My top priority with wedding planning was my first dance song. As I’ve said before, music is a huge part of my life and my creative process. My car is fully stocked with my favorite CDs so after my husband, Kyle, proposed on a hike we returned to my car and I already had something in mind. I pressed play on “The Story” by Brandi Carlile and insisted that it was the perfect song for our first dance.
He wasn’t sold at first. But weeks later as we drank a few too many beers in our empty new apartment in Bozeman I turned it on again and I coaxed him into dancing with me. After that, we were decided: our song would be “The Story”.
Ideally you and your soon-to-be-spouse have a song that you both love that perfectly poeticizes your feelings for each other. But most likely you’re not a Nicholas Sparks character and could use some help choosing a great song for your first dance. As a wedding photographer (and avid Spotify cruiser), I feel distinctly qualified to give you a few tips.
First things first, consider what kind of moment you’re after. You can stick with tradition and have a romantic, slow first dance or you can surprise everyone with an upbeat tune while you let loose.
But there aren’t only two options! You can also totally pair two songs together. Collaborate with your DJ early on and get them to do a mashup of a slow song and a bop. If you want to get the party started, this is a great option. Transitioning to an up-tempo song gets your guests energized and makes them want to storm the floor with you!
For my intrepid dancers out there: never fear. This day is supposed to be FUN! Get your nerves out with a few test runs so the day-of can be effortless. Follow my lead, have a few drinks and enjoy a goofy little dance around the living room. Then in the weeks leading up to the big day, pop on a few YouTube tutorials to learn the basics. Kyle and I definitely needed some practice, and he was transparent about not wanting to dance for the full four minutes of the original song.
It’s very common to dance to a shorter cut of your song. Your guests will probably be itching to join you on the floor after a verse and two rounds of the chorus. Once again, your DJ can be your life-saver. Communicate with them early to request any edits to your music. Kyle and I did an abridged version of “The Story” and I think it was perfect timing. You want it to be just long enough to bring a tear to your grandmother’s eye, but short enough to keep the attention of your flower girl.
If a song doesn’t immediately pop into your head, don’t worry! It can take some time to find a song that feels right. I’ve made a playlist of romantic, appropriate first dance songs. You can check it out below, but I recommend giving it a listen while you’re with your fiancé. Make it your soundtrack as you visit venues or plan a date to drive around town and listen to songs. It’s so much better when the song you choose can remind you both of memories together.
I’ve curated songs that I’ve heard used as first dance songs as well as ones that I’ve found on my own and think would be a great fit (yes, I see everything through the lens of wedding planning now, pun intended). There are classics like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” by Frankie Valli and “Come Rain or Shine” by Ray Charles for some timeless memories. Looking to get down with your bad self? I recommend “Darlin’” by Graham Louis and “Dance With Me” by Shockley. And would any first dance playlist be complete without “I Wanna Grow Old With You” from The Wedding Singer? If you’ve already done this whole song and dance, I’d love to hear what your first dance was! I’m constantly adding to my playlists. And if you give it a listen, let me know what tunes you’re loving!