Refreshing Your Wedding Music for Organ

by Sarah Hawbecker

Whether you have played one hundred weddings or three, you may dread playing Purcell’s “Trumpet Tune” or Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” even one more time. There is a reason couples keep choosing tried and true wedding pieces—they are good pieces of music that have lasted for centuries—but there are obviously many other options, and it’s helpful to explore them.

Look through music you already own. Many of your favorite postludes could also work as a wedding recessional. Any music with a title of “Trumpet Tune” or “March” or “Festive Processional” is an obvious choice. Jeremy Bankson’s “Trumpet Tune in G” is a happy tune and easy to learn. Dudley Buck’s “Triumphal March,” Op. 26 is in the public domain. It has an important characteristic of successful music for a procession—it consists of regular phrases and repeated sections, so that you can easily make it the length that you need to get the bridal party in. I have played a portion of William Walton’s “Crown Imperial March” as a procession. You can often make a section of a larger piece work on its own, so don’t let length deter you.

Consider also your favorite prelude or fugue by Bach. The G Major Prelude, BWV 541 is particularly happy. Individual movements of sonatas by Mendelssohn work well for all kinds of services. The Allegro maestoso e vivace of Sonata No. 2 is a short but triumphant postlude, and any of the slow movements work well as a prelude. Karg-Elert’s “Nun danket alle Gott” is not just for Thanksgiving; it makes a marvelous wedding recessional. I often am asked to play Widor’s famous “Toccata,” but once a bride hears an alternative like the “Final” from Symphony I by Vierne, she might change her mind. Florence Price’s “Adoration” is in the public domain, easy, and could be an option for the seating of the mothers.

Most people find it useful to have all their wedding music in one place. Many published collections exist, and I find the following chock full of good pieces:

A Wedding Music Anthology: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition: The original four volumes by David N. Johnson were my go-to wedding books for years. Now they are compiled into one spiral-bound volume and also available for digital download.

Augsburg Organ Library: Marriage: This very useful collection includes music for preludes, processionals, and recessionals. Some are based on hymn tunes. Individual pieces are available for download on Prelude.

Wedding Settings for Organ: by Edwin T. Childs. These preludes and postludes are almost all based on hymn tunes that would be appropriate for a wedding service but also useful for any service throughout the year.

The “King of Instruments” can make music written for other instruments work beautifully, so look for transcriptions. I find the “Arioso” in 10 Transcriptions & Arrangements for Organ, Volume 1 by J. Michael Case to be particularly engaging for a prelude. If you’ve had requests (as I’ve had) for the Adagio cantabile movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, try the organ transcription in Five Transcriptions for Organ Solo by Daniel Ficarri. Each of these pieces is available as a separate digital download.

Voluntaries on hymn tunes can be very effective wedding processionals or recessionals. In Michael Burkhardt’s “Voluntary on Hymn to Joy,” I love the way he intertwines the hymn tune with a voluntary by the 18th century English composer John Stanley. One or more of Richard Proulx’s variations on the tune “Westminster Abbey” (available in Prelude) would be very useful wedding music. John Ferguson’s A Wedding Triptych contains voluntaries on three hymns: “When Love Is Found,” “Now Thank We All Our God,” and “Go, My Children, with My Blessing.”

While I have listed only a few suggestions, I hope it inspires you to take a fresh look at the music you offer for weddings. If you have ideas to add, please leave a comment.

Posted on May 21, 2024 9:00:00 AM
Filed Under: Music Ministry, Filed Under: music, Filed Under: wedding, Filed Under: weddings, Filed Under: marriage,

Sarah Hawbecker

Written by Sarah Hawbecker

Sarah J. Hawbecker is a graduate of St. Olaf College and the Eastman School of Music. Since 1996, she has served as Organist and Director of Children's Music at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, GA, overseeing a program of two children's choirs, three handbell choirs, a summer music camp, and a concert series. She has performed for and presented workshops at regional and national gatherings of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, and of the American Guild of Organists, and has served as adjudicator for several organ competitions.