Here Come The Brides: Same-Sex Couples Try Out New Wedding Songs Richard Wagner's "Bridal Chorus" has been a staple at weddings for more than 150 years. But lately, a number of same-sex couples have been choosing to mix up the music at their nuptials.
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'Here Come The Brides': Same-Sex Weddings Call For A New Soundtrack

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'Here Come The Brides': Same-Sex Weddings Call For A New Soundtrack

'Here Come The Brides': Same-Sex Weddings Call For A New Soundtrack

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the Washington events that sparked the most noise this past year was the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the country. Beyond the legal question, the decision is changing the music you might hear at weddings.

(SOUNDBITE OF RICHARD WAGNER SONG, "HERE COMES THE BRIDE")

MARTIN: Written in 1840s by Richard Wagner, the tune known as "Here Comes The Bride" had been the song for weddings for more than a century and a half. But not so much anymore, as Judith Kogan reports.

JUDITH KOGAN, BYLINE: Margie Chebot and Meredith Apfelbaum married in 2004, just after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts.

MEREDITH APFELBAUM: I can remember being in the Statehouse together surrounded by, you know, people on both sides of the issue.

KOGAN: Apfelbaum says gay marriage supporters sang patriotic songs.

APFELBAUM: "God Bless America" and the "Star-Spangled Banner," and I remember people on the other side - literally on the other side of the courthouse - saying you can't sing our songs.

KOGAN: So music took on a heightened sense of importance when they planned a traditional Jewish wedding.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANI V'ATA")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing in Hebrew).

KOGAN: The Hebrew song "Ani V'ata" was written in 1971 by Arik Einstein, and the couple heard in it a recognition of their struggle. Chebot reads the lyrics.

MARGIE CHEBOT: It's a rough translation (laughter). You and I will change the world. You and I, by then all will follow.

KOGAN: Apfelbaum recalls one moment in the ceremony.

APFELBAUM: At the point that the song was being sung by our song leader, our rabbi whispered to both of us you already have changed the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANI V'ATA")

ARIK EINSTEIN: (Singing in Hebrew).

KATHRYN HAMM: Obviously, many of these songs can be heard at just about anyone's wedding ceremony or reception. But they often have a special meaning within the LGBT community.

KOGAN: Kathryn Hamm, a marriage equality activist and publisher of gayweddings.com, says many couples include gay anthems in their wedding ceremonies.

HAMM: So when I talk about our anthems, it's probably most important to note that I speak as a 40-something woman who came out in the early '90s at a very different time, when we spent a lot of time talking in code in certain respects because we were a largely closeted community. So we responded any time there was an artist who was telling some of our stories, whether implicitly or explicitly through song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN TWOS")

WILLIAM SHARP, KAREN HOLVIK AND STEVEN BLIER: (Singing) In twos, in twos, love is walk in Central Park.

KOGAN: The song "In Twos" is about thwarted love. It was written in 1957 by gay composer and lyricist Marc Blitzstein. Its careful avoidance of gender identification is considered a code for relationships in an era when gay lovers could not go home together. A couple sang it as Peter Vitale and Stephen Nelson stood at the altar in 2013, just after gay marriage became legal Minnesota.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN TWOS")

SHARP AND STEVEN BLIER AND KAREN HOLVIK: (Singing) And lovers have to be in twos.

KOGAN: Vitale wanted people to think about the lyrics, so he had them printed in the program. What he loves most about the song are its hopeful qualities, expressed in both the words and music.

PETER VITALE: I kept realizing how it starts to cadence into this what you think is sort of a dark place. And then it suddenly just starts over in the original key and renews itself. And I thought intentional or not that what a beautiful metaphor, you know, for how difficult it is to stay in twos.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN TWOS")

SHARP AND STEVEN BLIER AND KAREN HOLVIK: (Singing) For lovers feel that they are cheating time as long as they remain in twos.

KOGAN: With this poignant song as a musical centerpiece, Peter Vitale says he and Stephen Nelson chose to persist down the aisle to Bach and recess to jazz.

VITALE: There's kind of something freeing about not having decades and centuries of traditions to just make it be how you think it should be.

KOGAN: All of this is doesn't mean the most conventional of wedding tunes is irrelevant. At a recent ceremony in Central Park, a wedding attendant displayed a banner reading Here Come the Brides - and in marched the couple, in delighted and dignified duplicate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE COMES THE BRIDE")

KOGAN: The old standard took on a new meaning. For NPR News, Judith Kogan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE COMES THE BRIDE")

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