After citing several great wedding songs, Mark Sherman humorously considers some that probably shouldn’t be on anyone’s list.
Gint Aras and Joanna Schroeder recently posted a terrific piece titled In It For the Long Haul: 20 Kickass Songs About Marriage. Many of the songs listed, including such beautiful ones as John Legend’s “Stay With You” and Ben Folds’s “The Luckiest,” are used by couples as their first dance wedding song, which often becomes “their” song. Commenters added others which couples also have played when they come out on the floor for that first wonderful dance—such as Marc Cohn’s “True Companion.” If you haven’t cried yet, that one will almost surely do it.
And it’s easy to think of more, including Etta James singing “At Last” or Billy Joel doing his “Just the Way You Are.” (Incidentally, given how many times Billy Joel has been married and divorced, perhaps he should have called the song “Just the Way You All Are.”)
There are websites devoted to helping couples choose their first dance song, and, in addition to the above, they suggest such romantic pieces as “When You Say Nothing At All” and “When a Man Loves a Woman” (which would, of course, need a tweak or two for same sex weddings). It is a tough choice, but it’s an important one. After all, this will be the song intended to bring tears of joy to your gathered family and friends, and it’s the one you will always remember as the first song you danced to after you became Mr. and Ms.
Actually, I don’t think it typically matters what song you choose, though the research psychologist in me wonders if anyone has done research to find out if there is any correlation between choice of song and how long the marriage lasts. But I don’t think you’d need a study to show that the choice of certain songs would not be a good start to a marriage. I am pretty sure that few couples would agree on any of the following as their first dance song (and some of them probably shouldn’t be played even later on), so it would require that the bride or the groom—and it would probably be the groom, who, according to stereotype, is far more likely to mess up the marriage with childish behavior—let the band or DJ know on his (or her) own.
For example, here’s a song, very catchy, but one that should certainly not be the couple’s first song, unless, of course, they want it to be their last song. It’s the 1963 chart-topper, “If You Wanna Be Happy,” and it opens with the lines “If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife/But from my personal point of view, get an ugly woman to marry you.” By way of explanation the song includes such lines as “An ugly woman cooks her meals on time.”
Is this song politically incorrect? Oh, I don’t know; do birds have wings?
Then there’s one that’s a little less destructive, but still not all that kind, and this time to the groom. It’s Rory Block’s “God’s Gift to Women,” and includes these lyrics: “I don’t want no handsome man ‘cause he won’t treat me right” and “I’d rather have a plain-looking man who’ll love me like he should.”
The message in both songs is really similar: If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, marry someone who isn’t particularly attractive. Following such an opening number with “You Are So Beautiful” or “I Only Have Eyes For You” won’t undo the damage.
No, if I were a wedding planner, I certainly would not advise any of these songs to be played at all, let alone as the couple’s first dance song. And there are others that are probably best avoided as well, such as the Beatles’ “Another Girl” (“I don’t want to say that I’ve been unhappy with you/But, as from today, I’ve seen somebody that’s new.”)
And yet another no-no would be the huge 1970 hit “In the Summertime” by the British band, Mungo Jerry. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with its opening, “In the summer time, when the weather is high/You can stretch right up and touch the sky.” But soon it’s “You got women, you got women on your mind.” If your bride and her family are still there after that line, I don’t think they will be when they hear “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal/If her daddy’s poor just do what you feel.”
My wife and I got married in May 1970. “In the Summertime” had just been released in England, so I don’t know if we’d ever heard it; but it certainly wouldn’t have been our wedding song! Number One on the American charts was Guess Who’s “American Woman,” whose lyrics included “American woman, stay away from me/American woman, mama let me be.” So that was definitely out. We happily chose Paul McCartney’s beautiful “Here, There, and Everywhere” (from 1966). It seems to have worked. We’re together more than four decades later, and still “both of us thinking how good it can be.”
This is an expanded version of a post which originally appeared on Mark’s Psychology Today blog.
Photo: Flickr/Shelley Panzarella