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Bowie, Not Mendelssohn

Three experts refresh your wedding playlist.

The Music Heads

Jeffrey Tonnesen
D.J. at The Box, a dinner-and-theater hotspot on the Lower East Side.

Eric Steuer
Creative Director of Creative Commons, a nonprofit that offers alternative copyright licenses to artists.

Mike Errico
Recording artist and editor of SpiralFrog.com, a site for free, legal music downloads.

Enough Already Now This Is A Party!
Processional
“Bridal Chorus” by Richard Wagner. “It says the night’s going to be filled with the boring stuff you’re ‘supposed’ to do at a wedding.” “I Want to Make it Alright” by Paul Weller. “The most romantic song I’ve ever heard. It’s an acoustic ballad; there’s a little bit of drum.” “Any one of classical pianist Christopher O’Riley’s terrific instrumental interpretations of songs by Radiohead, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith.” “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack. “It’ll make you two gaze into each other’s eyes as if for the first time.”
Recessional
“Wedding March” by Felix Mendelssohn. “Listen to it closely: It’s strangely similar to the music in the last scene in Star Wars, where Leia gives her crew medals for destroying the Death Star.” “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes. “He’s singing to this girl, ‘I’m glad I didn’t die before I met you.’ The quintessential love song.” “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. “The very first piece of music you and your new spouse will hear as married people—warm and celebratory.” “Is there anything more joyous-sounding than a straight-up New Orleans second line? It foreshadows a kick-ass reception.”
First Dance
“At Last” by Etta James. ““A staple from the cliché canon. Choosing this is a lot like saying, ‘Well, I suppose this will do.’” “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by the Talking Heads. It’s about finding your love, just sweet and simple.” “Sweet Avenue” by Jets to Brazil. “The most romantic lyrics: ‘Thank you for making me see there’s a life in me / It was dying to get out.’” “Come Rain or Come Shine” by Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Billie Holiday, or Mary J. Blige. The other versions are horrifying.”
Father-Daughter
“For Once in my Life” by Stevie Wonder. “Don’t you hear this song while buying deodorant at Duane Reade?” “Misread” by Kings of Convenience. “It’s more about friendship than romantic love, so you’re safe.” “I'm Sticking With You” by The Velvet Underground. “A cool dad can pull this off. It’s a little Lou Reed-Maureen Tucker number that is cute without being cutesy.” “The Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson). Sentimental, good-hearted, universal. The best choice for this dance.”
Mother-Son
“People skirt this tangled interpersonal dynamic with songs like Cole Porter's “I Get a Kick Out of You,” which, of course, openly discusses cocaine use.” “Wishing Well” by Terence Trent D’Arby. “It’s a fun eighties pop song. It’s hopeful, and it really gets to people.” “In My Life” by Johnny Cash. His bare-bones cover of the Lennon-McCartney classic is heartbreakingly sweet.” “Thank You” or "Family Affair" by Sly and the Family Stone. “Just don’t listen too closely to the lyrics.”
Last Dance
“Two big offenders: ‘Shout’ by The Isley Brothers, from the obscenely excessive montage in Wedding Crashers, and ‘Closing Time’ by Semisonic, which also closes Hooters at the end of the night.” “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen. “No better way to end the night than with people screaming, ‘Why can’t we give love a chance?’” “Sensual Seduction” by Snoop Dogg. By now it’s late, the old people have gone home, and everyone’s drunk and acting loopy.” "I will" by The Beatles. “McCartney at his most buoyant. It’s joyful, hip, and transcends generations, and the message is spot on.”

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