U2’s music may seem like an unusual choice for a wedding, but many of their greatest hits have become popular wedding songs over the years.
Although the band isn’t known for writing love songs and the love songs they do write tend to be bittersweet, U2 have written many songs with beautiful melodies and sentimental lyrics, two basic requirements for wedding music.
Whatever category you fall into, here’s a list of U2 songs to choose from for your wedding day:
U2 Prelude Songs:
In a Little While
In a Little While was written and performed by U2 and produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. It was released on U2’s 2000 album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Bono wrote the song about his wife, whom he has been married to for over 30 years, which is why it features romantic lyrics about a longtime love.
In a Little While kicks off with The Edge playing a clean guitar riff that, right off the bat, sounds like it could be an intro cooked up by the house band at Stax Records. The entire rhythm section goes for a soul-influenced sound with Adam Clayton’s syncopated bass line and Larry Mullen’s funky drum beat.
Bono gives an equally soulful performance in the vocals, eschewing straight forward pop melodies and giving more of an emphasis on impassioned, in-the-moment phrasing to the song’s dramatic lyrics.
The First Time
The First Time was written and performed by U2 and produced by Flood. It was released on U2’s 1993 album, Zooropa. The First Time starts with The Edge layering guitars that pulse in and out of each ear in stereo, giving this hypnotic ballad a dream-like atmosphere.
The percussion is turned way down in the mix, with ambient, ethereal keyboards and piano taking over in the latter half of the song. This combined effect of the rhythm section provides a perfect background to Bono’s heartfelt vocal performance. The reoccurring lyric in the chorus, “For the first time, I feel love,” combined with the mellow mood of the song makes it a perfect prelude song.
U2 Processional Songs:
All I Want Is You
All I Want Is You was written and performed by U2 and produced by Jimmy Lovine. It was released on U2’s 1989 album, Rattle and Hum. Bono himself sang this song in 2003 at the wedding of Luciano Pavarotti and Nicolette Montovani during a toast to the newlyweds.
The Edge’s accented, clean rhythm guitar starts off as the only accompaniment to the echoing reverb to Bono’s vocal track on All I Want Is You. The rest of the band enters around a minute in, with The Edge layering a few more guitars on top of keyboards, bass, and drums.
The track builds and crescendos with the addition of a string section arrangement, Bono’s howling vocals, and a guitar solo that very much shows off The Edge’s signature sound. The rest of the track plays out to the end with keyboards, piano, and a pulsating string arrangement.
With or Without You
With or Without You was written and performed by U2 and produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. It was released on U2’s 1987 album, The Joshua Tree.
With or Without You is very much representative of U2’s signature sound: Adam Clayton’s bass line is outlining a basic I-V-vi-IV pop progression, but The Edge is not filling in these chords with guitar strumming. Rather he is relying rather on ambient, layered guitars that imply the chords rather than spelling them outright.
Bono puts on the vocal performance of a lifetime on this track, proving his vocal range with his impressively powerful voice. Despite the fact that the lyrics are bittersweet, With or Without you makes a great processional song due to its beautiful melody and downtempo beat.
U2 Recessional Songs:
Beautiful Day was written and performed by U2 and produced by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite. It was released on U2’s 2000 album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
From the track’s onset Beautiful Day might seem like a ballad, with its gentle sequence of syncopated chords, gently pulsating electronic drum beat, and simple, laid back bass line.
All notions of this song being a ballad are instantly dispelled by the chorus, when suddenly it seems like every track, from the distorted guitar, the layered backing vocals, and the singing from Bono himself explodes into a fiery crescendo.
Although not a love song, Beautiful Day features celebratory lyrics and uptempo beat, which makes it a great choice for a recessional song.
First Dance Songs:
Sweetest Thing was written and performed by U2 and produced by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite. It was originally released as a B-side on the Where the Streets Have No Name single in 1987 but was later rerecorded and released on U2’s 1998 album, The Best of 1980-1990.
Bono wrote the song as an apology to his wife for working in the recording studio on her birthday during the recording of The Joshua Tree.
A syncopated piano track and Bono’s falsetto vocals start off The Sweetest Thing, but soon after the track introduces tender 6ths rising from The Edge’s guitar and Clayton’s thumping bass line, giving the song a sweet, yet, upbeat feel. The harmonized “do’s” in the backing vocals give this track a decidedly pop-y flavor.
Although these are all beautiful songs that would make perfect additions to your wedding, a popular U2 song that is often used in weddings and really shouldn’t be is One.
One sounds like a sentimental song with a unifying message but it is actually about a bitter breakup. Even Bono has stated that he think it’s ridiculous when couples use it in their wedding, which he explained in Neil McCormick’s book U2 By U2:
“The song [One] is a bit twisted, which is why I could never figure out why people want it at their weddings. I have certainly met a hundred people who’ve had it at their weddings. I tell them, ‘Are you mad? It’s about splitting up!’”
If that isn’t reason enough to avoid using One in your wedding, I don’t know what is.
Are you a big U2 fan? U2 fans are fiercely devoted to the band and to their favorite songs so let us know what song you would choose for a wedding by leaving a comment below!
For other modern Irish songs, check out my article on Van Morrison wedding songs.