When it comes to choosing a song for your first dance as a married couple, it can be hard to know where to start. There’s so much great music out there! How can you possibly choose?
Jeff Stitely, our fearless leader here at Stitely Entertainment and an expert in the field for 25 years, has a few recommendations to help the process along.
First, he says, when considering a song, pay attention to how it makes you feel. Does it give you chills? Make you smile? Do you love the feeling you get when you hear it? If so, those are sure signs of a great song choice!
Second, pay attention to the lyrics. Do they resonate with you? Do they reflect your outlook on life, love, and/or relationships? If so, great! Looks like you’ve got a contender.
On the other hand, what if the song makes you feel great, and you love what the song has to say about life/love/relationships in the first two verses and the chorus… but then the third verse takes a left turn into darker territory? (What if the people who were so in love at the beginning of the song break up? Or what if the person’s love is unrequited? etc.)
Don’t give up on that song just yet – there are ways we can make it work!
If you’ve booked a live band, it can be as simple as changing a few words – past tense can become present tense, for example – or even omitting that last verse entirely. It’s as easy as that! If you’ve booked a DJ, it’s possible to fade the song out before that troublesome verse comes up. Either way, you have options that will help to make your first dance extra special.
Here’s a great example of how someone chose their perfect first dance song. Consider Jeff Stitely’s story:
“When I got married, I was a jazz drummer and loved all the old classic ballads. My favorite song was called “My One and Only Love”. The lyric starts with “The very thought of you makes my heart sing” and the whole song is that scrumptious in addition to being one of the most beautiful melodies ever written from that era. Maybe two other people in the country chose that song but we didn’t care about that. It is a personal choice. Check it out.”
Still need inspiration? Here’s a list of the top 10 most popular first dance songs of 2016 according to the music streaming service, Spotify:
- Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)
- At Last (Etta James)
- You Are the Best Thing (Ray LaMontagne)
- All of Me (John Legend)
- A Thousand Years (Christina Perri)
- Make You Feel My Love (Adele)
- I Won’t Give Up (Jason Mraz)
- Everything (Michael Buble)
- Better Together (Jack Johnson)
- Amazed (Lonestar)
Let me introduce you to an incredible artist: Adele.
What’s that? You’ve already heard of her? Of course you have. She’s been pretty high profile for years, especially with her most recent 2011 smash album “21.”
I, like many, enjoy listening (and painfully singing along) to Adele’s music. It’s always a delight to see my musical tastes validated, and they are by how often she is requested for wedding music. Many people view “21″ as the ultimate break-up album, and Adele as the ultimate break-up artist. But to hurt that much from a relationship comes from loving deeply. The woman knows love, and isn’t that what a wedding is all about?
These are the three most recent requests for Adele we have received from brides:
“Make You Feel My Love” from her first studio album “19.”
One and Only from “21.”
Lovesong from “21.”
Choosing Music for Your Reception
Choosing wedding music that makes everyone happy can be a complicated process. In Parts One and Two of this series we discussed selecting music for your ceremony, cocktails, dinner and special moments. Today we’ll discuss how to create your own musical signature as a couple while satisfying the tastes of your guests during the reception.
So how do you honor your personal preferences while keeping the dance floor packed? The key is considering the music you and your fiancé like, as well as the songs your families and friends will respond to. People dance to what they know, so if you are not already aware ask your family or friends what artists and genres they like. For example, the Stitely Orchestra played at a wedding where the couple and their friends were Phish heads. They knew that Lady Gaga was not going to get their guests on the floor, so they chose music that reminded them of their shared memories and appealed to their friends. We also played at a wedding where the bride and her family is Bolivian, while the groom and his family is Irish. To satisfy everyone they hired a Bolivian duo and an Irish combo to play during the band breaks; that way their families as well as their friends got to enjoy themselves.
Often, playing older styles of music like jazz or classic rock earlier in the reception helps to include older guests. However, if you want a more modern feeling right from the beginning there are some ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s tunes that can work great in the first set. Songs like “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green, and artists like Adele, Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, and Taylor Swift appeal to guests of all ages. Avoid songs with a lot of electronic elements in the first set; work up to those auto tune hits that make your booty shake but make your grandparents cringe. Also consider if there are any cultural traditions, songs with special meaning to your group like college fight songs, or sing-along tunes like “Wonderwall.” These songs are great to include earlier in the evening because they keep everyone engaged.
The final song will cast a lingering impression of your wedding for you and your guests. Consider whether you want to leave with a romantic ballad like “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne, or a rocking anthem that keeps the energy high to the very end. Songs like “Don’t Stop Believing” or “We are Young” are great at creating a musical climax that reflects the fun and excitement of the day.
The process of choosing your wedding music can be as personalized as you and your fiancé want it to be. Put your unique signature on every musical aspect from the ceremony to reception, just remember that music frames memories and creates a lasting impression of your wedding for your family, friends and guests. But more importantly, how do you want to remember your special day?
Part Two: Choosing Music for Your Special Dances
It can be tricky choosing wedding music that both you and your guests like. In Part One of this three-part series we discussed choosing music for your ceremony, cocktails and dinner. Today we’ll discuss what to consider when choosing music for your special dances.
When contemplating a song for your first dance, consider whether you want an intimate moment, a playful interlude, or a flashy choreographed show that wows the crowd. What songs make you think of your partner? Is there a song that reminds you of a shared experience? Also think about logistics: how long do you want to be dancing in front of your guests? If your favorite song is too long, work with the bandleader or DJ to adjust the length by omitting verses or fading out. You can also combine two of your favorite songs. For example, a recent couple’s first dance began with Oasis’ “Wonderwall” and faded into “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Bottom line, the song should feel personal with lyrics that appeal to both of you.
Here are just a few of the songs Stitely bands have played at recent weddings. Some classics include: “The Best is Yet to Come” by Frank Sinatra, “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke, or “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen. “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes and “Whatever It Is” by the Zac Brown Band are great contemporary options.
When selecting music for the father/daughter and mother/son dances consider similar questions. Is there a song or an artist that reminds you of your father or an experience you had together? This song could be sweet and sentimental, or fun or outrageous. There is something timeless about older songs like “My Girl” by The Temptations or “You Make Me Feel So Young” by Frank Sinatra, however, if you want a modern feel try “Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright or “I Loved Her First” by Heartland. Mother/Son dances can be challenging since so many great “love” songs are about romantic love. Songs like “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, “In My Life” by The Beatles, and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder will warm your heart without creeping anyone out.
If you don’t want to toss your bouquet, consider an anniversary dance. During this dance, married guests dance together and leave the floor as an emcee announces increasing lengths of time, ultimately leaving the longest married couple in the spotlight. The bride rewards their longevity with her bouquet. This is a sweet way to celebrate your older guests like grandparents, or avoid an awkward situation in which many of the female guests are too old, young or married to catch the bouquet. Typically this dance is a classic ballad, but if you have a favorite song you didn’t choose for your first dance, use it here instead.
With the musical tearjerkers out of the way, it’s time to party down! Stay tuned for Part 3 next Wednesday in which we’ll discuss reception music that keeps everyone on the dance floor.
Choosing Music for Your Ceremony, Cocktails & Dinner
The venue is reserved, vendors are booked, and the dress bought; now it’s time to start planning the timeline and musical flow of your wedding! There are a lot of elements to consider, but in this three part series we’ll focus on choosing music that reflects your personality as a couple while keeping your guests of all ages glued to the dance floor.
Music transports you back to certain times in your life. Finding those sweet spots that hit an emotional chord with different groups of people is what choosing your wedding music is all about. First consider the function music will play at your wedding. What kind of atmosphere do you want to create? When you fantasize about your future wedding memories, what do these moments feel like? Clarifying the mood you want to create will help you choose music that will make you, your fiancée and your guests happy.
Your ceremony is one of the few times of the evening when you can be completely musically “selfish.” You don’t have to consider whether your family or friends enjoy or approve of your choices. You don’t have to worry whether your guests will dance or whether the tempo is too slow or fast. The goal here is to create the unique atmosphere that you and your fiancé will remember forever.
So what kind of ceremony are you going to have – traditional, modern, religious? If you like traditional wedding music, stick with the classics and enjoy the timeless ambiance. An increasingly popular trend is to play modern songs with classical instruments such as a string combo. This adds a contemporary edge to your traditional ceremony, or a classical flavor to your modern ceremony. Whatever your preferences, just remember- this is your chance to choose songs that are special to both of you, no strings attached.
The music you choose during cocktails and dinner sets the stage for the rest of the evening. This music creates a subtle backdrop for guests to mingle and enjoy their meals. However, in a typical East Coast timeline dinner music also serves to connect important moments like your first dance or cake cutting. Again consider the atmosphere you want during this period. Cocktails and dinner are wonderful opportunities to include music that you really love but might not translate well into dancing. For example, a lot of indie music is great to listen to but lies in a mid-tempo range that makes dancing awkward. A great example of this is Feist’s “Mushaboom.” If you, your fiancé or friends love this music, consider a combo that plays indie & contemporary music rather than the traditional jazz combo. However, if you enjoy the chic ambiance provided by a jazz combo then go with that group.
With dinner completed, it’s time to take the floor for your special dances! Stay tuned for Part Two next week in which we’ll discuss choosing music for these significant moments.