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Story and Origins of Famous Songs Here Comes the Bride

About the history, origins, and story behind the famous wedding song Here Comes the Bride also known as the Bridal Chorus.

STORIES BEHIND THE SONGS YOU GREW UP WITH

"HERE COMES THE BRIDE," Richard Wagner--1848

The "Bridal Chorus," played at almost all traditional weddings as the happy couple marches to the altar, is sung in quite a different setting in Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin. In this opera, the chorus starts singing as the hero, Lohengrin, accompanied by his new wife, Elsa, enters the bridal chamber, which is dominated by a very large bed. Their attendants then help them disrobe for their wedding night. Because of this sexually oriented scene, some religious sects have objected to using the "Bridal Chorus" as a wedding march.

Wagner wrote Lohengrin in 1848, but it was ignored until 1850, when Franz Liszt presented the opera at Weimar. The production, which was five hours long, was not seen by Wagner. He was living outside of Germany at the time because he was afraid of being arrested for having engaged in revolutionary activities. He finally attended a production of Lohengrin in Paris in 1861. The "Bridal Chorus" had already been used as the wedding march at its first royal wedding, that of Princess Victoria, the daughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858. From then on, the "Bridal Chorus" was a traditional wedding march.

The story of Lohengrin is classic. The hero, Lohengrin, arrives in Antwerp in a boat drawn by a swan. He defends Elsa and wins her as his bride, but he makes her promise never to ask him his real name or where he comes from. Encouraged by the heartless Ortrud, she does ask Lohengrin on their wedding night, and he is obligated by his vows to the Grail to leave her forever. So Lohengrin and Elsa do not live together until "death us do part," but rather quickly separate. Critics have said that the "Bridal Chorus" is one of the weakest parts of this opera.

Wagner, incidentally, had a tendency to put women on pedestals and then knock them off when they didn't live up to his expectations. Today he would be called a male chauvinist for his negative views about equal rights for women. During W.W.II, Wagner's heroic works were so identified with Nazi Germany that his operas were rarely produced by the Allies. Despite this, English-speaking countries retained the "Bridal Chorus" as a wedding march.

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