As a wedding photographer + music lover, I've heard a lot of different first dance songs.
There have been some beautiful musical discoveries made at weddings for me, and I always appreciate the heck out of couples who dare to go with something a little different than usual.
If you don't know where to look for first dance songs that suit your more non-traditional taste, look no further!
This list is made up of songs I personally love + would adore to see more of on the dance floor. A mix of romantic, upbeat, intimate, emotional + downright goosebump raising tunes that have stuck with me since the first time I ever heard them.
Happy dancing + saying I do!
Van Morrison - Sweet Thing
Van Morrison has one of my favourite voices in the world, especially in the summertime. I remember hearing this song when I was really young + never knowing what it was called. When I finally heard it again, in the movie "The Five Year Engagement", right at the beginning of the film, I paused it and found the song immediately. It's been at the top of my playlists every since.
James Blake - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Ugh, James Blake. This song is actually a cover that he released on a covers only album in 2020, which is equally as beautifully all the way through as this one song. James Blake is worth diving into if you love any kind of music. He's an incredible artist, collaborator + producer who's been behind the scenes of top albums in many genres.
Daniel Caesar - Get You
"Through drought and famine, natural disasters, my baby has been around for me."
Daniel is the man with honey for a vocabulary. His albums are packed the brim with sultry, sexy, intimate + intoxicating RNB masterpieces that will keep you coming back for more.
Pinegrove - Rings
The first time I heard this band, was with this song. It came up on my Spotify discover probably over a year and half ago now and it still makes me cry pretty much on cue. I don't know what it is about the sound of these guys, but if you're into indie/alternative music and appreciate a slightly rough recording sound + absolutely incredible lyrical content - you definitely just found your new favourite band. This song makes me want to just hold on tight + never let go....that perfect first dance feeling.
Cigarettes After Sex - Apocalypse
I found this band when I was in college + had a rule for myself that whenever I bought a new cd or record, I also had to pick out another at random. It was my way of introducing myself to new music + dedicating myself to it. When I put this CD on in the car, immediately after buying it, I definitely wasn't expecting what I heard. The most beautiful, melancholy, and haunting voice, accompanied by a soft, soothing ambience of the band. This song is a personal favourite + has made it into many popular movies + t.v shows, bringing exactly the magic it had to all of them.
Allan Rayman - Road Warrior
If you've never heard of Alan Rayman, you're welcome. This man is absolutely amazing. It'll take a quick youtube search to hear live performances that'll totally blow you away + make you wonder how he can be a combination of so many things, but stand so tall in his own sound. Alan's writing is next level + something that drew me to him a long time ago, and has kept me obsessed with him ever since. Road Warrior is a sweet, fresh and honestly pretty groovy song with the repeating line ... "I'll marry this girl"....I was sold on first listen.
Phosphorescent - Song for Zula
Some songs are just special, and this is without a doubt one of them. Honestly, I have a hard time listening to this song more than a few times a year, because I just find it so overwhelming. It is absolutely perfect, in every single way and it isn't a typical "love song". It makes you feel so much, so deeply, and I couldn't recommend it enough.
The Sundays - Wild Horses
This cover of a Rolling Stone's favourite will totally take your breath away. I don't believe first dance songs need to be directly literal in the lyrics, I have much more of an attachment to songs that really transport me somewhere. The original version has always been a weak spot for me, and this cover was no exception.
The Walters - Fancy Shoes
This is downright, the cutest damn song you've ever heard. The comments on youtube are filled with people talking about the chronicles of love in their life, and it really does give you that old time feeling you can't help but sway too.
Tom Waits - Hold On
One of the first weddings I ever photographed, I was assisting. It was outdoors in July, and we had the kind of weather you dream for on your wedding., All the stars were out and eddison bulbs lit the dance floor. This song came on + a couple, who wasn't the bride + groom made their way to the dance floor. One of the guests came up to me as I was snapping their pictures + told me this was their wedding song just last year. I don't know why, because I had never met them, or heard that song before, but I totally started crying. Whether your an old country fan or not, this one is special.
Ryan Adams - Wonderwall
Wonderwall gets a bad rep, everyone knows it, or at least has heard it more than enough times to care for. I have nothing against Oasis, but Ryan Adams cover of this song just does something different to you. It's as if you've never heard the very familiar song before, and it has a completely different and beautiful purpose. I can't eloquently put into words just how much I adore this cover, and how perfect of a wedding song it would be...you'll just have to listen for yourself.
Maggie Rogers - Love You For A Long Time
Maggie Rogers is THAT chick. Seriously, her energy, passion and love is contagious and pours out of every single one of her songs. This upbeat love song makes you feel like a teenager, falling in love for the first time. You won't be disappointed by this one, and if you don't make it your wedding song, you can always dance in the kitchen to it!
Neil Young - Harvest Moon
Honestly, this is one my favourite songs of all time, I grew up listening to it, and never stopped. There's something so magical in the harmonies and haunting tones of Neil's voice that come together, it's pretty inexplainable. This one is definitely more of a popular classic, but I can't very well leave out a song so timeless.
Manwolves - You
We're going REALLY off the traditional track with this one folks. Manwolves are a group of totally rad young men who combine a jazzy/orchestral sound with rap/harmonizing vocals. Weird combo huh? I promise you, it's worth a listen. The lyrics are quirky, romantic, and so personal - you won't be able to hate the energy these guys have, give it a shot!
The National - I Need My Girl
If you've seen the popular Netflix show 'YOU' - then you might recognize this beautiful season finale song. The National are are incredible group that pulls you in with deep, haunting vocals + storytelling lyrics. I've personally seen them live twice, and cannot explain how captivating their music is when it fills a room. This song in particular will completely take over the next few minutes of your day, imagine sharing the first dance of the rest of your life to this piece of art?
Bahamas - Lost In The Light
There's this movie I watched when I was in high school on Netflix, it was called 'Very Good Girls', and starred Elle Fanning + Elisabeth Olsen. It popped up one day on my feed and after finishing it, I sat down and watched it twice more. It was everything I wanted, the perfect coming of age movie that wasn't cheesy, cliche or boring. It had photography, contemporary dance, and totally stole the art loving part of my soul. This song comes on during my favourite scene, I won't spoil it.
Whether you watch the movie or not though, this song is absolutely gorgeous + deserves to be near the top of your frrst dance list.
Band Of Horses - No One's Gonna Love You
This song is probably equal parts tragic as it is beautiful. It's definitely not what you'd hear and consider a first dance song upon first listen, but more than one time through + you'll be feeling it. It's just the right tempo to sway back and forth, and builds in the chorus so powerfully it's hard not too feel it in your chest.
H.E.R ft. Daniel Caesar - Best Part
This is the smoothest sounding song you'll ever hear. These two beautiful humans have the most complimentary voices together + seriously created the ultimate love song for all the RnB/Jazz lovers out there.
Leon Bridges - River
Man oh man, Leon Bridges. If you haven't heard this beautiful man and his sweet voice before, hit play NOW! This song made it's way into some popular films the last few years, and rightfully so. The gospel + choir elements of this song + much of Leon Bridge's music is so refreshing and different than most popular music today. If you love an old, sweet and sultry sound, you'll be swinging in your hunny's arms to this one all night long.
Rex Orange County - Loving Is Easy
I totally fell in love with this band the second I was introduced to this song. These guys have such a groovy, alternative sound that made them really quickly popular in the indie music world. This song is just so much fun and makes you wanna tap your feet if not bust out into full dance with someone you love!
Otis Redding - Cigarettes + Coffee
Okay, this song is just a straight up mood. It gives you that sexy, intimate, lazy Sunday morning together kinda feeling. I have so much respect for songs that aren't an overproduction of love, and rather emphasize the story and all the little moments that make it up. Otis is obviously the man when it comes to painting a word picture, and this song is no exception.
David Ramirez - The Bad Days
This is one of those, 'hard love' songs. A story about a musician who's career makes the relationship more difficult than most, and the resilience of love through it. It's always had a really special place in my heart. David Ramirez is a truly amazing artist, and everything about this song will have you saving it for later.
"You're still my girl in the bad days"
Ray Lamontagne - Hold You In My Arms
If you haven't heard of Ray Lamontagne before, you're in for the treat of your life. His voice is like butter, and the lyrics are total magic. Close your eyes + hit play on this one, I really can't explain something that's just better off felt.
Mac Miller - ROS
My favourite rapper, the late but great Mac Miller. Any song on his album 'The Divine Feminine' will have you thinking about your other half, but this one from 'GO:OD AM' always hit different. Warning though, don't play this one with your grandparents present, maybe save it for the chill friend group elopement to avoid the questions haha!
You + Me - You and Me
A love song done right, in every single way. The perfect combination of personal + heartwretching. Dallas Green of 'City and Colour' has a collection of music on his own that would easily make a first dance list, but this album he created with fellow musician, P!nk really stands out. I sincerely believe this song was written with the intention of being a wedding song, and I really don't think you'll have trouble seeing why.
Vance Joy - Georgia
This is the first Vance Joy song I fell in love with, and still holds the number one spot. It's gentle acoustic sound, and warm lyrics will have your yearning to be wrapped up under the covers with your partner all day long, and makes the perfect first dance melody.
John Mayer - A Face To Call Home
If the title doesn't tell you, one listen and you'll get it. I am one of the biggest John Mayer fans, my whole life I've always adored is music + envied his guitar playing skills. I remember one of my own wedding clients dancing to this a few years ago, and the look on my face when it came on. I started crying and didn't even notice until I looked at the preview screen on my camera + saw my reflection. I was completely wrapped up in the the moment I wasn't thinking about anything else, something this song has the power to do effortlessly.