How do you pick your all-important first dance?
There are many ways to pick a first dance including picking a song with a special meaning, that’s romantic or memorable, that’s great to dance to, suits your wedding theme or venue, is popular with celebrities, features on a film or tv show you love, your friends, family or wedding band suggest, you found on Spotify or iTunes or is quite simply your favourite song ever!
Why you should read this guide over others
We speak with lots of couples who have no idea what to pick when it comes to their first dance, can’t narrow down their list of choices or are wondering if they should even have a first dance at all! There are loads of simple tricks you can use to pick your first dance so for those of you who do want a first dance, are thinking about it, or still aren’t sure, we can help! I’ve taken our combined 15 years of experience suggesting, planning and performing first dances for lovely couples and jotted it all down just for you.
There’s plenty of information out there on the perfect first dance and how to pick one but why not get some inspiration and insight from the people who perform these songs for you week in week out? Us wedding musicians! I will also let you in on my thoughts and feelings regarding my own first dance and also my top tips once you have a shortlist of songs or a song in mind.
You will be able to pick a first dance, don’t worry!
You’ve got nothing to lose reading my guide and once you’ve read all my advice, there’s an infographic at the bottom summarising everything so that by the end of this guide you will know what first dance to choose! Don’t forget that you can contact us at any time obligation free if you need help.
Below are some quick links to key sections in my guide and a quick summary of every tip but it’s well worth reading the whole thing. Enjoy a wedding musicians guide to picking a first dance song.
How to choose a first dance song
How to whittle down your song choices
Things to consider once you’ve picked your first dance song
Picking a first dance song infographic
My first dance song experience
- Don’t attach too much importance to this one dance – have fun with it!
- Pick a song because of its special meaning?
- Pick a song because of a special moment it symbolises?
- Choose a song because of the lyrics?
- If you share a favourite song, pick that!?
- Pick a song because it’s truly romantic?
- If you are struggling to choose, feel it rather than pick it
- Don’t be embarrassed about songs you like, it’s your first dance!
- You don’t have to love your first dance, just enjoy it and the moment
- Use Spotify and iTunes to come up with ideas
- Ask friends and family for ideas
- What do celebs pick as their first dances?
- You could pick a song from your favourite TV show or movie
- Pick a song that matches your venue and wedding theme perhaps?
- Choose a song you feel comfortable dancing too
- Create a compilation first dance?
- You could always involve everyone in your first dance to ease the pressure
- Don’t pick a song at the last minute!
- Ask your live wedding band for suggestions
- Do you want the band to perform the song or have the original version played?
- Prepare a dance routine
- If you really arent feeling it, don’t have a first dance
Let’s shuffle around the room for everyone…
Ahh, the dance that many a groom dreads! Joking aside, we do see plenty of petrified couples just before their first dance so remember, your first dance is important but don’t attach too much importance and pressure to this one song. Remember what this song symbolises and don’t spoil it by stressing yourself to high heaven about it! Let me guide you through all the different ways you can pick a first dance.
Go with a special meaning
This is a popular and you may think obvious way to pick a first dance but if you and your other half have a song that has special meaning to you that’s pretty amazing and quite rare so follow that special meaning! These kinds of songs can have meaning from many reasons so let’s go through them all so you can get those first dance ideas flowing!
A special moment together
Just like my cousin who picked a song related to the Spanish Steps where he proposed, maybe there is a song that reminds you or was playing when you and your partner shared a truly special and memorable moment? It’s worth casting your mind back as it will only add to the fond memories come wedding day!
Those lyrics just make us well up
Why is Ed Sheeran’s first dance epic Thinking out Loud so popular as a first dance? It’s those lyrics! Lyrics are arguably the most powerful part of any song so why not pick a first dance with powerful, meaningful lyrics? With a stellar live wedding band performing it and a suitable singer, it will sound simply amazing. Think of some songs where the words mean everything to you and your partner or even remind you of a special moment. Go!
Our favourite song!
This one’s an easy one. You both have a favourite song and because of that, it has a special meaning. Can you dance to it? Do you want to? If the answer to those questions is yes, that’s the song for you! Jasmine from Cadence has always loved At Last by Etta James which you can see above.
We don’t have an “our song” though?!
Don’t worry, neither did my wife and I. We don’t really have the same taste in music and we have terrible memories so all of the above was fairly useless to us. It doesn’t matter though, who cares?! Your first dance can still be memorable, romantic, funny, silly or whatever you want it to be! Pick a song together via the myriad of other ways I’m now going to outline and if you are still stuck, read how my wife and I picked our first dance song.
Let the wedding romance flow
Why not sit back with your partner, relax and think of songs that feel romantic to you. Romance is everything and a romantic first dance is a great choice. Guests love them too! As a starting point, All of Me by John Legend or A Thousand Years by Christain Perri (above) are big romantic numbers.
Feel it rather than pick it
This may sound a bit silly but as mentioned earlier, don’t overthink your first dance. Trying too hard to pick a first dance is only going to stress you both out. Your first dance is meant to be a fun and romantic occasion so you could just pick a song that you feel is right. It doesn’t necessarily matter what it is because if it makes you and your other half feel when you hear it, that’s all that matters!
Don’t be embarrassed about your first dance, go for it!
This follows on nicely from my last point. We speak to a lot of couples feeling nervous about a first dance song choice because they think its too niche, to”odd” or simply not suitable. Yes, it may not sound great live or even be possible for your wedding band to perform but you could have the recorded version. We once had a couple asking our act The League of Gentlemen (below) to perform the Disney orchestra version of Beauty and Beast. It was hard to figure out how the guys would replicate an 80-piece orchestra but we managed to write a more suitable version of the song for the couple and it worked well on the day.
The point being, who cares what song you want, it’s your wedding, your first dance and your special moment so go for it and pick the song you want regardless. It doesn’t always have to be a well-known tune. I remember over the years performing some songs for bride and grooms that I had never heard before (I listen to music almost constantly) and they’ve been fantastic first dances.
You don’t have to love your first dance song
One thing that can help you when picking a first is the idea that you don’t have to totally love the song itself. If you want to dance, pick a song you can practice to and dance to. If the song has meaning to you or your partner or its just great fun, that’s great! Your first dance can be traditional, funny, sad, romantic or epic. Don’t worry so much about styles, trends or stereotypes or if you truly love it. It’s your wedding and your special moment with your life partner, not a song! Enjoy it and savour the memories with your partner.
I’m still struggling with first dance ideas!
No problem, I have some more ideas to get those first dance ideas bubbling away.
Spotify and iTunes to the rescue
You could always get all the music playlists you love, pop them on shuffle and settle down for the night with your partner and see if any songs jump out at you both. It’s a great way to get some ideas and pick a first dance. Spotify and iTunes also have some handy first dance playlists that are worth a listen.
Bring your friends and family into the mix
Your friends and family know you so well and probably remember some songs that you’ve forgotten about but nonetheless had a big impact on your life or had some deeper meaning. Invite everyone over, reminisce and chat away and see if any songs pop up.
What do all the celebs pick as their first dance?
Maybe there’s a first dance you heard about or saw at a celebs wedding that you liked? Why not get googling and see what celebrities pick for their first dances. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had John Legend perform All of Me which you can watch above. That was a pretty good first dance choice.
What are your favourite movies?
Similarly, why not pick a song from a movie or TV show you both love? You could even pick a track from the soundtrack of a movie or TV show? Get yourself on Netflix and get some musical inspiration. Iris by Goo Goo Dolls (above) is incredibly popular with couples as a first dance and one big reason is that it was featured in the huge Hollywood movie, City of Angles.
Your wedding theme and venue
I’ve spoken about wedding themes a lot in other guides because I know couples and their wedding planners spend a lot of time perfecting their wedding themes. I know it’s a huge part of any wedding so why not pick a song that matches your theme or your venue? Don’t worry about other considerations, just go for something that will blend in with your wedding as a whole! It will look super stylish and work well I’m sure.
So you’ve narrowed down your choices! Awesome
So either I’ve managed to help you so much already or more likely you’ve managed to whittle your first dance choices down to a few songs by yourself. Well then, with a few more tips and tricks, let’s see if we can whittle those choices down to one, shall we?
Your first dance list and your wedding band
We find having a list of at least 3 songs and no more than 7 you would love to dance to can be useful. Just be realistic and chat with your band about these ideas because as I mentioned earlier, asking a 4 piece, all-male, guitar-based wedding band to perform Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is just not going to happen unless you’ve rented an 80-piece orchestra for the occasion as well!
Talk with the band or agency contact about your ideas and keep an open mind so you don’t end up being left disappointed. We have years of experience helping couples pick first dances so don’t be shy in asking us obligation-free. For example, our act Night and Day (above) are always happy to chat about first dance ideas with you.
You’ve got the first dance moves??
No doubt you want to dance to any song you pick, so which song on your list is the easiest, most fun or romantic to dance to? Which one is going to make you look amazing in front of everyone? You could come up with a special dance routine but if you do, practice it a bit! I did and it helped me on the day. It’s up to you but remember that unless you can practice or are both proficient dancers, an elaborate or even simple dance routine could stress you both out on the day.
Live wedding bands can’t perfectly replicate the song you’ve practised to so accounting for that, nerves, excitement, that everyone is watching you and that you’ve just got married means things might not go perfectly on the dancefloor. Just be realistic with your abilities and your song choice so you have still have fun.
Create a compilation first dance song
I’ve noticed over the years that compilation first dances are becoming more popular. For those couples who just can’t pick one first dance why not combine two or three into one fantastic megamix! Sometimes a wedding band may be able to perform or record this for you but usually, we see couples playing these mixes over the PA and coming up with some pretty hilarious and fantastical dance routines. They are memorable and fun first dances that’s for sure.
A little help from my wedding guests
We have quite a few couples whos friends or relatives want to perform a first dance for them and this could be a great way to whittle down those ideas you have. You can practice with them, really getting to grips with how any of the songs would sound and it goes without saying that it can be a very special and surprising first dance indeed. We’ve seen many a tear shed during these kinds of first dances and enjoyed co-performing these songs with the friends or family for the bride and groom.
Don’t leave your first dance to the last minute
I know you have a lot going on planning a wedding, I’ve been there! However, don’t put off picking your first dance to the last minute. Even if you’ve narrowed it down to 3 songs, use all my tips and tricks to get your song picked sooner rather than later. That way, you can sit with your final decision for a while and see if it truly is the song you want. It also gives your band time to prepare and practice the song for you. We’ve had couples change their first dance on their wedding day because they left it all a bit last minute. Whoops!
We’re still stuck, help us wedding band!
Experienced wedding bands like ours each perform around 100 first dances a year and have collected years of knowledge. Because those musicians run this website (myself included) we have some great suggestions to help you out so don’t be afraid to ask! We can help narrow down your list, brainstorm with you or suggest completely different songs that you may never have considered. Below are some suggestions from our lovely band Good Fellas (above). They have compiled a list of some of the most enduring and popular wedding songs out there that they often perform.
Drops of Jupiter (Train)
First Day Of My Life (Bright Eyes)
Grow Old With Me (Tom Odell)
I Won’t Give Up (Jason Mraz)
Kiss Me (Sixpence None The Richer)
Let Her Go (Passenger)
Make My Dreams Come True (Hall & Oates)
Mykonos (Fleet Foxes)
Perfect (Ed Sheeran)
The One (Kodaline)
Thinking out Loud (Ed Sheeran)
To Be With You (Mr Big)
Toothpaste Kisses (Maccabees)
Stand by Me (Ben E. King)
Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton)
Wonderful World (Sam Cooke)
I’d also strongly recommend our guide to the Top 10 wedding songs for 2020. It has some great ideas and inspiration in there.
Do you even want a first dance?
We chat to a lot of couples about picking a first dance and many seem to get stressed about what to pick or what they think they should pick. It’s a bit of a strange thing to say in a guide like this, but if you don’t feel like having a first dance or can’t pick one, don’t have one! It’s becoming more common for couples not to have a first dance and in the thousands of weddings we’ve performed at, we’ve never heard anyone say, “well it could have been a great wedding, but there was no first dance!” When it comes to the crunch on your wedding day, your friends and family will love your wedding if you do.
I’ve picked my first dance and am ready to go!
We obviously have plenty of couples who have no trouble picking a first dance so let’s look at that.
Prep and plan!
A bit of planning and preparation will increase the chances that your wedding musicians can perform your special song but be realistic about the song or atmosphere you want to create. Some other pointers our bride and grooms have found useful over the years are…
Get your wedding guests dancing feet moving
If you are worried about the limelight or simply want everyone involved in your first dance? Just let your live band know. Some of the best first dances I’ve performed have been with everyone on the dancefloor, revelling in the moment with the happy couple. Our bands will always get all your guests up on the dancefloor with you if and when you want them. It really can help you if you are nervous on the day.
Original song or live version?
Sometimes, it’s better to dance along to the original recording of a song because it’s at a tempo you are used to and as I’ve mentioned, if you’re not the most confident of dancers or you’ve worked out a specific dance routine, dancing to the original song is probably going to work for the better. We would say that 9 times out of 10, our wedding bands perform the song couples ask for and it always works well but we can’t guarantee that’s the industry standard.
Wise words wedding band
Listen to a wedding bands advice as they should have a lot of experience and after all, they only want to make sure you have a fantastic day. Many wedding bands (ours included) can sometimes make little recordings of your first dance so you get a feel for how it will sound live at your wedding. Don’t expect a polished, studio-quality recording from them unless you are willing to pay for it though. Recording in a studio is expensive!
Well, what did you pick for your first dance?
For a bit of insight and hopefully inspiration, I’ll let you in on mine and my wife’s thoughts and decisions when it came to picking our first dance two years ago. My wife is an experienced dancer and I’m a terrible, inexperienced dancer so we decided to pick a first dance in which she could teach me some suitable yet basic dance moves that appeared convincing and that we could enjoy with our friends and family.
We asked our wedding musicians to get everyone up and dancing for the first dance with us too. Asking this made me feel more comfortable dancing and had the added bonus of everyone having a great dance together! I would strongly recommend asking your wedding musicians about this if you felt like us at all.
We picked Paulo Nutini’s Pencil Full of Lead (above) as our first dance for simple reasons. It’s easy and fun to dance to, great for group dancing and not too long! Like many couples during their first dance, we didn’t want to be the centre of attention for too long. It’s also a fast, energetic song so was a great way to get our wedding party going with a bang.
We did practice some dance moves and a loose choreography beforehand but I asked my wife to not make it too complicated as I’d get confused on the night and not be able to enjoy our dance. She found a great balance and I honestly did enjoy my first dance which I didn’t think was going to happen. I honestly thought I would embarrass my new bride with my awful dancing. She didn’t get to perform any of her amazing dance moves but she loved our first dance because we had fun, our guests had fun and we all danced like crazy. Surprisingly, looking back, it was a real highlight of my wedding and I’m very happy about that.
How to pick a first dance infographic
As promised, here is my infographic guide to picking a first dance
It all boils down to fun and memories
At the end of the day, whatever you decide, just make sure you have fun with your first dance and enjoy the special moment that it is. Enjoy picking a first dance because that’s what it’s all about – you want to be creating happy memories with this dance! While researching this topic I found this interesting book on the history of dance down the ages including the history of dancing for weddings and ceremonies, worth a read for sure.
Pop back next week to read more invaluable tips and tricks when it comes to hiring entertainment for a wedding.
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Matt and the Seventh Second Team