"I find someone like [James] Joyce quite rock 'n' roll, because he was bending and messing with words."
U2 Lists: Top 9 U2 Wedding Songs
February 14, 2011
[Ed. note: This is the 23rd in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]
We know what you're thinking. U2 songs? At a wedding? Really??? If so, you're not alone. Even the band members find it odd that anyone would want to use a U2 song on such a romantic day. "Did you ever hear the lyrics?!," Bono wonders when he's told about U2's "One" being played at a wedding. Edge has asked the same thing about that song, too.
But Edge also admits that U2's best songs "operate on so many different levels," so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that one level could be where two people come together on their wedding day.
For better or worse, the fact is that a lot of people do want to use a U2 song on that special day. So, our staff has put its collective minds together to come up with our list of the Top 9 U2 Wedding Songs, which we present here in alphabetical order.
"All I Want Is You"
This is not the song my wife and I used at our wedding 20 years ago; that honor went to "Stand By Me," a song that U2 has covered innumerable times. But if we were to choose a U2 song, it surely would've been this one. It's the closest thing to a true love song that Bono has ever written. True, it has some bitterness in it -- "all the promises we break" -- but if the chorus, "all I want is you," that gets repeated time and time again, isn't what marriage is all about, what is?
Plus, consider this: When Bono attended Luciano Pavarotti's 2003 wedding to Nicoletta Mantovani, he toasted the newlyweds by singing this song (albeit with some new lyrics to fit the happy couple). And, if you've seen the U2 Go Home: Live From Slane Castle video, you may recall that Bono dedicates "All I Want Is You" to his wife, Ali. If it's good enough for Bono, it's good enough for your wedding, too!
"A Man and a Woman"
"A Man and a Woman" has always held a special place in my heart. There's a tenderness about it that I don't always feel in other U2 "love" songs. Bono writes about love finding you, regardless of the circumstances and energy you spend protecting yourself and running from it. He encourages openness, taking a chance and embracing the very things that make you different from your mate.
And you're the one, there's no one else
Why choose this as a wedding song? Why not?! This song celebrates everything that makes relationships worth being in and making that commitment to. The happiness, the disagreements and finally the understanding that the "distance" is the very thing that makes the relationship worthwhile.
How can I hurt when I'm holding you?
My husband Jeff and I wanted to get married in a local peony garden. Flooding destroyed the flowers one week before our June 7 ceremony, but we decided to go ahead with our plans to wed amongst the brown, wilted blooms. On the morning of our wedding, thunderstorms revisited the garden, and with two hours to go, we decided to hold the ceremony in our living room. I frantically called one guest after another while Jeff lost his mind getting the house ready. There certainly was no time for kohl and lipstick, but I didn't care. I had been longing for someone like Jeff my entire life. "And for that love I [didn't] know how to wait anymore."
"Here she comes," I thought, as my father escorted me to Jeff, standing near our front door. The ceremony was unique, and so was our reception's playlist. I wanted to include U2, but the only song that seemed appropriate in terms of Bono-Not-Screaming was "Miss Sarajevo." It played quietly as we cut the cake – its soft, lovely groove transitioning to opera and back again. I was one of the only people there who recognized it as a U2 song; somehow that made it more mine as it helped to usher in my new life.
Many couples choose "One" for their first dance, believing that the line "we're one, but we're not the same," is a declaration of being two individuals who have just joined their lives as one. After attending many weddings where this song was used as a first dance, one has to question the tone of the couple's relationship as The Edge has said the song is a "bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who've been through some nasty, heavy stuff." "One" did reunite a very broken U2 during the Hansa Studio sessions, and Bono has said that it came about because God walked through the room. While songs have different meanings to different people, it is hard to overlook Edge's description of the song. "One" made this list because many people include it in their weddings or love mix tapes, and it's our sense that there are better songs to choose for your special occasion.
While on the topic of special occasions, there is one way to integrate more U2 into your event that will bring joy to any U2 fan while allowing other guests to think you're not inundating them with U2 music. While playing soft, instrumental background music to pass the time for your guests, try popping in The Ethereal Tribute To U2 or Strung Out On U2. These tributes are great complements to the typical incidental music served up during receptions. Your U2 friends will thank you, and your in-laws will thank you for not playing that obnoxious rock 'n' roll music when in reality, you are.
Looking back to my wedding in 2003, so many single words went through my head that day. Here are a few of them:
1. EXPENSIVE: Weddings ain't cheap! I don't think I'm breaking any news here.
2. ABSOLUTE: There is something so absolute about a bride and groom making a lifelong commitment to each other (or at least there should be).
3. EXPENSIVE: (See No. 1.)
4. LAUGHTER: My bride is ready. My groomsmen and I are lined up to walk out. The pastor reminds my best man that his job is to take care of me. We don't get five feet, and he walks me into a doorjamb. If that doesn't make sense, let me explain something ... I can't see. So a loud expletive follows that makes the pastor blush and the groomsmen laugh. After my tears of pain subside, my tears of laughter begin.
5. MUSIC: I asked my nieces to sing in the ceremony. Naturally, they cried. (Chicks!) So they sang a song titled "If You Could See What I See." (If the irony escapes you, please refer to No. 4 on the list.) They nail it.
6. FREEZE: There's a point in a wedding ceremony when everything around you just freezes, and it's just you and your bride in that moment...
As "Scarlet" fades in, and my bride and I are announced for the first time, the single word that truly describes all of it comes pouring out of the house speakers with an earnest joy:
Even if you are not marrying a Spaniard, U2's "Spanish Eyes" might capture just what a groom would like to say about his wife-to-be. But then, wouldn't everyone's love life go a little better if we saw our mate coming toward us with Spanish eyes, and if we could return his or her gaze with a pair of Spanish eyes of our own?
She enters; he's illuminated -- "dazzled by lights that shine in your eyes" – and then gives a vow that's a confession: "Here she comes ... you know she gonna turn the daylight on ... and I need you more than you need me."
In their union, where he loves even the way she walks on him (now that's love!), they know "our love, it shines like rain, in those Spanish eyes." Her eyes will bring him home. Her eyes will draw him out of himself and, mysteriously, he likes that "you pick me up to put me out on the street."
"Spanish Eyes" at your wedding? Isn't all that is said in a wedding a riff on this last line: "I love the way you need me and I need you"? If you can get someone to sing this song with the same fervor and shout Bono gives it, you'll give your guests something to talk about at the reception for sure. And maybe they'll be tempted to try seeing their love with their own Spanish eyes.
"The Sweetest Thing"
The couple that chooses this song for their wedding day may have better-than-average odds that their marriage will last. They understand that their chosen mate, who they turn to for comfort and support, will likely be the one who hurts them most ("My love she throws me like a rubber ball/She won't catch me or break my fall"). They aren't deluded into thinking their lives will be perfect ("Baby's got blue skies up ahead/And in this I'm a rain cloud/You know we got a stormy kind of love"). They know that love does mean having to say you're sorry, but also, it may never be enough ("You can sew it up but you still see the tear").
What kind of love song has as its chorus, a lament? "I'm losing you" hardly seems like a sentiment that should be expressed at a wedding, but those three little words (in contrast to the three other, more popular ones) acknowledge how fragile the whole endeavor is, and the threat of losing love can be a compelling force in keeping two autonomous beings together. Through it all, a teasing resignation that it's all worthwhile, "Ain't love the sweetest thing?" Indeed, it is.
Even though I had never considered myself to be so, I was the most traditional bride you had ever met. Twenty years ago, everything about my wedding was traditional -- right down to the classic "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole. I've been a U2 fan for 30 years, but I had never considered using a U2 song for my wedding day. That changed the day I heard "Wild Honey" for the first time.
Not your typical wedding song, it's about innocence, attraction, courtship, romance and yes, even true love: "Love me with your soul." It is carefree and youthful. It is sweet without an overdose of sugar, but there is a dash of sexiness thrown into this recipe.
Before you get married, you often wonder if he or she is the one. Are you soul mates? Was it written in the stars? This is why my favorite line of this song is, "Did I know you even then, before the clocks kept time, before the world was made."
Holding my dress and swinging around the dance floor while imagining myself in a field of green grass on a summer's day, I can picture my reception updated to include this song. Don't miss out on this memory.
"With or Without You"
Full disclosure: I am not married. I have, however, been to many weddings, including one with a U2 cover band at the reception, and wished that I were married to Bono. "With or Without You" is my favorite U2 ballad. And like many a U2 female fan (perhaps some male ones, too), I have hoped Bono would pluck me out of the audience at a concert and sing this song to me, without wearing his sunglasses.
The song is obviously about love, although it's not a sweet, tender love, but something more urgent:
Through the storm we reach the shore
Waiting at the altar, perhaps? When you throw in a twisting thorn, a bed of nails and a bruised body, however, the meaning gets a little confusing. If you can't live without someone, that is a strong indication you're meant to be married. If you can't live with someone, the shared household thing might be a problem. So I'm going to cheat a little. The version of "With or Without You" that I think should be sung at a wedding isn't the original version. Truly holy matrimony needs the lines Bono adds on the Rattle And Hum version and in various other live versions of the song:
Yeah, we'll shine like stars in the summer night
(c) @U2/authors listed above, 2011.