Wedding Music

Top 5 Songs Nobody Ever Plays at Weddings (But You Should)

Photo via Skye Studios

Why is it that every time you go to a wedding you hear the same old songs being played? It’s not that we’re against hearing John Mayer’s “Your Body Is a Wonderland” again (although we are, in fact, very much against that.) We just believe that your wedding song should be as unique as your love. Dig around a little and it’s easy to discover some perfectly romantic love songs that don’t get a lot of wedding play. Here is a small, highly selective list of some great but slightly obscure songs that nobody ever thinks of playing at a wedding. But you should.

1. Billy Bragg “Must I Paint You A Picture”

Bragg is not known as a romantic, unless you consider songs about the dystopian fate of the proletariat in Thatcherite England a turn-on. But in this, one of his most famous love songs, he sings plaintively, presumably to his wife who is more accustomed to him ranting about the plight of coal miners:

“Must I paint you a picture about the way that I feel? You know my love for you is strong girl, you know my love for you is real?”

Well, maybe if you spent less time protesting the war in the Falkland islands and more time buying her chocolates, she wouldn’t have to wonder.

2. Keith Richards “The Worst”

At just 2:38, this song is about as long as your typical sex act, but it packs in a lifetime of love, tenderness and honesty. The song is a warning, but of course it’s all about reverse psychology—as Keith croaks out admonitions about what an awful person he is, he is by implication putting his special lady ever higher on a pedestal. It’s clever: instead of saying how great she is, he sings about how shitty he is. Since all women love both praise and bad boys, this song is a double winner. In this case, “I am the worst kind of guy for you to be around,” is both a threat and an invitation to have some fun. It’s sexy, piratical and self-deprecating, something we haven’t seen since we caught a few moments of Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Carribean 6” on a plane.

3. Elvis Costello “Human Hands”

You wouldn’t think it, but Elvis Costello is kind of a player. Sure, he looks like an overweight high school science teacher, and keeps trying to hide a bald spot under a questionable hat. But despite most of his lyrics being rather cerebral, Elvis is a ladies man, and beneath all that clever wordplay beats the hot and passionate heart of a wounded lover.

In fact, precisely because most of his energy is spent on thinking of weird chord changes and unusual language choices, when he finally cuts through the complexity and says something simple and heartfelt, it packs a serious heart-rending wallop.

This song begins with the usual sense that we are witnessing “a chainsaw running through a dictionary” (to quote the artist) but suddenly Elvis drops the need to impress and just says what’s in his heart:

“Do I have to draw you a diagram? All I ever wanted was to fall into your human hands.”

True, most women aren’t turned on when you ask rhetorically whether you need to draw them a diagram—that’s blatant mansplaining. But confessing you want to fall into her hands—and then acknowledging that she has human ones at that—well, that right there is a recipe for puckering up.

So pucker up, buttercup. Even Elvis Costello has a sentimental side.


4. Cee Lo Green “Fuck You”

So, we’re not even going to try to justify this as a possible wedding song based on the lyrics: that’s a task beyond even our prodigious ability to rationalize. This is basically just a bitter rant by a guy whose girl has dumped him for someone with more money. It features the titular curse word in practically every line (with a few “shits” thrown in for good measure) and seems antithetical to the spirit of marriage.

But it’s also super fun and joyful. It’s like a forgotten hit from some Bizarro-world Motown. Everyone at the wedding will know it—except maybe for some older relatives, who will either be shocked (hilarious for the younger relatives) or delighted (also hilarious for the younger relatives). Think how cool it will be for you and your bride to be on the dance floor, lip-syncing this song to each other as you boogie into the night.


4. Lou Reed “Metal Machine Music”

To paraphrase Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, “The truth that can be spoken is not the real truth.” How much more is that the case when it comes to love? If you were to try to compress all the vast emotion you feel for your bride into words—much less into a three minute pop song, it would be like trying to stuff the solar system into a ziplock bag.

Therefore, the ultimate song to express the depth of your commitment to your new wife can’t have lyrics. And it can’t be three minutes long. It should be about an hour of abrasive, confrontational, guitar feedback, cycled through reverb, distortion and other amp-assisted sound effects. Because nothing says I love you better than 65 minutes of droning, avante-garde noise. (Except maybe John Mayer’s “Your Body is A Wonderland.”)

—Dimitri Ehrlich

Bottom Line

Don’t necessarily go for the standard wedding favorites. Think outside the box to find songs that other people would never think about playing at their ceremony or reception.

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