I bet if I said, “Name a first dance song you’ve heard at a wedding,” everyone reading this would say one of the same two, maybe three songs. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that people tend to gravitate toward the same few songs for their wedding day first dance songs—after all, they’re popular songs for a reason, and it’s easier to imagine your first dance to a particular song when you’ve seen someone dancing to it beautifully at a wedding already. But if you really want your wedding to stand out, be more creative when it comes to how to pick a first dance song. Here are our tips for how to pick a first dance song that’ll help your (and your partner’s) individuality shine through.
How long should your first dance song be?
When it comes to how to pick a first dance song, first things first: You’ll want to learn what actually makes a good first dance song. Probably one of the biggest indicators of a great first dance song is its length. A song that’s too long may bore your guests (they’ll be eager to eat and hit the dance floor themselves), but you don’t want a tune that’s too short either—your photographer won't have time to get enough photos of this special moment. The sweet spot? Around three minutes is the sweet spot, but your song should definitely be longer than a minute and less than four. You’ll also want to find a tune that’s not too fast, nor too slow, is easy and enjoyable to dance to, and features appropriate lyrics (sorry, “I’ll Make Love to You”).
Listen to more music together.
While there may be songs that have special significance to you and your partner, there may be lesser-known tunes that are actually good candidates for your first dance song. If you don’t already spend a lot of time listening to music together, try to jump on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, or another music streaming service more often in during your time together. Whether it’s while cooking dinner, going on walks, during car rides, or just hanging out on the couch, keep the music playing! Create radio stations based on your favorite music styles or artist so you know you'll hear tunes you generally like. The more opportunities you and your partner give yourselves to listen to music, the more likely you'll find the perfect first dance song.
You can totally play that song as your first dance track and make it feel one of a kind at the same time by digging around online for a cover. Most hit songs have dozens of covers (usually with romantic singer-songwriter vibes) available on Spotify or Soundcloud, all of which can help make an old-standby first dance song feel fresh. Alternatively, if there’s a faster-paced song you and your partner love (say, a Drake song), you’ll likely be able to find a slower-paced, acoustic cover of that that feels more appropriate for your first dance and would totally surprise and delight guests.
Go back in time.
Wondering how to pick a first dance song? Don’t limit your search to only current songs. That’s a surefire way to choose something that’s overused. Instead, spend a few hours listening to curated Spotify playlists from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. These years cranked out classics for a reason! And choosing a song that’s been around for decades and has some gravitas will add a lovely bit of timelessness to your first dance—you can’t get that from the one-hit wonder pop stars of today! (No offense, Chainsmokers.)
Yes, figuring out how to choose a first dance song is a super-personal decision that should only be made by you and your dance (and life) partner—so back off, nosy mother-in-law! But you should still feel free to get inspiration from family, friends, the Internet—whatever! The same way you found your favorite song by that indie band in college thanks to a suggestion by your musically inclined friend, you can unearth a very cool and unique first dance song just by picking the brains of people you love who happen to have great taste. Especially consider asking friends who’ve been married for a while—it’s a totally true (and sometimes annoying) phenomenon that after a person’s wedding concludes is exactly when they discover all the very best wedding songs they wish they’d used. Their loss, your gain.
Check out instrumentals.
The coolest idea I’ve ever heard for a wedding song is a couple using the Jurassic Park theme song as their processional—but it was an absolutely elegant cover done by a live violinist. You might have not even known it was the Jurassic Park theme song, which is fine—but the couple got to represent their love for a great flick, without making an important moment at their wedding feel a little bit silly by using a movie theme song. Think about books or movies you and your partner love (Harry Potter, anyone?) and consider hiring a band to create an elegant, instrumental version of a song from that source material that will bring even more meaning and personality to your first dance. Or, consider asking your band to cover a pop song using only instruments, which can class-up a song that otherwise might be inappropriate for the event.
Ask a talented friend to perform.
For a first dance you’ll really treasure and an easy way to figure out how to choose a first dance song, consider asking a musical family member or friend to play your song for you. It’s a surefire way to make your first dance ultra-unique and irreplaceable, with a side bonus of giving your guests something else to look at as you dance (in case having all eyes on you for three and a half minutes gives you serious anxiety). It’s also a great and creative way to involve someone who’s important to you in your wedding—when maid of honor or ceremony reader just won’t do. If you’re going to do this, be sure to work closely with the musician to make sure the song you’ve chosen is a style they feel comfortable playing, and to make sure they have all the infrastructure they need to do the job well. This will likely be as big a deal for them as it is for you, and they’ll want to make sure they pull it off perfectly!
Try ‘em out.
Picking a first dance song isn’t necessarily as simple as just listening to a song and saying “that’s our song” (though if that approach works for you, great!). You may want to try out a few different tunes before deciding on “the one” (just like partners, amirite?). So narrow the picks down to a couple of potentials and try cutting a rug to each of them to see which one feels right. Yes, it may seem a little silly and awkward, but you’ll be glad you did a test run, though taking dance lessons would be even better.