The Meaning Behind Billy Idol's White Wedding Explained

Barbed wire, gravediggers, stained glass, and matrimony: If you've seen the music video for Billy Idol's 1982 smash hit "White Wedding," you're probably just as confused as the rest of us. The images painting the screen are as wildly endearing as they are ominous, and the barrage of inherent symbolism certainly begs a lot of questions. What's going on? What's the song about? And so on and so on.

Following his departure from punk band Generation X, Billy Idol set out on his own to become one of the most popular acts of the 1980s and beyond. The studded bad boy sports an archive of numerous hit songs, from "Dancing by Myself" to "Cradle of Love," and has gone platinum multiple times over with 40 million records sold worldwide (via Answers to All). "White Wedding" is one of the more stand-out tracks, but even those who can recite every word often find themselves wondering what it's about.

What is White Wedding about?

In 2002 Billy Idol did an unplugged version of "White Wedding," for VH1, but before performing he explained, "I thought about this incestuous kind of sick brother ... who's galavanting across the globe on some wild, who knows what he's looking for, leading a completely unconventional life, leaving behind all your friends and just going and going and all those things started to play into the song." By and large, Idol is addressing the debaucherous lifestyle that one takes on with becoming a rockstar, which is the most prominent theme woven into the lyrics. What better way to say goodbye to your old life than with a tongue-in-cheek desecration of a ceremony that tethers you to a new one?

For a white wedding, the symbolic gesture of the song has a rather dark core. "I supposed leaving home, and leaving England and suddenly faced with a new life again it did make me think there's nothing fair in this world," Idol went on in the same performance. "There's nothing safe in this world. There's nothing pure in this world."

Is White Wedding pro-marriage?

With daunting lines like, "There is nothing pure in this world, there is nothing safe in this world," "White Wedding" doesn't exactly suggest that stepping up to the altar with that special someone is an occasion to look forward to. So does the spirit of the song throw proverbial handfuls of rice at the newlyweds on their way out of the church or does it stand up in the middle of the ceremony and obtrusively object? As one might expect, "White Wedding" doesn't grant much praise to the act of tying the knot.

Throughout the song, Billy Idol addresses someone known only as "little sister."  Being that his actual sister was pregnant and engaged at the time of "White Wedding's" release, listeners wondered if he was criticizing her decision to get married (via Song Meanings and Facts). 

"My sister was pregnant. She was getting married and there was no argument or anything, but I thought about all the different people and all the times past when that was such a taboo thing. I thought about that, the taboo nature and the convention and the wedding being such a celebration but then it turns into something like a shotgun wedding. Then it went on from there," Idol explained in the 2002 VH1 performance. Whereas "White Wedding" wasn't explicitly directed at his sister's happy day, it did provide some creative fodder that sardonically scoffs at the act of marriage.