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Music | Manolo for the Brides - Part 2
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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:

wedding-clowns

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!

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Putting the iPod in “I Do”

So there I am laughing at the New York Times for jumping on the DIY wedding music bandwagon so late — it’s 2009, jeez, and even I had an “iPod wedding” — when I decided to search this blog to see what I or my counterpart had written about it. As it turns out, a whole lot of nothing. The closest I came to writing about DIY wedding music was a post about how to organize a wedding playlist in which I totally spaced on replying to a commenter who asked me to share some of my own wedding playlist. Sorry, Nadia!

iPod wedding

To make sure we don’t have any massively jarring gaps here at Manolo for the Brides, I’m going to excerpt some of iDo, since I spend a number of pages in Chapter 14 discussing DIY wedding music and it’s Friday and I don’t feel like reinventing the wheel. Note: More and more people are calling this the iPod wedding, though you can DIY your wedding music with any mp3 player or a laptop.

Search for “iPod wedding” and you’ll come across hundreds of DJs on the warpath. The moment a bride-to-be brings up her choice to ditch the traditional disk jockey in favor of some digital alternative, pro DJs start weighing in. It’s a bad idea, they say. You can’t anticipate what people will want to listen to or read the energy of the room like a real live DJ. Guests will mess around with your playlist when you’re not looking, and the rented sound system will fall over and injure someone who will then slap you with a hefty lawsuit. Your wedding will be an colossal failure!

But there’s really no reason for professional entertainers to get so defensive, because no one is trying to permanently replace DJs and bands with iTunes playlists. The fact is that some people can’t afford either or would rather budget money elsewhere, some people have tastes that are way too eclectic, and some people just don’t care overmuch for the two standard options.

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LOVE/HATE: The ***** and ******* Edition

I wanted to play music I liked at my wedding, which meant no Electric Slide, no YMCA, and no call and response numbers. Consequently, The Beard and I opted to laptop DJ our own wedding. We had the equipment we needed, and we had somewhere to plug the whole setup in. After setting up a playlist, all that was left to do was listen to every single song to make sure every single one was family friendly.

You would not believe how many were crossed off the list because of cussin’ or unabashed adult themes. Songs I thought were squeaky clean turned out to be surprisingly raunchy when I listened to them with a critical ear! In the end, I think that ‘pee’ (in Spider Robinson’s Belaboring the Obvious) was the naughtiest word sung over our sound system.


Photo via The Consumerist

But one person’s inappropriate is another person’s A-OK. I was born into a very churchy, upstanding, “say-gosh-not-God” kind of family, meaning that even songs containing certain widely accepted euphemisms for sex or drugs were right off the table. On the other hand, Conor Friedersdorf of Culture11 recently examined how gangsta rap is making musical inroads at wedding receptions.

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They move to a different tune

What’s more fun than folding laundry and only slightly less fun than attending one’s own wedding? Watching other people’s wedding videos, of course! Thank goodness everyone and their sister now posts their reception vids to YouTube so we can all gawk at all the crazy antics perpetrated by drunken relatives, cranky kiddies, and the even–or should I say especially–the bride and groom.

How else would those of us who went the traditional route and learned to fox trot know that it’s all right to do a Hammer Time first dance duet instead of the boring old seventh-grade shuffle?

Some of the kooky couples who ditched All I Ask of You for something funkier have gotten flack from critics who say a first dance should not be a performance. To that I say an impassioned, “Whateverrrrrrr.” I’m just jealous that I couldn’t convince The Beard to go all out and let me come up with a wicked complex song and dance number!

If you’re keen to take your first dance to the next level, watch the videos below and take notes.

Surprise everyone:

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A Pretty Tune, But What Were They Thinking?

As the wife of a musician, I tend to be very aware of music at weddings. As a long-time theater/opera buff with a penchant for listening to lyrics, I tend to be extra-aware of the messages given by music, whether intended or not. For instance, I had to turn a burst of highly inapropriate laughter into a coughing fit when I saw one groom and his attendants approach the altar to the strains of Send In the Clowns played at a dirgelike tempo. It’s a pretty tune, yes, but knowing the title would make me cross it off the list of potential songs to play at a wedding, even if I didn’t know the lyrics and dramatic context.

That same potential fit of hysteria hits me every time I hear someone use Greensleeves as a processional or to denote mutual romantic love. Really, the lyrics are a laundry list of all the money he spent on a woman who isn’t in love with him, along with assurances that the fact she’s treated him like a dog only make him more ardent. Clearly masochism was alive and well in the Sixteenth century.

So yes, Virginia, sometimes the words really do matter.

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Go Millwall! (or Barnes or Beaconsfield or whatever)

K. wrote in to ask about wedding music, which is a topic I should probably get around to addressing more. Thus, I must be grateful to K. for providing me with an opportunity to do so. On to her question!

I’ve got a wedding question for you that’s equal parts opinion and experience. The question is this: For my wedding that’s coming up in three weeks, I want to walk down the aisle to Jerusalem by Hubert Parry. If you’re unfamiliar with it, a rather slow video of it being played on the piano can be found here. The problem is that my fiancé is from England and associates the song with (a) rugby matches and (b) Yorkshire coal miners. I wish I was making this up. He’s concerned that his family (all three of them who are attending, out of 100 guests) will think I’ve gone round the bend if I walk down the aisle to a “coal miner’s anthem.” My rebuttal is that the rest of the guests, being American, are utterly unfamiliar with Jerusalem in the first place and therefore won’t associate it with rugby or coal or anything else except “Ooh, pretty song!”

He’s agreed–albeit very reluctantly–to the song, but I need to know if I’m being a lunatic for wanting to have this song played at the wedding. I don’t want to make a total fool out of myself. You must have heard crazier songs for bridal entrances than an old English hymn, right? Your thoughts?

Well, K., if I was one of your guests, my reaction would indeed be “Ooh, pretty song,” because it is a pretty song and because I am an American wholly unfamiliar with Jerusalem. And as entrance songs are concerned, I have indeed heard of far crazier choices…the Pink Panther theme, for example. Heck, even the old standby “Dah-dum-da-dah” is a pretty crazy choice when you consider that the opera it hails from is more tragic than romantic.

The short answer is that you should walk down the aisle to the strains of whatever music you like best. I’d recommend shying away from dirty or profane songs, of course. And unless you’re having a kooky Halloween wedding, it’s probably best to steer clear of anything particular dark or unpleasant sounding.

But I would never suggest that you don’t play the music you like because three people at your wedding may decide you have a thing for coal miners. It’s a hymn, for cryin’ out loud. If you get any odd looks from your intended’s family, just tell them that you love a good rugby match. Pick a team before hand, and impress everyone by telling them how much you love an open scrum.

All this, and I have to choose the music, too?

wedding-wire-3.JPG

Every so often I stop by Wedding Wire to see what’s new. Of course, every so often isn’t exactly ‘often,’ which means I tend to come across new functionalities late in the game. But whatever–it’s not like I’m in urgent need of bridal entrance music. For those who aren’t yet hitched and need a little prompting where music is concerned, Wedding Wire has created a handy page where brides-to-be can preview popular ceremony and reception music.

Even if you never actually placate your antsy guests with Greensleeves pre-ceremony or dance to Andy Williams’ Hawaiian Wedding Song at the start of your reception, the wedding songs database will at least give you some ideas to roll with when you’re feeling blocked. The best part is that you can preview the songs right there on Wedding Wire, watch videos of each song being performed, and check to make sure that the lyrics are in accordance with your worldview.

The database is relatively small right now, and other sites, like WedAlert(clips) and Our Wedding Songs (lyrics), offer a similar service, but nothing I’ve found so far is as streamlined and easy to use as the Wedding Wire music guide. Here’s hoping that the site’s creators add to it sometime in the near future before some other site comes along and renders it obsolete. Teh Internets…they move fast.

(Just for fun: See a dress trashed in this older CNN spot. Or read about why no one really needs a “perfect” wedding.)

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