Wedding Bell Blues

by Carl Wiser

If you've been forced to sit through a typical wedding video, feigning interest in the awkward dancing and lame speeches, you'll understand why weddings rarely show up in songs: They're not that interesting. If you're going to describe a wedding in a song, you better punch it up a bit and pull out the pathos and dysfunction that led to this unfortunate event, since that's much more interesting than "they all lived happily ever after." Let's look at some songs where weddings show up.
"White Wedding" by Billy Idol (1982)
"Hey little sister who's the one you want? Hey little sister shot gun!"

Some couples can't resist playing it at their own weddings, but the song is about a guy who thinks the girl is marrying the wrong dude. Billy Idol's little sister really did get married, but he had no beef with their nuptials: "Little Sister" is just slang for "Girl."

The song showed up in the movie The Wedding Singer when Adam Sandler's character hears it after his wedding is called off. Later in the movie, Billy Idol helps him get the girl - the right one this time.

"Band of Gold" by Freda Payne (1970)
"That night on our honeymoon, we stayed in separate rooms."

Something has gone horribly wrong. Separate rooms for the honeymoon, and now he's left her "filled with sadness, filled with gloom." Why did this this guy get married in the first place? This is a bait-and-switch with her love life, and he's hiding something.

Despite the morose lyrics, it's got a catchy tune and provided Payne with her biggest hit. Belinda Carlisle recorded the song in 1986 for her first solo album.

"Makin' Whoopie" by Eddie Cantor (1928)
"The choir sings, another bride, another victim is by her side."

You have to go back a few generations for this one, but it's well worth it. Long before Ray Romano explained that married men have sex with the same frequency their quarterly taxes are due, Cantor sang about the dangers of wedded life, asking what the groom will be doing in a year. In his story, the lifeforce is sucked out of the poor married guy who finds himself washing dishes instead of enjoying life's pleasures. And he's stuck: getting out of it will cost him too much money. As the judge explains: "You better keep her, I think it's cheaper."

"I Write Sins Not Tragedies" by Panic At The Disco (2005)
"What a shame, the poor groom's bride is a whore."

As he's wandering the church before his wedding, the groom hears a bridesmaid tell a waiter that the bride has been sleeping around. Good that he found out now so he can call off the wedding before it's too late... but wait, must think rationally. All these people are here and they expect a wedding. He can't back out now, can he?

"The River" by Bruce Springsteen (1980)
"We went down to the courthouse and the judge put it all to rest. No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle, no flowers, no wedding dress."

When it's really bleak, you skip the ceremony completely. Just head to the town hall, pay the fees, sign the papers and eek out the rest of your life. The story was inspired by Springsteen's sister, who got pregnant and married when she was still a teenager.

The Big Excepetion

"Chapel Of Love" by The Dixie Cups (1964)
"Bells will ring, the sun will shine. I'll be his and he'll be mine. We'll love until the end of time, and we'll never be lonely anymore."

Now here's the big, happy wedding we all dreamed of. The one that happens at the end of movies when all conflict has been resolved. The team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich wrote this blissful tune, which remains the ultimate joyful wedding song.

Marry Me, or Else

Some songs explain the lead-up to a wedding, with the girl pressuring the guy to produce a ring. The alternative could be much worse: celibacy.
"Paradise By the Dashboard Light" by Meat Loaf (1977)
"Do you love me? Will you love me forever?"

Sometimes we make big decisions in the heat of the moment that have devastating long-term effects. You're parked by the lake with a beautiful girl, but if you want to touch home, you'll have to marry her. Pay special attention to the end of this epic song: he keeps his promise to love her 'til the end of time, but he's miserable, and she probably is too. I'm guessing they have kids by now to go with their memories of that very special night.

"Keep Your Hands To Yourself" by The Georgia Satellites (1986)
"No huggy no kissy until I get a wedding ring"

The only ring he wants to produce is on the telephone, but he's just not smooth enough to make it happen. He falls in the same trap as Meat Loaf, agreeing to "live with you for the rest of my life."

"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" by Beyoncé (2008)
"If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it"

She spent three years waiting for the ring, but now she's moved on to a new man and she's feeling sassy. Beyoncé was happily married to a certain Jigga, but her alter ego Sasha Fierce spoke for the women who were losing patience.

"Wedding Bell Blues" by The 5th Dimension (1969)
"Kisses and love won't carry me til you marry me Bill"

When The 5th Dimension recorded this song, band members Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. were engaged, making the "Marry me Bill" theme true to life. But Davis isn't the real "Bill." The song was written by Laura Nyro when she was just 18. "Bill" was "Bill Carter," an actor who was having an affair with the jazz singer Helen Merrill, who was related by marriage to Laura.

Other Songs that Describe a Wedding

"By Starlight" by The Smashing Pumpkins (1995)
"My life has been empty, my life has been untrue, and does she really know, who i really am?"

Billy Corgan pours his heart out about his 1993 wedding, when he knew he made a mistake. The divorce came four years later.

"Wedding Day" by Seal (2007)
"Many minds will recall with us tomorrow, following our love."

Seal wrote this the very day he married Heidi Klum, and even had her sing on it.

"The Circus" by Take That (2008)
"And now you can applaud my best mistake. I love you was too many words to say"

A real-life story about a best man who just went through a nasty breakup. He got drunk and gave a painful speech.

"Let's Get Married" by Al Green (1973)
"Don't wanna say anything to drive you away, let's get married today."

Al Green sounds like he's bored and wants to get married for something to do. Maybe the least romantic let's-get-married song ever.

"Honky Tonk Union" by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers (2000)
"They got married in a honky tonk bar, said their vows on a 6-string steel guitar"

Inspired by The Steakout in Southern Arizona, Clyne takes us inside a cowboy wedding.

April 7, 2010
More Song Writing

Comments: 42

  • Henry from Walnut Creek CaCarly Simon has got Al Green beat by miles for the least romantic let’s-get-married song. “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” is a somber indictment against her partner’s claim that marriage is the natural progression of their relationship. She describes the unions of her parents as lifeless and their contemporaries as hypocritical. Her partner has faith that they will thrive together; she counters that matrimony will only stymie her and, like most couples, they won’t make it. But despite her pessimism, on the very last line of the song she capitulates in a forlorn whisper.
  • Ken from SoilLove & Marraige sung by Frank Sinatra
  • Beaux from Kansas City, MoI Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock & Roll) by Nick Lowe (Better performance by Dave Edmunds).
  • Karen from Manchester, NhTaylor Swift's "Speak Now" talks about crashing her guy's wedding: "Don't wait or say a single vow; your time is running out and they said, 'speak now'"
  • Malc from N ZKiss The Bride by Elton John as well.
  • Brandy from AtlantaJagged Edge "Let's Get Married" ("Meet me at the altar in your white dress, we ain't getting no younger we might as well do it.") Real romantic stuff. Also does anyone else remember that song Paula Abdul had around the time she and Emilio Estevez got together "Will you, will you, will you marry me boy."
  • Robert from Berkeley, CaWhat about "Big Bopper's Wedding" by the Big Bopper? The Bopper's caught in a shotgun wedding, but he can't help saying "HELLLLOOOOO BAAAAAAABY!" to the bridesmaids.
  • Bob from Southfield, MiDon't forget Danny Williams' "White on White" from 1964. The first verse sounds like the guy is the groom but in the second verse, the song turns sad when you realize that the bride is marrying someone else.
  • Don from MississippiChampagne High is not about getting married for the wrong reasons at all. It is actually a true series of events about an ex of Ken Block (lead singer) that invited him to her wedding.
  • Asci0230 from FrankfurtHey, don't forget The Beautiful South. And the sunday sunshine's shines down San Francisco Bay... I'd like to see this collection growing - in both directions. Songs about wedding and, let's say: the great escape.
  • Dan from KyI love You, by the Climax Blues Band is a popular song at weddings
  • K.c. from NhElton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" is about Bernie talking Elton out of getting married.
  • Craig from Marion, IaLA County by Lyle Lovett. Song about making a wrong right. A jilted lover brings along a surprise guest to the wedding of an ex-girlfriend and the guy she ran off with. A must listen.
  • Jack from Scotlandwhat about november rain
  • Linda from Nc"I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore" by REO Speedwagon and "The Search Is Over" by Survivor. "It's time to bring this ship into the shore and throw away the oars forever." And, the search is over. Love was right before my eyes."
  • Kevin from Bay Shore, NyThank You by Led Zeppelin.....this song should be played at every wedding
  • Chris S. from FloridaChuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell (C'est la Vie)" is another one you can add to the list. Beginning with the teenage wedding, the couple is then sent out into the cold, hard reality to face their new life together. For those who don't recognize the title, the song plays in "Pulp Fiction" during the Twist scene.
  • Marie from Twin Falls, IdahoI've always loved Champagne High by Sister Hazel. A beautiful song about getting married for all of the wrong reasons, which so many of us do these days.
  • Daniel from Pacific Northwest"Better Off Without a Wife" by Tom Waits
  • Klaus from BrazilI like see I'm gonna get married and How can tell...
    with ...Tarrantino movie
  • Rj from Philadelphia, Pa"Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles
    Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice at the church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream...
  • AnonymousThere's a couple missing. Teenaged Wedding and Josette, both of which are quite happy, come to mind.
  • Tricia from Rockville Centre, Ny"I do, I do, I do" by ABBA
    Great song, actually perfectly used in the movie Muriels Wedding. about a girl who falls head over heels in love with a guy and is invisioning the wedding & happyily ever after!
  • Shaman from Outta SpaceYou've Made Me So Very Happy - Blood Sweat and Tears
    and ultimate wedding song You're the first, last… by maestro Barry White
  • Tanya from Virginia"Golden Ring" by George Jones and Tammy Wynette...look how well THAT worked out!
  • Emma from Brisbane"The Wedding" Paul Stookey (Peter Paul and Mary) - the most beautiful celebration of love and marriage with stunning music to match.
  • Chris from UsWedding Day by the Bee Gees

    ...We'll be together
    Husband and wife
    Now and forever
    The rest of our lives
    Well, take me to Heaven
    Take me tonight
    There is nothing words can say
    On this our wedding day...
  • Julia from BrazilWe Got Married by Paul McCartney.
  • Frank from Pleasanton$1000 Wedding by Gram Parsons. Not a happy song.
  • Sniper from PhilippinesI would also recommend Till death do us part by White Lions>I wonder so many people miss this song.
  • Jimmie Vestal from Pinellas Park, FloridaI Went To Your Wedding - Spike Jones
  • Tami from Huntington Beach, Ca"Sweet Wine of Love" by Robin Trower...
    "White Trash Wedding" by the Dixie Chicks...
  • Molly from Niagara Falls, Ny"Happy Together" ? Look a little's not as happy as it sounds.
  • Patrick from Wahiawa"The Road That Never Ends," written by Jim Kimball puts Love front and center in Keali'i Reichel's rich ballad on his 1999 "Melelana" CD release. The song paints an elaborate word picture, from "Here we are in this holy place together" to "join in heart and spirit" to "family and friends" to "the family tree."
  • Emma from EarthHoneymoon song: "The Ballad of John and Yoko" by the Beatles
  • Padger from Northampton UkShotgun Wedding by Roy C is an unhappy - nay extremely distressed - wedding song. It would come into the Marry Her or Else category. I think this groom might be excused for substandard performance after this kind of pressure! Pretty controversial stuff for 1966:

    People were standing, all around
    At a shot gun wedding, here in this town
    And I'm the victim oh yeh
    Of a shotgun wedding
    'Cause your fathers got a gun
    And there ain't no place to run
    Shotgun wedding and oh yeh

    Now I got to find a job, yes I have
    You, me, the baby makes three
    Shotgun (shotgun)
    Shotgun (shotgun)[and so on]
  • Dave from WisconsinBand of Gold is about the groom's performance problems on his wedding night. " ...and love me, like you TRIED before." I always got a kick out of hearing top 40 song about impotence on the radio.
  • Bluesboy from San Diegosome more...
    With This Ring - The Platters
    When We Get Married - Dreamlovers
    To the Aisle - Five Satins
  • Dawn Marcel from SpokaneWhat about that wedding song from the 60's by Paul Stookey??
  • Jeff from NesconsetAnother happy wedding song: We've Only Just Begun-Carpenters

    "We've only just begun to live
    White lace and promises
    A kiss for luck and we're on our way"

  • Bob from New YorkI always got the impression from "Band Of Gold" that the groom was shipped off to Vietnam directly after the ceremony (since it came out in that era).
  • Ekristheh from HalathMore happy songs about weddings: The Wedding Song (There Is Love) by Paul Stookey: To The Aisle by the Five Satins. Proposal songs: Wouldn't It Be Nice by the Beach Boys: Happy Together by the Turtles. Anniversary song: Harvest Moon by Neil Young.
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