The first dance at my wedding was Stephen Foster's "Sewanee River," played by a Klezmer band. It sounds unusual, but it had a simple explanation. When we were first dating my husband and I stumbled across an outdoor concert, they were playing "Sewanee River" and we jokingly started to dance. It was the first time we ever danced together, so "Sewanee River" became "our song."
Less easy to explain is the couple who wanted to walk down the aisle to Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." Chicago-based bandleader Matt Stedman never did get an explanation for that one. Nor did he ever know why a couple wanted Hank Williams Jr.'s " Family Tradition" as a first dance song. The title sounds promising for a wedding, but the lyrics -- about getting stoned and drinking yourself to death -- are a little less than wedding appropriate.
Of course, those lyrics aren't quite as inappropriate as the bride and groom who asked bandleader Tim Adkins of the Michigan-based band, Trilogy, to play "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" as a bridal party entrance song, or the couple that asked guitarist Tego Burke to play "Who's Sorry Now." Those requests make the one Zane Wooten of Tennessee's Sound Drivers got for Jimmy Buffett's "Let's Get Drunk and Screw" seem almost... appropriate.
For many wedding songs, appropriate and inappropriate are definitely in the eye of the beholder. In GigMasters' surveys of brides and grooms and wedding entertainers, two of the songs that most commonly show up on the Do Not Play List, "The Chicken Dance" and "Electric Slide," just as commonly show up on the Must Play List.
Then of course there are the songs that get played over and over again at weddings, regardless of how inappropriate they are. You've probably danced to "I Will Survive" at so many weddings you know longer think about the implications for the couple getting married. "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll" is a wedding favorite, but news flash, "rock and roll" is a euphemism here. Have you ever cried to a mother/son or father/daughter dance to "Wind Beneath My Wings?" Then you probably haven't really listened to the amazingly self-obsessed lyrics. Just try asking your own father if it's "cold out there in my shadow" and see if he doesn't ground you.
Some of the most unusual song requests can also be the most touching. New York guitarist Jason Liebman remembers a bride named Abbey Marie. When she was little, Abbey Marie's dad used to sing the "Mickey Mouse Club" theme song (M-I-C- K-E-Y ..) only spelling her name. For her father/daughter dance, Abbey Marie asked Jason to surprise her father by playing the song and singing it the way her father used to. Jason did so, but Abbey Marie and her father became so emotional that they spent the whole song standing and crying instead of dancing.
Sometimes it's not the song that's unusual, it's the reason behind it. Whether it goes in the "appropriate" or "inappropriate" category, DJ David Pellot of New Jersey's SoundBar Entertainment frequently plays The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" at wedding receptions. But, the most memorable time he played it was for a bride whose aunt had recently died. The aunt always made a big deal about dancing to the song at family events. David was asked to play the song as a way of letting the family celebrate the aunt's life and including her in the wedding.
Like music, weddings mean different things to different people. Ultimately, when you choose the playlist for your wedding, what someone else thinks is appropriate or inappropriate, unusual or normal, doesn't matter. Choose songs that work for you. Although really, try and listen to the lyrics first!
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