Wedding Day First Dance Songs
September is the most popular month to say “I Do” making it the perfect time to write about Wedding Day First Dance songs. As I begin, I am unsure of my angle and have no idea how it will unfold. What I do know, I am grateful to all whom shared their song (listened and read the lyrics to all – no small task). I have submissions from newlyweds, divorcees, second marriages, never been married to married nearly 50 years.
As I began the piece, I was curious about several things. Why did my Couples choose their wedding song? Was it popular when they were dating? Has it always been their song? Was the song a big consideration or did they choose from a band list? Did the husband or wife select the song or was it mutual? If they were to renew their vows, is it still relevant (do they still like it)? In some cases, I was given a snapshot of their story or experienced it firsthand. Most said they would have the same song should they renew their vows.
Some songs are what I consider wedding factory songs because of their popularity or because they seem prefabricated. Many songs I don’t connect with because they are too corny or too predictable but I appreciate the fact that every first dance song is special and beautiful. Time does not permit me to write about all of them. Thank you for sharing!
My Story: Sea of Love – The Honeydrippers was formed by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin in 1981 to satisfy a goal to have a rock band with a heavy R&B basis. Sea of Love was originally written by Phil Phillips and George Khoury in 1959. The Honeydrippers version rose to #3 on the charts. What is the relevance of Sea of Love? My husband and I met in Newport, RI (me riding my bike and Dennis, in a share house with NY friends, enjoying the last day of summer). I happened to be moving to NYC two weeks from the day (running away to mend a broken heart). He noticed my great legs (as he told the priest at pre-cana) and asked me to watch the sunset. Three years to the day, he brought me back to the place we met and proposed. We couldn’t agree on a song. Sea of Love came on the radio during a trip back to NY from Newport. Wanting to check something off the ‘wedding to do list’ … yes, it’s great. It validated our story without us having any real emotional connection to the song. In 1995 we were married in Newport, RI. What I love about the song is the way it opens. It is mysterious like the sea and the melody grows with intensity as the sea can. Salt water runs deep through my veins. Would we choose the same song again? It is part of our history and the future is still unfolding. We will celebrate 18 years on September 23rd.
- Most Popular – At Last: was written in 1941 by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the musical film, Orchestra Wives, and performed by The Glen Miller Orchestra with vocals by Ray Eberle and Pat Friday (a lovely big band version); covered by Etta James in 1960 whose version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Etta James is one of my favorite voices and At Last was one of her most popular hits. It does not surprise me this was the most popular song (10%) selected among our couples to celebrate the first dance of the rest of their lives (Number 1 on the Wedding Knot). The song starts out so dreamy, the lyrics so simple but soulful … I found a dream, that I could speak to, A dream that I can call my own, I found a thrill to press my cheek to, A thrill that I have never known.
Songs submitted: All My Life/Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville; Annie’s Song/John Denver; Crazy Love/Van Morrison; I Could Not Ask for More/Edwin McCain; Maybe I’m Amazed/Paul McCartney; My Love/Lionel Richie; Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You/George Benson; Ribbon In the Sky/Stevie Wonder; Unchained Melody/Righteous Brothers; Here and Now/Luther Vandross.
Annie’s Song written by John Denver in 1973, as an ode to his wife, in about ten minutes on the ski lift up Aspen Mountain. You fill up my senses like a night in the forest, like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain, like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean … Inspiration found in solitude.
Maybe I’m Amazed written by Paul McCartney in 1969 as a dedication to his wife for helping him through the break-up of the Beatles. It is regarded as McCartney’s finest love song …Maybe I’m amazed at the way you’re with me all the time, Maybe I’m afraid of the way I leave you, Maybe I’m amazed at the way you help me sing my song, Right me when I’m wrong, Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you … A true love story.
Unchained Melody was written in 1955 by Alex North (music) and Hy Zaret (lyrics) for an obscure prison film called Unchained which was based on a non-fiction book called Prisoners are People by Kenyon J. Scudder. The lyrics are about a prisoner longing for his wife and family who contemplates escaping so he can reunite with them. He attempts to escape but a fellow prisoner beats him and returns him to his cell to save him from himself. Haunting love song!
- Sexiest Song – The Secret Garden (Quincy Jones, Barry White, Al B. Sure, James Ingram, El DeBarge 1989) Pardon the expression, but this song is fucking hot! Not only did I attend this wedding, I was a bridesmaid and I distinctly remember the first dance because the song was so SEXY! Not just the deep, sultry voices but the lyrics … Let’s make music, Harmonizin’ ecstasy,(Come on, come on, come on, come on) Come on, sing it to me, Here in the garden, Where temptation feels so right, Passion can make you fall for what you feel, In the garden … Take a listen. Read the lyrics. You’ll agree.
- Best Lyrics – In Your Eyes (written by Peter Gabriel in 1986 off the album So)
After reading the lyrics to every song submitted, In Your Eyes is my favorite. This song falls under the couple category of ‘Hopeless Romantics’ according to the Wedding Knot – “A passionate, sentimental pair. Lyrics, just as much as melody, are important to you: poetic, intense, and emotional.” I don’t know this couple very well, nor do I think my relationship fits under this category but as an individual, I can confirm, hopeless romantic may not be a stretch …Love I get so lost, sometimes, days pass and this emptiness fills my heart, when I want to run away, I drive off in my car, but whichever way I go, I come back to the place you are … in your eyes, the light the heat, in your eyes, I am complete, in your eyes, I see a thousand churches, in your eyes … After all, the eyes are the mirror to the soul.
- Best Dance Song – This Will Be (an Everlasting Love) (Natalie Cole’s debut single in 1975 and one of her biggest hits, winning her a Grammy Award for Best New Artist) This Will Be was submitted as a contender for his ‘someday’ wedding song and happens to be one of my favorite people in the world. He once said to me my husband and I met because he and I were meant to be friends – one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. I have traveled to Europe with him and have danced many a song with him. When Mr. Right comes along you had better warn him there will be a long, long line of friends cutting in! Yeah, yeah … it is a great song!!
- Classic Love Song – Moon River (written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer received an Academy Award for most original song and was first performed by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961). Moon River makes me think of partners in crime and the couple who submitted this song is in the truest sense. They have each other’s back 48 years later … Two drifters, off to see the world, There’s such a lot of world to see, We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting, round the bend, My Huckleberry Friend, Moon River, and me … A wedding era I would have liked to experience for the fabulous 60s fashion and magical dancing that has become a lost art.
Songs submitted for this category: Love is a Many Splendored Thing/Four Aces; Somewhere My Love (Lara’s Theme Dr. Zhivago)/Ray Conniff; What a Difference a Day Makes/Dinah Washington; My One and Only Love/John Coltrane; The Way You Look Tonight/Frank Sinatra; Unforgettable/Nat King Cole; You Belong to Me/Dean Martin
My One and Only Love – John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (1963) was originally recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1953; Sarah Vaughn 1959; Ella Fitzgerald 1962 – all beautiful. Johnny Hartman has an amazingly rich voice but remained relatively unknown until receiving a career-altering offer to record with saxophonist John Coltrane. It is a wonderful, jazzy version of the song having the power to transport me back in time … to a smoky night club in 1960s Manhattan listening to amazing music, dressed fabulously with an adoring suitor by my side … Magical!
What a Difference a Day Makes – Dinah Washington was originally written in Spanish by a Mexican songwriter in 1939 (Maria Grever) and originally called Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado (When I Return to Your Side). Dinah Washington won the Grammy Award in 1959 for Best R&B Performance for her version. Dinah Washington, like Etta James, is one of my favorite voices. Reminding me now, it has been too long since I have sat back and enjoyed her music. This is a lovely selection as a first dance song.
Unforgettable – Nat King Cole (1951) is one of my favorite songs and I still listen to the duets version with Natalie Cole quite often. Unforgettable in every way, And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay, That’s why, darling, it’s incredible, That someone so unforgettable, Thinks that I am unforgettable too …
- 6. Unconventional Wedding Song – Everlong (Foo Fighters) I have never listened to this band before. It is fabulous and a super-hip, modern first dance song. I asked the unknown bride to let me know how she incorporated the song but she didn’t get back to me. My hope is they danced to this song exactly the way it was meant… And I wonder, When I sing along with you, If everything could ever feel this real forever, If anything could ever be this good again, The only thing I’ll ever ask of you, You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when, She sang, Breathe out, So I could breathe you in, Hold you in … I love this song!
Blue Sky/The Allman Brothers; Everlong/Foo Fighters; Fields of Gold/Sting; For All Time/Soluna; Further on Down the Road/Taj Mahal; Harvest Moon/Neil Young; How Can I Keep from Singing/Enya; I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing/Aerosmith; Kissing You (Romeo & Juliet)/Des’ree; Living Inside My Heart/Bob Seger; The Gambler/Fun; Love/The Cure
Love this category because they’re different and I’m pretty confident each couple considered the lyrics.
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Aerosmith was the first dance for dear friends’ wedding I attended in April. I have never seen a happier couple. The spouse is the older brother I never had and to see my ‘brother’ so happy is wonderful. Don’t wanna close my eyes, I don’t wanna fall asleep, ‘Cause I’d miss you, baby, And I don’t wanna miss a thing, Cause even when I dream of you, the sweetest dream would never do, I’d still miss you, baby …
Kissing You was written by British singer, Des’ree for the 1996 film Romeo & Juliet and featured when the characters meet at the ball. The piano and strings in the song are beautiful and dramatic. The bride designed and made my wedding gown when she was eighteen years old. They just celebrated their 14th anniversary and are incredibly passionate people with the deepest of devotion to each other.
Further on Down the Road (Taj Mahal/formerly known as Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr.) was born in Harlem, NY in a musical family (grew up in Springfield, MA). Mahal studied African music and played classical piano, clarinet, trombone, guitar and the harmonica. The death of his father and second marriage of his mother brought him to North Carolina where he developed a passion for farming that rivaled his love of music. From the little I read about him, he seems like a thirsty student. What I appreciate about this song is it is not a typical love song but a commitment to looking to the future. This was submitted by one of my favorite couples whom I had the privilege of spending time with while we lived in Colorado. Further on down the road, baby, you will accompany me, Oh, I’m hoping, Further on down the road, baby, you will accompany me, Ohh baby, can’t you hear me prayin, When I look back, your love was like the sun, And I don’t remember any cold days, I just remember the warm, warm fun, Further on down the road, baby, you will accompany me
- Most Ironic Song –The End (The Doors): When I first saw this submission I considered it an act of sarcasm (I’m sure it was). I read the lyrics before I listened to the song and asked him if I should bring a weapon to his wedding – should he marry. As I researched further, I found it more intriguing. Here is what I pulled off Wikipedia. Morrison 1969: “Everytime I hear that song, it means something else to me. It started out as a simple good-bye song…. Probably just to a girl, but I see how it could be a goodbye to a kind of childhood. I really don’t know. I think it’s sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery that it could be almost anything you want it to be.” In John Densmore‘s autobiography Riders on the Storm, he recalls when Morrison explained the meaning: At one point Jim said to me during the recording session, and he was tearful, and he shouted in the studio, ‘Does anybody understand me?’ And I said yes, I do, and right then and there we got into a long discussion and Jim just kept saying over and over kill the father, fuck the mother, and essentially boils down to this, kill all those things in yourself which are instilled in you and are not of yourself, they are alien concepts which are not yours, they must die. Fuck the mother is very basic, and it means get back to essence, what is reality, what is, fuck the mother is very basically mother, mother-birth, real, you can touch it, it’s nature, it can’t lie to you. So what Jim says at the end of the Oedipus section, which is essentially the same thing that the classic says, kill the alien concepts, get back reality, the end of alien concepts, the beginning of personal concepts.
Maybe it wasn’t sarcasm, after all, but a rejection of tradition. Live.
- Soulful Wedding Song – Hallelujah (kd lang): written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen in 1984. It is a curious submission. King David commits adultery with Bathsheba (translates to daughter of the oath) and Delilah (translates to weakened or uprooted; meaning weak or poor), a temptress loved by Sampson (translates to man of the sun) whom is granted supernatural strength to combat his enemies. Delilah, his weakness, betrays him for money. Sometimes love is an addiction, beyond explanation. Hallelujah is powerful and emotional.
Songs submitted in this category: Come Rain or Come Shine/Ray Charles; Let’s Stay Together/Al Jarreau; Hallelujah/kd lang; Love Me Tender/ Elvis; The Wonder of You/Elvis; You Send Me/Sam Cook & Aretha Franklin – Every song in this category is great!
|Liz||You Belong to Me||Dean Martin|
|Tammy||What a Difference A Day Makes||Dinah Washington|
|Carolyn & Tommy||Somewhere My Love||Dr. Zhivago|
|Kelly||The Way You Look Tonight||Frank Sinatra|
|Gerry & Charlie||Moon River||Henry Mancini|
|Greg’s Reco||Unforgettable||Nat King Cole|
|Trish & Frank Florio||Phantom of the Opera|
|Cheryl||I Cross My Heart||George Strait|
|Kathleen||You Decorated My Life||Kenny Rogers|
|Jac’s friend||Through the Years||Kenny Rogers|
|Jac’s friend||Stll the One||Shania Twain|
|Jac’s friend||From This Moment||Shania Twain|
|Jac’s friend||I Could Not ask for More||Edwin McCain|
|Kathleen & Jay||At Last||Etta James|
|Maureen & John||Annie’s Song||John Denver|
|Barbara & Paul||All My Life||Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville (2)|
|Monica||My Love||Lionel Richie|
|Jac’s friend||Here and Now||Luther Vandross|
|Nancy & Eddie||Never Ask for More than Your Love||Michael George|
|Ashley & Steve||Maybe I’m Amazed||Paul McCartney|
|Michelle||UnChained Melody||Righteous Brothers|
|Annie Manley||Crazy Love||Van Morrison|
|Teresa & Ronnie||Secret Garden||Luther Vandross|
|Margaret & Dennis||Sea of Love||Honeydrippers|
|Jac’s friend||This I swear||Nick Lachey|
|Christine||Let’s Stay Together||Al Jarreau|
|Monica (renew)||Living Inside My Heart||Bob Segar|
|Tina & Thomas||The Wonder of You||Elvis|
|Jac’s friend||Love Me Tender||Elvis/Norah Jones|
|Greg’s Reco||Hallelujah||K.D. Lang|
|Charlie||This Will Be and Everlasting Love||Natalie Cole|
|Jacquie & Todd||Come Rain or Come Shine||Ray Charles|
|Noreen & Jack||You Send Me||Sam Cook|
|Jac’s friend (back-up)||For All Time||Soluna|
|Jac’s friend||Ribbon In the Sky||Stevie Wonder|
|Kath & Tommy||Irish Wedding Song||Various|
|Vic & Georgette||I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing||Aerosmith|
|donelle||Blue Sky||Allman Brothers|
|Debbie & Phil||How Can I Keep from Singing||Enya|
|Jac’s friend||Everlong||Foo Fighters|
|Michelle & Lou||The Gambler||Fun|
|Lauren & Michael||Harvest Moon||Neil Young|
|Cathy & Chris||In Your Eyes||Peter Gabriel|
|Jennifer||Fields of Gold||Sting|
|Kristin & Kevin||Further on Down the Road||Taj Mahal|
|Fo||Love Song||The Cure|
|James||The End||The Doors|
|Candace & John||At Last||Etta James|
|Jim & Tammy||At Last||Etta James|
|Kevin & DeAnne||At Last||Etta James|
|Jaime & Kendall||My One and Only Love||John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman|