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The Top 10 Best Wedding Songs

The best wedding songs from rock's first classic era

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Wedding songs are timeless, and this list of the Top 10 most popular and enduring songs fron the 50s, 60s, and 70s proves it -- covering oldies that are always popular at the reception and songs about marriage itself. Click the song title to hear a clip of the tune in question, and buy it right here through About.com, or get them all and assemble a list of golden hits that any newly-wed couple can enjoy!

1. "Always and Forever," Heatwave

Even the most lenient rock scholar would hesitate before calling this 1976 R&B epic a true "oldie." But it breathes and moves with a very old-fashioned kind of soul; listen close and you can practically hear the ghosts of Motown and doo-wop in the voices. Besides, this is one of the most touching and honest pledges of fidelity ever to hit the Top 40, which may be why this song holds the top spot as the most requested wedding song of recent years. It takes a heart of stone to resist it.
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2. "We've Only Just Begun," The Carpenters

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Before "Always and Forever" claimed the title, this groovy ballad from 1970 was the standard song of choice with which to celebrate nuptials. It's easy to see why: Karen Carpenter's voice remains a natural wonder in itself, and the sentiment is (literally) tailor-made for the ceremony, having been penned by Paul Williams for a commercial featuring newlyweds. It's practically a blueprint for a happy marriage: "talking it over, just the two of us, working together day by day... together." Top that, Dr. Phil.
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3. "To the Aisle," The Five Satins

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This 1957 vocal group classic isn't used very often in wedding ceremonies -- it was never even that big of a pop hit -- but it should be, encapsulating as it does the entire history of a generic romance in two minutes and forty-one seconds. There's the meeting, the initial conversation, the falling in love, and the proposal. Yeah, life is often much more complicated than this, but isn't love a simple emotion, when you think about it? A must for doo-wop fans of any age or filing status.
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4. "Chapel of Love," The Dixie Cups

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A perennial favorite at weddings, and how could it not be? Any song which starts with three girls singing "Going to the chapel and we're gonna get married" a capella is bound to be a hit, and you can bet the folks behind this 1964 hit knew it. This girl-group classic, like many others, has a singsongish, almost childlike quality to it... it's easy to see little girls using this as the background for their future wedding fantasies. Which may be part of its charm. Circle of life and all that.
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5. "At Last," Etta James

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Most folks agree that the wedding ceremony is more important to the female than the male of the species, so it's no surprise that Etta's 1961 hit is still a favorite at modern nuptials. This slow ballad is one long, sexy sigh of relief, the sound of a woman who's been searching for a long, long time and has been rewarded in spades. Who can't hope to relate to that? Of course, Etta could make the phone book sound this way, but the lyrics are up to the task, too. "Here we are in heaven." Indeed.
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6. "A Lover's Concerto," The Toys

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Classical music is a standard at weddings, probably because it represents the sort of beauty that everyone present can get into. Which also explains why this girl-group hit from 1965 is also a big hit at the ceremony, based as it is on the melody of Bach's Minuet in G. It's certainly not the first or last pop hit to make use of public domain material like this, but it may be the most beatific. (If you don't care about all that, just remember that this is the "how gentle is the rain" song.)
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7. "When a Man Loves a Woman," Percy Sledge

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Yes, Percy's repertoire is usually all about love gone sadly, tragically wrong, and this song is no exception -- he came up with the melody after a particularly painful breakup, after all. But its existential lyrical quality (and, no doubt, its sweet deep-soul churchiness) have endeared it to generations of lovers, and it fits the occasion perfectly when you look at it as a laundry list of devotion. The question this song asks: how far are you willing to go for love?
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8. "Unchained Melody," The Righteous Brothers

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We can probably thank the hit movie Ghost for elevating this song's popularity up to the status of their biggest hit, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." No matter. The faux brothers' very real blend of voices define blue-eyed soul, and since no one would ever play that other song at a wedding, this one gets the nod. It unfolds beautifully, slowly, like a flower opening, and then soars to Spectoresque heights of operatic ecstasy. Would that all relationships worked like this song does.
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9. "Cherish," The Association

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This classic from the mid-Sixties' greatest purveyor of romantic pop vocalese is actually about a man yearning for a woman he can't possibly have, but never mind. The song, like so many from the Assocation's greatest period, floats on clouds of romance so heavenly that the mere act of being in love starts to seem like a noble gesture, unrequited or otherwise. How can someone possibly cherish another person who doesn't love them, some of you might ask? But it happens. Every day.
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10. "The Way You Look Tonight," Frank Sinatra

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A verbal, musical snapshot of the wedding itself, if you apply it that way... this pop standard captures a moment for further reflection. It's also fantastically detailed and elegant, just like a wedding should be, pointing out "that laugh that wrinkles your nose" and how it "touches my foolish heart." It works just as well for men, however, and not just because Frank is singing it: only the male would be happy about how the female tears his fear apart. Fear of commitment? Depends on the man.
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