This old song, first published in 1893, has historical interest for a couple of reasons.
It was one of the most popular songs in the "tear-jerker" style that dominated American popular sheet music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On top of that, its storyline is simply and straightforwardly bizarre.
Is this the kind of thing that routinely happened to people back then? Is that why it became so popular? Or was it well-liked because it's so strange, so distant from the experiences of everyday life? There's probably a doctoral dissertation for a music history major hiding somewhere in these questions, but the only answer I can offer is the song itself, whose lyrics I found on the Internet.
Like many of the songs from that era, it is intended to be sung with piano accompaniment, in a slow waltz rhythm.
The Fatal Wedding
music composed by Gussie L. Davis
lyrics written by William H. Windom
The wedding bells were ringing on a moonlit winter's night
The church was decorated, all within was gay and bright.
A woman with a baby came and saw the lights aglow,
She thought of how those same bells chimed for her three years ago.
I'd like to be admitted, sir, she told the sexton old
Just for the sake of baby to protect him from the cold.
He told her that the wedding was for the rich and grand,
And with the eager watching crowd, outside she'd have to stand.
While the wedding bells were ringing,
While the bride and groom were there,
Marching up the aisle together,
While the organ pealed an air;
And tales of fond affection,
Vowing never more to part,
Just another fatal wedding,
Just another broken heart.
She asked the sexton once again to let her pass inside.
"For baby's sake you may step in," the gray-haired man replied
"If any one knows reason why this couple should not wed,
Speak now, or forever hold your peace:" the preacher soon said!
"I must object," the woman cried, with voice so meek and mild
"The bridegroom is my husband, sir, and this our little child."
"What proof have you?" the preacher said. "My infant," she replied
She raised her babe, then knelt to pray, the little one had died.
The parents of the bride then took the outcast by the arm.
"We'll care for you through life," they said, "you've saved our child
The outcast wife, the bride and parents, quickly drove away,
The husband died by his own hand, before the break of day!
No wedding feast was spread that night, two graves were made next day
One for the little baby, and in one the father lay.
The story has been often told, by firesides warm and bright,
Of bride and groom, of outcast, and that fatal wedding night.
I think it's reasonable to assume this work is now in the public domain.
Source for lyrics: