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 favorite tunes to the DJ. But there's one more music-related task to take care of: the wedding do-not-play list. To avoid unpleasant surprises during your reception, it's best to curate a list of songs not to play at your wedding.
Believe it or not, many popular wedding songs actually have negative messages about love. Even if they're staples that get guests singing and dancing along, you'll notice they are actually about breakups, infidelities, stalking, and desperation if you listen closely. Yikes! It's best to stick to songs that capture the happy occasion and avoid those that remind you of past (or potential) relationship troubles or you associate with former partners.
Also, some songs may be overtly sexual or otherwise inappropriate in a way that may make guests uncomfortable. Of course, songs that have sentimental meaning to you or are part of you and your partner's love story are totally fine to include. Just use your guests to gauge your playlists along with the mood you want to set and what would make you the happiest at your reception.
Here are 55 of the worst wedding songs that should probably be on your do-not-play list.
"Every Breath You Take," by the Police
This song seems sweet but the lyrics are actually creepy: "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 spouse. 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 need."
"Make You Feel My Love," by Adele
Not only is this also about a breakup, but it's also about the utter desperation in the breakup aftermath: "I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue, and I'd go crawling down the avenue. No, there's nothing that I wouldn't do to make you feel my love."
"The Scientist," by Coldplay
If you don't want to get all emo at your reception, skip this 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 a song as it is, it's hard to 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."
"Marry You," by Bruno Mars
Don't be fooled by the title, this song actually refers to fickle commitment and getting married out of intoxication: "It's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do. Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you. Is it the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice?"
"Single Ladies," by Beyoncé
Though it's a great song to dance to, guests who might already be feeling wedding pressures may feel even worse: "If you like it, then you should've put a ring on it...Say I’m the one you want. If you don’t, you’ll be alone, and like a ghost, I’ll be gone."
"The Sweetest Thing," by U2
Bono wrote this as an apology to his wife for forgetting her birthday: "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." This may not be 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 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 angsty: "There is nothin' fair in this world, there is nothin' safe in this world, and there's nothin' sure in this world, and there's nothin' 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 may seem out of place at a wedding: "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 for their marriage to be better: "If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. So from my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you." Yikes.
"You Give Love a Bad Name," by Bon Jovi
As much as you and your partner love classic rock, the big day is all about giving love a good name and this song's lyrics are actually dark and spiteful: "Shot through the heart, and you're to blame. Darling, you give love a bad name. You promise me heaven, then put me through hell."
"Gold Digger," by Kanye West
Even if you're the biggest Kanye fan in the world, you may want to steer clear of this Late Registration hit (even the acoustic cover by the Vitamin String Quartet) with its allusions to motives other than love. Also, it would be best to avoid a herd of people shouting: "We want prenup!"
"Baby Got Back," by Sir Mix-a-Lot
Though you and the bridal party know all the words, save it for your next karaoke night. Grandma and grandpa might not appreciate the objectification in this tune: "I like big butts and I can not lie...I want 'em real thick and juicy."
"Bootylicious," by Destiny's Child
As a general rule of thumb, steer clear of odes to the derrière...even if they're empowering and oozing with self-love: "I don't think you're ready for this jelly, cause my body's too bootylicious for ya babe." Just add it to 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."
"My Cherie Amour," by Stevie Wonder
Although Stevie Wonder seems to serenade his one and only in this classic, the lyrics are borderline stalkerish: "In a café or sometimes on a crowded street, I've been near you, but you never noticed me."
“Before He Cheats,” by Carrie Underwood
While we love a good Carrie Underwood ballad, try to avoid songs with any allusions to potential infidelity: "Right now, he's probably slow dancing with a bleached-blonde tramp, and she's probably getting frisky."
"Dilemma," by Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland
Speaking of potential infidelity, this song may get everyone up on the dance floor, but it's all about emotional cheating: "No matter what I do, all I think about is you. Even when I'm with my boo, you know I'm crazy over you."
"Thank U, Next," by Ariana Grande
This song is an ode to exes: "Thought I'd end up with Sean, but he wasn't a match...Even almost got married, and for Pete, I'm so thankful." Even if you are grateful that your past flames led you to the love of your life, this song will probably make you think of yours on your wedding day, and there's really no reason for that.
"Pumped Up Kicks," by Foster the People
The upbeat song is surprisingly sinister: "All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun. All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks, you better run, better run faster than my bullet." Avoid allusions to lethal weapons on a day that celebrates love.
"It Wasn't Me," by Shaggy
The ultimate song about infidelity, this song enumerates, in graphic detail, all the places the narrator got caught cheating: "Honey came in and she caught me red-handed creepin' with the girl next door. Picture this, we were both butt naked bangin' on the bathroom floor." Save yourselves—and your older relatives—the scandalous imagery.
"Truth Hurts," by Lizzo
This is a great single empowerment anthem, but if you're celebrating spending the rest of your life with your new groom, complaining about his entire gender may seem out of place: "Why men great 'til they gotta be great...I put the sing in single. Ain't worried 'bout a ring on my finger."
"WAP," by Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion
It's a trendy, fun song, but your older family members may not want to hear the explicit lyrics: "There's some whores in this house. I said certified freak, seven days a week."
"Mamma Mia," by ABBA
The song talks about a toxic cycle of being cheated on, breaking up, and then getting back together: "I can't count all the times that I've told you we're through. And when you go, when you slam the door, I think you know that you won't be away too long. You know that I'm not that strong." It just doesn't reflect the loving commitment you just made.
If a song has a hidden, special meaning for you or is an inside joke between you and your partner, you should definitely include it in your playlist.
"Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," by Rupert Holmes
It sounds like the perfect pre-honeymoon song, but this song is actually about planning a rendezvous with another woman: "Me and my old lady had fallen into the same old dull routine. ... I've got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape, at a bar called O'Malley's, where we'll plan our escape."
"Cha Cha Slide," by Mr. C
If you're not into the idea of all your guests "dancing" in sync, you can skip this song: "One hop this time. Right foot, let's stomp. Left foot, let's stomp. Cha cha real smooth." Actually, it may be best to avoid instructional dance songs altogether.
"Celebration," by Kool & the Gang
It may seem too cheesy to play "Celebration" during this celebration: "Yahoo! It's a celebration. Yahoo! Celebrate good times, come on!" Everybody already knows.
"Macarena," by Los Del Rio
This '90s dance craze is actually about the multiple infidelities of a woman named Macarena. The English translation goes: "But don't you worry about my boyfriend...I don't want him, couldn't stand him...What was I supposed to do? He was out of town and his two friends were so fine."
"Shout, (Pt. 1 & 2)," by The Isley Brothers
While this isn't inappropriate, it's a bit cheesy: "You know you make me wanna shout. Kick my heels up and shout." Other celebratory songs that have meaning to your partnership may be better choices.
"Stayin' Alive," by Bee Gees
Before you get your disco moves on, know that this Bee Gees classic is actually dark. The lyrics are despondent and a cry for help: "Life's goin' nowhere, somebody help me."
"Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)," by Silentó
It may have been a hit when it came out in 2015, but the lines "Now watch me whip, watch me nae nae" no longer hold the same appeal it used to. Skip.
"Electric Boogie (The Electric Slide)," by Marcia Griffith
This song is rumored to be about a certain toy in the boudoir: "She's a pumpin' like a matic. She's a movin' like electric. You gotta know it, it's electric." Probably not the subject matter you'd want at your wedding.
"Wobble," by V.I.C.
This is another explicit song your older guests may not enjoy: "I got 'em shakin' they boobies like congos...Girl wobble it and Imma gobble it."
"Gangnam Style," by Psy
When the open bar rolls in and this song starts playing, it will probably make the crowd attempt this international dance craze that goes: "Eh, sexy lady. Op, op, op, op. Oppan Gangnam style." Play at your own risk.
"Ice Ice Baby," by Vanilla Ice
This danceable song actually isn't wedding-friendly as it describes a shooting: "Gunshots raged out like a bell. I grabbed my nine all I heard were shells falling on the concrete real fast...Police on the scene, you know what I mean."
“Achy Breaky Heart,” by Billy Ray Cyrus
Not only is this line-dancing song a bit cheeky, but it's also about desperate love where a man begs his partner to spare him heartbreak or else his heart "might blow up and kill this man."
“The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)," by Ylvis
This song seems out of place at a wedding as your adult guests probably don't need a rundown of animal sounds: "Dog goes 'woof.' Cat goes 'meow.' Bird goes 'tweet' and mouse goes 'squeak.'"
“Rude,” by Magic!
This song is all about not having the family's blessing to get married. If you're lucky enough to celebrate with loved ones who are supportive of your union, maybe skip it: "I hate to do this, you leave no choice, can't live without her. Love me or hate me, we will be both standin' at the altar. Or we will run away to another galaxy."
“Who Let the Dogs Out,” by Baha Men
If you're looking to hype your guests up on the dance floor, there may be other songs that are better suited and more effective than singing along to: "Who let the dogs out? Who, who, who, who?"
"Love The Way You Lie," by Eminem featuring Rihanna
This song scarily illustrates an abusive relationship, which doesn't seem appropriate for a wedding: "I'm tired of the games, I just want her back, I know I'm a liar. If she ever tries to leave again, I'ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire."
"Dear Future Husband," by Meghan Trainor
The lyrics of this song seem to be about a lack of compromise and unfair treatment in a relationship: "After every fight, just apologize and maybe then I'll let you try and rock my body right. Even if I was wrong. You know I'm never wrong."
"Latch," by Disclosure feat. Sam Smith
This dance-pop beat may be fun to dance to but the lyrics are a bit creepy: "Now I've got you in my space, I won't let go of you. Got you shackled in my embrace, I'm latching on to you."
"Dancing On My Own," by Robyn
This song is all about dancing alone while the person you like dances with someone else and can potentially make some of your solo guests feel bad: "I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her, ooh. I'm right over here, why can't you see me? I'm giving it my all, but I'm not the girl you're taking home. I keep dancing on my own."
"Heartbreaker," by Mariah Carey feat. Jay-Z
This '90s hit talks about an unhealthy cycle of infidelity and getting back together: "Heartbreaker, you got the best of me. But I just keep on coming back incessantly. Oh, why did you have to run your game on me?"
"I'm a Slave 4 U," by Britney Spears
Though it may be fun to recreate the choreography in Britney's iconic music video (remember the yellow python?), this song is about blind submission: "I’m a slave for you. I cannot hold it, I cannot control it. I’m a slave for you. I won’t deny it, I’m not tryna hide it."
"You Don't Own Me," by Saygrace feat. G-Eazy
While an anthem of female empowerment, this song implies that the singer's partner is controlling or, worse, possessive: "You don't own me. Don't try to change me in any way. You don't own me. Don't tie me down 'cause I'd never stay."
"Bad Romance," by Lady Gaga
Your partnership is a good romance—the best! A song about being caught in a bad one (and wanting it), may not be the best choice at a wedding: "I want your love and all your lover's revenge. You and me could write a bad romance. Caught in a bad romance."
"Say My Name," by Destiny's Child
This Destiny's Child classic makes it to a lot of weddings, but it's all about getting caught cheating: "It's hard to believe that you are at home by yourself, when I just heard the voice, heard the voice of someone else. Gettin' caught up in your game, when you cannot say my name."
"I'm Not The Only One," by Sam Smith
There are tons of other love ballads so maybe steer clear of this song about infidelities in marriage: "You and me, we made a vow. For better or for worse. I can't believe you let me down. But the proof's in the way it hurts."
"Bad Guy," by Billie Eilish
This bass-heavy track has lyrics that might not be suited for a wedding: "I'm that bad type. Make your mama sad type. Make your girlfriend mad tight. Might seduce your dad type."
"Jolene," by Dolly Parton
This Dolly Parton classic is about a woman begging someone else not to steal her man and might not be apt for the celebration: "I'm begging of you please don't take my man. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. Please don't take him just because you can."
"Cotton Eye Joe," by Rednex
"Cotton Eye Joe" is a pre-Civil War term used by plantation slaves to describe the many infections they got while working: "Where did you come from, Cotton-Eyed Joe? He rode through the fields, so handsome and strong. His eyes was his tools and his smile was his gun." So despite its popularity in the country scene, keep this song on the no-play list.
"Lips of an Angel," by Hinder
This song may seem romantic at first but it's about two former lovers who haven't moved on despite being in new relationships: "Well, my girl’s in the next room. Sometimes I wish she was you. I guess we never really moved on, and I never wanna say goodbye. But girl you make it hard to be faithful, with the lips of an angel."