Music to My Ears? Hardly!

Choosing not to listen to lyrics when choosing wedding reception music is a dangerous game in this humble blogger’s opinion. And it seems a lot of folks agree with me. All Things Considered recently asked its listeners and commenters to send in stories about the worst choices for wedding songs they’ve ever encountered and then chose the worst five. The least appropriate wedding songs were:


Send in the Clowns (as sung by Judy Collins) is a ballad from Act II of A Little Night Music. In it, the character Desirée reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life. Uplifting!


You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by The Righteous Brothers… for the quickie wedding followed by the extra quickie divorce, perhaps?


When the groom requests Just a Gigolo by Louis Prima, watch out! You might also want to reconsider if the groom requests this pimp cup.


The Lady Is a Tramp as sung by Frank Sinatra could be perfect for the bride sporting a Corinthians 13:4 tramp stamp.


And as far Verdi’s ‘La donna e mobile’ (Rigoletto) as sung by Carlo Bergonzi, well, the lyrics speak for themselves: “Anyone who trusts her is always wretched; he who opens his heart to her is lacking in caution.” Damning much?

My personal favorite — which sadly did not make the top five — is and shall remain I Will Survive, which is a fun song to act out, but rather more appropriate for sweet sixteens and block parties than for weddings. Whenever I maintain such a thing, there are always the detractors… those who think I’m just an old fuddy-duddy who’s trying to keep all the cool bridesmaids and groomsmen from acting out all the parts of Paradise By the Dashboard Light, but really now. Were I a bride, I might feel a tad odd hearing my groom singing that her’s praying for the end of time so soon after he vowed to love me forever.

21 Responses to “Music to My Ears? Hardly!”

  1. Twistie says:

    I well remember one wedding where I had to do much lip-biting behind my hankie as the groom and his attendants entered the church to the (incredibly dirgelike) strains of Send In the Clowns.

    As I recall, the organist at that wedding specialized in turning show tunes into funeral dirges. I also cringed quite a bit as she played a couple of the love songs from Carousel. Great. Celebrate your wedding to tunes that illustrate a doomed love between a rather vapid young woman and the domestically abusive petty thug of her dreams.

    And of course my brother the alpaca rancher and his lady had their first dance to Farewell to Tarwathie, a song about a man leaving his lady behind to go on a six-month-long (assuming he makes it back at all), treacherous journey to Greenland on a whaler. Good times. Good times.

    You know, there’s a reason Mr. Twistie and I went with a lot of instrumental pieces with romantic titles rather than songs. It’s hard to argue with a pipe tune called Highland Wedding, or a harp tune called Give Me Your Hand. The only song with lyrics we had during the ceremony was a guitar and vocal rendition of Here, There, and Everywhere. After all, we had to work The Beatles in there somewhere, and the lyrics are pretty darn appropriate.

    We did recess to Mairie’s Wedding, which is a cheery little traditional Scottish tune about everyone being happy about this girl getting married. We didn’t use the lyrics, but I’d say at least two-thirds of the people at the wedding knew them.

    On the other hand, Mr. Twistie is in a band that recently played a wedding reception. Everyone in the band had a bit of a head scratching moment over the fact that the bride requested Margaritaville for the first dance. It’s in their repertoire, but it’s not quite what I would want.

  2. KTB says:

    Two of my friends are professional musicians, so we asked them to learn a few songs for us. They did a completely amazing job, even if one of the songs was a little odd for a wedding. Our processional for the bridesmaids was a beautiful instrumental: “When Juniper Sleeps” by Seamus Egan, from The Brothers McMullen soundtrack and she sang Billy Bragg’s “Fourteenth of February,” when I walked down the aisle. It’s a strange song for a wedding because it describes how he doesn’t remember the day he met his wife, but it’s perfect because I don’t remember meeting my husband for the first time, just times after that.

    Our first dance was to “Fairytale of New York,” by The Pogues, which, while perfect in most parts, has a line about “Merry Christmas your arse off, thank God it’s our last.” But it’s our song, we love it, and it made us really happy. My friends also did an instrumental of this one for the recessional.

  3. daisyj says:

    In the defense of “The Lady is a Tramp,” the song isn’t about a loose woman, it’s about being an actual tramp. In its original incarnation, it was sung in the musical “Babes In Arms,” by a character glorifying her “hobohemian” lifestyle.

    Still wouldn’t use it for a wedding song, though.

    Oh, and my choice for worst reception song I’ve heard? “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy. Because what’s more romantic than a song about a guy telling another guy that the best way to deal with being caught in the act is flat-out denial?

  4. dee says:

    I had to ban “Mony Mony” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” from my reception. Not only did I tell the DJ not to play them if requested, he wasn’t to bring them with him at all. I didn’t want my friends to tempt or bribe him. “Mony Mony”, while a fun party song, has some shoutback lyrics that would have made my mother faint. And “Paradise…” is just tacky and inappropriate for a wedding. And whaddya know, several friends requested it. I won.

  5. Obi-Wandreas says:

    At our wedding, we hired the Buffalo Swing Band to perform the music; they came with their own DJ to take over during breaks and to play songs that they could not.

    Our music strayed more into the “dorky” side than the inappropriate side. As the party was introduced at the reception, we used “Throne Room and Finale,” from Star Wars: Episode IV, the slightly down-tempo variation performed by John Williams on a compilation CD. Only a few people noticed. For our own dance, we actually had to perform two dances. The first was to ‘our song’: “It is you I have Loved” by Dana Glover (the love theme music which can be heard during the closing credits of “Shrek”). The second was “Brudevalsen fra ‘Et Folkesagn,'” which my parents insisted upon, since apparently everyone in Denmark from the goatherd’s daughter to the Crown Prince of a family sitting on the throne in direct line for over 1000 years is expected to dance to this one at our wedding.

    What was slightly less subtle, however, was our use of Meco’s “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” disco remix for the wedding party dance. Since nearly everyone in the party was either married to someone else or gay, it didn’t seem appropriate to use a slow song. Most of the music in the night was performed by the swing band and everyone had a great time.

    The only hard and fast rule we had for any music attached to our wedding was that there would be a slow and painful death for anyone who even mentioned the name of Pachelbel.

  6. deja pseu says:

    We entered the ceremony to an instrumental version of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and exited to an instrumental version of “Making Whoopee.” Everyone over 35 in the audience seemed to be amused.

  7. Victor says:

    I tended bar in a banquet hall for years and I’ve heard my share of inappropriate music at weddings. I often wondered what the DJ was thinking (and it was always DJs who picked bad music. The bands rarely did.). I heard “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” at more than one wedding, but the song that really struck me as just unbelievably inappropriate for a wedding was “Our Love’s In Jeopardy” by the one-hit wonder Greg Kihn Band.

  8. Kara says:

    My sister-in-law and brother-in-law insisted on having “November Rain” as their first dance. Because, really, an hour after pledging to love, honor and cherish until death do us part, “nothin’ lasts forever, and we both know hearts can change” is definitely the sentiment *I* would want to express. Lyrics are important, people.

  9. Cara says:

    I keep thinking if I would wed the husband again, I’d like Jeffster (from the TV series “Chuck”). They are geeky and inappropriate and would amuse me and the husband a lot.
    So if these guys are for hire, I definetely will marry the same man again đŸ™‚

  10. frumpiefox says:

    I swear I’m telling the truth: A friend’s mother insisted on playing Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” at her reception for her SECOND marriage.

    Tacky and weird.

  11. Junie says:

    The worst first dance song I personally have beheld? “Betterman” by Pearl Jam. She lies and says she’s in love with him. Can’t find a better man. That’s what you want played at the reception? Seriously? Seriously?

  12. Sarah says:

    On that girl’s butt, does it say “it’s faith,” with an apostrophe?

  13. anon says:

    The lady in the tramp is about not following social norms (describes some one who doesnt wear ostentatious clothes, goes rarely to the play to actually enjoy it, doesnt have a lot of money but doesnt really care, etc). I think its quite a sweet song actually…

  14. Twistie says:

    Yes, because there’s nothing so superfantastic as having a grammatical error tattooed on your body for all time.

  15. La Petite Acadienne says:

    Cara, Jeffster would be AWESOME at a wedding — as long as they forgo the pyrotechnics. That didn’t work out so well.

  16. Constermon says:

    I’m sorry I never got married only because I have ALWAYS wanted to walk down the aisle to “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the MGs… alas! I woulda been stylin.
    My sister takes the wedding cake for strange musical choices — she hired an idiot savant to play piano at her reception. He liked TV theme songs the best. Better than some of the crappy harp stuff I’ve heard, though, and definitely more entertaining!

  17. Claudia says:

    I just recently went to a wedding where the happy coupled walked down the aisle to the sound of “March of the Galdiators”.
    The final song in church was “Kumbaya my Lord”, including the memorable lines “we shall overcome, we shall overcame one day”.
    Finally, they played the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” of the opera Nabucco (it was a German wedding and that piece in Germans is called the “prisoners’ chorus”) while the now happily married couple exited church.
    Not sure who selected this… just plain weird!

  18. chachaheels says:

    Well, that traditional wedding march we all know is from a Wagner opera where the romantic couple are doomed and their love ends up a catastrophe, so music bearing troubling meanings at weddings is not unusual. You could make the argument that the piece is out of context, but if you’re familiar with its origins, you can’t see its use as anything other than “troubling”.

    As for lyrics, most people don’t realize what most songs are “saying”. Doesn’t mean the message doesn’t get across!

  19. libbyblue says:

    i have encountered at least three over the rhine fans who, at their respective weddings, chose to dance with their beloved to “et cetera, whatever” rather than any of the delightful love songs in the band’s repertoire (lifelong fling! hush now! i want you to be my love! one of their american songbook covers! or, at the very least, drunkard’s prayer or we’re gonna pull through! i mean, come on!). nope, they had to choose the song about spousal abuse. said one groom, “you just kinda mumble on the verses and then at the chorus everyone goes ‘aww, how sweet.'”

  20. mrschip says:

    My favorite moment was attending a wedding reception of a devoutly Christian couple and hearing, “Me and Mrs. Jones”.

  21. Krista Jo says:

    A friend of mine attended a wedding at which the newlyweds danced their first dance to “Please Release Me” (you know… “Please release me, let me go… I don’t love you anymore…”). None of the guests could figure out if it was a joke or not.