Here’s the deal: the song you choose for your first dance is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning your wedding day.
This is because your first dance is one moment you’ll actually remember. The ceremony can go by so quickly; it’s a blur of nerves and excitement. But dancing in front of all of your guests for the first time as a married couple? That is a moment you’ll never forget.
So naturally, you want the song you choose for that first dance to truly represent you as a couple. It should make you feel nostalgic and grateful, maybe a little teary, and a lot in love.
But this is a tough decision to make! Even if you and your spouse already have a special song, it might not feel totally right for your first dance. And have you ever just Googled “best first dance songs”? Somehow, seeing all of those Top-40 titles listed doesn’t actually help.
In the spirit of the search for the perfect first dance song, we gathered six songs that our team loves. Spanning decades, continents, and genres, we hope this brief list might remind you just how many options are out there, and to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime process.
So pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up, and enjoy.
Tezeta (Nostalgia) - Mulatu Astatke
Tezeta (translating from Amharic to “memory” or “nostalgia” in English) has an incredible place in the history of Ethiopian Jazz (or ethio-jazz). As a genre, this jazz was developed in the 1960s and pioneered by musician Mulatu Astatke. This song has no lyrics, but instead blends “western” instruments with the traditions of ethio-jazz to reminisce on the warmth of close relationships with friends, family, and country. This piece of music has been reinterpreted dozens of times over the years—give a few of them a listen!
Wake Me - Bleachers ft. Lucius
If contemporary music feels better suited to your relationship, consider this tune from Bleachers. This simple, catchy song is all about the love you’ve had for your partner right from the start and how you’ll always be there for one another. Plus: it’s a brief song, so you can keep your first dance short and sweet.
You and Me - Penny & The Quarters
The story of Penny & The Quarters is an incredible one. The most famous recording of You and Me is actually a demo; it’s an intimate, lo fi, all but a capella love song that is a beautiful ode to a new marriage. This song was recorded by Penny & the Quarters—who were all just teenagers!—in the 1970s but essentially lost until 2006, when the tapes were discovered at the studio owner’s estate sale in Columbus.
Sea of Love - Cat Power
Sea of Love by Cat Power is proof that when it comes to love songs, sometimes simple is best. This song was originally written and performed by John Philip Baptiste in 1953, and is also a great song, but Cat Power’s subtle ukulele cover is one for the ages. Its gentle tune is perfect for couples less inclined to perform a choreographed dance in favour of a sway around the dance floor.
Calico Skies - Paul McCartney
Written for McCartney’s wife Linda, this song describes love in a time of social unrest. Recordings of this song exist in both an acoustic version and a version arranged for a string quartet. It’s a beautiful ode to a lifelong love despite all of the challenges we may face. Bonus: it’s also short!
I Only Have Eyes for You - Tashaki Miyaki
The original version of this song, written and performed by the Flamingos, is a love song Hall-of-Famer. But that’s why we love this cover by Tashaki Miyaki; done in the band’s signature “paisley-underground” style, this classic love song takes on a new, dreamier tone. Of course, be sure to give the original a listen as well. After all, the clichés are clichés for a reason!
The bottom line
Looking for a first dance song can feel like a really overwhelming task. There are so many options, expectations, and traditions that can make this song a difficult one to choose. But all that really matters is that you and your partner are happy. Our only piece of advice is to not limit yourself to typical love songs, artists, genres or decades—stay open minded and enjoy the process.
After all, how cool is it to be marrying the love of your life and picking a beautiful song to symbolise all that you share? Pretty cool, if you ask us. ∎
Kadie Hummel Photography (cover)