Paul Vasile is a interim/transitional church musician, consultant and composer based in New York City. He has been a member of the Music that Makes Community Board of Trustees since 2014.
Chanda Rule's Come My Beloved is a wonderful song for weddings.
My first experience with paperless wedding music was on an organic farm in western Chicago, a beautiful but unlikely setting. While planning the service, it became clear that those in attendance would need to play a musical role as we wouldn’t have an organ, piano, or string quartet to play processional and recessional music. But if guests were reading a piece of music from the program they would be faced with a difficult choice: sing and miss seeing the entrance of the wedding party or not sing at all. The solution was Love, Joy, Peace, Goodness, a layered, paperless song that we sang as they entered. And the Recessional was an arrangement of Ana Hernandez’s joyous Antiphon for Whirling for voices, accordion, clarinet, and djembe.
Over the past years I’ve had the opportunity to witness the beautiful ways that paperless music can be used in weddings and commitment ceremonies. As I’ve shared paperless options alongside the standard trumpet voluntaries, marches, and hymns, it has helped spark couples’ imaginations and led to more creative, participatory services.
Paperless music can serve as a powerful welcoming gesture, unifying the diverse voices that have assembled, regardless of religious tradition or musical experience. Paperless wedding music provides a unique opportunity for guests to bless the couple with the gift of their voice as well as their presence. Singing together can also make space for the couple and guests to be more fully present, to relax into and savor the moment.
The versatility of paperless music, especially the way it can be tailored to a specific location or liturgical context, has continued to inspire creativity. I've used paperless teaching techniques (lining out a tune, echo patterns, and imitation) to lead hymns, folk music, and songs from diverse traditions. Last year, I taught a pop song on a beach in Tulum, Mexico, inviting barefooted guests to celebrate the conclusion of a friend's wedding.I’ve also had the occasion to write or incorporate tunes based on scripture, poetry, and other sources. These have helped invite moments of reflection in small and large weddings, in Christian, interfaith, and non-religious gatherings. Paperless song has sustained and punctuated times of prayer; provided space for friends and family to lay hands on a couple and offer blessings; accompanied candle lighting; and invited participation in Eucharistic liturgies. As I participate in more same-sex weddings, I'm also excited to imagine new paperless music that can help reclaim and renew language of commitment to another human being. The possibilities are endless.
You can find a robust selection of paperless songs for weddings using the "Weddings" filter (under "Contexts and Gatherings") on our MMC Songs Database. Check it out now by clicking on this link!
How have you incorporated paperless music into spaces of covenant and commitment? Share your stories in the comments below. If you know of a paperless song that would work well for a wedding, yours or another person's, you can add a listing to the MMC Songs Database.