I hate to admit it, but photography rarely ever makes or breaks a wedding. It isn't until long after the cake has been cut up, the chairs have been put away and the thank yous have been sent out that the photos arrive. While beautiful photographs help to shape the memories that you will hold onto for a lifetime, great music is what breathes life into a wedding.
Unfortunately, the music can often go tragically wrong. Picking the right songs for your wedding (especially the first dance and the parent/child dances) is a matter of finding the right pacing, the right tone and the right style. If it fits all of those points, it's easy enough to overlook what the song is actually about.
Below are a few well-worn wedding songs that should be avoided for your wedding sentiments:
5. The Greatest Love of All - Whitney Houston: While many other songs on this list are about bitter heartbreak, jealousy and darker things, "The Greatest Love of All" is an uplifting ballad about self-worth and conviction. It's not about romantic love and sensual passion, but self-esteem.
While the sentiments are noble, there really isn't a place for them at a celebration of two people joining their lives together. There are plenty of other love songs out there in the world, so give this a pass.
Sample Lyric: "I never found anyone to fulfill my needs/a lonely place to be/so I learned to depend on me."
4. "I Will Always Love You" - as performed by Whitney Houston: Poor Whitney is really getting the short end of the stick on this list. Her strong vocals left quite a mark on the adult contemporary charts, but this song about "bittersweet memories" really has no place during your wedding day.
Written by Dolly Parton, the song was a goodbye to her mentor and business partner. She then re-recorded the song for the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. While the film (and stage musical) is a lot of fun, it's a little reminder that this is not a song to commence your commitment with.
Sample Lyric: "If I should stay, I would only be in your way."
3. Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton: Clapton, together with his writing partner, penned this sad and slow song in the wake of his four-year-old son's death after an accidental fall. It's incredibly depressing once you sit there and listen to it. If you'll excuse me for a minute I'm going to go get something out of my eye.
Sample Lyric: "I must be strong, to carry one/'Cause I know I don't belong/Here in Heaven."
2. At Last - Etta James: Many of the couples I work with are younger, some are even marrying their high school or college sweethearts. This bluesy song about finding love after a long search might be romantic, but it doesn't really reflect their experiences.
I know the kids are all into being angst-ridden these days, but even I as a single twenty-something know that unless you've finally found the one at 50 then you might want to put this one back on the shelf.
Sample Lyric: "At last, my love has come along/My lonely days are gone."
1. Every Breath You Take - The Police: By now everyone should know that the song was written while Sting was in the middle of a divorce. It tells the story of a controlling and somewhat menacing man who can't let go of the object of his obsession.
Unless you think that stalking is romantic, avoid this song.
Sample Lyric: "Every night you stay, I'll be watching you."
Angel - Sarah McLachlan: This song is about heroin addiction.
Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers: Really just for parent dances this should be avoided because hopefully your child doesn't "hunger for your touch."
My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dione: This is a song about living your life after the person you love has died. Even if they do die at your wedding, you should probably be doing something other than playing this song.
Of course it's easy to criticize but hard to find great replacements for these songs. That's where a great DJ can help, working to create a great mix of music that expresses who you are as a couple and gets people moving on the dance floor.