How To Avoid a Cheesy First Dance Song – 6 great tips to help you choose!

In an ideal world, your first dance song would be the perfect reflection of both of your music tastes. It may even be ‘your song’ – something you both heard or experienced during a formative part of your relationship; something that evokes lovely memories of how you got together on the journey to your big day.

But what if you don’t have ‘our song’, or you’re struggling to find something that fits the bill? Is your worst nightmare being forced to slow dance to something cheesy and irrelevant that doesn’t reflect you at all?

Well, here’s a few tips to set you on the path to choosing the perfect first dance song for your celebration.

1. It doesn’t need to be a love song

There are no rules written anywhere that the song you choose has to be a sappy, sentimental or overtly romantic number. As long as it unites you both, there are ways and means! The great thing about having your first dance performed live is that almost anything can be adapted to suit the occasion. A full on rock song can be ‘acoustified’ (for want of a better term!) to be performed in a way that lends itself more to you having an intimate dance.

This has been my approach in the Gillan Edgar Band since day one – some favourites of mine have been Everlong by the Foo Fighters, Baby I Love You by the Ramones, Dakota by the Stereophonics, and many more!

2. It doesn’t need to stay soft, slow or gentle.

A great trick I’ve used in the past is beginning the couple’s song gently, maybe just myself on acoustic guitar and singing, so your photographer and videographer can get those vital shots of you both, with your adoring friends and family gathered around. At some point, the song can open up and be delivered in a more upbeat style, closer to the original (if that’s what you desire!) This means your bridal party and guests can join you to round the song off in high spirits, and leads quite well into the first live set.

My version of Dakota was structured like this. It grew from an intimate half-time almost Americana treatment, eventually evolving into the more familiar full-on rock version as guests joined the couple on the dance floor. Needless to say it set up the band segment perfectly!

3. You have a favourite song, but some of the lyrics are a bit questionable

On a number of occasions, a couple have a song in mind they’d love to have for their first dance, but one or two lines just stand out as being irrelevant, refer to something that doesn’t quite click with the couple, or are just plain inappropriate!

You want your first dance to represent how you feel about each other, so my simple solution to this is to work with the couple on revising those lines. This is the beauty of a live first dance – we don’t have to stick to the formula! As a bonus, there may even be some kind of adaptation that brings the song even closer to telling your story, replacing lyrics that aren’t even inappropriate – it’s just great to be able to tailor things to your story.

In the past, I’ve made adaptations from swapping out swearwords (to appease the grandmothers!) through to rewriting an entire verse to describe how the couple met at Uni.

4. You don’t need to dance alone for the whole song

Bear in mind that it’s customary across the board (unless you specify otherwise) that a couple only really need to be on their own on the dance floor for roughly 30 seconds. It’ll be over in a flash! Whoever is announcing (be that a toastmaster, DJ or in my case the singer in the band) will be there to make sure this happens.

As a general rule of thumb, when I’m announcing I invite guests to join my couples immediately after the first chorus, which is also where we normally pick up the pace and intensity to guide us into the first set. The best announcers gather your guests around you beforehand and make it clear that when we give them the signal, they’re going to join you on the dance floor. I don’t start til we get a nice loud “Yes!” from them!

5. If in doubt, go for the obvious choice

There are a number of songs which, however you may feel about them, lend themselves perfectly to the first dance scenario. The issue is that they may feel a bit oversaturated, or ‘obvious’. How can you make a popular choice more special for your celebration?

In my case, that’s quite straightforward – a version of a familiar song is going to sound completely unique when played by my band and delivered in my voice. We can also adapt songs to both begin more intimately and finish in a much higher intensity. This is a great way to get your guests really primed for the evening of dancing that’s about to commence!

We’ve done our fair share of Ed Sheeran, Robbie Williams et al, and we’ve never struggled to put our spin on things.

6. You don’t need to have a first dance at all

As with most traditions in the wedding space, the day is all about you and what you feel represents you so nothing is set in stone as an unbreakable rule. That might mean a first dance, as lovely as it is for your friends and family to witness and take part in, may just not be right for you. In this case, we can open the dance floor with the start of the first live set, and make a point of dispensing with tradition.

I would always encourage a couple to include this tradition, but gear it toward their tastes – it’s such a great way to break the ice with your guests and bring everyone’s attention to the dance floor to kick off the first set. But it’s your day, and it’s ultimately your decision what you’re comfortable with!

Hopefully these tips have given you a good idea how to move forward in choosing the right first dance for you both. The key for me is to express yourselves and don’t limit your options; a good DJ or singer will be happy to consult in this potentially tricky part of the process.

If I can be of any help, don’t hesitate to get in touch! And if you’d like me to add my own twist to your song, I’d be more than happy to help you celebrate on your big day.


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