Home / Culture / Flashback Friday: Weddings Are For Memories

Flashback Friday: Weddings Are For Memories


Its June, the beginning of wedding season. I celebrated my second wedding anniversary this Tuesday and we’re in the States for another friend’s wedding this weekend. We’re running out of unmarried friends, so this is the only wedding we have this year, but we’ll still be wishing many others a happy anniversary in the next few months.

This is a season of memories. Bridal traditions often involve honoring a past family member’s marriage. Some of my friends had the bridal photographs of their parents and grandparents set up at the card table for their wedding. Jewish friends of mine carried heirlooms that their grandparents had fled Europe with. My mother offered to give me her wedding dress, but my parents divorced after I graduated college and my memories of their marriage are bad ones so I did everything I could to erase them from my own wedding. I wore my great-grandmother’s cameo as a necklace, given to me by my beloved grandmother whose marriage I idolized.

During the ceremony itself, you’re also conscious of making memories for your family. We want to remember the little details so that we can pass them on to our children on the day of their marriage. We also want to remember sharing the happy day with people we know might not be here for much longer. A number of our friends lost parents and grandparents not long after our weddings. Some friends lost a parents a few years before their wedding, and those memories play a precious role throughout the day.

With that in mind, let me share with you a few musical memories from our O Brother Where Art Thou inspired wedding. We had limited funds for a DJ, so we chose all the music ourselves and hooked up the playlist to some speakers while our theater director friend played emcee. Anything that could be done DIY, was.

The Hymnal

My uncle is an Episcopalian minister and we asked him to perform the marriage ceremony. He heard us playing Johnny Cash while people were arriving and decided that since we had neglected to put any music into the ceremony he was just going to add some. Everyone stood up and we all sang “Ring of Fire” together.

Entrance of the Bridal Party

The song played when the bridal party enters the reception site is a fairly new tradition. Our whole wedding involved homages to our favorite movies. I had to fit The Good The Bad And The Ugly in there somewhere for my husband. This seemed like the best spot.

The First Dance

The song didn’t mean so much to “us” as it did to me. I love romantic songs, but I didn’t want something overly sentimental. Watching my parent’s marriage disintegrate over a 25 year period did that. “Mine Is Yours” is all about the pitfalls of life and staying together through the bad times. And also an announcement of how much student debt I had and hahahaha its yours now. Sucker.

Father Daughter Dance

I chose this one for my dad. He of course broke down in tears for the third or fourth time that day.

The Surprise Serenade

Our friends are so wonderful they surprised us with an acapella version of this old Irish tune. Matt and I would be moving to the UK two and a half months after the wedding, so the whole event also functioned as a goodbye party. We were absolutely touched.

The Party Song

We really don’t need to get into what this movie meant to me as a kid, or what David Bowie means to me. I had very few childhood fantasies about what my wedding would be like. Playing this song felt like I was connecting to that kid I used to be.


In the comments, feel free to share music that you remember from precious moments at your wedding or weddings you’ve been a part of!

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  • Srsly Dad Y

    Nice selections.* Had I thought about it, I would have insisted that our first dance be to “This Must Be the Place,” which was still only a few years old back then.

    * [If I had access to the codes, I would have started with “What is this girly bullshit” in crossout script]

  • vic rattlehead


    Many of my wedding planning memories are unpleasant. Then again, we got married two weeks after taking the bar (we both passed).

  • egg

    Congratulations on number 2! My wife and I are approaching our 38th. The enduring memories from our wedding are definitely driven by the music. We hired the house band from the Palomino club in North Hollywood, CA (now just a memory). Country and Western and fabulous musicians. They learned Scottish reels (my side) and Jewish folk songs (my wife’s side) and their fiddlin and their fiddler were the highlight. He played “Wait til You See Her” from Rodgers and Hart instead of the traditional processional. Our guests (who are still alive) all seem to remember the playlist. The musicians had a great time so the everyone else did. Good choices on your part as well!

    • Anna in PDX

      Love the idea of live music, that sounds like it was a really good time.

    • Cool Bev

      We got a roving fiddler for our reception. It was at my parents’ house, supposed to be outside but it rained. We decided to splash out $1000 bucks, mostly for Freixenet, spiral cut ham, and the fiddler. He played some jigs, reels, and klezmer tunes. Just wandered around or hung out on the porch playing for whoever wanted to listen or dance.

      It was my idea, and a great one.

  • Steve LaBonne

    My wife and I will celebrate our 5th anniversary in October. We got hitched in the exquisite Tiffany-decorated Wade Chapel in Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery. It’s always fun to tell people we were married in a cemetery!

  • N__B

    the beginning of wedding season.

    Hey, I should put on wedding camo and go bag a few!

  • cpinva

    congratulations to the two of you. my wife and I were married for 30 years, before she passed away in March, together for 35 (hey, i’m slow on commitment, what can I say?). I remember being told, by several people, how hard marriage is, and that you have to work at it, to make it successful. I also remember thinking that if it’s that hard, maybe there’s a problem to begin with, but that’s just my accountant side speaking. fortunately, we didn’t get the official “How to do Marriage” manual, and just stumbled along, winging it as we went. apparently, we did something right (or were too dumb to realize we were doing it wrong), raised two decent human beings, and were looking forward to being empty nesters, with the time and money to do what we wanted again. alas, twas not to be so.

    I honestly don’t remember any of the music played at the wedding or reception, except the classic wedding stuff. ok, I was kind of toasted at the time, but still……………! enjoy your young married life, have fun with each other, make memories together that you can both smile about, across a room, and wordlessly know exactly what your spouse is thinking. that’s the best part, children (assuming that’s a desire) and responsibilities will come soon enough.

    Again, congrats to both of you, and a hope for many happy years ahead.

    • JustRuss

      Yeah, I’m not sure what “work at it” means in the context of marriage. Just ended mine after 20 years, and while the last few years sure felt like work, it didn’t feel very productive. At some point you quit banging your head on the wall and accept that maybe you’ve both changed and just don’t belong together anymore. I’m glad that wasn’t the case for you.

      Congratulations to Christa, may you have many happy years together, and the wisdom and courage to bail if you do not. Surprisingly I don’t get asked to make toasts at many weddings.

      • Srsly Dad Y

        I’ll raise a glass with you, Russ. This is a wonky analogy, but hey, it’s LGM. You know those studies of the gender salary gap that show that if you control for this, this, and this other thing, the gap mostly goes away? Matt Yglesias and others make the point that, sure, if you control for everything that makes women different from men, then women don’t look much different from men. Big surprise. At some point I concluded something similar about our marriage: Sure, if we both *worked hard* on this, this, this, and this, maybe we could “fix” things, but the core relationship would still be one that required hard work. Still different from a “happy marriage.” And for 30 or 40 more years? Check, please.

        • Being a member of a new family is an adjustment. My in laws are easy, but my parents are not. So there’s work on my husband’s part for putting up with them.

          But yeah, the overseas move was work for sure. Very new, very stressful, but it passed. Oh and also moments where I’ve been violently ill with gastritis. Different kind of work.

          • Srsly Dad Y

            As long as it’s the two of you working together on external things (or internal in the case of GI infections, but you know what I mean), you’ll be fine. My wife and I worked great as a team on child rearing and projects. It gets harder when it turns into working on the relationship itself.

            • JustRuss

              This. Child rearing went fine, dealing with our assorted challenging relatives, not a problem. But when you don’t really enjoy each others’ company–we actually do much of the time, but just not enough of the time–well…

    • Hogan

      I remember being told, by several people, how hard marriage is, and that you have to work at it, to make it successful.

      My older sister told me that was bullshit, when I was old enough to appreciate what she was saying and young enough to make good use of it.

    • Steve LaBonne

      I’m so sorry that you didn’t get to enjoy the empty-nest stage together. Having finally found the right person on my second try pretty late in life, the thought of losing her is beyond all things terrible to me.

    • Anna in PDX

      Condolences on the passing of your wife.

    • CP

      I remember being told, by several people, how hard marriage is, and that you have to work at it, to make it successful. I also remember thinking that if it’s that hard, maybe there’s a problem to begin with, but that’s just my accountant side speaking.

      My experience of relationships, let alone marriage, is vanishingly small, but I always kind of felt “yeah, of all the things in the world, this should not feel like a chore, and if it does, maybe it’s being done wrong/it’s not for me.” Life has no shortage of actual chores it’ll throw at you over the years.

      • Steve LaBonne

        It didn’t really feel hard to me most of the time in my first marriage until near the end, even though we ultimately proved unsuited to each other in multiple ways. And it doesn’t feel the slightest bit hard in my current marriage. But then, we were exceptionally lucky to find each other- we’re so similar in temperament and values that we were completing each other’s sentences by the second date.

      • Pete

        I’m so sorry CP. Glad you have the memories.

        • CP

          Whoa, wait, what? I assume that was meant for cpinva, in which case I join in the sentiment. It doesn’t apply to me…

    • egg

      How do you sum up a 40 year or more (or in my case 38 years) marriage in a few words? Well, you can’t. But I’ll provide a couple of aphorisms courtesy of my dear departed in-laws.

      At their 40th anniversary, they had tee shirts printed with the message: “We Just Never said the Hell with It”.

      And at my mother-in-laws memorial, my father in law said “we had a 55 year conversation.”

      Like all aphorisms they are always true some of the time. So, if it ain’t working get the hell out before it becomes hell. (gee another one). My experience was my experience, so the above makes sense for me. But, damn, it sure isn’t a prescription.

    • waspuppet

      First, I’m sorry for your loss.

      Second, yeah — marriage or any long-term romantic thing means you sometimes don’t get to do exactly what pop into your head to do at any given moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s work. I find that term really annoying.

      As for music, “True Love Travels on a Gravel Road” (the O.V. Wright version), “A Lover’s Concerto” and The Chills’ “Heavenly Pop Hit” were the musical highlights of my second wedding. I’m upset with myself that I forgot about Ron Sexsmith’s “Not About to Lose,” which is exactly about picking yourself up and giving your heart again when you’ve been burned.

  • janitor_of_lunacy

    We came in singing “Good Morrow, Good Lover” from Iolanthe, and later in the ceremony we had all the guests join us in “If you’re happy and you know it”.

  • Schadenboner

    Our recessional was “You’ve got a friend in me”.

    • Pat

      Ours was “Ode to Joy.”

      • bondgirl

        Ours was some kick-ass second-line New Orleans jazz, played by a bunch of our friends from our liberal arts college with a fantastic music department. 25 years later, that’s what our wedding guests still reminisce about, even though our unofficial ceremony theme was “more music, less talk” and included lots of more traditional stuff.

        A good friend recessed to her husband’s rock band playing “The end of the world (as we know it)” – pretty wonderful!

  • D.N. Nation

    Celebrated our 10th anniversary a week ago. Our first dance back then was to Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #1”:

    And if the snow buries my…
    My neighborhood

    And if my parents are crying,
    Then I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours
    Yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours

    You climb out the chimney
    And meet me in the middle
    The middle of the town
    And since there’s no one else around,
    We let our hair grow long, and forget all we used to know
    Then our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow

    You change all the lead sleeping in my head
    As the day grows dim, I hear you sing a golden hymn…

    Then, we tried to name our babies
    But we forgot all the names that,
    The names we used to know
    But sometimes,
    We remember our bedrooms
    And our parent’s bedrooms
    And the bedrooms of our friends
    Then we think of our parents…
    Well, whatever happened to them?!

    You change all the lead sleeping in my head to gold
    As the day grows dim, I hear you sing a golden hymn
    It’s the song I’ve been trying to sing…

    Purify the colors, purify my mind
    Purify the colors, purify my mind
    And spread the ashes of the colors over this heart of mine!

  • Anna in PDX

    I just got married in April. It was both of our second marriage. My husband’s friend in the Universal Life Church did the ceremony and our sons witnessed. Then, we had a tiny little reception on May 8, which was the 8th anniversary of our getting together, in our house and we didn’t really have music. My Sufi guide came down from Seattle and did a service which everyone enjoyed, my son read a poem by Rumi, and Dylan Thomas’ And death shall have no dominion, and I played some songs on my harp.

  • wjts

    Strictly in the interest of fidelity to the source material, I hope the entrance of the bridal party was preceded by Clint Eastwood firing a cannon at them.

    • Ugh wedding canons are so much more expensive than they used to be

      • Srsly Dad Y

        I hear they have them at Taco Bell.

      • wjts

        And, as suggested by comments below, everybody uses Pachelbel’s Cannon which, in addition to being massively overfired, were so notoriously difficult to aim accurately that they probably cost the French the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

  • Denverite

    Been married 16 years this summer. My favorite wedding memory is how the place we got married said to expect a bar bill about 50% of the cost of the food, and it ended up being 150% of the cost of the food. Our friends drink a lot.

    Oooh, not my wedding, but the same place several years later. It was a proper Polish wedding (i.e., the bride’s parents didn’t even speak English). Lots and lots of vodka. Soooooo much vodka. I remember when I left, in the men’s bathroom, three of the five men’s urinals were filled with vomit, and there were multiple people passed out in the corners.

    • Pat

      This year will be our 26th. It’s nice having (some) kids back this summer, but that empty nest is pretty spacious…

      • Denverite

        We have a good while (a decade or so) before we have that “problem.” The good news is that we timed it so that when the last of ours leave for college, the house will be paid off, which should give us a lot of flexibility.

        • When me and my friends went off for college, a bunch of our parents got puppies. And then two years later, everyone’s parents bought themselves a Wii for Christmas. It was like they were taunting us.

          • Denverite

            I mentioned yesterday on another thread, but when my parents’ last kid left the house, they decided to downsize from their bog-standard surburbanish subdivision house. But although they wanted a smaller house, they wanted to trade up to a nicer neighborhood. The only problem was that once they saw how much smaller houses in the nicer neighborhood cost, they figured for that much money, they should get a bigger house — so they moved into a McMansion that was about 2.5 times bigger than the house they were “downsizing” from.

            (Then, about five years ago, they got tired of the McMansion lifestyle, so they decided to “invest” by tearing down an old house and building a newer and bigger one in an even nicer part of town. So in the past 15 years or so, they’ve gone from maybe an 1800 square foot house for a family of five to a 7500 square foot house for a older married couple [albeit with 10 grandkids].)

            • CP

              Well, at least there’s room for family reunions.

      • njorl

        July will be my 26th too – 26A, anyway. We had a marriage first, then a wedding 11 months later.
        Damn, I forgot all about 25B, but so did my wife, so I’m OK.

  • CP

    Great choice on the Enio Morricone.

    And congratulations!

  • Peterr

    I’ve been a pastor for nigh on 30 years, and so I have a lot of wedding memories.

    With respect to music, I will never forget the couple that came into my office with a large notebook, to talk about the music. Turn past the tabs about the dress, the tuxes, the invitations . . . ah, here it is: music!

    Couple: For the preservice music, here’s a list of what we’d like played. Some will be a string quartet, and others for the organ. (hands me the list)

    Me: Uh, what’s this last one?

    Couple: You don’t know the Taco Bell Cannon?

    Me: I’m pretty musical, but that’s not one I’m familiar with. How does it go?

    Couple starts to give me the melody: la la la LA la la LA la la LA LA LA la la la . . .

    I try not to laugh. I fail badly.

    Couple (smiling, but confused): What? What’s so funny?

    I continue failing not to laugh for a least a minute, then pull it together enough to answer.

    Me: That’s not the Taco Bell Cannon. It’s Pachebel’s Canon.

    Months later, when the wedding came around, the smile on the bride’s face was amazing as she came down the aisle to that music. Also, she did not fail at trying not to laugh. At least until after the service.

    • Hogan

      I’d have gone with Bach’s Taquito and Feud in D minor.

    • wjts
    • Pete

      Oh, funny!

  • Fats Durston

    Vetoed for music during the ceremony (almost 16 years ago), but got the majority of input at the reception.

    Best photo from the night was my 58-year-old dad dancing to Parliament’s “Flashlight.” Beloved of me–but apparently no one else–G.U.R.U.’s “When You’re Near.”

  • rlc

    We got married by a shyster at the Mesa Wedding Chapel. The witness was a friend who flew in to spend Christmas with us. The day after Christmas we sez, you wanna go watch us get married? She said yes! Immediately after the vows, his buddy sidled up and helpfully advised me that “it’s traditional to tip the pastor”. The “pastor” was fumbling with a cassette tape deck(!), with the levers, and finally got a tinny version of the Wedding March going. They hustled us out the door as the next wedding party was waiting. 15 minutes, $100, tip included. The flowers were plastic. We really enjoyed it. Perfect day. We’re fans of schlock.

    My vexed MIL put on a surprise reception the next August, 2000 miles away when we visited. It was *supposed* to be a weekend outing at long time family friend’s big country spread. She’s smart though, didn’t give me a heads up. Must have been 30 of our closest family and friends. I count my MIL as one of my best friends, really enjoy talking to her.

    That was 31 years ago. 37 years all in.

    The Work, such as it is, kids, is basically learning to put up with “stuff”. There are all kinds of “stuff”. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Good luck!

    • Steve LaBonne
      • rlc

        Perfect, thank you. I don’t pay much attention to Dan Savage but whenever the opportunity happens, he seems like a very wise person.

  • njorl

    A buddy of mine had an interesting entrance to his wedding reception.

    It was held in a hotel ballroom. The entry had 3 steps down to a dance floor. They were doing the introduction of the parents of the bride and groom to some typical wedding song schmaltz, but when they got to the groom, they faded it out and replaced it with “Panama”.
    The groom ran in at full speed, leapt off the top step, landed on his knees, and went sliding across the dance floor while spinning around.

    I’ve never been a big Van Halen fan but since then I’ve always enjoyed “Panama”.

  • Pete

    Thanks for this post. Brought back good memories. Reading your post, I realized that I couldn’t quite remember the First Dance song at my (second) wedding, even though I selected it. I’m glad to have thought a bit, recalled and revisited it.

    The song was Mary Chapin Carpenter’s version of “Grow Old With Me.”


    Talk about sentimental music… I also watched my parents’ marriage disintegrate over the course of 20+ difficult years. If anything, that drove me towards more sentimentality, not less. (But didn’t teach me much about relationship skills.)

    Having been engaged three times, and married twice, I have a mixed record at best. But this marriage has just passed 16 years, and we’re both fighting hard to keep it together. Maybe someday it will be easy, but its still worthwhile.

  • For one of our friend’s weddings When it came time for the cake, they smashed the first slice into their own faces, perfectly timed together. Their daughter was the flower girl at our wedding.

    At another wedding, Matt and I took silly photos in a homemade photo booth. One of those photos he keeps in his wallet.

    And then at another wedding, when it came time to toss the garter, our friend went under his wife’s dress while a song from Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom played.

    Great people.

  • Moravagine

    Episcopal ministers are the best.

    I insisted that our dance be to Patti Smith’s “My Madrigal” because goddammit Patti Smith.

    Congratulations on so far remaining happy in marriage.

  • rcshowman

    My mother-son dance was to “Mama Tried.” Mom was a bit tipsy because Dad made her drink a couple glasses of wine so she’d stop being mad at my almost-wife for deciding she didn’t want candy dishes on the dinner tables. Mom laughed and laughed as we barely danced because both her knees were shot. Sometimes inspiration really hits with song selection.

  • epidemiologist

    Congratulations! We just celebrated 1 year last month. I am a little sad to be coming to the end of my friends’ weddings for a while too. We were among the last and although I felt happy for them and had fun, I understood weddings a lot better after my own. I wish I could go back and attend them without the thought of having to be a bride soon always on my mind.

    We did the whole thing at our favorite restaurant, and brought in a Spotify playlist on my partner’s tablet. We were going through a serious jazz and soul phase at the time and I still love all the music. It’s been nice to have it all together to listen to on our anniversary or when we wrote thank you cards.

  • NewishLawyer

    Apparently in Buddhism if a person’s parent dies after an engagement but before a wedding, you need to get married within three months or wait three years. I’m not certain of the details but my girlfriend and I were just at a wedding a few weeks ago where this thing happened. The couple got engaged and then a parent died suddenly of late detected cancer.

    Lots of stuff was done quickly and my girlfriend was in charge of putting together the dance playlist. I was told my choices weren’t dancey enough much of the time and I had on too much Magnetic Fields.

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