You’ve chosen the processional and recessional songs for your wedding, but the music decisions don’t stop there. Depending on how long your wedding reception lasts, you might need around 60 more tracks to keep your guests on the dance floor. Fundamentally, it comes down to personal taste — it’s your wedding, after all. But, in compiling a wedding playlist, you might want to rethink some “favorite” party anthems, especially those that seem like obvious choices.
Using data from FiveThirtyEight, who spoke to more than two dozen professional DJs about nearly 200 weddings to find out what the most commonly banned songs are, and a HuffPost survey of songs readers never want to hear at a wedding, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of songs people really don’t want to hear at weddings.
25. ‘Let’s Get it On’ — Marvin Gaye
Is “Let’s Get it On” more suited to the honeymoon than the wedding? Too slow to dance to? Whatever the reason, wedding guests might be more likely to head to the bathroom than the dance floor when Marvin Gaye’s romantic hit is blasted from the DJ booth.
24. ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ — Journey
Rock band Journey released “Don’t Stop Believin'” in 1981, and various covers over the years established its place in U.S. pop culture. Along with being featured in the series finale of “The Sopranos,” the pilot episode of “Glee” and Broadway’s “Rock of Ages” musical, the song has been a party/prom/wedding go-to for years.
In a 2018 interview with HuffPost’s Build Series, Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain said that — unlike some people — he doesn’t ever get tired of the song.
“For me, it’s an honor to have a song that’s loved by three, four generations now, so you have to respect it,” he said. “Anyone who gets tired of a song is working off their own ego.”
23. ‘Dancing Queen’ — ABBA
22. ‘Mony Mony’ — Billy Idol
In 1987, at the height of his popularity, Billy Idol’s live cover of a 1968 single by American pop rock band Tommy James and the Shondells went to the top of the U.S. charts. “Mony Mony” became an instant party anthem (and inspired a bizarre lewd chant that nobody knows the origins of). But it’s not 1987 anymore, and it seems modern weddings can survive without Idol — and the accompanying obscenities.
21. ‘The Safety Dance’ — Men Without Hats
Released in Canada in 1982, “The Safety Dance” was the second single from new wave/synth-pop band Men Without Hats’ album “Rhythm of Youth.” It was written by lead singer Ivan Doroschuk after he had been kicked out of a club for pogo dancing.
Doroschuk told the radio station Boom 97.3 in Toronto, per Songfacts, “It was the dying days of disco. I got kicked out of the bar and went home and wrote this. I think it’s a message that kids still want to hear today: yeah, it is safe to dance.” Safe to dance, yes. But dancing to this? Maybe not.
20. Despacito (Remix) — Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, ft. Justin Bieber
The smash hit of 2017, “Despacito” reached No. 1 in nearly 50 countries and is the first YouTube video to reach 3 billion views. It was an international success before Justin Bieber jumped on board — and maybe he should have left it alone. It’s the remix featuring the Canadian pop star that wedding guests have had enough of.
19. ‘Sweet Caroline’ — Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond’s best-known hit, “Sweet Caroline,” celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969 and in the following years was covered by Elvis Presley, Bobby Womack, Roy Orbison, and Frank Sinatra. An indisputable crowd-pleaser, it possibly falls into the category of “heard too often” to really get wedding guests excited.
18. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ — Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Sweet Home Alabama,” the first track from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 album “Second Helping,” was a huge hit, reaching No. 8 on the U.S. charts. It was written partly as a rebuke to Neil Young for a couple of his songs (“Southern Man” and “Alabama”) that had attacked the perceived bigotry of the south, per Louder Sound. Today, it’s best known as an advertising favorite — it’s been used to promote everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken to Guitar Hero.
According to the song’s co-writer and former Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King, “It’s one the finest feelgood tunes of all time. It picks you up when you’re feelin’ blue.” However, it still makes it into the top 20 of songs people don’t want to hear at weddings.
17. ‘We Are Family’ — Sister Sledge
What’s a wedding all about? Family. So what better to get people on the dance floor than Sister Sledge’s 1979 hit “We Are Family”? It was their biggest hit and evolved into more than a wedding staple, becoming an anthem for women’s groups around the world. Co-writer and producer Nile Rodgers considers the “We Are Family” album to be the best he’s ever made.
As reported by Songfacts, he told Billboard magazine in 2017, “That was the record that proved we could do what we do for ourselves for others, that we could look inside someone’s soul and put our version of their truth onto them and superimpose it onto them and create this new entity we believed we understood. There’s no filler on Sister Sledge; every song is awesome. It was a record that was really incredible to us.” Rodgers will always love it; today’s wedding parties are undecided.
16. ‘Wobble’ — V.I.C.
The second single by rapper V.I.C. from his debut album “Beast,” “Wobble” became yet another modern line dance to delight partygoers. Still, it’s no longer in its wedding playlist heyday.
The Dallas Observer sums it up pretty well: “You’re at a wedding, cheersing the bride and groom’s happiness, and suddenly YOU ARE THE WOBBLED. Bridesmaids hike up their satin dresses and attempt to find the beat (spoiler alert: they never find it) while hopping forwards and backwards in their high-heeled feet and tight skirts like penguins in one of those Discovery Channel penguins movies.”
15. ‘I Gotta Feeling’ — Black Eyed Peas
The Black Eyed Peas had a feeling in 2009, and it was a good one. The second single release from the album “The E.N.D.,” “I Gotta Feeling” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks and won the 2009 Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It also became a staple at weddings across the globe. Group member Apl.de.ap described the song to Billboard magazine as a “college anthem for people looking forward to escaping life’s pressures by going out and having a ball.” But maybe the ball has finally dropped.
14. ‘Happy’ — Pharrell Williams
Weddings were the last thing on Pharrell Williams’ mind when wrote “Happy” — it was recorded for the soundtrack of the animated action-comedy film “Despicable Me 2” (2013). Still, there’s no doubt that a union between two people in love is typically a joyous occasion. But maybe the 56 instances of “happy” in the track is too much for most wedding guests.
13. ‘Hokey Pokey’ — Ray Anthony and Jo Ann Greer
“You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out …” The “Hokey Pokey” couldn’t be easier, and it has kept party guests entertained since the early 1940s, when composer Al Tabor wrote a participation dance song to entertain Canadian troops in wartime London that eventually morphed into the version we know. In 1953, Ray Anthony’s orchestra recorded the track and released it as a double A-side single with “The Bunny Hop.” It reached No. 13 in the charts and its place in U.S. pop culture was secured. Let’s face it, it’s going to be played whether you like it or not.
12. ‘Celebration’ — Kool and the Gang
A song called “Celebration” is just begging to be played at weddings (and parties, and sporting events, and anywhere there’s an occasion to be celebrated). The 1980 hit was Kool and the Gang’s first and only single to reach No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Perhaps today’s wedding guests are looking for a less obvious soundtrack.
11. ‘Single Ladies’ — Beyoncé
You can see why a song that urges all the single ladies to dump their boyfriends if they don’t propose fits into a wedding playlist — although it’s not the most comfortable listening for all those boyfriends, perhaps. And while Beyoncé’s dance moves always look fierce, the routine for “Single Ladies” doesn’t exclude any member of the wedding party.
“There are little simple things like the hand gesture, even the strut walking around in a circle, and you can just see your grandmother saying, ‘Oh, I can do that,'” choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. told Cosmopolitan. For whatever reason — maybe all the boyfriends have proposed already — “Single Ladies” has fallen out of favor with wedding guests.
10. ‘Love Shack’ — The B-52s
In 1989, The B-52s invited us into “a little old place where we can get together,” via their party anthem “Love Shack” and boy, was it fun there. “It was, or perhaps one day will be, the highlight of your wedding,” wrote The Ringer upon the track’s 30th anniversary. Nonetheless, it’s in the top 10 songs people never want to hear at a wedding — no matter how fond their memories are of it.
9. ‘Blurred Lines’ — Robin Thicke
“Blurred Lines,” produced by Pharrell Williams and released in 2013 by Robin Thicke, peaked at No. 1 in at least 25 countries and became one of the best-selling singles of all time. It was surrounded by controversy (misogynistic lyrics and copyright infringement, for starters), but that didn’t stop it becoming a popular request at weddings and parties. Today, it seems its time in the spotlight is well and truly over.
8. ‘Shout!’ — The Isley Brothers
The Isley Brothers’ breakout hit “Shout!,” which takes us way back to 1959, was something of an accidental creation. According to The Wall Street Journal, the trio typically ended their shows with a cover version of Jackie Wilson’s hit “Lonely Teardrops.” But at one performance at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia, lead singer Ronald Isley extended the song by improvising a call-and-response around the words “You know you make me wanna … ” and “Shout!” Audiences loved it, and it was eventually recorded as a separate song. It’s definitely a classic, but maybe modern-day wedding goers prefer to find their party atmosphere in other ways.
7. ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ — Rednex
Swedish dance group Rednex turned a traditional American folk song into a European hit with “Cotton Eye Joe.” The 1994 single, complete with banjos and fiddles and with vocals by Annika Ljungberg and Göran Danielsson, became a staple anyplace novelty songs were called for. But its days on the wedding playlist appear to be numbered.
6. ‘Cha Cha Slide’ — DJ Casper
Chicago rapper DJ Casper (aka Mr. C The Slide Man) is responsible for “Cha Cha Slide,” which was released in 2000 and spent five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 2004, it reached No. 1 in the U.K.
DJ Casper told WTTW he’s always been a natural entertainer, and that’s what led to the creation of the song and the dance that goes with it. “You’re always thinking about what can I do to make this person have fun, it just so happened the ‘Cha-Cha Slide’ made everyone have fun,” he said. Lots of wedding guests, however, have had enough of this particular type of fun.
5. ‘Cupid Shuffle’ — Cupid
“Cupid Shuffle,” a song by Cupid from his 2007 studio album “Time for a Change,” has an inspiring story behind it. “I was a 19-year-old blues singer touring with The S.O.S. Band and Lenny Williams when I recorded the song,” Cupid told NewsOne. “Everywhere we would go, before we’d start the show, we’d get the crowd going with a line dance. I saw how the crowd was reacting and I wanted to create a modern-day line dance.”
That’s exactly what he did, and it was a global sensation. But it may be a case of too much of a good thing, because wedding-goers are officially all shuffled out.
4. ‘Electric Boogie’ — Marcia Griffiths
Also known as “Electric Slide,” Marica Griffiths’ “Electric Boogie” wasn’t a hit when it was first released in 1982, but the 1989 remix reached number 51 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. In 2018, Griffiths told The Blast the song was inspired by a music box she purchased while performing in Toronto in the 1970s. She brought it back with her to her home country of Jamaica and showed it to reggae legend Bunny Wailer, who then reportedly wrote the original version of “Electric Boogie” in less than 24 hours. It’s a great story, but it’s not a great song for weddings.
3. ‘Y.M.C.A.’ — Village People
Everyone knows the words — and the actions — to “Y.M.C.A.,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard chart in 1979. “The minute I heard ‘Y.M.C.A.,’ I knew we had something special. Because it sounded like a commercial. And everyone likes commercials,” David “The Construction Worker” Hodo told Mental Floss. That may be the case, but not everyone likes this song at a wedding.
2. Macarena — Los Del Rio
The Spanish dance song “Macarena” takes us back to the mid-1990s, when duo Los Del Rio were touring the world in matching suits, teaching fans how to do the moves. The novelty hit was ranked the “No. 1 Greatest One-Hit Wonder of All Time” by VH1 in 2002 and No. 8 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100 in 2018. Unfortunately, it’s also the second-least favorite song people want to hear at a wedding.
1. The Chicken Dance
‘The Chicken Dance,” also known as “The Bird Song,” “The Birdie Song,” “The Bird Dance” or “The Chicken Song,” was composed by Swiss accordion player Werner Thomas in the 1950s. In a German-language interview, Thomas revealed that he spent a few years pinning down the melody and coming up with a dance that matched the tune. Incidentally, the quirky routine wasn’t inspired by chickens, but by skiers. Without a doubt, it’s an unforgettable song — but it’s the last one people want to hear at a wedding.