photo // Anna Schmidt Photography
Before I begin, let me say this. I don’t think you can go wrong picking your wedding song. Whether it’s old or new, upbeat or slow, it’s really all about what the song means to you. The song will take on special meaning for you as you dance to it, as well as your guests as they watch. I’m often surprised by the songs our couples choose as their first dance (“How are we going to make this one work?!”), but the rule seems to be: the more interesting or unique the song choice, the more special the moment. So, get creative! And even better…if you have a band play your wedding instead of a DJ, you can ask them to adjust the song to fit the mood you want to set. They can slow the song down, add instrumentation, take out percussion, or create a nice build of energy as the song goes along (my favorite technique).
Here are some cool songs we’ve done in the last 12 months.
1. Slide // Goo Goo Dolls (slow version) – We did this one for Jess & Brad at Oak Canyon Ranch on 5.21.16. This is a 90’s throwback if I’ve ever heard one, and definitely a unique choice for a first dance. To be honest, I had never really listened to the words until I learned it for them, and it turned out to be a very touching first dance. Brad and Jess choreographed a dance to it and had us play it a little bit slower than the original recording. It was pure magic.
2. These Arms Of Mine // Otis Redding – You can never go wrong with a little Otis Redding. This particular tune has just the right mix of soul and 50’s doo-wop, which made this moment meaningful yet light. Georges & Nicole planned their wedding to have an intimate and welcoming feel; with a guest count of under 40, they wanted each of their guests to feel part of what was happening. This song made it easy for us to invite all the other guests onto the floor with them before transitioning into our dance set.
3. When I Get My Hands On You // The New Basement Tapes – So sexy. So smooth. This song is really slow and simple, so it’s great for couples that want an intimate moment they’ll never forget. For Johnny and Emily’s first dance, this was an opportunity for us to back off and let the bass guitar do all the talking. We didn’t try to speed it up or complicate it with extra instrumentation, and the empty space really allowed guests’ attention to rest on the couple.
4. Thinking Out Loud // Ed Sheeran – Don’t shy away from it just because everybody’s heard it a thousand times! We’ve done this for maybe 10 different couples in the past year, and you know what? A good song is a good song! Guests will be able to sing along while they shed a little happy tear for the two of you. Tried and true.
5. Our Love // Gary Clark, Jr. – Another smooth R&B tune that I had never heard before. I thought this one was a really nice tempo – slow but not too slow, with a really classic beat that seemed to fit the sophistication of the occasion. This song also has a nice build of energy, which makes it conducive to invite guests to join you towards the end of the tune. This song is especially great if you have a horn in your band!
6. Your Song // Elton John – A classic, and a great choice no matter which way you spin it. There are many ways to do this song – completely acoustic with a piano, mid-tempo with the band accenting here and there, very soft and gentle with a violin. You can’t go wrong with this one, because the lyrics are timeless and the melody floats beautifully.
7. It Had To Be You // Harry Connick, Jr. – I love this one for ballroom weddings with a real high-end feel. This song keeps the mood light and playful and just a little bit sexy (just listen to the way Harry Connick slides into those notes…) The Sinatra version is great too, but it doesn’t have the sultry swing of Connick, Jr.’s version.
8. The Way I Am // Ingrid Michaelson – Everybody knows this one, but it’s definitely an interesting choice for a first dance. It opts out of the traditional image of romance, charmingly addressing the finer aspects of a life spent together. (“I’ll buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair.”). For the right couple, it’s super charming. Min & Rune danced to this at Beltane Ranch in October, and it fit their unique love story perfectly.
9. Budapest // George Ezra – This song is getting more and more popular with couples, who love it for its simplicity and undeniably happy feel. This is an “all smiles” first dance – for the couple that wants to celebrate their first dance with a bit more joy than traditional selections allow.
10. You Are The Best Thing // Ray LaMontagne – It’s never going to go out of style. This song works so well because it’s an upbeat song you can still slow dance to it. It’s romantic, but it’s not so intense that you’ll make everybody cry. And most importantly, this song is the easiest of all the songs we do to get your guests to join you towards the end of the song. I particularly love the bridge of the song because of the way it builds excitement leading into the last two choruses. I’d highly recommend either having a horn player or a keys player than can play a horn line!
Want more ideas? Want to bounce an idea around? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more first dance real talk.