First Dance

Wedding Week 2008: Click for Special Report

Food, centerpieces, invitations, location, gown/tuxedo ... those are all very important elements of a wedding that require plenty of decisions. But the decision that says the most about you as a couple is the song you choose for your first dance. So don't mess it up! To help we have some suggestions, both do's and don'ts, in a handful of categories.

Classic, But Predictable
You won't be the first - or 10,000th couple - to dance to these songs, but there's no going wrong with these selections.

"In My Life" - The Beatles
It's more of a reminiscence than a love song, but it hits most of the other major criteria: it's romantic, it's short, guests will recognize it and it's simply a great tune. - Malitz

"Let's Stay Together" - Al Green
A sexy song about unwavering, unconditional love, this '70s classic actually plays like a set of soulful wedding vows: "I want to spend my life with you ... loving you forever...I'll never be untrue...let's stay together ... whether times are good or bad, happy or sad." And Green's vocal is flat-out great. - du Lac

Under the Radar

Your guests might be scratching their heads when they hear these songs, but they're great first-dance candidates and you would get bonus points for originality.

"In Spite of Ourselves" - John Prine and Iris DeMent
In which a man and a woman itemize each other's idiosyncrasies while declaring their love and devotion for one other. The folk duet is sweet and silly and just slightly dirty, a pretty potent combination in the hands of Prine and DeMent. L. Freedom and I came thisclose to dancing to this before settling on yet another under-the-radar song. - du Lac

"I Found a Reason" - Velvet Underground
It might seem like an odd idea to begin your married life dancing to a song by a band best known for eardrum-shatteringly loud songs about drugs and sexual deviance. (Or maybe that seems like a great idea, right Marilyn Manson?) But this is a gentle, tender, almost-doo-woppy tune that finds Lou Reed sincerely pledging his love and devotion. - Malitz

Popular But Misinterpreted
Nothing against these songs, but a serious study of the lyrics reveals that they aren't the gushing love songs that many people believe them to be.

"The One I Love" - R.E.M.
Sometimes you have to look beyond the title. And not even that far beyond the title, in this instance just one line after it. Would your significant other really want to be called "a simple prop to occupy my time"? Shouldn't you at least wait until a good dozen years or marriage before that sets in? - Malitz

"One" - U2
This is one of the great songs of the 1990s - and one of the decade's most misunderstood songs, too. The lyrics are open to interpretation (are they about AIDS? Bono's father? international relations? love?). This much, however, is clear: "One" is not a sweet song. There's an undercurrent of anger and rage and bitterness here, and if the lyrics are about love, they're about struggling with it and maybe even losing it. Not the stuff wedding songs are made of, then. The Edge, whose split with his first wife may or may not have inspired the song, has even said in interviews that he doesn't understand why people play "One" at their weddings, saying: "It's not that kind of a song." - du Lac

Just Don't Do It
Overused, overwrought, flat-out bad - these songs should not be played at any wedding.

"Wonderful Tonight" - Eric Clapton
Corny, treacly and written by a man who openly coveted his best friend's wife. That's now how you want to start things off as a couple, is it? If you must use a song written about Pattie Boyd, "Something" makes a far better choice. - Malitz

"Butterfly Kisses" - Bob Carlisle
Going off script here, but please: Stop doing the father-daughter dance to "Butterfly Kisses," people. It's the most predictable play in the book. Also one of the most nauseating, as the song is the very definition of maudlin. If, in fact, you were sent here from heaven and are daddy's little girl, can't you convince daddy to come up with an original - or, at least, much less cloying - idea? Reunion Records has disabled the embedding feature on the official "Butterfly Kisses" videos on YouTube. Click here at your own risk. - du Lac

By David Malitz |  September 11, 2008; 8:44 AM ET Set Lists
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Dancing to U2 in general would be a bad idea as their songs are either really carefuly described anger, somewhat maulin and depressed or so forthy as to be useless as a declaration of love.

Posted by: EricS | September 11, 2008 9:36 AM

Also in the "misinterpreted" category: "Every Breath You Take". Just, no.

"In My Life" is a good choice. If I were to have another wedding, I might choose that.

My wife and I used Christine McVie's "Songbird".

Posted by: KR | September 11, 2008 10:49 AM

For some reason I've been listening to a lot of Journey lately, and I've rediscovered the song "Faithfully." I'm pretty sure this would be my wedding song if I ever get married. It is sort of sad, as the singer is talking about the difficulties of having a relationship with the one he loves while being on the road all the time, but the sweet line toward's the end is that he "gets the joy of rediscovering you," when he comes back. Sooo sweet. I'm not sure if this is an overdone song, as i'm sure it was huge in the '80s, but I know I"ve never heard it at a wedding. Anyone else?

Posted by: Kat | September 11, 2008 10:56 AM

We used Rod Stewart's "Have I Told You Lately" for our first-dance song. Simple, familiar, with beautifully sweet lyrics.

Posted by: In Rockville | September 11, 2008 11:11 AM

We used "Grow Old Along With Me" - the John Lennon tune, but sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter. Very appropriate lyrics.

Posted by: Hemisphire | September 11, 2008 11:37 AM

Despite Hot Rod's claiming lyrical credit for any number of other people's songs, folk songs, etc., "Have I Told You Lately" is a Van Morrison song.

Posted by: Van the Man | September 11, 2008 11:41 AM

My wedding was 18 years ago & did not have dancing.

I would recommend "If I Should Fall Behind" by Dion.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 11:41 AM

My husband wanted Springsteen, I wanted something with an older feel. We finally agreed on Dion's cover of Springsteen's "Book of Dreams." Though it felt familiar, few people could place it.

Posted by: SD | September 11, 2008 11:48 AM

We used an oldie- if I could build my whole world by Marvin Gaye. Perfect wedding sentiment and definitely not overused.

Posted by: oldies but goodies | September 11, 2008 11:49 AM

We got married a little over a year ago and danced our first dance to Edwin McCain's "I Could Not Ask For More". It's a great one, and not as overplayed as his song "I'll Be".

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 12:05 PM

My husband and I were married a few months ago, and we chose an old Genesis song -- "Follow You, Follow Me" -- for our first dance. I love that song; the chorus almost sounds like wedding vows.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 12:34 PM

My husband loves Ben Folds and he picked out the song "The Luckiest" which worked out well becuase I then got him a video ipod as his wedding gift and had "I am the Lickiest" engraved on the back of it. However when we told the DJ what we wanted our song to be and he shook his head like "yes that's a good one" I got upset that he even knew the song. I wanted one that not many people used. Oh well. I wouldn't change the song. The cool thing was other songs that I liked but didn't rise to level of first dance we included in our weding video such as david gray and tim mcgraw favorites.

As for father/daughter we stuck with the Ben Fold's theme and my father and I danced to "Gracie" and despite me having a different name it fit perfectly.

Posted by: Julia | September 11, 2008 12:39 PM

Right now I'm leaning towards The Best is Yet To Come (Tony Bennett's version) for our first dance.. fun, upbeat and appropriate words, almost..

Posted by: courtney | September 11, 2008 1:03 PM

The largest, most lavish wedding reception we ever attended was that of a nice young Italian-American man who, against his parents' wishes, was marrying the daughter of the deceased head of the "rackets" (numbers, etc.) in our city. It was held in the ballroom of the best hotel in town, with its most expensive menu, nothing but the best of everything.

When time came for the newlyweds' first dance, there was an audible collective gasp among many of the guests when the band struck up the love theme from "The Godfather."

Posted by: No name, no city | September 11, 2008 1:03 PM

Here's a comment from an actual DJ - if a customer really wants a song, it gets played.

Nobody's ever requested "Wonderful Tonight" from me for a First Dance song, however lots of people have requested it for a slow dance tune. I play it, and people still love it.

Regarding the attack on the song because Eric lusted for George Harrison's wife - shall we do bio's for all artists and exclude their songs based on what we don't like about them? Elvis wasn't very nice to his backup singers in later years, and died on his toilet as a pathetic, bloated junkie - should I ban "Jailhouse Rock" and "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" because of that? Should I tell people that I won't play Michael Jackson because he enjoyed drinking "Jesus Juice" with kids in his bed? Is "I Feel Good" by James Brown out because he was arrested for waving guns around? Not hardly - people would be (rightfully) pissed that I censor their favorite music based on my own self-righteous opinions.

Another comment about overplayed songs: How about the Chicken Dance, Hokey Pokey, and the Macarena? Yes, some people hate them. Some people are so insecure about themselves that they're afraid for anybody to see them having fun doing something kind of silly. However, there are as many customers who INSIST on these songs being played as there are who insist that they not be played. And guess what - when they're played, people dance the silly dances, and they have a lot of fun!

I don't have a lot of respect for people who appoint themselves as The Authority on what music is good and what music is bad, and let the rest of us know that our own preferences are irrelevant and unacceptable. Unless they don't like Michael Bolton or Celine Dion! (Just kidding - even though I'm not crazy about them, I do own their albums and will play their songs if requested. Fortunately, almost nobody does.)

Posted by: Dean | September 11, 2008 1:07 PM

My fiance and I are currently debating between the Bing Crosby version of "How About You" and "When You Say Nothing At All" by Ronan Keating.

Posted by: Anon. | September 11, 2008 1:07 PM

where's "Vociferous Slam" by the Homosexuals?

Posted by: sc | September 11, 2008 1:10 PM

Have to agree with who suggested Dion's tkae on If I Should Fall Behind. Terific rendition of that song.
Bright Eyes' The First Day of My Life seems a pretty good choice too. REM's At My Most Beautiful is a bit too sappy, but Beat a Drum I think would be a really nice choice.

Posted by: G | September 11, 2008 1:25 PM

It might be overused, but I like Etta James' "At Last".

Posted by: bigI | September 11, 2008 2:37 PM

Why not play "At Last" by Etta James?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 2:38 PM

I would think that "Amazed" by Lonestar would fit the bill. Easy to dance to, easy to sing..

Posted by: luger1000 | September 11, 2008 3:01 PM

My husband and I danced to "Never My Love" by The Association. He had quoted the lyrics to me while we were dating and bought me the CD soon after. It's romantic. There are other versions of this song out there too - the 5th Dimension did a version, I think.

Posted by: JAH | September 11, 2008 3:44 PM

stevie wonder has lots of great options- I used "overjoyed" for the first dance and "isn't she lovely" for the father/daughter.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 4:07 PM

Tom Waits' "Little Trip to Heaven". The title may be misleading, but the lyrics, and music create the perfect backdrop for a first dance.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 5:17 PM

I was really happy with the songs we used for father/ daughter ("Daughter" by Loudoun Wainwright III from the Knocked Up soundtrack; one friend told me that listening to the song during the dance caused her to tear up) and for our first dance ("Accidentally in Love" by the Counting Crows and from the Shrek soundtrack, extra-appropriate for a Republican and Democrat who first met while arguing politics online!).

Posted by: PG | September 11, 2008 5:28 PM

For those who want to avoid the cheese factor, up-tempo songs are good. We used "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". Can't go wrong with Stevie Wonder.

Other less predictable tunes-

Barry White's "My First, My Last, My Everything"

Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine" - melancholy, but a killer song.

An off-beat choice that we considered was Ben Arthur's "Keep Me Around". It's goofy like the Prine song, but better, IMHO:

Posted by: B | September 11, 2008 5:44 PM

My cousin and her husband danced to "I Want to Grow Old with You" by Adam Sandler!

Posted by: It was cute | September 11, 2008 6:04 PM

I wanted Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" but my husband and his grown son, acting as DJ, spun "Sympathy for the Devil." Jerks.

Posted by: lee anderson | September 11, 2008 6:36 PM

We danced to Everything as sung by Michael Buble for our wedding last October. I had a girlfriend who chose "The Luckiest" and also had "I am the Luckiest" inscribed on their bands.

We also considered "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" sung by George Shering and Mel Torme, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" by Nat King Cole, "Come Live with Me" by Count Basie and Ray Charles, and "Nothing I Can Do" by Ben Taylor. The last one was a strong contender, but I thought it was too slow for a swing dance.

Posted by: Susanne | September 11, 2008 7:27 PM

Malitz are you trying to tell us something? When's the big day?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 8:22 PM

We had two songs - Van's version of Have I Told You Lately for the "serious" first dance, then Barenaked Ladies' Be My Yoko Ono for the not so serious one. I've also heard Kaiser Chiefs' Everyday I Love You Less and Less used as a joke selection.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 10:08 PM

Some good friends of ours played a super bluesy old Fleetwood Mac song. And when I say "old," I mean it was from the original (Peter Green) version of the band. The title is "Need Your Love So Bad." My wife and I still love to hear it and get up to dance every time we hear it.

Posted by: DrTom | September 12, 2008 1:06 AM

Queen's "You're My Best Friend" - - - I've always pictured myself choosing that song!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2008 6:35 AM

My wife and chose "Thank you" by Led Zepplin. It has one of the best opening lines ever written.

"If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me."

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2008 7:52 AM

We got married 14 years ago. Our first song was "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2008 8:02 AM

Eric Clapton - "Running on Faith"

Posted by: Yuki | September 12, 2008 8:35 AM

One of the oddest first songs I've heard seems to start out with a nice lyric - "Tonight you're mine, completely" - but of course the title of that song is "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" Not really the question I'd want to ask my new spouse.

Posted by: Anonamoos | September 12, 2008 8:50 AM

"If I Should Fall Behind" is a Springsteen song. Dion covered it, and did it well, but it was written and first recorded by Bruce.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2008 8:56 AM

Twelve years ago we danced to the Honeydrippers' version of "Sea of Love." Okay, so it says "Do you remember when we met? That was the day I knew you were my pet." But we loved it then and still do. The best thing about it is that it is a standard that gets played in the oddest places literally around the world. We were celebrating our 10th Anniversary in Prague and it wafted out to the courtyard of the restaurant we were dining at. So romantic!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2008 9:32 AM

We just got married--our first dance was to Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares For Me."

Posted by: ZS | September 12, 2008 10:24 AM

Come Live with Me (Ray Charles and Count Basie) -- every time we hear that, my husband and I stop what we're doing and dance.

We didn't have dancing at our wedding, but this was the first song we heard after entering the reception.

Posted by: Chris | September 12, 2008 10:40 AM

We played Love of My Life, a doo-wop song by Frank Zappa, for our first dance. But Dancin' in the Moonlight by King Harvest ended up being the theme of the beach wedding! So that's what we use as our song now.

Posted by: me | September 12, 2008 10:47 AM

"Could I Have This Dance" by Anne Murray. We met at a dance. This one is perfect.

Posted by: mamasan | September 12, 2008 11:00 AM

"In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel...Yeah Yeah, Cusack did it first, but I was surprised that every band we looked at did not have that tune on their standard set list.

Posted by: John | September 12, 2008 11:10 AM

Always & Forever! By Heat Wave

Posted by: dapl | September 12, 2008 11:11 AM

True Companion by Marc Cohn. Still makes me cry when I hear it.

Posted by: Anon | September 12, 2008 11:19 AM

"You're just too good to be true" by Frankie and the Seasons.

Posted by: Joanne | September 12, 2008 11:23 AM

We also used "True Companion".

For Marc Cohn fans, wait until you have a child, then listen to "Things We've Handed Down" - even thinking about it gets me all choked up.

Posted by: Suzanne | September 12, 2008 11:25 AM

Our first dance 3 years ago was "At Last" - totally appropriate since we had been in a long distance relationship for 2.5 years with me in grad school and him on 2 deployments with the Navy. I had it engraved in his wedding band that, At Last, we were together.

Posted by: At Last, indeed | September 12, 2008 11:29 AM

i've always loved George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." Its such a lovely song, not overplayed and definitely very free love.

Posted by: around | September 12, 2008 12:32 PM

We had a small, backyard wedding and I made my own mixtapes. Purely by accident our first dance as a married couple was to The Romantic's "That's What I Like About You." No regrets!

Posted by: kbockl | September 12, 2008 1:00 PM

Ours was "I'll be Your Mirror" by the Velvet Underground.

Posted by: beano | September 13, 2008 2:01 PM

i can't believe "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys isn't on the list!

Posted by: beano | September 13, 2008 2:07 PM

You Send Me by the great Sam Cooke

Posted by: bowiemd1 | September 16, 2008 2:29 PM

Stevie Wonder's "You and I" was my first dance at my wedding. It's a great wedding song better than the over used "Ribbon in the Sky".

Misinterpreted: "I will Always Love You" Whitney Houston/Dolly Parton. I wish people would realize that song is about breaking up.

Posted by: Omar | September 16, 2008 3:01 PM

My husband and I did our first dance to Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet. Siblings swing danced in the back. It was a lot more fun than the treacly crap my parents kept suggesting.

And I really really tried to convince my dad to do the father-daughter dance to You're So Vain, but he wouldn't go for it.

Posted by: loonatic | September 17, 2008 8:13 AM

I'll Be Your Baby Tonight by Bob Dylan will be our first dance on October 4!

Posted by: Slats | September 18, 2008 3:36 PM

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