50 songs you should never play at your wedding – unless you’re a hardcore connoisseur of irony!
Your wedding day is (hopefully) the once in a lifetime moment where you finally unite and dedicate yourself to that special someone. After tenderly gazing into your betrothed’s eyes and uttering vows of devotion, you take to the floor and move to your first dance while dewy-eyed guests gush with sentimental affection. From there, your hand-picked wedding band or wedding DJ delivers your ultimate playlist, keeping the spirits high both on the dance floor and in the glasses – the champagne flows, the celebrations are strong, and nothing matters but you, your new spouse, and the moment.
We reckon, then, that the last thing you want to be dancing to at that romantic reception party is anything that reminds you of divorce, death, or displeasure! Unfortunately, couples continue to hear staggeringly inappropriate songs for weddings, and we want to do something about it.
With cover bands playing every genre and DJs boasting tens of thousands of songs all available on your night, there’s a good chance some of these terrible wedding songs might have accidentally snuck into their repertoires. So if you want to avoid red faces and tears on what should be the happiest night of your life, swiftly hand this list to the DJ and request they delete these songs from his collection. You have been warned!
You’ll want to press “skip” when these pop up on the playlist…
1. You Give Love a Bad Name – Bon Jovi
Just because “You Give Love a Bad Name” was Bon Jovi’s first #1 hit, that’s still inadequate justification for having the crowd dance to a catchy tune about rejecting your lover – we recommend you stick to just giving love, at least for the time being! As far as bad wedding songs go, this is a good place to start.
2. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
Mick Jagger can sleep soundly at night, because Carly Simon actually revealed that the second verse of “You’re So Vain” is about actor, filmmaker – and apparent lover to 13,000 women – Warren Beatty. And yes, it’s catchy, but please – your future mister or missus might raise an eyebrow if it’s played at the first dance.
3. Fake Love – Drake
We love Drake and would recommend him any day… and he’s got a chart record to justify that sentiment! But “Fake Love”, even with its infectious similarity to “Hotline Bling”, is probably one you’ll want to skip past if you’re having a Drake-themed playlist at the reception – we’re sure that special someone in your life doesn’t want to be associated with “fake people showing fake love” to anyone!
4. Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley
Singer-songwriter Mark James actually released “Suspicious Minds” back in 1968 to commercial failure, and if he’d never handed it over to Elvis, that would have been the end of the story. But, Elvis being Elvis, he had to go and make it a #1 and one of the most famous songs of his career. Yes, it’s hard not to love this record – but do you really want an Elvis ballad about a mistrusting and dysfunctional relationship ringing in your ears on the wedding night? This is definitely one of many popular songs to avoid on your wedding.
5. Mother In Law – Ernie K-Doe
This one should be pretty self-explanatory to anyone familiar Ernie K Doe’s #1 R&B hit and the thin ice you stand on whenever the in-laws are present. Allen Toussaint, who wrote and produced the song, scrunched up the composition and threw it away as he left the room after several unsatisfactory takes. One of his backup singers had faith in the song, and one last recording by Ernie finally brought “Mother In Law” US chart success. (It’s a great song actually – just don’t play it when she’s present!)
6. All My Exes Live in Texas – George Strait
George Strait must really have had his work cut out for him ticking off enough people in Texas to warrant moving two states over! Catchy Western Swing rhythm aside, it’s never a good idea to have a song listing someone’s spurned lovers on the first day of your officiated union, so maybe leave this one for the line dancing session a few years on.
7. Love Stinks – J. Geils Band
You’re probably better off avoiding songs that reference love triangles, unrequited feelings, romance turned sour, and divorce on the day of your ceremony. The J. Geils Band manage to cover pretty much all of these unpleasantries in their trash-rock anthem “Love Stinks”, so to avoid raising eyebrows in the after-party, kindly ask the band or DJ to skip this one.
8. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
Of all the songs you shouldn’t play on your wedding, this one is contender for top place. The love that you and your betrothed share is supposed to unite you for better for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do you part – so if on the big day you’ve got Joy Division singing about love tearing you apart, beware: it’s not a track that heralds a great future. We’d press the skip button on this tragic post-punk single, framed by lead singer Ian Curtis’s turbulent marriage and eventual suicide.
9. Highway To Hell- AC/DC
Okay, so while “Highway To Hell” was technically written about the Canning Highway in Australia back in the 1970s (a time when a lot of people were getting killed driving too fast down a hill and over a crossroads on their way to a rock ’n’ roll bar), there’s plenty of inappropriate meaning to be found if this rock legend plays on your wedding day. Marriage is quite often considered a long road, requiring a lot of effort to make it rewarding and truly work; on day one, you don’t exactly want to be picturing your life together as a metaphorical flaming car-wreck on a highway to oblivion!
10. People Just Ain’t No Good – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Nick Cave’s departure from his post-punk catalogue took a sombre turn with “The Boatman’s Call”. It’s an album both melancholy and romantic, but that intimacy doesn’t necessarily make it appropriate for your wedding day – on the surface, the slow tempo, minimalist, piano-based communication of Cave’s revelatory new maturity makes for a great ballroom sway; but hearing him sing about people just being “no good” and ruminating on the failure of human nature might bring the mood down just a little too much.
11. I Hate Everything About You – Three Days Grace
This one really shouldn’t need explaining. If you’re a Three Days Grace fan, perhaps okay it with your husband or wife before you have this one blasting through the reception room on your big day. It might raise a few eyebrows if you’re merrily dancing to lyrics that ask the all-important question, “Why do I love you”, while capping it off memorably with “I hate everything about you”. If your love runs out in tears, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
12. It Won’t Be Long (And I’ll Be Hating You) – Johnny Paycheck
Johnny Paycheck has a way of saying it like it is. Whether you’re “Armed and Crazy” or ready to “Take This Job and Shove It”, Johnny’s got something on his discography to reflect what most people have thought but would never say. Well, country music fans, here’s a song with words better left unsaid on your wedding day – even by Johnny. After all, we’re sure life isn’t unbearable just yet.
13. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
Any song that opens with “Loving you isn’t the right thing to do” is probably not going to portray the ideal mood on your big day and makes for one of the worst songs to play on your wedding day. It’s hard to separate Fleetwood Mac from their upbeat, infectiously catchy chart successes, but just be aware that a band that hated each other’s guts might have a lot of not-so-subtle unpleasant messages in their work.
14. A Man Needs a Maid – Neil Young
You might think that romantic piano intro and the London Symphony Orchestra’s haunting accompaniment to Neil Young’s vocals is the perfect mood-setter for your special day. Notwithstanding the fact the lyrics have been invariably interpreted as sexist and chauvinistic, even with the defence that such readings of them are overly literal, not many women would likely want to be associated with cooking and cleaning on their big day, and Young’s insecurity in the song isn’t a great foundation for a healthy relationship either!
15. Gold Digger – Kanye West
We’re not saying you should avoid playing Kanye West to your new husband, wife or wedding guests on your big day, but poor Kanye hasn’t exactly got the greatest track record these days. It’s probably best to avoid his more on-the-nose songs – especially ones titled “Gold Digger” – that one doesn’t portray a very good message. Need we say more?
16. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now – The Smiths
We’d love to say this was the only Smiths song that we’d avoid on the big day, but heavens, when is Morrissey ever not miserable? We think this one’s best left for the workplace, if you’re that way inclined, and not the wedding reception dance floor.
17. 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon
Catchy drums aside, we’re sure nothing is going to instil confidence in the strength of your new relationship like a song that explores the possibilities of slipping out the back, breaking free, hopping on the bus, and dropping off the key! Maybe not…
18. D-I-V-O-R-C-E – Tammy Wynette
It’s a good thing Tammy spells it out and doesn’t say it, because D-I-V-O-R-C-E-S are definitely something you shouldn’t be thinking about on the day the rings are exchanged! If you’re a firm Tammy Wynette fan, might we recommend “Stand By Your Man” instead?
19. Mad World – Gary Jules
The Gary Jules 2003 cover of Tears for Fears’ 1982 existential hit was a #1 that cemented the song’s popularity in contemporary consciousness. Popular though it may be, those gloomy lyrics and feelings make more sense for a troubled teenager above a pizza shop in Bath than for a wedding couple in the ceremony hall. Definitely in the list of songs to avoid at your wedding reception.
20. Breezeblocks – Alt-J
Who read “Where the Wild Things Are” when they were younger? Maurice Sendak’s 1963 picture book of ill-temper and imagination is what inspired Alt-J’s sinister love song on their debut album. Far be it from us to want to criticise a fantastic indie track from such a young and talented band, but wanting to hold down your love and eat them whole might just seem a little creepy at this stage in your relationship.
21. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2
Spiritual yearning is what defines Irish rock band U2’s second consecutive #1 single on the US billboard Hot 100, and it’s easily one of the greatest songs ever recorded – but don’t you think it’d feel a little awkward to start miming those words while looking into the eyes of your one-and-only?
22. Tainted Love – Soft Cell
We love our 80s synth pop, and Marc Almond and Soft Cell did an amazing job bringing this commercial flop of a soul record worldwide fame by slowing down the tempo and eschewing anything that vaguely resembled a real instrument. The song’s about trying to escape a toxic relationship though, so politely ask the 80s tribute band you’ve hired to skip this one at the reception.
23. Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
If you’re asking yourself this question, how did you manage to make it this far in the first place? Mick Jones assures us there’s no specific meaning behind the lyrics, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation that they pre-empted his abandonment of the band, or reflected his impassioned relationship with singer Ellen Foley. Either way the title alone make it a little bit inappropriate for the day when you’re making the biggest commitment of your life (after signing for a mortgage, of course).
24. I Touch Myself – Divinyls
We expect there’s probably a rather lovely sentiment behind all the eroticism in what is no doubt Divinyls’s most popular song – and we don’t think it’s inappropriate at all for people to explore the emotions expressed so, ahem, frankly, by Chrissy Amphlett. However, since it’s your wedding night, this could give an unexpected and undesirable meaning to “blushing bride” – one that your in-laws probably won’t appreciate. So unless you want to risk the embarrassment, perhaps save this one for later.
25. Used to Love Her (But I Had to Kill Her) – Guns ’N’ Roses
There’s nothing more romantic than the thought of burying a complaining girlfriend “six feet under”, right? Didn’t think so. We sincerely hope you don’t have any intentions of murdering and burying your lover in your back yard, and a good way to not look like a psychopath on your wedding day is by avoiding this song at all costs. Seriously – as far as bad songs for wedding receptions go, this is way up there!
26. White Wedding – Billy Idol
Idol found fame with this song – which isn’t actually about his “Little Sister”, just so you know. He’s singing about a girl he loves, who is marrying somebody else. Dissecting the lyrics reveals this song is about as anti-marriage as they come, which makes us confused as to why it gets played so often for that very occasion (we expect it’s probably because the title has the word “wedding” in it). Well, you’re armed with knowledge now, so you can avoiding making the common faux-pas of requesting this on the big day!
27. Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton
You’d probably be surprised at just how popular “Tears in Heaven” is at weddings. Though the song was featured in the 1991 film “Rush”, the song was primarily the culmination of the tragic events that had plagued Clapton before that point; the death of two roadies and friend/fellow musician Stevie Ray Vaughan at the hands of a helicopter accident in 1990, and the appalling loss of his 4 year old son the year after. Beautiful though the song might be, we certainly wouldn’t want to be thinking of that on our wedding day – a time of smiles and optimism.
28. My Humps – Black Eyed Peas
Some songs just shouldn’t be. This is one of them. If you’re the kind of gal that likes to get guys spending money using your “junk” as leverage, we’re not ones to judge – but we wouldn’t say it makes for traditional or very appropriate bridal behaviour.
29. Everybody (Have Fun Tonight) – Wang Chung
We apologise to those who love Wang Chung’s cliché 80s rhythm and convulsive music video for “Everybody”. Honestly, the song isn’t that bad – we just don’t have a clue what it means to “Wang Chung” (the first time a band has commercialised their name as a verb during a song), and we’re not sure we’d want to, anyway. Then again, perhaps if you watch some of the dancing taking place on your wedding night, that might give you an idea.
30. That Don’t Impress Me Much – Shania Twain
Songs which involve denigrating comments about lovers and suitors don’t really gel when it comes to your big day – and while Shania Twain’s hilarious rebuttal of three self-absorbed admirers makes for fun listening, choosing it for your wedding playlist might raise questions – and let’s be honest, those synthesised “pop” instrumentals added in for the dance version were pretty lame when they were new.
31. Don’t Marry Her – Beautiful South
It would take a special kind of inappropriate to play Beautiful South’s “Don’t Marry Her” on the big day – a song that paints an unfair and nauseating picture of married life – and that’s just the clean version of the record. This is one of those songs that’s catchy enough to make you insist on listening, but do so at your peril; you might get some fairly unforgiving glares (especially if you go for the uncensored recording)! We’d say this is easily one of the worst songs for weddings that’s out there.
32. I Don’t Love You – My Chemical Romance
Not only are there some pretty strong hints that this song seems to be about a prostitute (“Another dollar’s just another blow”) the lyrics are certainly not ones that want to be reverberating through the reception room speakers – “I don’t love you” and “Better get out while you can” won’t go very far in characterising that picture-perfect marriage ahead.
33. Bad Romance – Lady GaGa
If you’re in a relationship for someone’s ugly, disease, drama, and revenge, we wouldn’t recommend translating those thoughts into words. When this hit reached #1 in the UK, it brought Lady Gaga her third chart-topper in a single calendar year, the first for a female solo artist. So it can be hard to criticise this catchy tale of ugly storybook love, but we think it’s best avoided when sealing your real-life fairytale romance.
34. Nothing Lasts Forever – Echo & The Bunnymen
If you’re an Echo & The Bunnymen fan, hang fire when it comes to “Nothing Lasts Forever” on your wedding night! Not long ago, you exchanged vows – to live together in holy marriage, to love, comfort, honour, and keep each other and forsake all others, to be faithful as long as you both shall live, to share all that is to come. Do you really want to cap off all those solemn and beautiful words with “nothing lasts forever”? Er, no, probably not.
35. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John
Elton’s first #1 in the UK makes it a tasty morsel for fans to snack on whenever they get the opportunity. While there are some romantic words exchanged between Elton and Kiki – “You put the light in my life / You put the sparks to the flame / I’ve got your heart in my sights” the general mood of the song, one of devotion by one party and the risk of heartbreak from the other – makes it a bit of a no-go when on the first day of an optimistic new journey of devotion.
36. Grounds For Divorce- Elbow
Any song that was conceived by a writer in an unhappy relationship is probably best avoided on the special day. Frontman for Elbow Guy Garvey was drinking too much, affected by the death of his friend, and desperate to escape Manchester when he mixed up the cocktail “Grounds for Divorce”, and that’s a poison you should probably avoid drinking.
37. I’ll String Along With You – Al Bowlly
Harry Warren wrote #1 hit “I’ll String Along With You” for the 1934 musical comedy and box-office disappointment “Twenty Million Sweethearts”, and while at first there seems to be a fair bit of romance in the lyrics, there’s something a little sinister about the whole thing – “Until the day that (an angel) comes along, I’ll string along with you”. Quite frankly, we wouldn’t take a chance with anyone who’s planning to scarper as soon as he finds someone divine, however unlikely that may seem – sorry, Al!
38. It’s Not Right But It’s Okay – Whitney Houston
I’m sure your new husband isn’t likely to appreciate hearing a song about a woman throwing her cheating partner out of the house at the reception – unless you plan on making a dramatic statement as you approach the altar. Perhaps it would be better to keep the dance songs on a more positive note…how about “Don’t Stop Believing’” instead?
39. Stay With Me – Sam Smith
The chart-topping single “Stay With Me” has a title that suggests a certain longevity, so might find its way into a wedding playlist. But under the surface, Sam Smith’s popular gospel ballad is a tale of miserable one night stands and unrequited love, and – to be honest – makes for pretty depressing listening. On the big day, we wouldn’t stay anywhere near this record if it started playing.
40. It Should Have Been Me – Gladys Knight & The Pips
There’s nothing more attractive on the big day than the thought of an embittered ex staring at the happy couple thinking to him or herself, “it should have been me”. Just incase there does happen to be a rancorous jilted lover somewhere at the reception, this catchy Motown hit is probably best avoided.
41. Cotton Eye Joe – Rednex
“Cotton Eye Joe” is one of those traditional country folk songs that was better before a Swedish techno group mixed 90s synthesised dance beats into it. Painfully, it’s a rather popular song at weddings, and we wish it wasn’t. “Cotton Eye Joe” predates the American civil war and was supposedly chanted by slaves on plantations; “cotton-eye” could mean drunkenness, glaucoma, cataracts, or infection by syphilis – and if that wasn’t gross enough already, the whole song establishes that Joe has ravished the women of the area, making them all inappropriate for marriage from any other suitors.
42. Single Ladies – Beyoncé
Marriage is supposed to give you a new maturity – it’s time to say goodbye to petty behaviour, to get to grips with your new dedication, to have some dignity and put your energy into social responsibility by starting a family. So while it might feel good to have an upbeat dance track like “Single Ladies” at your reception, having Beyoncé urge your gal-pals to dump their boyfriends if they don’t propose can seem like a bit of a bummer to anyone still anxious to receive that engagement ring.
43. Please Release Me – Engelbert Humperdinck
It would certainly be a funny state of affairs to have Engelbert singing about being released from a dead relationship moments after you sealed the deal, wouldn’t it? Engelbert made this country classic famous worldwide and the best-known song of his career in 1967. If you want a side of cringe with your misery, those around in the early 90s may remember Humperdinck attaching his name to a brand of perfume called “Release Me” on the home shopping channel. Might we suggest you avoid that too.
44. Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood
While “Before He Cheats” is the best selling country song of all time, its connotations of betrayal and revenge make for rather improper listening on the big day. We wonder how many discarded lovers have been inspired to damage property as a result of this song – and no, Carrie underwood does not condone slashing the tyres, smashing the headlamps and keying the paintwork of your boyfriend’s car. Instead, let it go and move on. In fact, move on from this song. As fast as you can.
45. Unfaithful – Rihanna
It makes a change to have someone singing about their own deceitful behaviour and actually regretting it to boot. Rihanna’s lover know she’s cheating, and she doesn’t want to hurt him anymore. If you identify with this song, it gives us serious cause for concern, especially if you’ve just exchanged vows at the altar!
46. Candy Shop – 50 Cent ft. Olivia
We’ve walked through some pretty inappropriate songs on this list, with a whole raft of reasons as to why each one doesn’t belong at your wedding day. It doesn’t get much more blatant than “Candy Shop”. With hyper sexual imagery, exaggerated macho chest-thumping and references to the advertising slogan for M&Ms, this song has everything you don’t want on that elegant, sophisticated day.
47. A Quick One, While He’s Away – The Who
The fact that The Who couldn’t afford cellos for this track so instead sang “cello, cello, cello, cello, cello…” instead is just one of many reasons why this nine-minute saga of infidelity is one we’d avoid on your wedding day. We like to think that you’re getting married because nothing can get in the way of your love and devotion. So a song about a girl that gets with “Ivor the engine driver” because her lover is away gets us a little embarrassed, not least because she didn’t take much persuasion but that she was also forgiven apparently without consequence. Please, don’t get any ideas.
48. Marry You – Bruno Mars
Bruno wanted to capture such romantic imagery in his 2010 pop song – you know, being drunk in Vegas, waking up next to a woman you just met then regretting everything the morning after. On second thought, if you’re marriage is even vaguely meaningful to you, this might just be the wrong song with which to celebrate.
49. Easy Lover – Phil Collins and Philip Bailey
Phil Collins and Philip Bailey from Earth, Wind and Fire make a great duo – and “Easy Lover” finally gave Collins a single that could be played on the dance floor with impunity. Think twice before you want to be associated with it at your reception though – having all your friends and family singing along to “She will play around and leave you / leave you and deceive you” might not be the message you’re trying to convey on the big day!
50. The Macarena – Los del Rio
The 1990s were often a dark time. Originally released on a local Spanish label in 1993, American label BMG resolved to make “Macarena” a US hit. It did the rounds at dance clubs and on cruise ships for a few years – and in 1996, it found worldwide fame as the Macarena bug infected its host. In America, it stayed at #1 for 14 weeks – and so it became a meme. Whichever remix you listen to, Macarena is mad at her boyfriend and resolves to go and shake it lustfully with seedy men in shady bars. If you feel your “body is to give joy”, we won’t argue, but we don’t think you should associate with the promiscuity that “Macarena” seems to glorify!
It’s been quite a journey through 50 of the most inappropriate wedding songs! But how you make use of this list is entirely up to you. Either you will have listened to our selection of tracks in abject horror, vowing never to utter their name or hum their melodies until long after the wedding vows are secured and the reception is ancient history. Or maybe you’re the type who found some of these songs absolutely hilarious, and can’t wait to indulge in some black humour and add a comedic touch to the big day? Perhaps you thought this was just a list of fifty great songs, unfairly tarnished?
Whatever the case may be, we hope you’ve enjoyed the experience – and whether you plan on having these songs played or punished on your reception, there are live bands for hire and pro DJs across the country ready to accommodate any request on your special day. Who knows – maybe this list even served as inspiration?
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