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Policies on Prerecorded music in weddings, etc.

Dear Listers,

Thank you so much for your responses (below). My original question was
for your policies regarding recorded music in weddings and church
services. Most of you forbade its use at all, while a couple were more
flexible. I also appreciated the viewpoints of non-church directors.

It seems to me (if you're interested in my opinion) that the best
solution is to 'highly discourage' the practice, but to make exceptions
as well. As the Bible states, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," and those
of us in church positions have a higher calling than music.

Thanks again!
Josh Peterson, Director of Music
First United Presbyterian Church
Belleville, IL, 62223

Your resposes:
We simply don't allow it. In fact, our sound system was installed without
any capacity to playback through the speakers, in order that we can say,
"We're not set up to do that sort of thing." Our wedding policy states
that all music in weddings and other worship services is to be provided
by live musicians.
If I remember correctly, pre-recorded music is not permitted in our
wedding services, per our printed wedding policy. We finally got all
that in print about 3 years ago. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy or
easy access to one at the moment. Some churches put their wedding
policies on their websites, though, so you might do some browsing of
church websites as well as checking with other Presbyterian churches in
your area. Here is an example of a wedding policy on a Presbyterian
website in Tallahassee, Florida. It doesn't appear to
mention pre-recorded music specifically, but indicates that secular love
songs are not permitted and that all music must be approved by the pastor
or organist.
Be strong! Enact a policy forbidding anything but live music in your
church! Doing anything else helps encourage the death of live music

My Presbyterian Church enacted a "live music only" policy several years
ago. It has never cost us a wedding or hurt a church service. What it
has done is encourage live music in the church from elementary level
through adults. It's amazing how many accompanists come out of the
woodwork when it becomes apparent they are needed and wanted.
I think the AGO has a policy statement on this. You might try their web
site at
We have a very simple, straight-forward policy: No pre-recorded music in
weddings or funerals. In my opinion, liturgy is an act of worship by
those present who express their love for God. Pre-recorded music simply
draws attention to itself, even if it does echo an emotion of some
worshippers or re-create words that would, were they uttered by a live
person, express that person's love of God or desire for forgiveness. In
short, we really can't pay someone else to pray for us. And we need to
be very careful to distinguish between worship services and concerts,
both of which have a valid place in the church.
If people are paying for the use of the facility you have the right to
include things in the contract that require the use of church music
personnel. On the other hand, if people are paying for the facility, do
you really want to demand certain musical tastes be observed? A wedding
is a very personal matter, not the same as a worship service (in my
opinion). Still, the church does have the right to dictate what is and
is not appopriate in your building. I serve in a PCA church- Memorial
Presbyterian in St. Louis. We have some parameters about what can and
cannot be done in the sanctuary because of our denominational beliefs and
just the nature of our facility, but I think the only musical parameters
have to do with our musicians being available for such services if they
can schedule it and the amount of pay that is appropriate.
In our church (it's a United Methodist congregation) the music "policy"
regarding items as marriages and funerals etc. is handled by the
minister. They are the individual(s) responsible for seeing that the
sacramental aspect of the service is treated correctly. If there is a
question regarding the form of music being used they then consult with
the Director of Music for the church, or at the very least the organist.
Music appropriate to the religious atmosphere of the ceremony must be
used. Just because the favorite song of the couple getting married is "I
Like Big Butts" doesn't mean it can be used somewhere that day in the
church. The reception on the other hand.... but that's a different
As far as having live music being offered. It's always nice to think
that we as musicians are needed for everything being done in church. And
I'm a very strong advocate of live music everywhere. But there are times
where "canned" music can be quite moving. I recently did a funeral
service where we had a live praise band and then used recorded music
behind a power point show of photos of the deceased. Quite appropriate
and moving. We should always propose that people use live musicians in
services, especially as we can still create our music without the use of
Our church does not have a sound system, and does not do amplified music.
BUT, unfortunately, for an awful lot of people, "music" is what comes on
CDs, and dancing (as at a wedding reception) is done to DJs. No, I don't
like it, especially because as a professional musician I'd rather be
hired and paid reasonably for my time in providing traditional,
beautiful, live music. But it's a trend, and the kind of trend that
probably can't be changed. Don't forget, one person's cheesy can be
another person's special moment.

Basically it's up to your pastor, although you can certainly lobby for a
no-recorded-music policy. And your pastor, by the nature of the job,
will probably tend to allow what the couple wants done, barring a written
policy to the contrary.
Our church policy (& my job description) appoints me supervisor for ALL
music associated with the church. I'm not necessarily responsible for
coordinating everything. We have a "Harvest Celebration" in the fall
with live music. The music committee (made up of volunteers from my
ministry) sets up the schedule and gives me the opportunity to approve
before it happens. I give greater leeway in situations outside of
For services of worship associated with our congregation, especially in
our sanctuary, the policy is quite simple: no pre-recorded music of any
kind. This applies to Sundays, weddings, and funerals. We also do not
allow 'secular' music either. This is not enumerated so much in church
policy. It is what I enforce. The policies state only that I supervise
all music associated with the congregation. Only my pianist or organist
can approve music without my knowledge.
Written down, this sounds rather strict. In practice, it's much easier.
I am the one who must remain steadfast in making clear distinctions about
what is acceptable. If there is a complaint, I am the one who must make
explanation to our board or personnel committee. I'd be interested in
seeing what other churches do in this area.
One of the best I've seen is at Park Cities PC in Dallas.
Do an on-site church for wedding music.
The wedding policy of First UMC, Montgomery states that no taped music
be allowed and the music should be sacred - suitable for a worship
There is also the same policy for worship services and funerals.
I am a high school choral director with a degree in voice who attends a
Presbyterian church. I am very busy but I like to sing solos in church
on occasion. Recently, our pastor set a rule of no pre-recorded music in
worship (except for VBS and stuff like that) Well, at the time we did
not have an pianist that was very good and I had to find a lot of
practice time to work with her.
Yes, I still sing but I have to play the piano for myself which people
hate because they can't see you. I have given up on singing in my church
recently because of this issue. We are in the process of hiring someone
to play the piano.
Please be careful about judging pre-recorded music. Everyone should
be able to share in worship regardless of their ability to find an
accompainist or printed sheet music. ( Maybe I should go back to the
Baptist Church - I don't really like the doctrine but they let me sing
with a CD or a tape!) Many amateur singers can't read music but can sing
with a tape track because they can practice and rote learn. I use both
show trax music and piano accomp. for my high school choir depending on
the type of music. It has an appeal to certain audiences and it very
versatile. I understand this policy in schools of music but it seems to
me that this sort of rule is "elitism" within the church leaving out the
talented but not musically educated. Just some food for thought.
I believe that the best policy is to simply forbid it altogether. Here in
Dallas, Royal Lane Baptist Church, where I occasionally work, states
their policy thus: If you can afford to pay for flowers, dresses, etc
etc, then you can afford real musicians. They state that there are lots
of qualified professional musicians, and since you wouldn't have a fake
wedding cake, then fake music isn't allowed either.
In our wedding brochure that every prospective bride gets it states:
"The Minister of Music plays for all weddings held at East Church. In
the event he is unavailable, he will arrange for a substitute to play.
Should the couple request another organist play for their wedding, it
must be with the approval of the Minister of Music. The American Guild
of Organists suggest that the regular church organist wedding fee be paid
to the host organist as a professional courtesy.
If additional instrumental or vocal music is desired, this should first
be discussed with the Minister of Music. Vocal music must be presented in
the key in which it is to be sung. Original scores are required - no
photo copies will be used. All music at East Chruch is performed live.
No prerecorded music of any type is allowed. This includes records,
tapes, CD's and soundtracks to accompany singers.
Music is a beautiful and important part of your wedding service. We
require you to make an appointment at the church with the Minister of
Music for your service to discuss and select the music you wish to use."
I hope this helps and I'd love to see what you come up with.
I am a little late with this response, but we have essentially a "no
recorded music" policy for music during any church service, which is what
weddings and funerals are, as well as regular Sunday services. We have
made a one exception for my very first funeral there (the deceased
requested that a specific version of "Amazing Grace" be played as a part
of the prelude, and another for a wedding where it was not possible for
me to rehearse with the soloist prior to the wedding (she was arriving at
the very last minute), and so she sang to a recording, also during the
prelude. Because of the acoustics in our church and the fact that the
person who was operating the tape machine and I did not have a clear
communication, I couldn't tell that he had started the tape until she was
already singing (I was still playing other prelude music), which had a
rather distressing result...I tried to fade out gracefully and let her
emerge, but I think it was clear that things did not start well, and
because of her distress at hearing me still play while her tape had
started, she did not sing very well.
My pastor's phrase about taped music is that we are "the only live show
in town"...probably not accurate, but certainly gives honor to the
preferred live music. At this point, we don't anticipate permitting
taped music ever again, as long as we are alive to protest it. Of
course, things in the future could change that, but for now, we are
holding out for live music only.
I actually compose music for many of these services, which is a very
personal touch that cannot be duplicated by taped music. Another thing I
often do, as people are dying, is visit them and bring recordings for
them to listen to cheer them on their journey, and often they will
mention to me, to the pastor or to a relative, the title of a piece that
they were especially fond of. When we have conversations about the
service, the family is usually quite grateful to have someone who can
tell of a specific hymn or musical work that was loved by the deceased.
Between me, the choir, bell choir and instrumentalists, we always can
pull together something that is a little special for the service, and
offering such possibilities as soon as the service is planned helps to
avoid the interest in taped music. Funerals are touchier for being as
firm with policy, because of the deep emotions present at that time, but
we have been able to be pretty firm with weddings with no difficulty.

on October 17, 2004 10:00pm
I am a strong opponent to the use of any recorded music in church for weddings, funerals, church services, vbs etc. The music made for the Lord needs to be the very best quality and that means sung, played etc from the heart. Taped music is just that, taped. Doesn't God deserve better than that. For those of you working with pastors that are okay with taped music, suggest to them you heard a great sermon and you think that would be nice to play in church in place of his sermon. I mean if we are going to use taped music, we might as well as use taped sermons.
on August 20, 2007 10:00pm
AGO has a guideline for wedding policies, which states in part:

No recorded music will be used for the wedding itself.
on August 20, 2007 10:00pm
Will somebody please state, verbatim, the policy of the AGO regarding pre-recorded music? I cannot seem go access it online.
on January 24, 2008 10:00pm
Wow! There sure are a lot of rules and regulations out there. I am the son of a music minister and have directed at several places on an interim basis so I have seen several viewpoints on this. I personally think recorded music is fine and even a plus as long as it's appropriate for the ceremony. Also the sound system and the person running the sound system should be appropriate. That is a problem at 80% of the places where sound systems are used. The sound systems are an afterthought and not designed into the structure and the sound people are usually there because no one else can or will do the job. So it sounds inappropriate. Sound people should be musicians first. Recorded music allows great flexibilty for singers. Not everyone can hire a 15-25 piece orchestra or even live in a town where that would be an option. I play several instruments and sing and we try to play everything live at my church. But, every church doesn't have the resources to supply full instrumentation to the music. So only the churches with large congregations or extra money to pay instrumentalist should have the experience of praising God with a full orchestra? Do we have to wait till we see God to have that? That's a little legalistic and I guess I'll be shocked when I get to heaven to find out that God intended it that way.