So, my brother’s getting married next year (yay!), and so much is already planned. They have the venue, the dress, the florist, the favors — pretty much everything. The one thing that’s really taking time is the music. And I totally get that. Because really, what’s more important than the music at a wedding? From the bride’s entrance, to the first dance, to those crazy moments as the night gets later and the booze starts flowing, music sets the tone for the whole event. Hands down, the best wedding music came from the classic rock era (but we knew that, didn’t we?). So in this week’s JUKEBOX, I’m giving my brother a little unsolicited sisterly advice on his wedding playlist must-haves.
1) “Just You ‘N Me,” Chicago (1973)
It’s not the most traditional wedding song, and it’s not the most practical either. You can’t really slow dance to it after the first few bars… but it’s not fast enough to pull out the disco moves either. Still, I think it’s one of the best wedding songs ever, though I may be biased. It is, after all, my parents’ wedding song (and this choice tells me everything I need to know about how I got my own taste in music).
I can just see them — Dad in his white tuxedo with the ruffled shirt, and mom in her kick-ass empire-waist gown and ironed-down straight hair — awkwardly trying to figure out exactly how to dance to this not-too-slow-yet-not-too-fast song that they’ll forever associate with this moment (pressure!). But tempo aside, it’s a great, if underused, wedding song.
2) “Wedding Song (There is Love),” Noel Paul Stookey (1969)
Noel Paul Stookey (“Paul” of Peter, Paul and Mary) wrote this for his friend and musical partner Peter Yarrow when he was best man at Yarrow’s wedding. Stookey had recently become a Christian, and the lyrics — taken nearly verbatim from the Bible — reflect his conversion. It was first recorded on his 1971 solo album, Paul and, and became a favorite on the later PP&M tours. It also became a staple of wedding playlists and is a popular choice for bridal entrance music. Stookey felt that the song came from a divine place, so he directed all proceeds to his Public Domain Foundation, a charity that supports music for social change. It’s raised over $1.5 million to date.
3) “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Paul McCartney (1970)
Paul McCartney has often said that if there’s any song he wants to be most remembered for, it’s this one. His tribute to new wife Linda and her ability to help him through the most taxing period of his life to date — the Beatles’ breakup — is pure magic. Paul and Linda McCartney had one of the greatest love stories and most enduring marriages in rock history (maybe history in general), so I think this one is a bit of a good luck charm.
4) “Unchained Melody,” The Righteous Brothers (1965)
I can’t decide if this is the perfect first dance song or a terrible choice. On one hand, the love and passion in the lyrics say everything you’d want a wedding song to say. But then Phil Spector’s exquisite “Wall of Sound” hits you like a ton of bricks, and all you can do is stand still and listen.
5) “Dancing Queen,” Abba (1976)
You know that point at the reception when the bride and bridesmaids kick off their heels and change into white flip-flops? That’s usually when “Dancing Queen” comes on. It’s a great accompaniment to the bouquet throw, and the signal that the real party can finally begin.
6) “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Elvis Presley (1962)
Beautiful and cheesy at the same time, it just screams wedding, especially if you’re getting married in Hawaii. Though the full song was composed for Presley in 1961, it was based on “Plaisir d’amour,” an Italian art song written almost 200 years before, in 1784. So if it sounds timeless, it’s because it kind of is.
7) “God Only Knows,” The Beach Boys (1966)
In 1966, it was pretty daring to put “God” in the title of a pop song, but it ended up working out for the Beach Boys. It’s one of the best songs off one of the best albums ever, consistently rated in Top 100 Songs of All Time lists. No wedding would be complete without this tearjerker. Fun fact: this song was backed with “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” as the single. An odd switch in mood, no?
8) “At Last,” Etta James (1961)
“At Last” is on pretty much every list of best wedding songs and is guaranteed to make your mom cry. Though it was originally recorded in 1941, it didn’t become popular until it became Etta James’ signature song. A rare crossover hit, it ranked #2 on the R&B charts, made the pop hit lists, and has made thousands of people a karaoke star at their local bar.
9) “Let’s Get it On,” Marvin Gaye (1973)
Because the wedding’s gotta end some time…
Check out these and more perfect wedding songs in this Spotify playlist!