Someone recently asked me to critique a song she had written for her closest friend’s wedding. The song—a tender, heartfelt ballad—was intended to be performed while the bride and groom shared their first dance as husband and wife. The writer’s hope was that her song would subsequently be published, recorded by a major artist, and become the next big wedding song.
The lyric painted a lovely, vivid picture, describing the bride, dressed in white satin and lace, walking down the rose petal-strewn aisle. It described the couple exchanging their vows, the groom lifting his beautiful bride’s veil, their first kiss as a married couple, and the guests throwing confetti as the couple left the church. If I closed my eyes I could almost see the entire ceremony depicted in the lyric—and that was the problem. Instead of underscoring the emotion, this songwriter was “showing” what those in attendance would already be seeing.
Music played at weddings falls into a variety of categories including the music played to set the tone prior to the bride and groom’s entrance; the processional (the music that accompanies the bridal party’s walk down the aisle), the music played during the bride’s entrance; the first dance; the last dance; the mother/son dance; the father/daughter dance, and the music played during the reception. But the songs typically thought of as “wedding songs” are the ones played while the newly married couple share their first dance.
According to Spotify, Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” (written by Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge,) tops the list of songs couples are currently choosing for their first dance. High on that list are “All of Me” (written and performed by John Legend, “A Thousand Years” (written by Christina Perri and David Hodges, performed by Christina Perri, and Lonestar’s “Amazed” (written by Marv Green, Aimee Mayo, and Chris Lindsey.
Lyric themes in these and other popular wedding songs include: a pledge that love will last forever, growing old together, a promise to always be there, loving with all your heart, loving everything about the one you love, and having waited for the right one. With the exception of “The Bridal Chorus” (generally referred to as “Here Comes the Bride” from Wagner’s 1850 opera Lohengrin) in the vast majority of cases, the songs played at weddings do not mention wedding bells, exchanging vows, brides or grooms, walking down the aisle, or any of other imagery associated specifically with weddings.
So, if you want to write the next big wedding song, here’s my advice. Write a heartfelt love song with a beautiful, memorable melody—a song with a fresh, original lyric that conveys the love and devotion a new bride and groom would feel in each other’s arms. But don’t write a song about a wedding.
Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on three GRAMMY-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. www.jasonblume.com