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In the right moment, a well-chosen song can elicit emotions from even the stiffest of sticks in the mud.

Your first dance song doesn’t have to be a tear-jerker, but it should get the feels going. And if it gets the dance floor filled with guests celebrating their own relationships, then you’ve chosen wisely.

Many couples have the right intention, but if they don’t take a careful look at the song, they can end up making an awkward selection.

Some tunes seem to have all the right things going for them, but upon close inspection hold some surprises. 

Let’s chat about some of the most popular first dance songs that fool people time and time again. We provide a great alternative for each, all of which you can listen to on our curated Spotify playlist.

Strike up the band! 

Standard by Frank Sinatra

NOT THAT: The Way You Look Tonight | Frank Sinatra

This song is almost 90 years old, so it seems that we’ve collectively forgotten its origins over time.

Written in 1936 for the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Swing Time, this number has been used as a first dance song countless times since the famous dancing duo first flitted across the stage to it all those years ago.

Frank Sinatra’s most popular and most often imitated version was recorded in 1964, and many others had a hit with their versions as well. But let’s dissect it a bit.

The lyrics themselves have an awful lot to say about looks and not much to say about love. In their films, Astaire’s character typically falls in love with Rogers at first sight.

If you believe in love at first sight, then this might be a great song for you to choose. But everybody has an opinion and ours is that the lyrics are too superficial for celebrating an everlasting love like yours.

THIS: Fly Me to the Moon | Frank Sinatra

This classic was recorded 100 times before Old Blue Eyes got his hands on it in 1964.

And for good reason.

Frank Sinatra wasn’t the first to connect with the simple lyrics. This standard offers words from a love-struck singer asking their lover to “hold my hand…kiss me. Fill my heart with song, and let me sing forever more. You are all I long for, all I worship and adore.”

This is very much a love that goes beyond skin deep. It’s poetic and innocent and would make for a beautiful love song to be played during your first dance.

Standard by The King

NOT THAT: Unchained Melody | Righteous Brothers

First made popular by the Righteous Brothers (and perhaps bested by Elvis Presley), this is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century.

Many of you may know it from its inclusion in the 1990 movie Ghost. But did you know it was written for a 1955 movie about a locked up man contemplating a prison break? It’s also one of the most popular first dance songs.

We won’t stop you from choosing it — we just want you to know what you’re getting into. Are undertones of crime something you want in a first dance song? Maybe, maybe not.

THIS: Can’t Help Falling In Love | Elvis Presley

The King really knew how to capture an audience and leave them wanting more. This song often concluded his live performances in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, but that doesn’t mean you can’t kick off your reception with it.

This song was based on the melody of a popular French love song written in 1784, giving it extra points for longevity. Imagine your partner seeking your love with intimate lyrics such as, “Like a river flows surely to the sea, Darling, so it goes, some things, you know, are meant to be,” and try not melting in their arms. I dare you.

A more recent recording by Haley Reinhart, the 3rd place finisher on Season 10 of American Idol, revitalized this beauty for the 21st century audience. She’s racked up more than 20 million YouTube views and 92 million Facebook views with it, reminding us what a powerful love song it is.

Easy Listening

NOT THAT: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You | Frankie Valli

If we’re going to ding “The Way You Look Tonight,” then this one deserves a demerit as well.

Again, we find an admirer professing his adoration for what could be interpreted as a stranger, aka the “love” that’s just arrived.

The creeper in this song is even so bold as to apologize for staring.

Singing this tune in front of the whole soccer team might have worked for Patrick while he was serenading Kat in the 1999 movie 10 Things I Hate About You, but remember — he was getting paid to date her for much of that movie.

THIS: My Girl | The Temptations

There may never be a more unrestrained expression of joy put into song.

When Smokey Robinson wrote it in 1964, he was hoping to compose a number that could be belted out but was also sweet and melodic.

Can it get any more sweet and melodic than lines like, “I’ve got so much honey, the bees envy me,” or “I’ve got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees.” No, it can’t. Smokey nailed it!

Soul Pop

NOT THAT: Marry You | Bruno Mars

This one has fooled a lot of people. Bruno’s voice. The driving percussion. The soaring platitudes. Seems alright.

But it’s not difficult to decipher this one.

Coercive lyrics. Drunkenness. Getting trashed on tequila. Divorcing in the morning. I know you’re not approaching your marriage with the attitude portrayed in the lyric, “Is it the look in your eyes or is it this dancing juice? Who cares, baby, I think I wanna marry you,” so this probably isn’t the song you’re looking for.

THIS: Marry Me | Train

In every way that Bruno’s song is wrong, this one couldn’t be any more right. It’s as beautiful, lyrical and wholesome as a love song gets.

Just look at this line: “You wear white, and I’ll wear out the words I love you.” I may or may not have swooned just typing it out.

Folk Rock 

NOT THAT: I and Love and You | The Avett Brothers

We’re baffled as to why this one gets played as a first dance song. Is it even a love song?

It’s got a soulful keyboard, played by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers founder Benmont Tench. It’s got some I love yous.

But, in actuality, it was intended as a sad song. It depicts loneliness. It’s about not knowing how to say, “I love you.”

And, as the band themselves said, the relationship isn’t between marriage partners or a couple — it depicts a parent-child relationship. Too much of a stretch. Don’t pick this song for your first dance.

THIS: Maybe I’m Amazed | Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney has never had a problem saying, “I love you.” By all accounts, this is Sir Paul’s favorite love song, and it’s the only solo McCartney song to make the list of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

As a contrast to “I and Love and You,” there’s no ambiguity in who the song was written for – McCartney’s wife Linda. Linda helped Macca get through the difficult breakup with The Beatles and was rewarded with this love song.

It’s widely regarded as one of Paul’s greatest. Love songs were written before, and love songs will be written after, but it’s easy to argue that they should all be measured against this one.

Country Classic

NOT THAT: When You Say Nothing At All | Keith Whitley

This one makes the list partly because of how often it’s recommended as a first dance song.

It hits all the right notes. Sappy. Truthful. Tender. Sweet.

But can anyone you know sing all the words? For a song that’s about not saying anything, it sure is wordy.

And it’s kind of a snoozefest to boot. If you want your wedding party to fill the dance floor instead of watching everyone fall asleep, then you should avoid this song.

THIS: Forever and Ever Amen | Randy Travis

This classic has all the tenderness and sweetness of “When You Say Nothing At All” without any of the long-winded phrasing and figurative language.

Written by the same songwriting duo who wrote “When you Say Nothing At All,” this charming song went to number one for Randy Travis in 1987 and stayed there for three weeks.

The sentimental love song keeps things simple with lines like, “This love that I give is gonna be yours until the day that I die,” and catchy rhymes such as, “If you wonder how long I’ll be faithful, I’ll be happy to tell you again: I’m gonna love you forever and ever, amen.”

This song also has something not often found in a country tune: international appeal. It was covered by Irish singer Ronan Keating (with help from Shania Twain) on his top selling album Twenty Twenty, which reached the top 25 on the charts in seven different countries. 

Country Contemporary

NOT THAT: Mine Would Be You | Blake Shelton

On the surface, this is a playful love song, but work your way down to the final verse and the breakup song darkness is revealed.

“What’s your double dare, your go all-in?” slowly morphs into “Taillights fadin’, daylight breakin’, standing there like a fool when I should’ve been runnin’, yellin’ out somethin’ to make you want to hold on.”

The #1 hit likely wouldn’t have made it to the top of the charts if the writers had stopped with lines like, “My wildest dream come true, mine would be you.” But that doesn’t mean it should be the song you start your marriage to.

THIS: Starting Over | Chris Stapleton

It’s hard to find a country song that doesn’t have a little bit of heartbreak. The old joke, “What happens when you play a country song backwards? You find your wallet, your wife still loves you and your dog comes home,” will always be funny.

But where many country songs start, this entry from Super Bowl National Anthem nailer Chris Stapleton is just beginning. The rainy day turns into an oath to beat the storm and promises that, “Someday we’ll look back and smile and know it was worth every mile.” 

The Choice Is Yours

It’s important to remember that just because a song gets played a lot as a first dance song, doesn’t mean it deserves to be a first dance song. Be sure to look deeper before you make your selection. 

Good luck — and, even if you go a different route than my suggestions, we wish you and your partner a beautiful wedding day and lots of feet on the dance floor.


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McKenzi Taylor
McKenzi Taylor

McKenzi Taylor is America’s go-to elopement and micro wedding expert, often featured in small and major media outlets, such as the New York Times. With over 15 years of wedding photography experience, it was after planning her own Las Vegas elopement in 2016 that McKenzi felt her purpose shift into elopement coordination. She started Cactus Collective Weddings soon after in 2017. Since then, she’s become a WIPA board member, and has helped well over 1000 couples get hitched in style around Las Vegas, San Diego and Black Hills.