It’s funny how we’re sort of born with our personalities firmly rooted in place. Each morning my second grade teacher, Mrs. O’Keefe, would lead us in a rousing rendition of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma! as we marched single-file into the classroom. Each morning. Oh, how I despised this routine. The song was a lie, a despicable lie, for if everything was truly going my way, I would not have been at school in the first place. And it didn’t help that the line about the corn being as high as an elephant’s eye would usually haunt me for the rest of the day.
Yep. I was a cynic from the start.
Looking back, this seems ridiculous. “Lighten up,” I want to tell my second-grade self. “You are seven years old.” But even though I’m not quite the misanthrope I once was, I still sort of, well, am. All of which makes the hunt for wedding music that much more complex, because I am just all sorts of turned off by your typical love songs. I need only glance at The Knot’s 50 Classic First Dance Songs and I immediately feel a bit queasy.
It’s not just that I don’t generally listen to that type of music. It’s that the heartfelt descriptions of love contained therein don’t really apply to my relationship. I love my partner, but I’m sorry, our love does not lift us up where we belong (where the eagles cry, on a mountain high). I am not everything I am because you loved me (uh, codependent much?). It all goes straight back to my second-grade aversion to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”: I don’t like being told what to feel, and when to feel it. My love isn’t contrived. It’s not something that fits off the rack, or straight out of the box. And maybe it’s just that old subversive, stubborn side of me coming out, but it so follows that I don’t think that songs played at weddings are required be 100% about fluffy, buttery love.* After all, in the immortal words of Etta James, “At last, my love has come along / If only you wouldn’t leave your clothes strewn all over the goddamned floor / And I really can’t stand that noise you make when you chew.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it would be fitting to throw some plodding, melancholia-inducing music on at the wedding and commence with the collective navel-gazing. But I know plenty of happy, uptempo tunes that aren’t necessarily about falling in or being in love. That and I love too many wonderful songs that, if you listen closely, are about breakups or hardships or not even necessarily about love at all. Why should I ban these from my wedding because they don’t follow a particular script? Huh?
So, yeah. Wedding songs. I have been thinking about them.
I’ve been pondering those infernal first dance songs the most, because let’s face it. The first dance — should you choose to have one — between you and your beloved is a statement. It’s like putting up a giant billboard in the middle of your wedding that reads: WE ARE TOTALLY IN LOVE. HERE, LET US SHOW YOU. So it’s gotta be good.
To that end, our choice has currently come down to two songs.
Option #1 is Arcade Fire’s “Haiti.” It was penned as an ode to Arcade Fire member Régine Chassagne’s cousins murdered by the Tonton Macoute militia during the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. Um, whoa. Sounds like automatic wedding happiness fail, right? AND YET! It sounds so pretty and danceable.
Bonus points: Much of the song is sung in French, which means that most of our guests won’t have the capacity to even understand what the damned thing is about. Also, I started listening to Arcade Fire shortly after meeting the beau, and we have a poster from their June 2, 2007 show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley hanging on the wall opposite the foot of our bed. It was a good show.
Option #2 is… you’re going to laugh. Or at least snicker. No, seriously. Because Option #2 is “The Promise” by When In Rome. The actual video for the song frightened me,** so I am putting in the video clip for the ending of Napoleon Dynamite. Now, OK, this song is actually — GASP — about love. I know! After I just went off on a paragraphs-long rant against love songs! But these lyrics aren’t smarmy. They are simple, sincere, and non-threatening — even a little awkwardly endearing! “I’m sorry but I’m just thinking of the right words to say / I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be.” That sounds like MY ENTIRE LIFE.
Bonus points: NAPOLEON DYNAMITE CONNECTION. That’s all I have to say about that.
EXTRA EXTRA BONUS POINTS: To my knowledge, none of the members of Arcade Fire nor When In Rome have been convicted or accused of raping or killing anybody!***
So, what do you think? Do you love songs about love? Do you hate songs about love? Are you planning on having a first dance? Did you already have one? What songs did you/will you play? Will I ever stop asking questions?****
Tell me everything!
* What? Your love isn’t all fluffy and buttery? Huh.
** Long flowing 80s dude hair! Pianos! Leaning against/forlornly looking out of windows! Tight butt jeans! Continuous camera pan! AUGH!
*** Thanks, Robin, for the ethical reminder.
**** Yes. Right about… now.