Crafting our ceremony: music

2 November 2012

Just like our readings, we spent a lot of time choosing music for our ceremony. Music has always been important to us individually and as a couple, from the Arcade Fire songs we listened to when we first started dating to the Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service songs that will always remind us of college. We were excited to add to our “collection” with the wedding.

Furthermore, music has always triggered my emotions like nothing else, and in this situation, I wanted them to be triggered! I wanted to feel the enormity of what was happening. Have you ever noticed how much more impactful words layered over music is than just words? Like in movies? Or at my church, when they always play Borning Cry in the background as the confirmands are blessed by their parents and pastor? (I used to make fun of my mom for crying every year, but now I do, too!)

Photo from our ceremony by Nancy Ray

In the end, we were so, so happy with the musical choices we made. Here they are:

Entrance of parents and gentlemen: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Played by: String trio
My mom, accompanied by my brother in law, and John’s mom, accompanied by John’s dad, walked into Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Once they had been seated, our pastor, John, and his groomsmen entered from the front side entrance of the church. This song just says “joyful wedding” to me like nothing else, and sure enough, when I heard the first swells from where we were waiting in the narthex, excited bubbles rose up in my stomach, and I might have let out a few squeaks :)

Bridesmaids’ processional: In Christ Alone
Played by: String trio and pianist
I think this was the choice we were most unsure about, but in the end, it was beyond perfect! Even Philip, one of our videographers (who has excellent taste in music), complimented us on it after the service! Both John and I love this hymn, but we were unsure of how natural it would be to walk to. After much practicing around the apartment, we decided it would work… and happily, it did! It set the perfect reverent, moving tone at the beginning of the service. (We also considered Down to the River to Pray.)

Bridal processional: A Thousand Years
Played by: String trio and piano
If we were most unsure about the bridesmaids’ processional, we were most divided on the bridal processional! I wanted something that evoked strong emotion in me, and that had a solid forward movement/thrust. The first song I got stuck on was a live version of The Chain by Ingrid Michaelson. I adore that song, and thought it would be gorgeous played by strings and piano. John, however, pretty much flat-out refused it. I next considered Pachelbel’s Canon in D, but although that song is beautiful, it didn’t move me like I was hoping it would. (Maybe a similar issue to my wedding gown – I’ve heard it at too many other weddings?)

John was initially skeptical of the song we ultimately chose for the processional, and I’ll admit, I was, too. Somehow I had stumbled across the Vitamin String Quartet version of “A Thousand Years,” and I thought it was achingly beautiful. Even though we would use an instrumental version, I liked the words, too. The downside? It was written for one of the Twilight movies. I’ve never read any of the Twilight books or seen any of the movies, so it wasn’t colored for me — I was more worried that others might think it was weird or cheesy. I was also worried that I might regret not choosing something more classic. In the end, though, I went with my gut, and somehow got John on my side. And it was perfect. My processional was highly emotional, and its beautiful soundtrack played a large part in that.

Congregational hymn: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Played by: Pianist
John and I share a deep love for old hymns, and we knew from the start we wanted to include a congregational hymn in our ceremony. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee was an easy choice – it’s one of my very favorites, and John loves it, too. I hear I surprised some of our guests with my mastery of the lyrics — that’s one of the ones I know by heart, and boy did I sing it! :) I loved looking around the church at all of our guests’ happy faces during the hymn, too.

Communion hymns: Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing and Set Me as a Seal
Played by: Pianist
These were easy to choose, too! We immediately picked Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (patterned on the Sufjan Stevens version!), and happily added Set Me As a Seal when our pastor suggested we might want two for timing purposes. We were EXTREMELY blessed to have our dear friend Anna sing both of these as a solo. Anna has been one of my very best friends from third grade until the present day, and she has possibly the most beautiful voice of anyone I know. For timing, we probably could have used a third hymn, but these two were perfect as is!

Recessional: Ode to Joy
Played by: String trio and pianist
We considered a few upbeat secular songs for our recessional (Hallelujah I Love Her So, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, You’re Still the One), but decided pretty quickly to go traditional and repeat Ode to Joy. It’s the same hymn my parents and older sister used for their weddings, and I loved that we could continue the tradition!

I created a Spotify playlist with similar versions of most of these songs which you can access here. Let me know what you think, or, if you’re married, tell me what you used for your bridal processional! :)

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November 2, 2012 10:59 am

I love that you had congregational singing, we did too and I loved it! We had Come Thou Fount and then during communion we had Be Thou My Vision.

For the processional, I used Simple Gifts from Appalachian Spring, everyone walked in to this, Grandmother, Mothers, Groom and Groomsman and Bridesmaids. Then the doors opened and I came in at 2:24. My husband said it was like something out of a movie :)

November 2, 2012 11:21 am

It was PERFECT, Em!!! (I’m a huge fan of twilight but didn’t put it together that that’s where I had heard A Thousand Years before!) Beautiful selections :)

November 2, 2012 3:32 pm

I LOVED your bridal processional and am so glad you went with your gut on that one! In fact, I loved all the music you chose – I was so happy to have been a part of it!

November 5, 2012 8:11 am

great post! as we are getting married THIS weekend our friend is playing acoustic guitar and i asked for ave maria as my song to walk down the aisle to! he sent me a clip a couple of weeks ago and it is just stunning! i can’t wait!! i love the idea of making the congregation sing too! we’re not getting married at a church with hymnals and we are foregoing a program for a chalk board so it’s hard to ask anyone to do anything.. i did want an acapella group for a while to sing at the end, love actually style.. but that didn’t work out either. :( oh well, i’m just going to enjoy the day as much as possible either way! i’m sure i’ll be in such a daze i won’t recollect very much!

November 5, 2012 1:13 pm

We played lots of classic hymnal music – but my favorite was the entry of the grandmothers, where we played ‘Edelweiss’ – I always loved the Sound of Music growing up and that song was perfect!

November 6, 2012 7:54 pm

We had Ode to Joy too! Your dedication to the selection of EVERYTHING is inspiring! We loved every bit of it!

November 13, 2012 3:31 pm

I’ve never heard A Thousand Years, and I absolutely love it!

January 10, 2013 11:21 pm

Em – girl first off THANK YOU for documenting your wedding planning process. I follow you on and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you on here too :) One of 2013 resolutions was to not just stalk by beloved blogs, but to COMMENT too haha! I’m horrible at knowing way too many details about the blogger but never introducing myself! Anyway – Matt (fiance) and I are having a July wedding. We’ve started discussing ceremony music and A Thousand Years brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it!! How much of the song did you use in your walk down the aisle? If we do use this song, we won’t be able to play the whole song since our aisle isn’t very long. Any tips/advice would be appreciated!!

January 15, 2013 6:12 pm

That’s the version I was listening too :) Okay perfect thanks so much for your advice Em!!