20 slightly cheesy wedding songs… and why they work so well!

Published by Claire Gould on

A lovely marquee wedding in a Sussex village captured by Martin Beddall Photography (50)

Article by Entertainment Nation; header photo by Sussex wedding photographer Martin Beddall

The world’s most popular music streaming service, Spotify, now boasts over 35 million songs, while the number available for download from the iTunes Store has been rumoured at over 40 million – which sounds like a lot to us! With so much choice when it comes to music, one question repeatedly burns in our minds – why do we keep hearing the same songs at weddings?

Okay, the obvious answer is that they’re really great. There’s no question there! But polls from the last 10 years have shown that many of the old favourites are at last becoming endangered by more recent endeavours in pop, rock and hip hop. We’ll be sad to see some of the classics go – there’ll always be a spot in our hearts for anything by The Rolling Stones and The Beatles – but some won’t be as fondly missed. Y.M.C.A. springs to mind for us… and we’re sure you can name a few of your own!

Since we know trends change, we were curious to see which cheesy songs still refuse to go away. Here are 20 songs you’ve probably heard many times at a wedding reception – and why they’re still enduringly popular!

1. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers

Craig and Charlie Reid are most fondly remembered for this number 1 hit, which earned them 5 times as much money as the rest of their catalogue. Despite singing other songs in a Scottish accent, it has come to symbolise a great deal of Scottish national pride – though Vanessa Carlton decided 14 years later that The Proclaimers weren’t going far enough, and released 1000 miles under a similar lyrical vein. Re-released as a charity single in 2007 also helps the song’s success, and despite being a little cheesy, it still easily symbolises all too well the love and devotion we have for one another.

2. I’m a Believer – Monkees

The Monkees didn’t write “I’m a Believer” even though it may well be their most recognisable song, going gold within a couple of days. They didn’t play any of the instruments on it, either, though to their credit, they did actually sing the lyrics! Modern audiences probably recognise the Smash Mouth rendition from the movie Shrek – and if a song is in Shrek, how could anyone possibly dislike it? As a result, this hopelessly cheesy song gets a solid pass!

3. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri

A Thousand Years is one of those curious stories where the stars truly align. Don’t mention that you liked the song before you watched the movie, because longtime Twilight fan Christina Perri wrote it specifically for Edward and Bella after she’d been invited to watch an early screening! Not as cheesy as some of the songs on our list, but probably enough to inspire a few grimaces from Twilight critics, one can’t help but admire the dream come true story behind this song’s success – unsurprisingly, it’s also very popular with wedding pianists!

4. All of Me – John Legend

“All of Me” is a title attributed to jazz standards, piano compositions, several albums, and even Italian dance pop, but when we see those words it’s hard not to hear John Legend’s heartwarming vocals above that simple but powerful piano composition. With passion cultivated from his own relationship, the song’s also earnest and deeply relatable… even if we do hear it just a little too often!

5. Heaven is a place on earth – Belinda Carlisle

Belinda Carlisle’s only chart topper remains popular not just for its catchy 80s hook, but for its optimistic approach to both love and the search for our own little patch of heaven on Earth. Belinda’s husband Morgan Mason, son of actor James Mason, even made an appearance in the music video to drive the point home. We can’t dislike this one!

6. Footloose – Kenny Loggins

Footloose was a meaningless word when Dean Pitchford came up with a name for his mixed-review box-office sensation. Two good things did come out of the film – Kevin Bacon, who resented the typecasting that ensued, and the eponymous song, which has the kind of light optimism perfect for any wedding reception. If you’ve invited Kevin, be warned – he always bribes the DJ to press “skip” on this one!

7. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

If any song has cogently captured the feelings of unstoppable ecstasy,”Don’t Stop Me Now” would be a prime contender. Ubiquitous and an “anthem for hedonism” according to Queen guitarist Brian May, the song’s been seen all over television, in the movies, and frequently blaring from car radios over the years – evidence that most of us seem keen to embrace a little danger!

8. Country Roads – Hermes House Band

We have the Dutch Hermes House Band to thank for making John Denver’s famous country ballad a cheesy chart success all across Europe. The fact that Denver and his songwriters Bill and Taffy Danoff had never been to West Virginia makes you wonder if anyone mentioned here has actually seen the place they’re all singing about! Lame or not, we’re sure most can appreciate that warm feeling of nostalgia that comes with following windy roads back home.

9. Come on Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners

Bam! Billie Jean just got knocked off the no.1 spot. Can you believe that? Yes, it was humble English pop band Dexys Midnight Runners with “Come on Eileen” a risqué four minute excursion into Kevin Rowland’s teenage fantasies. No superstar models and yachts here – this stupendously popular song can’t be hated, just because it eschewed everything else the 80s was about – we all recognise that opening fiddle!

10. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton

We’re guessing you’ve read that title, and now you’ve got the song stuck in your head. We might have forgotten Dolly Parton’s acting debut, the sound of typewriters and may even roll our eyes a little when we hear the country song’s opening melody. But, though done with humour, Dolly was pushing the issue of workplace sexism, and for that we give the song the respect it deserves!

11. I gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas

If you’re wondering why you feel you’ve heard this song a lot, it might just be because it spent 14 whole weeks at number 1. While we’re talking numbers, it was also the first single to be downloaded over a million times in the UK, and hit the 6 million mark by the summer of 2010. Like it or not, it’s hopeful and optimistic, so who can blame anyone for enjoying it at their reception?

12. Sex on Fire – Kings of Leon

We’re throwing away all subtlety with this next one. Maybe back in 2008 on the song’s debut the lyrics were more mysterious, but now we know exactly what Caleb Followill was talking about – why, exactly, you’d want to be singing such explicit lyrics while surrounded by your closest family and friends, we’ll never know – but at least we can admire its lighthearted approach to the subject, and those cool guitar riffs!

13. Mr. Brightside – The Killers

Hotly requested at weddings up and down the country, Mr. Brightside is, strangely, a lament of infidelity, when lead singer Brandon Flowers’ girlfriend was caught cheating. This makes it one of the most inappropriate songs on this list… so what makes it so popular? We think it’s because just as in “All of You”, the emotions are raw and real, so too are all the emotions associated with Flowers’ relationship woes. That still doesn’t mean it should be played as often as it is!

14. Superstition – Stevie Wonder

We’re not quite sure how “Superstition” relates to marriage, nor would we ever think a song about bad luck could be such a popular way to start your new life together. It doesn’t matter, though – as many times as we hear it, that opening guitar riff always gets heads nodding, and with the funky clavinet, bass, brass and woodwind accompaniments, the grooves are truly irresistible – you’re pulled in and you have to dance. Exactly what your reception needs!

15. Dancing Queen – ABBA

Everyone on the team knew “Dancing Queen” was going to be massive, and since the worldwide hit remains ABBA’s most popular song to date, it’s impossible to criticise anyone for wanting it at their wedding day. If you can actually make out the lyrics (the song ranks highly for being misinterpreted) you can embrace the message – cut loose and dance! Just the motivation you need!

16. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

“Don’t Stop Believin’” began life as a motivational father to son speech, and shook off the nostalgia dust when a new generation embraced its emotional intensity after the ice rink scene in the movie Monster. We’ve all heard it a million times by now, either on The Sopranos, Rock of Ages, Monster, Glee, Scrubs, or any of the other TV shows that have used it, but we can’t dislike the song no matter how many times it’s played – so many of us have dreams yet unfulfilled, and we love having Steve Perry urging us on after all these years.

17. Single Ladies – Beyoncé

Infectiously popular with its upbeat rhythm, “Single Ladies” urges girlfriends to dump their boyfriends if they don’t present a wedding ring. Well, hopefully if you’re hearing this at a reception, the happy couple are well past that stage. Just enjoy the music and be grateful you’re a long way from this particular lyrical scenario!

18. Hey Ya! – OutKast

You wouldn’t have guessed from how cheerful and energetic “Hey Ya!” is, but listen to the lyrics and the song is actually about relationship difficulties. Funny how relatively inappropriate songs keep making the airwaves at weddings, isn’t it! Don’t blame anyone for playing it though. This huge hit was at number one for nine weeks and became the first song to be digitally downloaded a million times.

19. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours – Stevie Wonder

He had to appear twice! We all love that first descending bassline, which alone is enough for us to forgive how often this Stevie song gets played. Lyrically, it tells of a guy so remorseful of a stupid mistake, he’s not too proud to beg and cry to be taken back (always a good attitude to adopt, fellas). Combine that with the incomparably talented Stevie Wonder, some funky beats and backing vocals, you get a cliché wedding song we see making it to the decks for years to come!

20. Make You Feel My Love – Adele

Only around 10 years separate Adele’s release with Bob Dylan’s initial recording in 1997 – but she wasn’t the first to cover it. Billy Joel and Garth Brooks beat her to the chase way back in the 90s, but what makes Adele’s cover significant is that she didn’t want to do it at all – she’d written or co-written every other song on the album, and felt covering another artist was a cop-out! Pressed by her manager to give it a chance, even Adele admits the song is cheesy – but it managed to touch the Tottenham-born songwriter in a special way, so we can’t criticise too much!

Go Your Own Way on Your Big Day

We hope you’ve enjoyed our little journey through history with these overplayed favourites! Spotted any you’re planning to have at your wedding, but want to keep things original? Nobody will care about clichés when you invite your very own wedding band up on stage!

Reimagine any song with a heart-racing live performance for a totally unforgettable reception. Head to www.entertainment-nation.co.uk to discover the most exciting live wedding bands for hire in the UK. And remember – it’s your day, so don’t be afraid to request any of the songs mentioned on our list… even Y.M.C.A.!

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.


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