Looking Backward Into the Present

Using the Popular Culture of the Past to Help Answer Perplexing Questions in the Present

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Here Comes the Bride, There Goes the Bride


Elsa probably wishes they had chosen Mendelssohn for their wedding instead.

I recently attended a wedding and the music from the procession was not “Here Comes the Bride” as is popular in many American weddings and probably most weddings portrayed on American TV/Film in the last forty years.  Some lamented its absence, some did not. Naturally, the discussion turned to “Where did ‘Here Comes the Bride’ come from?”

What most Americans think of as the song “Here Comes the Bride” is actually the bridal chorus from the Wagner opera Lohengrin.  There are lyrics, but contrary to popular belief they do not begin with “Here comes the bride all dressed in white . . .”

It’s more like (translated from German): “Faithfully guided, draw near/to where the blessing of love shall preserve you!/Triumphant courage, the reward of love,/joins you in faith as the happiest of couples!”

Writes Dan Fox in 2007’s World’s Greatest Wedding Music: 50 of the Most Requested Wedding Pieces:

Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, first produced in 1850, is set in medieval Antwerp.  Lohengrin is a Knight of the Holy Grail who defends and then marries Elsa of Brabant.  In the opera, this march is used to announce the arrival of the bridal procession.  In modern weddings, as “Here Comes the Bride,” it announces the arrival of the bride at the head of the aisle.

What is ironic, is that the marriage between Lohengrin and Elsa is doomed from the start.  So in essence, one of the most popular songs used in American wedding celebrations is about a failed marriage.  Perhaps it’s better that the song is falling out of tradition.