Classical Music/wedding music


I am getting married and wanted the traditional wedding march ("Here comes the bride...")played for the prossional and that other song played as we walk out. But was told that these two songs were not allowed to be played at this church, and that Cannon in D was also not allowed. Reason being that the songs had a bad history, that one of them was part of an opera that catholics were killed or something to tah affect. I know that the original wedding march was in a midsummers night dream, was it in something else maybe more offensive. Can you give me a little info on these song?
Thank you
Meagan Hand

Hi Meagan!

There are two traditional Wedding Marches.  The first "Wedding March" is played as the recessional at many weddings. It was written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1842 for a Skakespeare play entitiled A Midsummer Night's Dream. This piece is more upbeat and jubliant and is played as the bride and groom leave the church.   I'm wondering if this is what you mean for what you wanted for the recessional hymn?  I wasn't sure from your description.  

For your processional, the Bridal Chorus (Wedding March – Here Comes the Bride) was written by Richard Wagner in 1848 for his opera Lohengrin. (He wrote the words and music for this, unlike Mendelssohn who only wrote the music). Customarily, this piece of music is played as the processional at a wedding ceremony. The Bridal Chorus is traditionally played at Western weddings, and is commonly known as "Here Comes the Bride". It has become one of the most famous pieces of music in the world.   

Why are these so popular for weddings?  Both pieces of music gained acceptance when they were selected by Victoria, The Princess Royal for her marriage to the Crown Prince of Prussia on January 25, 1858. Since most commoners wanted to be like nobility and royality, they quickly adapted the music as tradition for their weddings.  (I got this information from

I know some strict parishes do not like very traditional music to be used because it is so clichéd and frankly, the organist gets sick of playing the pieces 3 or 4 times every week.  However, I have never heard them say it was because it was from an opera in which Catholics were killed!  Absolutely not!  Let me give you the histories.

Mendelssohn's Midsummer's Night Dream (1842) is purely incidental music.  The Wedding March music was written to serve as the Act V nuptial music for Theseus and Hippolyta, and without which millions of couples in the ensuing years would have been left standing at the altar wondering how to get on with their lives.  That's a good thing!  Sure, Shakespeare's play has some fairies and occult-like stuff in it but no one can blame Mendelssohn for the content.

As for Wagner, he is a notorious anti-Semite but he wasn't anti-Catholic (more or less... that point is a bit debatable.)  The music comes from the end of Act II of Lohengrin when Elsa is marrying Lohengrin, a knight of the Holy Grail.   He was sent to rescue her from an unwanted suitor.  Led to Antwerp by a swan, Lohengrin saves Elsa and marries her. She is forbidden to ask his identity, but, overcome by curiosity, she asks. As a result, Lohengrin must return to the castle of the Grail. The swan reappears and is revealed to be Elsa's brother.  Sound a little silly?  Well, it's not a happy story.  They're not really marrying for love – just to get away from the other guy.  And it's a little bit of odd stuff about the symbols of the Holy Grail and so on, a pagan story rather than a Christian one, so I can see why the objection is there.  After all, who wants to get married to a song which was used at this wedding that didn't work out?  But absolutely no Catholics were harmed in the making of this opera. :-)  

Now, as for Canon in D, I find that objection ridiculous; there's no reason at all why this piece should not be allowed.  Explains one organist: “'Canon in D' is the musical cliché.   It is a fine piece of music, don't get me wrong - that's how it got to be a cliché.  I just can't remember a wedding that didn't have 'Canon in D' in it, that's all. All I ask is that people find something else to play. There is a lot of music out there.   If you are currently getting married this weekend, and have 'Canon in D' as part of the deal, don't feel bad. Its like eating at McDonald's... everyone does it, and the food is fine, even though there might be better places to go.”  (From  On that note, I happen to like Canon in D, there's no bad history there whatsoever, and if you want it, you should have it.  Then again, I'm neither your priest nor your organist so my opinion doesn't count for much!   Still, if they object,  they should help you find another piece you will like even if that means a private performance for you by the organist of possible acceptable pieces.   Just no Phantom of the Opera, okay? :-)  It is your day and you need to be happy, first and foremost.

I hope that helps, Meagan, and I wish you every happiness on your wedding day and in the future.  Let me know how it works out!


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I am a PhD candidate in Musicology, and the composers I have studied in depth are Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner though I can answer questions about other composers of the Romantic era. I study biography, reception history, and have an abiding interest in German opera and Lieder. I regret that I cannot answer analytical questions about specific pieces. I also have a great deal of knowledge about musicological resources and can recommend books to help you research your topic further. My major instrument is the French horn, and I am also able to answer questions relating to the horn and its history, and some types of repertoire questions.


I have a MA in Musicology and completed all of my coursework towards a PhD in Musicology. I have 14 years of experience playing the French horn in concert bands, symphonic ensembles, chamber orchestras and brass quintets, as well as some solo work. I have presented papers at conferences across Canada, the US and in Germany.

American Musicological Society, Canadian University Music Society

Wind And Symphonic Bands and Ensembles Journal, Fermata, unpublished M.A. thesis on Robert Schumann's Lieder (UMI)

Hold an M.A. in Musicology and have completed PhD work in Musicology

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