You’ve meticulously planned out what to play for your processional, recessional, first dance, parent dances, and your final exit song, plus handed over a list of your favourite tunes to the DJ. But there’s one more music-related task to take care of: the wedding do-not-play list. Unless you want some unpleasant surprises during your reception, it’s best to curate a list of wedding songs to skip.
Believe it or not, many songs that are played at weddings have negative messages about love. They’re about breakups, stalking, desperation, and obsession. Or, they’re overtly sexual or otherwise inappropriate.
Weddings are a time for a celebration of love. There are songs to avoid at your reception. Irony aside, no one will get your inside joke. Avoiding songs is smart for a lot of reasons. You don’t want to play “your song” from another relationship, a song that talks about cheating or a breakup, or songs that contain explicit lyrics.
Weddings are a time to celebrate the marriage of two people in love with one another. Wedding music sets the mood for the wedding ceremony and wedding reception. Not every song is appropriate for a wedding ceremony and reception.
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Table of Contents
- 1 What Songs Should I Avoid At My Wedding?
- 2 Buzzkills to Skip
- 2.1 “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” by The Verve
- 2.2 “The Blower’s Daughter,” by Damien Rice
- 2.3 “Wicked Game,” by Chris Isaak
- 2.4 “No One’s Gonna Love You,” by Band of Horses
- 2.5 “Skinny Love,” by Bon Iver
- 2.6 “Make You Feel My Love,” by Adele
- 2.7 “Every Breath You Take,” by the Police
- 2.8 “I Will Always Love You,” by Whitney Houston (or Dolly Parton)
- 2.9 “The Scientist,” by Coldplay
- 2.10 “My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion
- 2.11 “The Sweetest Thing” by U2
- 2.12 “I Will Survive,” by Gloria Gaynor
- 2.13 “White Wedding,” by Billy Idol
- 2.14 “Tainted Love,” by Soft Cell
- 2.15 “If You Wanna Be Happy,” by Jimmy Soul
- 2.16 “You Give Love a Bad Name,” by Bon Jovi
- 2.17 “Gold Digger,” by Kanye West
- 2.18 “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-lot
- 2.19 “Bootylicious,” by Destiny’s Child
- 2.20 “Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke
- 3 Music For Weddings – What To Play And When To Play It
- 4 Create A Do Not Play List For Your Reception
- 5 Should We Include Group Dance Songs At Our Wedding?
- 6 Do We Need A Dollar Dance At Our Wedding?
What Songs Should I Avoid At My Wedding?
Be sure the music selected fits the theme and style of the wedding and reception. Classical background music would not be appropriate for a country-themed reception. If at all possible, we recommend having the widest range of music types as possible. This will keep the majority of the guests happy. Music entertainers must be given as much leeway on music selections for the dancing portion of the wedding reception. This is their specialty – to get guests dancing!
- Do not play music with explicit lyrics. We do not list any songs below in this category as this is self-explanatory. Be sure your music entertainer has the radio version of all songs played at your wedding.
- Do not play songs that pertain to death or reference suicide. Songs in this category include “Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Kix and “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind.
- Do not play the music that is suggestive or offensive. David Lee Roth’s cover of “Just A Gigolo” is a great song for the garter removal or garter placement. However, is this song appropriate for a wedding? We’re saying no. Other song considerations with inappropriate meaning include “Love Stinks” by J Geils Band, “Mother-In-Law” by Ernie K-Doe, and “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
- Songs that refer to the stressful wedding planning process. A Song example is “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” by Alabama.
- Please add stalking songs to your do not playlist. Song examples include the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell.
- Songs played that have extended playing time. The average song length is about 3 1/2 minutes. Extended length songs include “American Pie” by Don McLean and “Paradise By The Dashboard Light “by Meat Loaf.
Buzzkills to Skip
No need to give any ideas to a bride or groom with cold feet…
“Bitter Sweet Symphony,” by The Verve
Many people have used this as a recessional song because of its epic orchestral moments, but these lyrics aren’t the best way to start your married life:” ‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life, try to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money then you die.”
“The Blower’s Daughter,” by Damien Rice
The chorus of “I can’t take my eyes off of you,” might seem like a romantic sentiment for a first dance song, but keep listening to the end. The last lyric is, “I can’t take my mind off you… ‘Til I find somebody new.”
“Wicked Game,” by Chris Isaak
Despite being the song used on Friends when Ross and Rachel finally, you know, get together, it isn’t as romantic as you’d think. The frequently misheard lyrics aren’t “I wanna fall in love,” it’s actually, “No, I don’t want to fall in love” in the first chorus.
“No One’s Gonna Love You,” by Band of Horses
While the lyrics, “No ones gonna love you more than I do” could be interpreted as romantic to some, this song is actually about the end of a relationship. It includes such lyrical gems as, “It’s looking like a limb torn off Or altogether just taken apart,” and, “We are the ever-living ghost of what once was.” Too sad. Skip it.
“Skinny Love,” by Bon Iver
This hauntingly beautiful song could be so perfect for walking down the aisle to if it didn’t include lyrics like, “And now all your love is wasted? And then who the hell was I?”
“Make You Feel My Love,” by Adele
While this Bob Dylan cover is a love song, it’s about the unrequited sort. Since you’ve already said your “I dos” it seems inappropriate to have your first dance to a song that says, “I know you haven’t made your mind up yet…”
“Every Breath You Take,” by the Police
This is the anthem of a stalker: “I’ll be watching you. Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take.”
“I Will Always Love You,” by Whitney Houston (or Dolly Parton)
Yes, you’ll always love your new husband. But this isn’t a love song. It’s a breakup song: “Bittersweet memories, that is all I’m taking with me. So goodbye, please don’t cry. We both know I’m not what you, you need.”
“The Scientist,” by Coldplay
Unless you want to get all emo at your reception, this is a song to skip. And if you listen closely, this is another breakup ballad: “Nobody said it was easy. It’s such a shame for us to part. Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard. Oh, take me back to the start.”
“My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion
As beautiful as a song as it is, no one can listen to this without thinking of Leonardo DiCaprio sinking to the bottom of the sea. Plus, it’s about a lost love: “Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you. That is how I know you go on.”
“The Sweetest Thing” by U2
These lyrics aren’t that sweet: “Baby’s got blue skies up ahead, but in this, I’m a rain cloud. You know she likes a dry kind of love. Oh, oh-oh, the sweetest thing. I’m losing you.” Also, did you know Bono wrote this as an apology to his wife for forgetting her birthday? Not exactly how you want to kick off your marriage.
“I Will Survive,” by Gloria Gaynor
Here’s another song that makes it into wedding playlists…but it’s all about a relationship gone south: “I should have changed that stupid lock. I should have made you leave your key if I’d known for just one second you’d be back to bother me. Go on now, go, walk out the door. Just turn around now ’cause you’re not welcome anymore.”
“White Wedding,” by Billy Idol
The “little sister” of the song refers to an ex-girlfriend who’s marrying someone else. The lyrics, accordingly, are quite an angst: “There is nothing’ fair in this world, there is nothing’ safe in this world, and there’s nothing’ sure in this world, and there’s nothing’ pure in this world.”
“Tainted Love,” by Soft Cell
The chart-topper is indisputably popular, having sold more than 1.35 million copies since its release in 1981. Nonetheless, the lyrics aren’t appropriate for a wedding reception: “Don’t touch me please, I cannot stand the way you tease. I love you though you hurt me so, now I’m going to pack my things and go.”
“If You Wanna Be Happy,” by Jimmy Soul
Take a close read of those lyrics — they’re telling men to marry ugly women because their marriage will be better: “If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. So from my point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you. A pretty woman makes her husband look small And very often causes his downfall. As soon as he marries her, then she starts to do the things that will break his heart.” No, thanks.
“You Give Love a Bad Name,” by Bon Jovi
As much as you and your fiancé may love classic rock, the big day is all about giving love a good name. Steer clear of the songs that make love seem anything less than sunshine and roses, at least for this one day.
“Gold Digger,” by Kanye West
Even if you’re the biggest Kanye fan in the world, steer clear of this Late Registration hit (even the acoustic cover by the Vitamin String Quartet).
“Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-lot
Though you and the bridal party knows all the words, save it for your next karaoke night. Grandma and grandpa might not appreciate this tune.
“Bootylicious,” by Destiny’s Child
In that same vein, this might be your jam. But as a general rule of thumb, steer clear of any and all odes to the derrière (but make sure to include it on your getting-ready playlist with your bridesmaids!).
“Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke
Though the beat lends itself to dancing, the lyrics of this song are plain creepy: “I hate these blurred lines! I know you want it…But you’re a good girl! The way you grab me, must wanna get nasty. Go ahead, get at me.”
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Music For Weddings – What To Play And When To Play It
The soundtrack to your wedding starts as everyone is taking their seats for the ceremony. However, it doesn’t stop there. Not only do you need to think of your entrance music, but you also need to think of the filler music during the reception and the dancefloor music too. The music doesn’t stop until you and your new husband have your final dance of the night.
So, you’ve got a big playlist to plan. Don’t worry if you don’t have the first clue which songs to choose, and we’ve compiled a guide to music for weddings right here.
Firstly, your big entrance. When it comes to choosing music for weddings, start with pre-ceremony music. The pre-ceremony music is played right from the start of the day, as people are arriving and taking their seats in your ceremony room.
There will likely be some chatting and the general hustle and bustle as people greet each other and look for their seats, so don’t choose anything too intrusive. Some light classical music would be perfect at this point, or some chilled piano or guitar. Here are a couple of relaxed yet traditional options.
Secondly, a thing of the pre-professional music. This is a more solemn moment that marks the start of the ceremony. By now, everyone will have taken their seats and will be quietly waiting for the entrance of the bridal party. Your groom and his ushers will be waiting at the altar whilst you and your bridesmaids are preparing for your grand entrance.
You don’t have to choose specific pre-professional music, but if you are, we recommend you choose something that will flow nicely into your processional music. Don’t choose wildly different styles or you risk there being a bit of clash.
Thirdly, the processional, the big entrance, the big moment of focus. This is the moment when the bridesmaids, flower girls, the bride and her father make their way down the aisle. Your musical choice here depends very much on your venue, the formality of your day and your musical taste as a couple.
You could choose anything from a traditional, formal piece of music to something cheerful, upbeat and even something modern. We’ve covered some options in closer detail in our article about ceremony songs, but here are a few more examples.
The Signing of the Register
After the vows come to the signing of the register, which can take between 5 and 10 minutes, so factor this into your song choices. Like the prelude, you want to choose something that won’t detract from your recessional music as you leave the church. Plus, in traditional church weddings, there’s usually a soloist singing at this stage. However, it goes without saying that’s it’s is up to you what you choose.
As it marks the end of the ceremony, your recessional music should be joyful and upbeat. You and your new husband will be elated, and your guests will all be leaving with smiles on their faces.
Now is not the time for slow, romantic tunes – kick it up a notch! We’ve given you a few options in our last ceremony songs article, but here are a few more to get you feeling inspired.
Wedding Breakfast Background
Now your reception has begun, and you’ll need a little background music. As always, try to match this music to your venue. If you’re in a grand hall or manor house, then classical will match your setting best.
If you’re having a festival-style wedding in tipis, then a little indie guitar will probably go down well. Either way, keep the volume low enough for people to have a chat. Sticking to instrumentals is your best bet.
The First Dance
When it comes to wedding music, your first dance is one of the most personal choices you and your h2b can make. Although, you may not have ‘a song’ (don’t worry, a lot of couples don’t), it’s important to think carefully about your choice here.
Think about the lyrics, particularly. A lot of romantic-sounding songs don’t have a great message for a first wedding dance. If you’re stumped, choose something slow and romantic that you know you can both dance to.
Create A Do Not Play List For Your Reception
Creating a “Do Not Play List” for your wedding reception is key — especially if you’re DIYing your wedding. Professional DJs and wedding planners may know these song pitfalls already. However, if there are songs that bring up bad memories, be sure to compile that list as well.
What songs should you avoid personally? Songs to include would be “our song” from a previous marriage or relationship. The last thing you want to do is think about that person or remind your new spouse of old loves. Don’t forget favourite songs from close relatives who have passed. Unless you intentionally want to honour that person, this will hit home on an already emotional day. If your family is especially religious, you may want to avoid sexually explicit songs.
Any songs that you — like a wedding couple — come up with will help your entertainer decide their playlist. If you do not want hokey group dance songs, then put it on the list. Explicit instructions are needed for your favourite type of music. With that said, your DJ’s job is to keep the dance floor full with your wedding guests.
Should We Include Group Dance Songs At Our Wedding?
Group dance songs are good for single people at your wedding or the mismatched couples. (If your aunt can’t dance with her husband, she’ll bug all of the cute guys at the wedding.) We know some people do not like such dances as they consider them goofy and well overplayed at wedding receptions. We get it. Some of the group songs are so lame. Your DJ won’t know this. It’s up to you, as the wedding couple, to let him know.
Popular group dance songs played at many wedding receptions include the “Macarena” by Los Del Rio, the “Chicken Dance,” and the “Hokey Pokey.” If you’d rather not do the electric slide one more time, then add group songs to your do not playlist. If you’d rather pass, then add them to the songs to avoid the list.
Check out our post on What should a wedding DJ do?
Do We Need A Dollar Dance At Our Wedding?
Like most traditions surrounding a wedding, it’s up to the wedding couple. For those not used to the culture behind it, they feel the money/dollar dance is inappropriate. Asking for money in the dollar dance can appear distasteful or greedy — especially since guests are expected to bring presents.
Finally, the decision is up to you. You can also choose to have a father/daughter and mother/son dance or go straight into the party.
Like any detail at your wedding reception, talk to your wedding coordinator and professional DJ. Depending upon the theme, the song choice could be really fun.