Although more and more couples are leaving behind dated wedding traditions like tossing the garter belt or having the bride’s family foot the wedding bill, some traditions, like wearing a white wedding dress and serving cake, continue to be popular. One of the most popular wedding traditions is the couple’s first dance. In fact, YouGov, an international research data and analytics group, found that 75% of survey respondents supported keeping this tradition alive.
But just because most people approve of this time-honored ritual, that doesn’t mean we all understand it. That’s why we’ve outlined everything you need to know about first dance wedding songs. We cover etiquette, provide song suggestions, and give pointers about selecting the right song for you and your partner. So, do a quick stretch and put on some comfortable shoes. There’s a lot to cover!
The tradition of the first dance originated in 17th-century France. At that time, the guest of honor would lead the rest of the invitees in a minuet, passepied, or other fashionable dance to signal the start of a formal ball.
Nowadays, the first dance wedding song serves the same function — it lets guests know the dancing portion of the reception is beginning. Beyond that, it’s the spouses’ first opportunity to dance together as a newly married couple. As silly as it may sound, it’s also a chance for the couple to reconnect before returning to the chaos of eating, drinking, and socializing during the reception.
If you’ve been to a wedding, you know the first dance is reserved for the newlyweds. It’s considered extremely rude to bust a move before the couple has finished their routine.
In many cases, couples perform their first dance right after the reception meal, as a transition from the eating portion of the party to the dancing portion. That said, some couples elect to perform their first dance as part of their grand entrance into the reception, while others wait until after they cut the cake.
What happens after the first dance is entirely up to the couple. Some get the party started by inviting guests out to the dance floor, while others incorporate other specific, first dances.
In the second case, the dance order is usually:
Looking for the best first dance songs? We’ve compiled a list of 20 popular first dance wedding songs from various genres and eras to help you start brainstorming your perfect playlist.
Classic First Dance Songs (Pre-1970)
First Dance Wedding Songs (1970 to 2000)
Modern First Dance Songs (2001 to Current)
Choosing a first dance song may sound simple — until you realize you’ve got to pick a track that hits the right note (literally and figuratively), is the right tempo, matches the setting, and has mass appeal. No pressure, right?
On top of these considerations, the internet is full of first dance song ideas, making it even harder to know what you want. Here are some things to think about when you’re narrowing down your list of first dance songs.
There’s nothing wrong with a classic for wedding first dance songs, but if you want to give a performance your loved ones will remember, consider wearing a costume for the dance, incorporating some funky choreography, or playing a mashup.
It’s your wedding day, so if playing an up-tempo first dance song makes you happy, go for it. Lively songs are also unexpected, so you’ll surprise your guests and get them excited to get out on the dance floor with you.
Whether or not you share your first dance song ideas before the big day is entirely up to you. The song you choose for your first dance is very personal. Friends or family members may question or even criticize your choice. If you suspect this might be the case, keep the reveal for your wedding day.
Unless you’re a professional dancer, showing off your move to a crowd can be pretty overwhelming. To make your first dance less nerve-wracking, try taking lessons or practicing beforehand. It’s also a good idea to take a deep breath before stepping onto the dance floor.
To avoid putting too much pressure on yourself (and boring your guests), keep your first dance song between 2.5 and 3 minutes long — the perfect amount of time to get into the groove without feeling overwhelmed.
Although important, choosing the perfect first dance song is just one small aspect of your wedding entertainment. Be sure to check out TheGroomClub’s Ultimate Wedding Music Guide for advice on what to play during the cocktail hour, dinner, and the send-off.