Why Do People Play “Here Comes the Bride” at Weddings?

It’s common to hear the song “Here Comes the Bride” at weddings. Generally, either a live band or a prerecorded audio soundtrack will play this song when a woman walks down the aisle.

But how did this tradition start? Where does this come from?

“Here Comes the Bride” is technically called the “Bridal Chorus.” It was written in 1850 as part of an opera called Lohengrin, composed by Richard Wagner.

In the opera Lohengrin, the women sing the chorus of this song after the wedding, when they’re accompanying the bride Elsa during her departure from the ceremony. (And her marriage is a near-immediate failure). So this songs’ position as the musical accompaniment for walking down the aisle is a departure from Wagner’s original intent.

Nevertheless, the Bridal Chorus has become a mainstay of traditional European and American weddings.

While Wagner wrote lyrics for this musical piece in his opera, the Bridal Chorus (as its performed at weddings today) is usually played on an organ, without any lyrics.

“Here Comes the Bride” is a secular piece of music, and some churches advise against playing it during the procession, because of its secular nature.

Wagner’s piece isn’t the only music that’s commonly associated with weddings.

The “Wedding March,” which is often played after the ceremony, when a bride walks away from the alter with her new groom, was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1842. (It may be coincidence that both pieces were created by German composers during the same 8-year timespan.) Mendelssohn composed this as a concert overture for William Shakespeare’s famed play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This piece is now, arguably, the most popular piece of music to play as the bride and groom leave the alter.

However, if you’re looking for other tunes, you have options: Pachabel’s Canon in D is another popular wedding ceremony piece (and it’s one of my personal favorites). Toccata, composed in 1880 by French composer Charles-Marie Widor for Symphony for Organ No. 5, is another popular tune.

If you want a more Scottish tune, the music from Mairi’s Wedding, a Scottish folk song by John Roderick Bannerman, is a popular choice on the other side of the Atlantic.

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