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Do People Listen To The Lyrics?

After reading an National Public Radio survey of listeners about the most inappropriate wedding songs they’ve heard, I had to wonder if people bother to actually listen to the lyrics being sung in songs they process down the aisle to or dance that first dance.

The winning songs are:

1.  Send In The Clowns by Judy Collins.     Yes, people have actually walked down the aisle to meet their beloved and begin a new chapter in their lives to this sad dirge of a song.  And what is worse, it’s a sad break-up song that almost makes me want to slash me wrists from the melancholy funk I’d been in listening to it.

Just when I stopped opening doors
Finally finding the one that I wanted – was yours
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
So sure of my lines – then nobody’s there

Don’t you love a farce; my fault I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want – sorry my dear
But where are the clowns – there ought to be clowns
Maybe next year

 2.  You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling by the Righteous Brothers.  Not exactly my first…or hundredth choice of music to accompany my first dance with my husband but some people obviously have different standards than I do.   

Now There’s No Welcome Look
In Your Eyes When I Reach For You
And Girl You’re Starting To Criticize Little Things I Do
It Makes Me Just Feel Like Crying Baby
’cause Baby, Something Beautiful’s Dying


If I were a guest forced to witness this first dance, I’d have serious reservations as to the health and longevity of the marriage.

3.  The Lady is a Tramp by Frank Sinatra.  Just because Sinatra sings it doesn’t make it an appropriate wedding song but some dinglehead chose to sing it to his new wife at the reception.   It just doesn’t seem particularly smart to sing a song to one’s wife, with her relatives in attendance, with the word “tramp” in it 14 times. 
 Doesn’t like dice games, with sharpies and frauds
Won’t go to harlem, in Lincolns or Fords
Won’t dish the dirt, with the rest of those broads
That’s why the lady is a tramp

Oh, cute. The song also refers to women as “broads”.  Lovely, simply lovely. 

  La donna e mobile
by Verdi (Rigoletto)    The translation from the Italian of  this famous opera piece is:

Woman is flighty
Like a feather in the wind,
She changes her voice — and her mind.
Always sweet,  pretty face,
In tears or in laughter, — she is always lying.
Always miserable is he who trusts her,
He who confides in her — his unwary heart!

Yeppers, just the right words to sing during a wedding ceremony.   And now you know why some churches and pastors forbid secular music to be played in church wedding ceremonies. 



{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Dana August 4, 2009, 7:40 am

    Another one that is particularly popular at the moment is Secondhand Serenade “Fall for you”.

    I will never understand why people would want a wedding song whose first line is “Best thing ’bout tonight’s that we’re not fighting”

    Yes, it’s about falling in love all over again, but as a result of them fighting all the time and needing to look for a new beginning.

  • psycho.babble August 4, 2009, 8:35 am

    I have a friend who is getting married and wants to dance their first dance to “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Sure, everyone knows & sings along to the song, but not really wedding appropriate lyrics:
    Why do you build me up Buttercup, baby
    Just to let me down and mess me around
    And then worst of all you never call, baby
    When you say you will but I love you still

    After reciting (not singing) the words to her, I think she understands this would not be an appropriate song.

  • Obi-Wandreas August 4, 2009, 8:41 am

    I’ll also nominate “Wonderful Tonight,” by Eric Clapton. It’s a love song about the woman who, at the time, was his best friend’s wife.

  • meg August 4, 2009, 9:26 am

    I have a better one. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Bad Company. I was at the wedding and witnessed it first hand. So painful.

  • Laurie August 4, 2009, 10:32 am

    Reminds me of the Gilmore Girls episode where they try with all their might to prevent a bride from choosing “I Can’t Get Started” as her wedding song.

    I’ve flown around the world in a plane
    I’ve settled revolutions in Spain
    The North Pole I have charted, but I can’t get
    started with you…

  • TychaBrahe August 4, 2009, 12:54 pm

    I have to say that The Lady is a Tramp is more of a criticism of what is supposed to be fashionable than of the lady herself. Other lyrics include:

    She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
    She likes the theater and never comes late
    She never bothers with people she’d hate
    That’s why the lady is a tramp

    It reminds me very much of Brooks & Dunn’s Little Country Girl.

    She wears snakeskin boots made by Calvin Klein
    And cheap sunglasses from the five and dime
    All the other girls in school they give her dirty looks
    She got an “A” in math and never cracked a book
    Sure looks good in her denim and pearls
    Rock my world little Country girl

  • Joe August 4, 2009, 3:17 pm

    “Interesting” choices on the happy couples’ parts. It reminds me of receptions where people insist on playing the Sting song “Every Breath You Take”. That is not a LOVE song, people. That’s a creepy song about a controlling stalker. It is NOT romantic – even Sting himself said it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Every_Breath_You_Take.

  • Peg August 4, 2009, 3:58 pm

    You left out one of the classics.

    Sting’s ‘Every Breathe You Take’

    Which is not only something of a post break-up song, it’s also effectively about a stalker. Sting has never been able to understand why it’s become popular at weddings.

  • Blufyor August 4, 2009, 6:47 pm

    “Every Breath You Take” by The Police is also a good candidate. Sting wrote it when he was splitting with his wife and has even directly come out and said that it is a “bitter” and “sinister” song about obsession!


  • Robin August 5, 2009, 12:01 pm

    I disagree with you about the Frank Sinatra (for the reception, anyway; I wouldn’t sing any of these songs in church). The song is actually very flattering to the bride: it’s saying she’s honest, straightforward, polite, and a free spirit. I’m guessing that the word “tramp” is a typical insult flung at such a person by those who prefer to follow the crowd, and are suspicious and resentful of anyone who doesn’t. (However, I’m happy to be corrected by anyone who is more familiar with the language and genre of the song than I am).

  • artk2002 August 5, 2009, 8:22 pm

    While I agree with 1, 2 and 4, The Lady is a Tramp is a good song. It’s about a woman who is independent and doesn’t let society tell her what she can and can’t do, so society calls her a “tramp.” Wikipedia says that the song is a “satirical and witty parody of New York high society.” I’m happy my lady is a “tramp” just like the one in the song.

    And as for calling women “broads,” what does the LW expect for a song written in 1937? (As an aside, in the original, from Babes in Arms, the song is sung by a woman, in the first person.

  • Alexis August 11, 2009, 1:07 pm

    Actually, ‘Send In The Clowns’ was inadvertantly appropriate. What better description of people who would pick this song at a wedding, than ‘clowns’?
    Also, the word ‘tramp’ is never flattering to women. Period. Not that that stops some men from trying to argue that it really is.

  • Vicki August 18, 2009, 12:19 am

    Actually, “Wonderful Tonight” was written AFTER Patty Boyd divorced George Harrison and married Eric Clapton, so it would be fine for a wedding – except for the fact that it’s a TERRIBLE song.

    As for “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” – Tom Cruise sang this to Katie Holmes at their wedding reception – ’nuff said.

  • Nemeria September 6, 2009, 1:44 am

    “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line is also a bad choice. In the show, the character left her NY theatre director boyfriend to make a go in Hollywood.

  • Jan74 January 5, 2010, 11:17 am

    I witnessed “Stay (Faraway, So Close)” by U2 for first song, followed by Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” and I had to control laughter.

    The first one is about a fallen angel who suffers domestic violence (f0r those who’ve seen the movie). Sample lyrics:

    Dressed up like a car crash
    The wheels are turning but you’re upside down
    You say when he hits you, you don’t mind
    Because when he hurts you, you feel alive
    Oh, now, Is that what it is?

    Second one is about an adult child telling how her mother’s reaction to a divorce affected her own ability to love

    I watched you die
    I heard you cry
    Every night in your sleep
    I was so young
    You should have known better than to lean on me
    You never thought of anyone else
    You just saw your pain
    And now I cry
    In the middle of the night
    For the same damn thing

    Great selections.

  • Laura M. February 10, 2010, 9:21 pm

    Have to admit though- Sting made up for it. After ‘Every Breath You Take’ made him rich, he’s had the flexibility to do whatever he d@mn well pleased. 🙂 I especially like ‘Fields of Gold’

  • Kathleen K. March 2, 2010, 9:10 am

    I think couples pick the songs that are full of meaning for them. Two of my boyfriend’s and mine favorite songs are actually about breaking-up/lost love/missing someone. We love them because of the memories they hold- where we first heard them, what was going on in our lives at the time, or some running joke we have on the song. I agree _all_ the songs in the wedding shouldn’t be songs only the couple understands. But for the couples first dance I don’t think it is necessary for the guests to always “get” it. If the two of them are glowing and happy- why does it matter?

  • Angela H March 31, 2010, 11:28 am

    I have heard the song “I Will Always Love You” (the Whitney Houston version) at too many weddings. It’s a gorgeous song with Whitney belting out the titular line with enough force and passion to make you believe that she’s never going to let go of the person she’s singing to. Unfortunately for the wedding-crowd, it’s a break-up song. The lyrics “So, goodbye. Please don’t cry. We both know I’m not what you, you need.” just doesn’t bode well for the bride and groom using it for their first dance.

  • kingshearte April 21, 2010, 9:47 am

    I don’t know if they actually used it at their wedding, but I went to the stag/doe party of a couple who danced there to U2’s Bloody Sunday.

  • Marnen Laibow-Koser April 21, 2010, 2:28 pm

    I’ve heard I Will Survive at far too many weddings. It’s a great song, but for goodness’ sakes, it’s a breakup song!

    Also, my pet peeve: Send in the Clowns is not by Judy Collins. The Lady is a Tramp is not by Sinatra. Clowns is by Stephen Sondheim. Tramp is by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics). Sure, Collins and Sinatra recorded these songs (as did many other singers), but “by” properly denotes the writer. If you mean “recorded by”, say that.

  • Melissa July 23, 2010, 3:40 pm

    My sister played “Romeo and Juliet” for her wedding march – which made it difficult for me to keep a straight face with. I mean, that doesn’t really bode well for the marriage, does it?

  • HannaLee August 23, 2010, 3:23 pm

    I know that my comment here has nothing to do with songs, more with themes (i was reminded with the Romeo and Juliet Reference.) But there is a trend of Twilight themed weddings right now. You can purchase the ring described in the book. Even use the same vows. I am partially ashamed to say I have read the series, and cannot see why someone would want to base a wedding around it. The books involve stalking and blackmail leading up to the wedding.

  • Jenneh August 25, 2010, 12:48 am

    My parents divorced when I was in college, and my father soon got remarried to a woman slightly closer to my age than his. Their wedding song was George Michael’s “Father Figure”. Creepy.

  • Dazee September 25, 2010, 8:32 pm

    I agree that “The Lady is a Tramp” is less inappropriate than it seems. It does seem to be about a strong woman that doesn’t let what’s popular tell her what she wants. She’s her own person and I can see why that would cause people to whisper nasty things about a woman like that, to include calling her a tramp.

    I think the first dance song should mean something to the couple. The lyrics may not ‘seem’ fitting, but the song isn’t for the rest of the wedding party, now is it? It’s for the couple dancing. I’m a bit of a Disney fan and rather a geek/nerd and have considered both “So This is Love” from Cinderellea to “Stay Alive” from Portal to be mine and future hubby’s first dance song. And the main reason I considered “So This is Love” at all is not because it’s a cute song about falling in love (though that is part of it, part also being I was looking at Disney Weddings) but more so because it’s such a short song. The fiance is far from a good dancer or at least has expressed he is not comfortable being on a dance floor, especially with other people watching, so I was looking at something that wouldn’t have him on the dance floor long.

  • OP September 26, 2010, 12:09 pm

    Personally I love “The Lady Is A Tramp”. If you really listened to the meaning of the lyrics, instead of the lyrics themselves, I think you’d see that the reason she is a “tramp” is because she refuses to go with the status quo of the time. Women are catty. Anyone who doesn’t fit mold of what we *think* a woman should be is often targeted with harsh words and ridicule. So in this song, I don’t think she’s really a tramp; she’s just not like all those other women.

  • Shayna "No-I-Am-Not-The-OP" September 26, 2010, 9:47 pm

    Oops. Sorry. I forgot to change my name. :p

  • Jillybean September 27, 2010, 8:46 am

    Dazee – my husband is the same way. We solved the problem by having the DJ invite anyone who wanted to come and join our dance about 1/3 of the way through. We danced by ourselves long enough for the photographer to get some pictures and had a packed dancefloor for most of our song – worked out perfectly.

  • Jillybean September 27, 2010, 9:24 am

    Haha – just went back to read some of the earlier comments on this and laughed at the first about Secondhand Serenade. I love that song, but as a wedding song? Um…no.

    And about Every Breath You Take – I don’t remember what the interview was, but I once heard Sting refer to it as, “the most vile song I’ve ever written.” Definitely doesn’t say “happy wedding day” to me.

  • Candice October 2, 2010, 7:46 pm

    I don’t know that I would have it play at my wedding, but the “tramp” in “Lady is a Tramp” means “hobo” or the more polite “one with wanderlust” vs. “slut.”

  • Javin October 6, 2011, 2:03 pm

    I used to bartend weddings on occasion. After attending one with such jewels as “Strokin'” (a vile song with mentions of oral and anal sex) with all in the family, including the 5, 10, and 15 year olds line dancing to it, I’ve just ceased to be surprised at the vulgarity of people in general.

  • ShellyLynne May 31, 2012, 11:44 am

    Music is very important to me and when I got married, I carefully picked all the music. My sister was making suggestions for fun songs to request from the DJ during the reception and just COULD NOT understand why I didn’t want to include If You Wanna Be Happy by Jimmy Soul on the playlist! HELLO! Why would I pick a song that disparages me, the bride?!?

    BTW – Other songs that people pick that I think are inappropriate – I Honestly Love You by Olivia Newton-John and The Reason by Hoobastank

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