Big hair, neon clothes…was there any other decade quite like the 1980s? And what’s more, the decade saw fantastic music, from the introduction of dance music and new wave to artists like David Bowie and Madonna.
If you are planning an 80s’ themed wedding, you absolutely must include these hits in your wedding playlist. And, even if you are theming your wedding more traditionally, many of these songs are a sure-fire way to get your friends and family on their feet and flooding the dancefloor.
Ain’t Nobody – Rufus and Chaka Khan
The benefit of playing 1980s’ music is that most if not all of your guests will know the tunes. We’re kicking this list off with a tune that is certainly no exception to that rule.
Chaka Khan was the lead singer of the band Rufus from 1972. She broke out in 1978, releasing her solo hit “I’m Every Woman”. However, she re-joined the group briefly to record this now classic funk and R&B song, “Ain’t Nobody”.
Whether you love the 80s’ style synth or hate it, you cannot deny the lyrics are perfect for a wedding. Ask the DJ to add this one to the playlist.
Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
The 1982 romantic comedy film An Officer and a Gentleman ends with a song that topped the charts in several countries around the world. The film is the story of a pilot who falls for a local girl at his base. The song was written specially for the film even though there was no budget left.
The music producers chose Jennifer Warnes to sing on a track as she had already had several soundtrack hits. Because she was a big fan of the rhythm and blues singer Joe Cocker, she suggested they collaborate. The ballad was very different from Cocker’s usual style, and he received criticism for the collaboration. He originally only agreed to take part in the project because of a small portion of the lyrics.
And, what a good job he agreed! This song fitted the film so well, and would be ideal for your wedding, too.
With Or Without You – U2
Okay, so admittedly the lyrics don’t really fit the mood you are looking for. However, at least it is better than “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from the same album! The Irish rock band released this song in 1987 and it became their most popular single.
U2 started working on “With or Without You” in 1985. However, the band believed the song to be “too sentimental” and wanted to abandon it. But, luckily for us, Bono continued working on it with friend Gavin Friday. After they used The Edge’s new Infinite Guitar to record the backing track, they knew they were on to a winner.
The version they recorded for the BBC in 2017 also included the lines “Love will tear us apart again” from the Joy Division song. While it is a great song, you may only want to play it if you’re a couple into irony!
Endless Love – Lionel Richie and Diana Ross
Everyone needs a tearjerker to play at their wedding, and we have just the song. This 1981 crooner from Lionel Richie and Diana Ross was actually written for a film of the same name. While the movie was nominated for six Golden Raspberries, the song won awards and was nominated for both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. (The film was also the first appearance of a young Tom Cruise.)
Billboard named “Endless Love” the greatest duet of all time in 2015 – sorry “Up Where We Belong”, you got 29th. The song topped every US chart for weeks and ended the year in number two position for Billboard’s yearly Top 100.
But, really, on a day when the newlyweds are declaring their “Endless Love” what song could be more appropriate?
Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
As soon as the first notes start playing everyone from young children to your grandparents will be up and bopping. The synthpop hit has such a distinctive riff and such easy to remember lyrics that everyone will get in the mood to dance.
Furthermore, it is a great sentiment to echo to your new spouse! Of course, you may have tied the knot, but you still “just can’t get enough”. The 1981 song ended up being a huge hit for Depeche Mode from their debut album. The song’s writer, Vince Clarke, left the band two months later.
Saving All My Love For You – Whitney Houston
Although originally written by Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin for Marilyn McCoo and Billy David Jr in 1978, it was Whitney Houston that made the song what it is. When she released the song in 1985 as a single on her debut album, it leapt her to stardom. The song topped the charts in the US and UK and even earned her a Grammy.
While the lyrics of the song cast the singer as a woman in love with a married man, and therefore maybe not the first song that springs to mind for a wedding hit, you cannot deny the love and romance in the voice. The slow tune is perfect for a dance or a smooch on the dancefloor.
The Power of Love – Huey Lewis and The News
There were several songs released in the 80s with the same title, by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Jennifer Rush. However, the one we are recommending is the song from Huey Lewis and the News, written for the cult 1985 film Back to the Future.
The song plays during the film’s establishing shots before Doc reveals his DeLorean time machine. The songs is playing as Marty skates to school late, and is the song he plays at the Battle of the Bands. Huey Lewis makes a cameo in the film as one of the judges on this music competition.
The upbeat tune makes it a must for any wedding playlist looking for a few extra songs. And, what a great sentiment, that love is great and anyone can have it.
It Must Be Love – Madness
“It Must Be Love” is so quintessentially Madness that it’s hard to believe it was actually written by someone else! In fact, the Madness version is a cover of Labi Siffre’s 1971 song. The original peaked at 14 on UK charts, while the famous cover sat at four for twelve weeks.
Madness’s cover of the song in 1981 was a very different take, far removed from the original’s light guitar strumming. What’s more, the band asked the original artist himself to play a part in their music video, playing the violin.
If the reggae pop sound of the song alone does not convince you to play it, then the lines “Nothing more, nothing less, love is the best” surely will!
I Just Called to Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder started his musical career in 1961 aged just 11. By the time the 1980s rolled around, he had already won an impressive twelve Grammy awards. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” was nominated three times but unfortunately didn’t win anything. This was also his only UK number one.
Like many others in this list, this song was also featured on a soundtrack, this time for the 1984 The Woman in Red. The film starred, and was directed by, Gene Wilder; however, its only success was Wonder’s song winning an Oscar.
Although Stevie Wonder is thought of today as a funk and soul god, this is his most commercially successful hit. And, you really can’t argue with the sentiment.
White Wedding – Billy Idol
Finally, is there any song more appropriate for your nuptials than Billy Idol’s 1982 hit? Well, at least if you only concentrate on the line “It’s a nice day for a white wedding”! It may not have charted as well as some of his other songs, but it is one of his most recognisable. As such, everyone should be ready to sing along.
If you want to throw in a little unexpected song at your reception, turn your speakers up to eleven and embrace the irony.
So, that’s it! This is only a small selection of ’80s songs that would be highly appropriate wedding music. We’d love to hear your favourites – please leave your suggestions in the space below!