Most popular wedding songs in the U.S.

  • In this Nov. 18, 2015, file photo, Ed Sheeran performs at the Shrine Auditorium on in Los Angeles. Sheeran's mid-tempo guitar- and piano-fueled "Thinking Out Loud," which won two Grammys, including 2015 song of the year, is a favorite wedding tune for Brides magazine readers. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP, File) Rich Fury

For the Washington Post
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

‘Marry Me” or “Marry You”? “Can’t Stop the Feeling” or “I Gotta Feeling”? “Lucky” or “Get Lucky”? If you’re putting together a wedding playlist, the choices are endless. But if you’d like to know what others across the country are picking, help has arrived. Spotify and the author of its Insights blog, Eliot Van Buskirk, were kind enough to share data with us on all the wedding playlists made by users since the service started in 2008.

Let’s start with the most basic question: Which songs are most frequently included on wedding playlists in the United States?

“Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran; “Marry You” by Bruno Mars; “All of Me” by John Legend; “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars; “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston; “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey; “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé, featuring Jay-Z; “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri; “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz and “Hey Ya!” by OutKast.

Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” beats Bruno Mars’s “Marry You” for the top spot. But if we expand the list from Top 10 to Top 100, Mars surges ahead. While “Thinking Out Loud” is Sheeran’s only hit on the 100 most-played wedding songs, Mars has three more outside the 10, thanks to “Just the Way You Are” (46th overall), “Treasure” (65th) and “Locked Out of Heaven” (89th).

Doc Vincent, a West Virginia-based DJ who has worked at weddings for 28 years, said that when he’s DJ-ing a ceremony, many couples have asked him to play “Marry You” when they’re exiting during the processional.

Different data sources can mean different findings. “Hey Ya!” was actually No. 1 in Walt Hickey’s FiveThirtyEight article last year analyzing 163 reader-submitted wedding playlists.

Modern weddings are partial to modern music, but they don’t completely forget the past. One out of every 13 songs on the top 1,000 wedding hits was performed by one of the following artists: Michael Jackson, Queen, Frank Sinatra, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Elvis, Otis Redding, the Beach Boys or the Beatles.

The list runs the gamut from 1950, when Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” to March of this year, when Ed Sheeran released “Perfect” and “Galway Girl.”

Of all the songs released before this decade, none checks in higher than Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” at No. 5. It’s also the most popular wedding song for Spotify playlists built in D.C.

The lists of top wedding songs in each state tend to look similar. But more informative is which song is the most uniquely popular in each state. In New Hampshire, that is “That’s My Kind of Night” by Luke Bryan.

Some of the top songs by state are hardly surprising. New Jersey weddings feature disproportionate runs of “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. South Carolina girls and guys get married to “Carolina Girls” by General Johnson and the Chairman of the Board. In Texas, they like “She Likes Texas” by the Josh Abbott Band.

In the Northeast, there’s a strong preference for “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Whether Vincent is at home in West Virginia or traveling to Pittsburgh, Baltimore or New York for work, he encounters a couple of the same very popular first-dance selections. ” ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is a really, really big one. Etta James’s ‘At Last’ has popped up quite a few times.” Sure enough, both of those crack the top four songs contained in the most Spotify playlists labeled “First Dance.”

None of this is meant to suggest that anyone should craft a wedding playlist based on the preferences of others. Songs, like weddings, are personal. Hopefully, for those of you soon-to-be-newlyweds engaged in these decisions, this data will provide some ideas for composing your own wedding memories.