The 20 Best '80s Songs to Blast at Your Wedding
Big hair, excessive outfits, nonstop dancing, showy makeup…were the '80s just one big wedding? Maybe not, but they sure knew how to make a perfect song (or hundreds) to light up just about every wedding dance floor, from chic black-tie ballroom affairs to farmhouse unions and just about every wedding style in between. It's a fact: Wedding guests just can't resist the siren song of synth when they're a champagne or two deep. So whether you're a true '80s baby and want to strut down the aisle to Billy Idol, or you're just scheming on irresistible wedding songs to get that dance floor packed once dinner wraps, submit this exhaustive list of processional songs, cocktail hour jams and reception bops to your wedding DJ or bandleader, ASAP. Extra points if that bandleader turns out to be Adam Sandler.
"Like a Prayer," Madonna
Lyrics you'll love: "Life is a mystery/Everyone must stand alone/I hear you call my name/And it feels like home"
These lyrics are the very first bars of this indispensable Madonna hit, cueing the true '80s aficionados at your wedding that A Big Song is about to drop and it's time to crush that bacon-wrapped date and get the heck onto the dance floor immediately. The lyrics also make amazing vows, if you forgot to write those.
"I Wanna Dance with Somebody," Whitney Houston
Lyrics you'll love: "I need a man who'll take a chance/On a love that burns hot enough to last/So when the night falls/My lonely heart calls/Oh, I wanna dance with somebody"
You want your wedding guests to dance at all, and your wedding guests wanna dance with somebody. This banger is basically a call to arms. And it's so relatable: Who doesn't want a love that burns hot enough to last? (At least until the after party when the cheeseburgers and fries arrive, and you won't need love anymore.)
"Time After Time," Cyndi Lauper
Lyrics you'll love: "If you're lost you can look and you will find me/Time after time/If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting/Time after time"
This go-to has all the trappings of an '80s wedding song—the sweeping horns, haunting Cyndi Lauper vocals and over-the-top dramatic lyrics—but at a slower tempo for romantic dance floor swaying or, dare we suggest, and truly iconic ceremony processional that'll get the whole crowd like, "Did they just do that?" Oh, yeah, and it's about lifelong commitment. Topical!
"Endless Love," Lionel Richie feat. Diana Ross
Lyrics you'll love: "Two hearts/Two hearts that beat as one/Our lives have just begun"
Go ahead, be a fool for this A-list love song with Hallmark-card lyrics and the heart-melting stylings of two of the '80s' most epic musical icons. This song was basically written to be a first dance at your wedding. Yes, yours. Specifically yours. Your lives have just begun!
"Walk Like an Egyptian," The Bangles
Lyrics you'll love: "Slide your feet up the street, bend your back/Shift your arm then you pull it back/Life is hard you know (oh whey oh)/So strike a pose on a Cadillac"
This perfect '80s hit is especially near and dear to my heart, as it was my dad's number-one request from my DJ at my very own wedding reception in 2016. I believe he requested it no fewer than one dozen times, and when it finally came on, Dad dragged the whole family onto the dance floor (even shy mother and "I don't dance" brother) and we all had a moment of goofiness together. I'm not sure if this song has that effect on all dads, but it's worth a try.
"Dancing with Myself," Billy Idol
Lyrics you'll love: "So let's sink another drink/'Cause it'll give me time to think/If I had the chance I'd ask the world to dance/And I'd be dancing with myself, oh-oh"
So, yes, Billy Idol wrote a song called "White Wedding". And yes you should play it at your wedding, of course. But this Billy Idol classic also deserves the spotlight. It's a vibe! Everyone knows the words! And it's based on actual events—who among us has not suddenly found ourselves dancing with ourselves at a wedding when our bestie/date suddenly departed to chase a tray of mini tacos?
"I'm Coming Out," Diana Ross
Lyrics you'll love: "The time has come for me/To break out of this shell/I have to shout/That I am coming out"
Paging all shy wedding guests, please report to the dance floor immediately and live vicariously through Ms. Ross's upbeat ode to getting over thyself and simply embracing the real you. Shoes are definitely optional for this one.
"Livin' on a Prayer," Bon Jovi
Lyrics you'll love: "She says, we've got to hold on to what we've got/It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not/We've got each other and that's a lot for love/We'll give it a shot"
If you've ever wanted to know what it sounds like for every single person you like on the planet to scream-sing a song in perfect, Prosecco-fueled harmony, look no further than this '80s hymn. Everyone knows the words—and we could use a little reminder that we've got each other, and that's a lot.
"Let's Dance," David Bowie
Lyrics you'll love: "If you say run/I'll run with you/And if you say hide/We'll hide/Because my love for you/Would break my heart in two/If you should fall into my arms/And tremble like a flower"
This song works hard, like so many Bowie hits do. One, it literally rallies partygoers to do the thing every newlywed couple wants most: Swarm the dance floor and crank up those party vibes! Two, it's actually so romantic? So if you wanted to use it as a badass recessional song to debut yourselves as a formally married but still cool couple to the world for the first time, well, we say, that'd be an extremely rock and roll decision.
"Part-Time Lover," Stevie Wonder
Lyrics you'll love: "We are undercover passion on the run/Chasing love up against the sun/We are strangers by day, lovers by night/Knowing it's so wrong, but feeling so right"
Regardless of the fact that people getting married are the opposite of part-time lovers, this song slaps for a wedding (like all of the Stevie Wonder hits do). And if you want to really confuse people, like your busybody Aunt Janine, go ahead and make it your first dance song. Do it. We dare ya.
"Take on Me," A-Ha
Lyrics you'll love: "Oh the things that you say/Is it live or/Just to play my worries away/You're all the things I've got to remember/You're shying away/I'll be coming for you anyway"
The band is called A-Ha because that's what they all said when they realized they'd written the most divine '80s song ever created. If there is only one '80s hit you play at your wedding, make this it: The synths, the fact that it's somehow on the soundtrack of the best '80s movies, the chorus that everyone somehow knows, even your flower girl. Also it'd make an excellent processional song, because it's kind of like, a challenge to your future spouse.
"Fight For Your Right (to Party)," Beastie Boys
Lyrics you'll love: "You wake up late for school, man you don't want to go /You ask your mom, please? but she still says, no / You missed two classes, and no homework / But your teacher preaches class like you're some kind of jerk"
In the case of your wedding, you don't have to fight your mom about school for your right to party, but you do have to do a ton of planning, spend a decent chunk of change, possibly cry, and definitely complete some legal paperwork for your right to finally party at the reception. And, yeah, maybe tussle with your mother-in-law once or ten times. But once you do, and this rallying cry rips through the reception hall, you'll know it's finally time to let loose.
"Heaven," Bryan Adams
Lyrics you'll love: "Baby you're all that I want/When you're lyin' here in my arms/I'm findin' it hard to believe/We're in heaven"
If you were getting married in the 1980s, this would be your first dance song unironically. And since the 2020s are essentially the 1980s of the 2000s, there's no reason for this not to be your first dance song. It's about preserving culture.
"(I've Had) The Time of My Life," Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
Lyrics you'll love: "I've been waiting for so long / Now I've finally found someone to stand by me / We saw the writing on the wall / And we felt this magical fantasy"
This is your sign to host your wedding at a family summer camp in the Catskills! Even if you don't, though, you can make it the most memorable night ever by blasting this track from the most memorable movie ever as your last dance. And, yes, you are required by law to attempt the lift. Good luck and be brave.
"Karma Chameleon," Culture Club
Lyrics you'll love: "Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon/You come and go, you come and go/Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams/Red, gold and green, red, gold and green"
If you can't get Boy George to officiate your wedding, you might as well play some of his band's best songs as tribute. Karma Chameleon is the quintessential 80s choice, but "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" and/or "I'll Tumble For Ya" are also equally deserving of that coveted mid-reception spot on your Spotify wedding playlist. It's happy, strange, beautiful, sometimes-entirely-devoid-of-any-meaning-at-all music, and for those reasons, it's exactly what belongs at a wedding.
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," Cyndi Lauper
Lyrics you'll love: "Some boys take a beautiful girl / And hide her away from the rest o' the world / I wanna be the one to walk in the sun / Oh girls, they wanna have fun"
Hey girl, this is what your DJ needs to play when it's time to toss that bouquet. I don't make the rules, I just enforce them. (Cyndi Lauper makes the rules.) Alternatively, if you're skipping the bouquet toss, this could be the song you play for that ladies-only-on-the-dance-floor moment you've been dreaming of since you started planning this shindig. As for the guys, well, they can dance to the He-Man theme song in the garage, or whatever.
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," Wham
Lyrics you'll love: "You put the boom-boom into my heart / You send my soul sky-high / When your lovin' starts / Jitterbug into my brain / Goes a bang-bang-bang / 'Til my feet do the same"
A wedding truly reaches its apex of greatness when a song comes on that gets even the elders in attendance out of their seats and somehow dancing up a storm like they're 22 again. And this song, with the giddy stylings of George Michael and saccharine-sweet lyrics, will absolutely do the trick. It also doubles as great marriage advice: Neither partner should ever consider leaving the house without waking the other up and saying, "I'm leaving the house."
"Pour Some Sugar on Me," Def Leppard
Lyrics you'll love: "Love is like a bomb, baby, c'mon get it on/Livin' like a lover with a radar phone/Lookin' like a tramp, like a video vamp/Demolition woman, can I be your man? "
Hear me out: What if this was the song you played while walking back up the aisle after your wedding ceremony wrapped? The juxtaposition of a beautiful, sacred moment sealing in a lifetime of love and commitment with an extremely fun and sexy song featuring the lyrics "hot, sticky and sweet" just might be theatrical enough to snag you and your new spouse a Tony. Promise me you'll think about it.
"What's Love Got to Do With it," Tina Turner
Lyrics you'll love: "It may seem to you that I'm acting confused/When you're close to me
If I tend to look dazed, I've read it someplace/I've got cause to be/There's a name for it/There's a phrase that fits/But whatever the reason, you do it for me"
Everything, Tina! Love has everything to do with it! This is a wedding, after all.
"The Power of Love," Huey Lewis and the News
Lyrics you'll love: "They say that all in love is fair, yeah but you don't care/But you know what to do when it gets hold of you/And with a little help from above/You'll feel the power of love"
When the big finale rolls around and your venue is about to kick you out, there's no better bop than this one to wrap things up with a feel-good, we're-all-in-this-together, we-did-the-dang-thing vibe. After all, 'tis the power of love, not money, fame or credit cards, that brought you all here, enabling this bottomless champagne and mashed potato bar bacchanalian bonanza of a day that you'll never, ever forget. (Although a credit card will be helpful to close out all those contracts, so don't forget to bring one, or the DJ might not stick around long enough to play "Power of Love.")