation and Eucharistic rites include such songs as "For the Beauty of the Earth," "O God, You Search Me and You Know Me," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "Taste and See" and "One Bread, One Body."
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