A short guide to wedding hymns

guides, words


Music is a vital ingredient in your church wedding service. It sets the atmosphere and enables everyone to join in the singing of your chosen hymns.

Most Christian wedding services include two or three hymns. However, there is no set rule as to how many hymns can be sung during your service although it is uncommon to have fewer than two, or more than four.

Choosing your hymns

You should be able to have any hymns of you choice sung during your service. However, you must discuss your preferences with your minister who’s approval is needed.

Most churches have their own favourite hymn books which may or may not contain the hymns you would like. Therefore, when you meet with your minister, unless you know the hymns that you would like, you should ask for copies of the hymn books to take away. Alternatively, you may just wish to accept your minister’s recommendations. If you are unfamiliar with any of your minister’s suggested hymns, you will be able to arrange to meet with the church organist who will gladly play them for you.

When considering hymns for your service, you should always bear in mind the vocal talents of your guests. Unless they are known to be good singers, you should avoid unfamiliar hymns and hymns with high notes. This is particularly relevant if you will not be using the church choir. The last thing you want is an embarrassed silence!

To help you with your selection, we have listed belowmany of the most popular hymns.

When hymns are sung

The following example order of service shows when hymns are usually sung:

Order of Service

  • The Procession: Trumpet Voluntary – Clark
  • Introduction
  • Hymn: Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven
  • The Marriage
  • The Lesson and Reading
  • Hymn: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
  • The Prayers
  • The Blessing
  • The Signing of the Register
  • Hymn: Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us
  • The Recession: Wedding March – Mendelssohn

You can see that the first hymn is sung at the beginning of the service, which is usually a hymn in praise of God in whose presence everyone has assembled. The second hymn, sung after the marriage ceremony, is in praise and celebration of the union. The third hymn, which is usually sung after the signing of the register, could be a hymn that speaks of the desire that God goes with you into the future to help you live out the vows that you have just made.

If communion is included in your service, a fourth hymn may be sung after the sacraments have been taken.

Music to accompany your hymns

If you require the church organ to play your hymn music, you need to arrange this with your minister, for which a fee will be payable. With your minister’s approval, you may be able to have a competent friend or relative play for you. It is also usually possible to have professional musicians attend and play, although you will probably need at least a quartet to give the required strength and depth to the traditional ‘orchestral’ music played during a church service. It is for this reason that a church organ is so suitable.

Using a choir

A group of trained voices will enhance your service tremendously, especially if the congregation size is small. As well as ensuring your hymns are sung as intended, a choir will encourage your guests to sing with more gusto!

If you plan on using your church’s choir, for which an additional fee will be payable, there may be availability problems if your wedding is on a weekday, since many of the choir members may be at work. If this is the case, you may consider hiring a professional choir.

Copyright issues

Copyright exists in creative works such as hymns for 70 years after the death of the writer. During that period, it is illegal to reproduce the works in any form without the permission of the copyright holder (or their appointed agent). Therefore, should you wish to reproduce the text of a hymn in your order of service, you will need the permission of the copyright holder for which a charge of between $10 and $25 is usually made.

Please note, you do not need the copyright holder’s permission if you are only singing the hymns, since a wedding is a private function. It is only if you wish to print the hymn words (for example on an order of service) that permission is required.

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