First dance wedding songs
The first dance of forever
Inspired by an article on funeral songs – a sombre subject – I thought a post on first dance wedding songs might be more uplifting. Such a joyous occasion, a wedding. All the fabulous flowers, divine dresses, delicious food and, usually (sometimes regrettably) more than little fizz. This is where it happens. The first dance of forever.
Firstly, this post details my own story. To see my list of the best first dance wedding song recommendations I’ve handpicked from the 80s and 90s, you can skip to the top 20 here.
The Gay Gordon’s
Mister and I didn’t have first dance at our wedding as such. We had a Ceilidh first, before the DJ did his disco set. We chose to have traditional country dancing to start things off, as we’d seen previously what a great ice-breaker it could be. As many of our families and friends had not met before, that seemed ideal. So we didn’t even really consider first dance wedding reception songs.
Instead, the first wedding dance was a Gay Gordon’s or Strip the Willow. Something like that, I can’t quite remember – and everyone joined in. We didn’t really want to smooch around on the dance floor, dozens of pairs of eyes boring into our backs. So we gladly forsake the first dance in favour of a structured group fling.
Not a traditional take
We’re not really traditionalists. We had the speeches before the wedding breakfast, too – simply to calm my Dad’s nerves. I knew he wouldn’t enjoy his food if his stomach was churning at the thought of making a speech, and he breathed a huge sigh of relief when we suggested switching things around.
The other factor is Mister and his musical tastes. My musical taste is very eclectic; I’m not a huge fan of ballads in general and I draw the line at thrash metal, but the latter cannot be said about Mister. To me, Napalm Death sound like someone vomiting; to him they deserve a place in music history, if not quite in his music collection. (Although he does have a couple of White Zombie CDs.)
It takes two to have a wedding, but for the purposes of this piece it’s mainly my views I’m sharing, though there is of course more than a nod to Mister’s musical tastes here. The thing is, we do share a dislike of sugary sweet, fluffy ballads, and both prefer something with a bit more grit. A little edgier.
The music selection
So, what to choose? This is a tricky one, and I’ve had to peruse our music collection at length in pursuit an answer. Age comes into it, too, of course; we wed in 2002, so any music released after that date is out. The music of the 1980s and 1990s was what we grew up with, so that’s what I have to draw upon. Stock, Aitken and Waterman excluded, of course. Kylie and Jason’s ‘Especially for you’ is out, then. Darn it. Surely that is King among first dance wedding songs? Duets, at least…
Much of the music of those decades is out, in fact, because much of it is upbeat pop that just wouldn’t suit a slow, lingering dance. Anything too frisky is no good, either, frankly, as it’s highly likely that, after a verse or so, an Uncle will drag a bridesmaid onto the dance floor. Granny might even join in at some point. I can’t see her swaying her creaking hips to anything too sultry.
One for all
There’s an element, then, of one size fits all. The song should mean something to, and/or be loved by, the couple, but be suitable for all who share the occasion. It’s not easy, is it? I can see why – with a zillion other things to organise, working full-time and living over 350 miles away from our wedding venue – we opted out of picking a smoochy little number.
Then there’s the wording. Many ballads might sound right, in terms of tune, but once you listen to the words they’re simply not at all suitable. The lament of a jilted lover is totally at odds with lifelong promise made during the wedding ceremony. Think Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. You see what I mean? Not to mention that it was released long after 2002. Adele was only 13 when we wed.
The Australian connection
INXS are one of the obvious contenders. They’re my all-time top band, and Mister is also a fan. They’re Australian, too, which is relevant because we met down under – even though we’re both British. Obviously we’re not looking at ‘Devil Inside’ or ‘Suicide Blonde’; I’m thinking more along the lines of ‘Never Tear us Apart’. Coincidentally, one the songs the writer of the funeral piece chose to see him out, as it were.
It’s definitely a contender, but is it suitably joyous and uplifting? It is all about love, but there’s an allusion to future hurt in there. ‘If I hurt you, I‘d make wine from your tears’ is one of my very favourite song lyrics ever. But it sits there in the middle of the song, like a slightly shadowy warning. Maybe not the number one choice, then.
First dance wedding songs, by George?
I love (loved) George Michael, and he is King of the ballad. Boy, could that man’s voice make a ballad utterly searing and soulful, while sounding completely effortless. ‘Careless Whisper’, though, is once again essentially an effigy to a lost love. ‘Jesus to a Child’ is, too – as well as painfully raw and far too personal to George. ‘I Want Your Sex’ is out, obviously – that’s more of a one for the private, than the public, domain. ‘Father Figure’ is not right, either, for obvious reasons. Which leaves ‘A Different Corner’, but like ‘Careless Whisper’ and Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’, the words are mournful. Not only that, but that song will forever remind me of the Brits 2017 and Andrew Ridgeley, Pepsi and Shirlie lamenting their lost friend. Besides, Mister isn’t anywhere near as big a fan as me.
Which takes me right back to the very first song I though of. It’s not one that you might typically associate with weddings – but it’s absolutely perfect. For us, anyway. It opens with the lines:
I’ll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door
Gothic, admittedly, and religious of course, but there’s also a romantic undertone. It’s a tender sentiment, really, wanting to protect the one you love, even if the mention of vampires is a little fanciful.
‘Sparkling love, flowers and pearls and pretty girls’ couldn’t (frankly, Frankie) be more appropriate for a wedding. The song speaks of love as a ‘force from above’, proclaiming ‘undying, death defying love’. What could be more pertinent than lyrics that proclaim ‘I’m so in love with you’?
Yet the most fitting line, for me, is ‘make love your goal’. What’s heading onto the future together, to embark upon married life, about, if not regarding that very premise? Frankie Goes to Hollywood on ‘The Power of Love’- you nailed it. Even Mister throughly agrees that it’s the best of the bunch when its comes to first dance wedding songs. For us, anyway.
Now you’ve heard my story – how about you? Are you thinking along the lines of first dance wedding songs oldies, or something slightly more contemporary? Here are some ideas for good first dance wedding songs to get you swaying on that dance floor. As cameras flash and everyone looks upon you fondly.
First dance wedding songs: classic 80s and 90s
For those considering first dance wedding songs from the 80s and 90s music archives, here are some ideas.
Endless Love – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
This one is epic. Romantic, potent and forceful. Yet the lyrics and sentiment of Endless Love are super sweet – and perfect for a wedding. Aww, bless.
It Must Be Love – Madness
Not everyone wants to slow things down on their wedding day. Having said that, It Must Be Love is about as slow as Madness get. I adored this ditty when it was released, and still do.
Your Song – Elton John
The original version of this ditty is unashamedly romantic. Elton’s vocals ensure that Your Song is full of raw and powerful feeling. I also really rate the the more contemporary cover of Elton’s classic by Ellie Goulding.
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Aerosmith
Do first dance wedding songs and rock go together? Heck yeah. They do with I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, anyway. Soft, romantic rock for those who want to play it cool yet classic.
For Once in my Life – Stevie Wonder
This is the pick of first dance wedding songs if upbeat is what it’s all about. For Once in my Life is a dynamic, energetic track that is guaranteed to get the party started.
You and Me Song – The Wannadies
Again perhaps not the most conventional selection. But this really should have made it onto the soundtrack of my life. Not for romantic reasons – but surely the sentiment of the You and Me Song is?
Something – The Beatles
‘Like no other lover.’ Surely that Something lyric applies when tying the knot? You can’t go wrong with the Fab Four. Especially when it comes to pleasing a mixed-age crowd. I know it pre-dates the 80s – but what the heck.
The Power of Love – Jennifer Rush
Groove is in the Heart – Deee-Lite
Not a conventional pick, perhaps, but this delightful melody is a great pick for those seeking first dance wedding songs that are unique. Groove is in the Heart is, without doubt, another great floor-filler.
Truly, Madly, Deeply – Savage Garden
This was used as a first dance wedding song at one I attended just after the millennium. Truly, Madly Deeply is a good, solid choice – not too sickly sweet, nor too grungy either.
You’re the First, the Last, My Everything – Barry White
This just had to be on the list. Singing this to one another could surely suffice in place of marriage vows. You’re The First, The Last, My Everything? Aww thanks, Barry.
Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now – Starship
First dance wedding songs’ lyrics don’t come much better than this. Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now is a typical 80s power ballad – and there’s absolutely everything right with that.
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
Your wedding doesn’t have to be in Scotland to choose this tune. Though that, or Scottish ancestry, might well help. The sight of a man in a kilt dancing to I’m Gonna Be would certainly seem most fitting.
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
Another 80s power ballad, this time from the Queen of the 1980s. I will Always Love You was used in The Bodyguard, a film my university flatmate was hopelessly addicted to. Voices don’t get much more powerful or soulful than Whitney’s.
Walking On Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves
This tune is always bound to make me feel happy. Euphoric, even. An emotion that one would certainly hope to feel during the biggest day of their life. Get your guests Walking on Sunshine with this cheerful melody. And don’t that feel good?
Love Is All Around – Wet Wet Wet
From Richard Curtis’s festive, feel-good movie Love, Actually, Love is All Around is definitely better when sung by Marti Pellow rather than Bill Nighy. Sorry, Bill. (But I’m sure he’d agree.)
Purple Rain – Prince
Suitable for a wedding? Why not? As long as the bridesmaids’ dresses are purple (as mine were). Seriously, this is a funky yet slow little tune. Purple Rain is great to dance slowly to, without being too syrupy.
Kiss Me – Sixpence None the Richer
‘Kiss me, beneath the milky twilight’… aww. Very sweet, yet quite upbeat too. Kiss Me is a lovely, harmonious track that surely everyone from your gran to the flower girl will adore.
Something Changed – Pulp
Pulp are my second favourite band ever. And this is my favourite of their songs. The lyrics of Something Changed can surely resonate with anyone – a fleeting moment, a chance meeting and your life is changed forever. For the better, of course.
Have I Told You Lately – Van Morrison
Last but not least – Van the Man. The lyrics of Have I Told You Lately speak of there being ‘no-one else above you’ and a heart full of gladness. Spot-on, Van.
Which of these first dance wedding songs suits you?
While the tunes in this first dance wedding songs list may not be modern – one of the 20 may be just right for you. After all, you can’t beat the music of the 70s and 80s…
There are more of my Music Stories on this site
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