Forget the usual suspects: alternative wedding songs for the bride less ordinary

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Alice Vincent
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Getting engaged is a real life milestone. The problem is, when you're planning your wedding, how do you make sure that your special day doesn't look like everyone else's? From pink peonies to broderie anglaise and readings from Winnie The Pooh, it's easy to fall into the trap of the basic, cookie-cutter image. But one easy way to stand out is to adapt that wedding playlist. Goodbye Snow Patrol, hello new wave floor-fillers. Here, Telegraph music journalist, Alice Vincent, lists her ultimate alternative wedding playlist - so you can swap out cliché with classic. For those looking for something a little different - you've come to the right place...

If you’re getting married, chances are you will have experienced The Summer.

Your friends, your cousins, someone your partner went to university with several years ago and you’ve never met, all tie the knot in the space of four months. It’s a beautiful time: one of nude heels, re-usable clutch bags and confetti. By the end of it, the strains of Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, Bruno Mars’ Marry You or, heaven forbid, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran will be infiltrating your dreams.

So now it’s your turn to walk the aisle. And while you may have the perfect Pinterest board of cute table settings and an Instagram florist on speed-dial, the real way to imprint your big day in the minds of your guests is with the music.

Because while Spotify’s list of the Most Popular Wedding Songs may suggest otherwise, there are so many romantic, beautiful and toe-tapping bits of music out there for every part of your day. Why would you want John Legend to soundtrack your first dance as a married couple when you could chose David Bowie?

Here’s a fool-proof guide to 11 alternative wedding songs that cover every aspect of a wedding day - from the moment you walk down the aisle, to leaving everyone crying out for another tune on the dancefloor.

To walk down the aisle to

Popular choice: Bridal Chorus, Wagner

Alternative choice: Maps, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Possibly indie’s greatest love song. Ignore the story behind it (Yeah Yeah Yeahs front-woman Karen O wrote it about being separated from her boyfriend on tour, only for him to abandon her on set of the video - they broke weeks later), and appreciate the quiet drama in the song’s simple make-up. Fifteen seconds of high-pitched guitar line is interrupted by colliding drumbeats before O’s featherweight vocals come dancing in.

It’s the perfect musical set-up to get your a̶u̶d̶i̶e̶n̶c̶e̶  congregation ready for your arrival before sending in the bridesmaids. By the time you’ve reached your husband or wife-to-be, the chorus will kick in with the line: “they don’t love you like I love you”. There’s also a glorious strings cover by VSQ, but you’ll need to pack the tissues.

Popular choice: Chorus in D, Pachelbel

Alternative choice: Love on Top, Beyonce

I’m a strong believer that key moments in a woman’s life should be accompanied by music made by women. So who better than Queen Bey? While there are several Beyonce love songs that would fit this purpose, the upbeat, Eighties-inspired Love on Top takes inspiration from singing legends Etta James and Stevie Wonder and perfectly reflects the pure, unfailingly reliable love that’s inspired you to get married in the first place. Make sure you nail your aisle-based swagger before the big day. 

To walk out of the ceremony to

Popular choice: All You Need is Love, The Beatles

Alternative choice: Far Nearer, Jamie XX

Before Jamie XX was headlining festivals and selling out 10,000-capacity venues, he was making sweet little dance songs like this. With its shimmering steel drums and echo-rich vocal samples, XX’s debut solo single gently builds into a truly euphoric celebration of being happy in each other’s company. There may only be eight words in the whole song, but what better way to sum up your new union: “I feel better when I have you near me”. 

Popular choice: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Handel

Alternative choice: Together in Electric Dreams, The Human League

Several good things about this one. Chances are at least three different generations will recognise Philip Oakey and Giogio Moroder’s hit, because it stayed in the charts for 13 weeks in 1984. Secondly, Electric Dreams’ infectious, future-sounding synths start off twinkly and romantic before building into something altogether more rousing - they’ll round off your ceremony with a bang.

Finally, there’s the sentiment - the lyrics basically quote the wedding script: “We'll always be together, however far it seems (love never ends)”. 

For your first dance

Popular choice: All of Me, John Legend

Alternative choice: Praise You, Fatboy Slim

Not only an absolute banger, but a totally endearing one. There are dozens of remixes of Fatboy Slim’s megawatt 1998 single out there, so you can choose as much tempo as you like with Praise You. But at its element, Praise You is an infectious, funky piano house classic with a heart of gold. Any couple that’s getting married will be able to relate to the lyrics about “the hard times and the good”.

If you’re shy about dancing, then it’s an easy one to get your guests to join you after a couple of bars, and if you’re not - well, the video’s dance routine is there for you to copy. 

Popular choice: At Last, Etta James

Alternative choice: In a Sentimental Mood, Sarah Vaughan

If you want something slow and soulful for a first dance but want to steer away from those well-trodden classics, Sarah Vaughan’s recording of Duke Ellington’s jazz composition might be one to go for. In a Sentimental Mood has the lingering sexiness of a hot, summer’s night or a really good first date. Vaughan, one of jazz’s greatest voices, lends her effortlessly sumptuous vocals to the poetic lyrics which share a simple message: I never thought this day would come. 

Popular choice: I’m Yours, Jason Mraz

Alternative choice: Fade Into You, Emmy the Great

In 1993, Fade Into You landed indie rockers Mazzy Star into the US charts for the first (and only) time, but it etched its way into a million teenagers’ hearts. The song has since been used in dozens of TV shows and films, and yet its ode to the kind of all-consuming love for someone else remains as chillingly beautiful even now. Emmy the Great’s cover, released as a bonus track in 2012, gives it a modern update - without losing any of that swaying time signature that makes it perfect to slow dance to. 

To get everybody on the dancefloor

Popular choice: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours, Stevie Wonder

Alternative choice: I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Whitney Houston

I challenge you to find somebody who wouldn’t even bob their head to this Whitney classic. Never mind that Houston’s singing about “when loneliness calls”, this Eighties floor-filler works on a number of levels: the recently married, the recently single, the guests hoping for an Andie McDowell-Hugh Grant moment. Once you’ve cut the cake, go and cut some shapes - then throw your bouquet as Houston’s incredible soprano sends itself into a frenzy at the song’s climax. 

To finish off the night

Popular choice: We Are The Champions, Queen

Alternative choice: All My Friends, LCD Soundsystem

At nearly eight minutes long, All My Friends is a clever way to eke the party out for a few moments longer. LCD Soundsystem closed their Glastonbury set on this fan favourite in 2016, and it proved how there is rarely a better way to finish a night than spinning around deliriously in a circle with people you love. The combination of memories of long nights and frenetic piano notes is intoxicating. You will gain points with your music nerd guests with this one, while everyone else will just be grateful to go wild to something that isn’t Queen.

Popular choice: Don’t Stop Believing, Journey

Alternative choice: Heroes, David Bowie

This would also make a sensational first dance song in my book. But a bit of Bowie is never a bad move, and if you must only have just one, make it Heroes. Bowie’s Berlin anthem may have originally been written about an extra-marital affair, but the past 30 years and his gone-too-soon death has transformed it into one of pop’s most heartfelt singalongs. That searing guitar riff is the perfect way to end you and your newly-wed’s day of being King and Queen. 

To dub over your wedding video

Popular choice: Marry You, Bruno Mars

Alternative choice: Sweet Disposition, The Temper Trap

The song that almost made The Temper Trap a one-hit wonder, Sweet Disposition is a gently heart-soaring exploration of love’s simple pleasures. A contemporary dance-inflected pop song, it’s perfectly unobtrusive to soundtrack the most touching moments of your special day, but has the right musical structure to make sure that there’s enough of an emotional heft to leave everyone in happy tears by the time your video’s over.