Choosing the first dance song for your wedding can be nerve-wracking. But it doesn’t have to be.
While it’s a choice you don’t want to take lightly, you can still have fun finding the song that reflects your bond.
Join us as we dive into this wedding tradition and how to choose the perfect song. And we also hope to steer you away from a couple of the worst.
What is the Wedding’s First Dance Tradition?
Getting married is a right of passage in many cultures. It’s a major transition in the lives of two people. The wedding’s first dance is a symbolic consummation, marking the couple’s initial joint endeavor.
It has long been customary for the first dance to kick off a ball or formal event. As far back as the 17th century, the person with the highest social status led the dance. As recently as the 1920s, etiquette dictated that wedding guests dance first.
Today, the wedding’s first dance is an important moment for newlyweds during their reception. They’re the guests of honor and start the event. The act reflects their love and unity as a new couple.
However, it can also be a source of stress before the big event. Everyone watching you dance with your newly betrothed can be a little rattling. But picking the right song for your first wedding dance can help ease your mind.
How to Choose the Song for Your Wedding’s First Dance
There are so many decisions to make when planning a wedding. Picking the song for your wedding’s first dance should be fun. We’ve gathered a few tips to help you with the process.
Get together in a relaxed setting and listen to some tunes. Start by finding music that you both like.
Then, spend a little time trolling the internet and looking for lyrics that mean something to you both. Someone else’s poetic refrain could be the perfect words to frame your relationship.
Be sure to pick a song you can dance to all dressed up. If one or both of you can’t dance, don’t let the rhythm be so complicated you’ll trip over each other.
And, finally, don’t choose a song just because everyone else does. Feel free to be unconventional and find what works for you as a couple. This song is going to follow you until death do you part.
Great First Dance Wedding Songs
Okay, so no pressure. We’re going to make a few great suggestions for your wedding’s first dance.
#1 Wonderful Tonight
About the Song: Eric Clapton wrote Wonderful Tonight in 1976. He pinned the song while waiting for his girlfriend Pattie to get ready for a night out.
The simple, slow pace of the guitar and the utterly romantic lyrics are beautiful. It’s also easy enough for a slow dance with a pair of two left feet. And the words can be meaningful for both spouses.
Greatest Lyric: We all seem to remember Clapton’s words.
I say, "My darling, you were wonderful tonight. Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight."
So apropos of a wedding are the lyrics,
And the wonder of it all. Is that you just don't realize how much I love you.
#2 You Make My Dreams
About the Song: Daryl Hall and John Oats wrote You Make My Dreams (Come True) with Daryl’s girlfriend, Sara Allen. They released the song on their 1980 album Voices.
The upbeat classic song is also a crowd favorite. Since the tune only lasts about three minutes, you won’t feel the pressure for too long. It’s easy enough for a first dance, so you don’t have to know any fancy steps, either.
Greatest Lyric: Your guests will sing along and possibly dance with you from the sidelines to these lyrics.
"Well, well, well, you. You make my dreams come true. You (You, you, ooh ooh ooh, you)
#3 I Cross My Heart
About the Song: If you two are country music fans, the George Straight song I Cross My Heart may be the right one. He released it as the first single on his album Pure Country in 1992. Fun fact, Bette Midler originally recorded it.
Steve Dorff and Eric Kaz wrote the song and envisioned a Boyz II Men-type groove. But that didn’t quite pan out. It took years before the music played in the background of the movie credits for Pure Country. It was clearly meant for Strait, as his smooth voice will make you weep.
Greatest Lyric: For your wedding’s first dance song, you won’t regret singing these great lyrics to your beloved:
In all the world you'll never find A love as true as mine A love as true as mine
#4 Can’t Help Falling in Love
About the Song: Songwriter George Weiss wrote Can’t Help Falling in Love. Elvis Presley sang it in the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii. Weiss based the melody on a French song called Plaisir d’Amour, written in 1784 by a German with an Italian name, Jean-Paul Egide-Martini.
This is Elvis’ most popular love song. In fact, he ended most of his concerts with it. We’ll admit this song probably gets a lot of play in Las Vegas. But there’s a good reason for it.
Take my hand Take my whole life, too For I can't help Falling in love with you
#5 She’s in Love With the Boy
About the Song: She’s in Love With the Boy is country artist Trisha Yearwood’s debut single. Released in 1991, the song reached number one on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Singles.
This sweet tune is about a teenage couple who gets engaged in small-town America. But the young girl’s father disapproves. Eventually, the girl’s mother points out they were that same couple years ago.
If you two are a young, devoted couple, this may be the song for you.
She's in love with the boy. And even if they have to run away. She's gonna marry that boy someday.
Bad First Dance Wedding Songs
While you have many great options for your wedding’s first dance song, there are some really bad ones too. You might want to avoid these.
#1 Every Breath You Take
About the Song: Every Breath You Take is on The Police’s 1983 album Synchronicity. Sting wrote the lyrics, and it was the biggest U.S. and Canadian hit of the year. It also became the group’s signature song, and in 2019, BMI said it was the most-played song in radio history.
All that being said, it’s a bad wedding’s first dance song. Sting wrote the piece as he separated from his wife, Frances Tomelty, and continued an affair with her best friend, Trudie Styler.
This is a song for cheaters. So don’t get started off wrong the very day you marry.
Every breath you take And every move you make Every bond you break Every step you take I'll be watching you
#2 Total Eclipse of the Heart
About the Song: Total Eclipse of the Heart is a song recorded by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler. She released it on her album Faster Than the Speed of Night in 1983. It was her biggest hit.
There’s no doubt that Bonnie Tyler can deliver a killer vocal. But this song is a bit dark and morose for the happy times a wedding should invoke.
The song speaks of falling apart, being terrified and lonely, and worrying someone will never come around. Does this really reflect your relationship? If it does, we recommend seeing a relationship counselor stat.
Worst Lyric: For a wedding’s first song, you certainly don’t want to imply these lyrics to your guests.
Every now and then I fall apart Every now and then I fall apart
#3 I Will Always Love You
About the Song: Dolly Parton wrote this song in 1973 for Porter Wagoner when she left his TV show. She loved and respected him but had to move on to other projects. The song was a number-one country hit.
Whitney Houston made it famous again when she sang it in the 1992 film The Bodyguard. It reflects the sentiments of Houston’s fictional character breaking with her love interest and bodyguard, played by Kevin Costner. Her pop version became a worldwide sensation.
While it’s a beautiful song, it’s most certainly about a breakup. Don’t let the sweet title fool you into picking it for your wedding’s first dance.
If I should stay I would only be in your way So I'll go, but I know I'll think of you each step of the way
Choose Your First Dance Song Wisely
Weddings are wonderful celebrations of the love and commitment between two people. With friends and family present, they can be such special events. So have fun picking out your song. Let that wedding first dance ease you into a comfortable celebration of your nuptials.
Do you have a favorite or a least favorite wedding first dance song? Tell us about it in the comments!