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. 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 actually have negative messages about love. They're about breakups, stalking, desperation, and obsession. Or, they're overtly sexual or otherwise inappropriate. Here are 43 songs that should probably be on your "do not play" list.
"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?"
"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." 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 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 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 personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you." No thanks.
"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." Yikes.
"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) with its allusions to motives other than love. Also, it would be best to avoid a herd of people shouting: "We want prenup!"
"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.
"Thank U, Next," by Arianna 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
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." It's a great single empowerment anthem, but not one you'd need at a wedding.
"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.
Of course, if some songs have a hidden, special meaning for you, or are inside jokes between you and your partner, you should definitely include them in your playlist. But do avoid even the sweetest songs that remind you and your partner of past flames and bad experiences.
"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."
"Cotton Eye Joe," by Rednex
"Cotton Eye Joe" is apparently 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.
"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."