When I got married, my husband and I paraded into our reception accompanied by the alternative rock song “Dare” by the Gorillaz—an unusual song choice, but the rhythmic bass granted us the bold entrance I was looking for. We danced our first dance to “At Last,” by Etta James, which I’ve since learned is a cliché first dance song chosen by countless couples. We cut the cake to “Beautiful Day” by U2—it was, after all, just that. The rest of our once-in-a-lifetime event was syncopated by an endless list of songs that evoked love from yesteryears, hinted at far away locales where our ancestors lived, and tempted guests to set the dance floor afire. During my search for wedding music, I did not once consider the songs’ lyrics. If I had, I’d have realized that many wedding songs are posers; they appear to be lovey-dovey-I’m-yours-forever-and-a-day ballads when they’re actually songs about desperation, breakups or deranged love—not the stuff of merry weddings.
With lyrics in mind, here are five songs that we advise you not to include in your wedding soundtrack.
1. The Jilted Fiance
“This Diamond Ring,” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys
The title of this oldie but goodie has promise. Diamonds are, after all, a luminous symbol of love and commitment in most marriages. While skimming through a song list with your DJ, you may come across this title and say, “Throw it in the lineup. Everyone likes an oldie.” You may want to reconsider after you read the lyrics. This song is actually about a guy who is trying to sell his fiancée’s diamond ring after a bad break up. If you believe in bad mojo, this song isn’t for your wedding.
Who wants to bu-u-uy this diamond ri-i-i-ing?
She took it off her finger, now it doesn’t mean a thi-i-i-ng
This diamond ring doesn’t shine for me anymore
And this diamond ring doesn’t mean what it meant before
So if you’ve got someone whose love is tru-u-ue
Let it shine for yo-ou-ou
Well, if it that ring didn’t shine for him anymore, what makes you think it’ll shine for you? You don’t want a second-hand ring, anyway. Skip this track.
2. The Broken Hearted
“Always Be My Baby,” by Mariah Carey
The title of this song sounds so romantic. Doesn’t everyone want someone to be theirs forever? Yet, Mariah sings of love in the past tense—love happened and is no more (at least for one of the parties). Since your wedding day marks the beginning of a love that you want to sustain until “death do you part,” (provided there’s no foul play) this is not the right song for anyone’s nuptials.
We were as one babe
For a moment in time
And it seemed everlasting
That you would always be mine
Now you want to be free
So I’m letting you fly
This sounds more like the overture for a separation or divorce. Not only do these lyrics speak of love lost, they also adopt a stalker-esque quality that cannot be fortuitous at a wedding.
You’ll always be a part of me
I’m part of you indefinitely
Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me
Ooh darling cause you’ll always be my baby
And we’ll linger on
Time can’t erase a feeling this strong
No way you’re never gonna shake me
Ooh darlin’ cause you’ll always be my baby
Just leave this one off the play list and hope it doesn’t come back to haunt you in the future.
3. The Lonely Languisher
“My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion
If you’ve seen Titanic starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, then you know that this song is about lovers who are forever separated because one of them has passed on to a watery grave at the bottom of the icy Atlantic Ocean. This song is romantic in the same way that Romeo and Juliet is romantic—in a depressing, happily-never-after way that has no place at your wedding. If you want a lifetime of yearning, a lonely heart, and a love that can only be realized in your dreams, then perhaps this one works for you. But consider a few of the lyrics before deciding:
Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on
Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on
Love is not a tangible thing, but it’s made even less tangible when your lover, too, is intangible. On your wedding day, provided the key players are present and accounted for, this song defeats your purpose. Leave all the drama to the epics.
4. The Desperate Stalker
“Every Breath You Take,” by Sting
The title of this song suggests an intense romance that features a lover that hangs on your every word—or in this case, breath—whose very life is only worth living because you’re alive. “I’ll be watching you” becomes an ominous mantra that would send any woman into hiding. This lover is unrelenting, watchful, and obsessive to the point where the promise of love is eclipsed by a sordid stalking.
Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
Ill be watching you
Any tune that inspires flashbacks of Fatal Attraction or Sleeping with the Enemy is probably not a song that you want to play on your wedding day.
5. The Devious Lover
“All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You,” by Heart
Talk about deception. The title of this song sounds just right for a wedding that will culminate in an age-old, much anticipated tradition—the wedding night. But it isn’t. No one will debate what brides and grooms the world-over should be doing after the last guest leaves and the door to the honeymoon suite is locked. Nor will anyone debate that this is not the right song for this occasion after he or she reads the lyrics. “All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You” is about a woman who picks up a hitchhiker on a rainy night, proceeds to use him as a sperm donor, and then sneaks out before morning. When the two accidentally meet after their one-night stand, she is “in a family way.”
Then it happened one day
we came ‘round the same way
You can imagine his surprise when he saw his own eyes
I said ‘please
I’m in love with another man
And what he couldn’t give me
was the one little thing you can’
Yet another song to bar from your joyous festivities.
Just to be sure I hadn’t chosen a poser wedding song, I looked up the lyrics to “At Last” by Etta James, the song I used for my first dance. The lyrics checked out—no raving lunatic stalker, jilted fiancée, deceptive one-time lover, or lost loves. Just good old-fashioned requited love fit for a wedding day.