How to choose your first dance song.
Here's a little guest feature courtesy of Andrew Wilson, the brains behind Dance Til Tomorrow, one of our favourite wedding band/DJ companies. He's seen hundreds of first dances and has some great suggestions for you. Over to you, Andrew...
To even write about choosing a first dance, never mind actually choosing one, presents its own kind of problem. Life is a rich tapestry, and even before contemplating the practically limitless wealth of choice in the universe of recorded song, the main observation I’ve garnered from many couple’s weddings is that there is a full spectrum of motivations involved in making the choice.
Some are keen to impress their guests or partner on a whole range of levels, perhaps with the originality of the choice, the sentiment contained in the lyrics, humour, a dance routine... The list is endless, and this assumes that the first dance is something that’s high on the priority list of the couple. For some folks the idea of a first dance conjures up at best ambivalence and at worst, and I can speak for myself here, complete trepidation at even being involved in the act of dancing with other people watching.
With the above in mind, the rules are that basically there are no rules. Except one. Read ALL the lyrics. You would be surprised to hear that some couples quite obviously don’t do this. Sometimes the chorus line or main lyric can be a little misleading. So when I was asked to perform Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me” for a couple, and despite my hint that perhaps they should at least have a very close listen to the song or reconsider, I will never forget the look of confusion in the audience when I launched into a song about a one night stand where one party is “kicked out the door” the next morning. Similarly with Train “Drops of Jupiter,” a song that sounds a little like the girl leaves her guy to check out other options before deciding to cut her losses and return. Not really the sentiments we are looking for...
An important Choice
One important functional consideration is whether to have the band play the first dance or play it from a recording. In our experience, most couples go with the band, and I normally encourage this for several reasons. Firstly, I think many couples place a high importance on the band they choose for their wedding and to me that obviously makes a lot of sense. I feel that discussing, learning and the performing a significant song for a couple gives me a feel for them and a gives us a connection. It also introduces the band to the rest of the audience in an intimate way, and sets the rest of the night up to be very special.
Another major advantage, especially for couples who are quaking in their boots about dancing in front of their friends is that I can, on cue invite folks up to dance and take the heat off, or edit the song down to a shorter version if necessary. One particularly clever couple asked me to replace a fairly raunchy line in their song to something a little less likely to make the bride’s father faint. That said, some songs are almost untouchable in their own right and, no matter how good the band, a cover version might not be what the couple wants to hear. I would advise couples to assess their band’s capabilities, not only in ability, but also logistically. If you want a Phil Spector-sized orchestral wall of sound and you’ve booked 2 guys on acoustic guitars it just won't work.
So, with functional advice dealt with – here are some crudely categorised first dance choices to get you thinking.
The Timeless Classic
Frank Sinatra – Fly Me to the Moon. Says it all with class and has a brass solo. Boxes ticked.
The 90’s Dance Floor Filler
Donna Lewis – I Love You Always, Forever. A lovely couple who had obviously met as teenagers on on a Kelly’s Portrush dance floor equivalent. This came complete with a whole dance routine and started the evening off with a bang.
The Popular Choice
Yes I have indeed conducted some research into what songs I might be likely to play, and top of all first dance song lists on the inter-web is Christina Perry, “A Thousand Years.” As predicted it wasn’t long before we got used to playing this unabashedly emotive heartstrings tugger.
The Country HoeDown
Tennessee Whiskey. Again with a rather strange sentiment about giving up the booze for the love of your life only to write a song about how she reminds you of every type booze you used to drink. But hey, whatever works. The dance floor was electric and I’m fairly sure the groom was anything but sober.
The Indie Banger
The Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition. Tune.
The Indie Swoon
There's so much you can choose from here. Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Meiko... there are loads of beautiful indie artists to choose from but Fake Empire by The National is easily my favourite choice of the last few years.
Designed to give the audience a laugh, express some pop culture based romantic sentiment, and to imbue me with strange existential ponderings – “Grow Old with You” from the movie the wedding singer was a brilliant choice on many levels.
The Luck of the Irish
Since the choices are almost unlimited, why not give your sanity a chance by imposing some arbitrary limitations. So many couples decide to go with songs written on our own emerald isle. And, with bardic blood running in our veins its not surprising that the choices have been inspiring. Signing off with a few from last year to whet your appetite.
Van Morrison – Into The Mystic / Someone Like You
Sinead O’Conner – 4th and Vine
Thin Lizzy – Dancin’ in the Moonlight
Now that you've got to the end of this blogpost, I'll drop in the most important bit of advice:
YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO A FIRST DANCE!
It's your wedding day and you want to have a good time. If having a first dance is going to make you feel uncomfortable then it's really not worth it. Modern weddings often dispense with old traditions so do what YOU want.
If you want to book Dance Til Tomorrow or ask Andrew for more advice, you can get in touch with them here.