From schmaltzy ballads to modern takes on classics, Jilly Taipua from Skinny Love Weddings goes through the most requested songs she gets from couples to play on their very special day.
You're getting married. It's arguably the most important day of your life, so what one song can encapsulate the importance of this particular day, the days that came before it, and the days to come with your soon to be declared spouse? That's a whole lot of symbolism to fit into a three-minute, 45-second tune.
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Wedding music often leaves nearly-weds feeling panicked, causing a flurry of emails to come through our inbox asking if they've made the right choice, is it too late to change their minds, what did our team play at our weddings?
Between processional songs, recessional songs, singing songs and first dances, we know a thing or two about picking the music that will get the job done.
Here's what we've observed from the many weddings we've pulled together for couples across the country.
Never enough Ed
As one of radio's most popular artists of recent years, it's completely unsurprising that Ed Sheeran is far and away the most requested artist we encounter, with a whopping 80 percent of our couples opting for a bit of Ed in their wedding ceremony.
Skinny Love Weddings took off in 2014, around the time Ed's album X hit the market. Immediately, the majority of song requests coming through were for 'Thinking Out Loud', and demand didn't abate for the next three wedding seasons.
Now that follow-up album ÷ is here, just as many couples want Ed to sing them down the aisle, to 'Shape of You' or this wedding season's top pick 'Perfect'.
It makes sense - he writes romantic, relatable tunes that aren't entirely schmaltzy. Overall, Ed Sheeran is perfectly branded for weddings.
One song, many voices
You don't have to be getting hitched in a Little Chapel in Vegas to enjoy Elvis' classic ballad, 'Can't Help Falling In Love' at your wedding.
In fact, it's the most popular song played at Skinny Love Weddings, but the original recording has been requested just once. We've played versions from about a dozen different artists over the years, and the covers just keep on coming.
Household names like Michael Bublé, Pearl Jam, UB40 and Meghan Trainor have all recorded versions we've been asked to play. Many of our requests for 'Can't Help Falling in Love' are renditions by little-known independent artists or YouTube stars: Ingrid Michaelson, Jess and Gabriel, and Samantha Harvey.
Look it up on YouTube for yourself. You'll find covers in every style - piano, ukulele, folk, a capella, instrumental, The Boss, live at the Grand Canyon even!
Or maybe you even prefer Elvis' original performance of this beautiful song.
Instrumentals for modern types
Despite marrying over 100 couples in just a few years, only one couple has asked for the wedding march. That doesn't mean we don't get asked for instrumental tracks though - we do!
Traditional music like Pachabel's 'Canon in D' still crop up semi-regularly, but most of our instrumental requests are for modern pop songs that have had a classical treatment.
This brings us to another realm of music that is hugely popular on YouTube and Spotify: classical pop covers. We've come a long way since Vanessa Mae and her electric violin playing Vivaldi. Now it's Christina Perri's hit 'A Thousand Years' without Christina Perri and Coldplay's 'Viva la Vida' minus Chris Martin.
Several of our couples have been fans of Daniel Jang's violin pieces - he's done covers of wedding staples by Bruno Mars, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, and even Wiz Khalifa (for you Fast and Furious 7 lovers).
Keeping it local
There are plenty of requests for local artists too, which we love. Top of the list is Six60's 'Special' - the lyrics and general sentiment of this tune are a natural fit for weddings. Likewise with their song 'Forever'. There are several great unplugged recordings available online that we've played for our couples.
Avalanche City also do a great job of walking the line of romantic, but also low-key enough to fit in with the casual wedding style of Skinny Love couples. Both 'Love, Love, Love' and 'I Need You' have featured.
Aaradhna, Sons of Zion and Stan Walker are also common.
Fun fact: the most requests for New Zealand bands and artists come from our Wellington couples.
… and Shrek
Every time we see this request come up, we're tickled anew. The most popular recessional song for Skinny Love couples is none other than Smash Mouth's cover of 'I'm a Believer' for the Shrek soundtrack. No word of a lie, loved-up couples love this tune. Never the Monkees' original recording either, it's always the version from Shrek's wedding.
And you know what, we can see why - it's a total banger. It's a great way to get the party started. And hey, you just got married: you're a believer!
Is it bad to pick a top charting artist or song for your wedding? Of course not - as long as you like the artist or tune, that is! Be schmaltzy if that's your thing, and get carried away with the romance of the occasion. Don't get hung up on what other people are doing, or what you think you should be doing. It's your wedding, so do it your way!
Go ahead and pick the song that makes you think of your bae, the one that will make you smile and recall your wedding day when you hear it in the future. Even if it's accompanied with an eye roll and the comment 'I still can't believe I let you play the Shrek soundtrack at our wedding…'
Jilly Taipua is a director at pop-up wedding outfit, Skinny Love Weddings. When she got hitched she played 'Haere Mai' by Daphne Walker, 'Let's Stay Together' by Al Green and 'Naive Melody' by Talking Heads.