First dance songs that haven't been done to death

Dancing between the rows
Photo by Melissa Doyle of Casting Memories

Not that I have anything against Etta Jame's "At Last" or Michael Buble's "Everything," — they're both perfect first dance songs — but I've heard them both WAY too many times at weddings. So, combining my database of musician friends (some of whom made the list) with the Offbeat Bride editorial team's tastes, we've compiled a list of totally not overused first dance songs… from the silly, to the romantic, to the extremely controversial!

Oldies but Goodies — along the same lines of "At Last"

  • The Beach Boys "God Only Knows" (hear it)
  • Shuggie Otis' "Strawberry Letter 23" (hear it)
  • Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On" (hear it)
  • Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is" (hear it)
  • Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing" (hear it)
  • The Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" (hear it)
  • The Kinks "Waterloo Sunset" (hear it)
  • Toussaint McCall's "Nothing Takes The Place Of You" (hear it)
  • Al Green's "Love and Happiness" (hear it)

Sexy Romantic

  • (Ariel's) Me'Shell Ndegéocello's "Love Song #1" (hear it)
  • Ben Folds' "The Luckiest" (hear it)
  • Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" (hear it)
  • Massive Attack's "One Love" (hear it)
  • Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" (hear it)
  • Portishead's "All Mine" (hear it)
  • Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" (hear it)

Wonky 'n Fun

Indie

  • (Megan's) Pavement's "We Dance" (hear it)
  • Jon Brion's "Here We Go" (hear it)
  • Neko Case's "This Tornado Loves You" (hear it)
  • Sufan Stevens' "The Dress Looks Nice On You" (hear it)
  • Wilco "I'm the Man Who Loves You" (hear it)
  • The Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" (hear it)
  • Bright Eyes' "First Day of my Life" (hear it)
  • Nick Drake's "Northern Sky" (hear it)
  • The Pixie's "La La Love You" (hear it)

SUPER Indie

  • Bird and the Bee "My Love" (hear it)
  • Obi Best "Nothing Can Come Between Us" (you can get a free mp3 here)
  • The Moldy Peaches' "Anyone Else but You" (hear it)
  • The Mountain Goats' "No Children" (hear it) — yes, some people find this song controversial!
  • Jeff Mangum's "I Love How You Love Me" (hear it)
  • She & Him's "I Was Made For You" (hear it)
  • Captain Beefheart's "I'm Glad" (hear it)

Jazzin' — along the same lines of Michael Buble

  • Sara Gazarek's "Makes Me Feel This Way" (hear it) or her version of "You Are My Sunshine" (hear it)
  • Harry Connick Jr.'s "Come By Me" (hear it)
  • Kurt Elling's "I Feel So Smoochie" (hear it)
  • Jamie Cullum's "I Think, I Love" (hear it)
  • Renee Olstead's " A Love That Will Last" (hear it)

Upbeat Swingin'

  • (Shrie's) Chuck Barry's "You Never Can Tell" (hear it)
  • Barry Louis Polisar's "All I Want Is You" (hear it)
  • Sly & the Family Stone's "You Can Make It If You Try" (hear it)
  • Huey "Piano" Smith's "Little Liza Jane" (hear it)

Laidback Easy-Peasy

  • Mayer Hawthorne's "Make Her Mine" (hear it)
  • Cat Power's version of "Sea of Love" (hear it)
  • Peter Gabriel's "Book of Love" (hear it)
  • Air's "Playground Love" (hear it)
  • The Fruit Bat's "When U Love Somebody" (hear it)

Dark and Romantic

  • Judas Priest's "Angel" (hear it)
  • Rammstein's "Ohne Dich" (hear it with English translation)
  • Type O Negative's "Love You to Death" (hear it)
  • Stone Temple Pilots' "Still Remains" (hear it)
  • Incubus' "Monuments and Melodies" (hear it)
  • Killswitch Engage's "My Curse" (hear it)
  • HIM's "Join Me In Death" (hear it)

Oh, you want more?

    • We're planning on The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned) by The Decemberists! (hear it)

      18 agree
      • This was one of the songs we had the guitarist play when we walked away after the ceremony. It's such a beautiful melody. The Crane Wife has some great acoustic bits in it too.

        15 agree
    • This list is AMAZING.
      I have struggled with this because I didn't want a cheesy song that has been used forever and ever but still wanted to capture the beauty of the moment. LOVE THIS LIST!!!

      9 agree
    • 'Everything' by Lifehouse or 'I Love You' by Climax Blues Band

      1 agrees
  1. We didn't dance at our wedding, but if we would have, we would have danced to "Dance With Me Now, Darling" by Hem. (hear it)

    7 agree
    • I 100% cosign. Our procession started with "The Book of Love" and then I walked in to Nick Cave's "Into My Arms." (hear it)

      Both songs still give me goosebumps.

      9 agree
      • We had our friend preform Into My Arms during our ceremony, but our first song was a deeper tribute: Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" (hear it)

        13 agree
    • That Peter Gabriel song, Book of Love is a cover of the Magnetic Fields song, btw. So…yeah.

      4 agree
  2. We used The Pogues "A Rainy Night In Soho." It begins: "i've been loving you a long time, down all the years, down all the days…" (hear it)

    perfect. i reccomend it.

    12 agree
    • Undecided between a few songs, we went with the one we sing to each other the most, and rainy night in soho won out! Somuchlove!!!

  3. The second I heard Blood Bank by Bon Iver I knew were I to get married, that song had to be it. It's slow, but not too slow and absolutely beautiful. (hear it)

    9 agree
    • We wanted a more obscure first dance song, something we hadn't heard a million times that would truly be "our" song. We settled on Little Trip to Heaven (on the Wings of Your Love) by Tom Waits. It's blues-ey and soulful and very romantic. Also, the muted trumpet gives it kind or a thirties/forties feel to it.

      8 agree
      • That's great! My fiance and I are playing with the idea of using Tom Waits' "Picture in a Frame." It's simple but beautiful…man, that guy can write a song.

        2 agree
      • We're having "warmness on the soul" by avenged sevenfold…… The most beautiful song we've heard and its almost as if they're telling our story

  4. My hubby and I danced to Toto's Africa at our wedding, so seeing it on this list made me smile like crazy. :-)

    7 agree
    • "It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you. It's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do."

      We're not gonna dance, but I am singing this song to Groom for sure."

      3 agree
      • my fiance and I LOVE Toto's Africa!! We are having it as our Recessional, and I imagine it will be requested many times at the reception…..we've gotten out friends hooked, too!

        3 agree
  5. See also : Dean Martin's "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" for upbeat jazzy awesomeness. (hear it)

    10 agree
  6. We're doing "I'll Cover You," from Rent (hear it) — we're both big fans of the musical, and it's such a sweet, upbeat love song. If my fiancee liked the Magnetic Fields a little better (read: at all), we'd be doing "It's Only Time," which is a slow, incredibly sweet song about life-long commitment (by a gay artist, which makes it even more poignant when he sings "marry me"). (hear it)

    8 agree
    • We thought of "I'll Cover You" also! We are going with "First Day of My Life" (hear it) because of sentimental value, but we're going to use "I'll Cover You" as our last song. Lurv!

      1 agrees
    • i've wanted i'll cover you to be part of my wedding ever since i was a sophomore in highschool

      3 agree
  7. Yaaaay! We're using Chuck Barry's "Never Can Tell" in June! We have a whole little swing routine and moves in honor of Pulp Fiction (our favorite movie).

    • *Gasp* I love that! Awesome choice. Was planning on learning a swing routine too :).

      Now I'm thinking "Girl, you'll be a woman soon" also from Pulp Fiction would be a good choice though. (hear it)

      1 agrees
  8. I think you should probably take "No Children" off the list, considering it's about a marriage ending and ending badly. Not sure even an unconventional wedding needs a song with the lyrics, "I hope you die, I hope we both die."

    28 agree
    • Alyssa: Au contraire! We've actually had a several OBBs dance to No Children at their wedding, and were very happy with their choice. Which is why I included it!

      23 agree
    • We're actually thinking of using that song. We've been Mountain Goats fans for a very long time, and that's one of our favorite sing-at-the-top-of-our-lungs road trip songs.

      8 agree
    • This is why music is becoming the most difficult part of planning. If I simply chose my favorite songs, we'd be listening to breakup songs for hours. Some of my favorite artists have made ONLY anti -love songs! However, I'm determined to have positive vibes going so I've been scouring the web for love songs that don't suck. Luckily I like a wide variety of music (just not many love songs) so there's a lot to choose from. I passed on "No Children" and added "This Year" to our playlist – which isn't about love, but it's not about breaking up so, yay.

      2 agree
  9. Ingrid Michaelson's cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" So beautiful! (hear it)

    25 agree
    • For the past 18 years, it's been UB40's version of (Can't Help) Falling in Love With You. (hear it) I am always astonished when I don't see that song on "Offbeat first Dance Songs" ESPECIALLY for "Whirlwind" romances (like mine! 😉

      1 agrees
      • I'm glad you both mentioned this song! I'm a HUGE Elvis fan, so I love the classic version, but UB40's is fun and upbeat too! I always thought I would want this song to be played at my wedding. :)

      • We danced to You and I at our wedding. Everyone loved it.

        1 agrees
    • I am totally considering doing a recording of this for my first dance song! :)

      3 agree
      • Oh my gosh, you and me both! I've got to figure out how to get a band together to do the background, but I'd like to do the vocals of "The Way I Am" and surprise my man with it for our first dance. Now that will be a serious coup if I can pull it off.

        1 agrees
  10. I've always liked

    Neat Little Domestic Life – Of Montreal (hear it)
    Do You Realize? – Flaming Lips (hear it)
    Hotel Yorba – White Stripes (hear it)

    8 agree
  11. Kate, Peter Gabriel wrote "The Book of Love," covered by both The Magnetic Fields and Now It's Overhead.

    We're thinking Dean and Britta's "You Turn My Head Around" (hear it) or The Band of Blacky Ranchette's "Getting It Made." (hear it)

    2 agree
    • Mz Fitz: Credit where credit's due! The Peter Gabriel version of "The Book of Love" is actually a cover of Stephin Merritt's original.

      4 agree
    • But he put it on his "Covers" album… so, that made me believe it was a cover, no?

      2 agree
    • My fiance and I are dancing to Crazy Love. Love it! :)

      2 agree
  12. "Hallelujah" cover by Jeff Buckley (hear it)
    No idea what its even about but it's what i'd use if i could do again…. :)

    3 agree
    • I don't know who performed in, but my cousin had that song for her first dance song, too, and it ha a lot of meaning to them and such. They loved it!
      I know at least one verse's inspiration came from the Biblical Samson and Delilah.

  13. "You Picked Me" by A Fine Frenzy. VERY sweet and touching, but not overdone at all! This is our song for sure! <3 (hear it)

    (Thanks for all the other ideas. I'm iPod-DJing my wedding and I'll have to add these!)

    14 agree
  14. I love, love, love the Mountain Goats, and I'm all for being quirky, but "No Children"?? That song is the most vicious breakup anthem of all time. "Woke Up New" might be better.

    4 agree
    • I think that "Woke Up New" is a super sad breakup song! I like "No Children," I feel like even thought the couple is destructive, they will always go down together, even if it is in flames.

      3 agree
    • For the Mountain Goats I'd go with "Old College Try." I LOVE that song, but we are going with Cosmo Jarvis' "Gay Pirates" :)

  15. My brother and his wife used "Girlfriend" ("Summertime Rolls") by Janes Addiction. It didn't go over well with the 'rents, but everyone else loved it. (hear it)

    3 agree
    • My mom hates the original of this song, but loves the cover version by Puracane, slower and more traditionally "pretty," but just as sweet, subversive, and sexy.

  16. My fiancee is a huge Goo Goo Dolls fan and he has the sheet music from Iris tatooed on his back. So he's going to record a version of Iris for us to dance together to.

    5 agree
  17. Okay! We're getting ladies who are pretty heated up about the "'No Children' controversy of 2010" but I'd like to point out that a few former OBBs have used that song much to their delight, including this wedding. So let's keep the comments respectful. And let's hear more ideas!

    7 agree
      • Can I hear the cover? I want this to be my wedding song but my fiance isn't a fan of the neutral milk hotel version.

  18. When we started our wedding planning, the first song was the first thing that was taken care of. My husband said "I'm on it." Who knew it was that improtant to him? I should have know since he is in a band…

    We used "I love how you love me" but rather than the original or one of the many covers, he went a step further and got a whole new cover. My husband is friends with Jonah Matranga from Far who will record any song you want on a sliding scale. He did an AMAZING job and we gave a CD of his song and the original music the best man composed for the ceremony as favors.

    4 agree
    • This is so sweet! Thank you! Glad you loved it as much as I loved making it.

      Jonah

      2 agree
      • I love Jonah! He's the best! We'll definitely have "Oh I'm so lucky" and "smile" aaaand "I want you to be my witness"!

    • our song is :Stand by Me: by Ben E King…dating myself I know, but it never fails to move me when i hear it and we've been married 25 years now…sigh…its wonderful to still be in love

      2 agree
  19. We are planning on "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers. So funky and jazzy and sweet, I can't wait for our first dance! (hear it)

    6 agree
  20. AAAAAH!

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Cat Power – Sea of Love is on here. That won't be our first dance song (not sure we're even having a first dance) but that is OUR song! We heard a few different versions of it randomly together at different events when we started dating and it just stuck! *swoon*

    1 agrees
  21. i think we're going to use tracy chapman's "you're the one." (hear it) i love how it's not super gooey-lovey-dovey; i think the realism of it makes it so much more romantic than a lot of more traditional ones (not that i don't adore some ooey-gooey sappy songs! i just want something more meaningful for this)

    3 agree
  22. oldies — "Calico Skies" by the Beatles (hear it)
    indie — "Jesus, Etc" by Wilco (hear it)
    indie folk — "Love Serenade" by the Waifs (hear it)
    "Tango" by Patty Larkin (or anything off her new "25" album… it's 25 love songs, but not lovey-dovey songs… some are sad, some are beautiful, some are just weird…) (hear it)
    "you" (from Kitchen Radio album) or "you meet the nicest people in your dreams" by Peter Mulvey (hear it)

    1 agrees
    • Calico Skies is actually a Paul McCartney Song, not a Beatles song. It's off his album Flaming Pie, which was released in 1997.

      5 agree
  23. We are dancing to "Oh,It is Love" by Hellogoodbye, sung as a duet by the best man and my fiance's sister. Its kinda one of our songs (we have many!). I'm really looking forward to it! (hear it)

    5 agree
  24. Not sure if there's going to be a way for us to have a first dance given the way our wedding's rolling, but if we have the option, we might use "This Must Be the Place" by Talking Heads. David Byrne <3 (hear it)

    7 agree
  25. DH & I danced to "I Wanna Grow Old With You"! It just seemed so perfect for us and it's such a sweet but funny song. We got so many compliments. And I love that it's not over done.

    4 agree
  26. I've always planned to play "life, in a nutshell," by Barenaked Ladies. It was originally written about the lead singers relationship with his wife but it fits an couple who are as happy together as they alone. (hear it)

    I also love the moludy peaches song that's used in Juno. (hear it)

    1 agrees
  27. My pick is Ray LaMontagne's "you are the best thing." (hear it. How about a list for offbeat songs to walk into the reception? I am having a hard time with that one.

    13 agree
    • we are using "little green bag" by the george baker selection. this is more of an homage to reservoir dogs (and it has fantastic opening music). (hear it)

      2 agree
    • I think we're going to play Sea of Love by Cat Power as our processional; we're walking out together, and having and ocean side wedding, and it would be really sweet.

      2 agree
    • We are walking into Accidentally in Love by the Counting Crows. Its fun and up beat. (hear it)
      My future sister in law walked in to Jump by House of Pain, it made the whole dance floor do just that. (hear it)

      1 agrees
  28. We're going with 'Just Like Heaven' by The Cure. It's 'our song' and was playing on the jukebox in our local pub right before he proposed. We're also having the lyrics read during our (church) ceremony. (hear it)

    2 agree
  29. I LOVE Neko Case, but I'm not sure that "this Tornado Loves You" is a good idea. I guess it would would if you're in an openly co-dependent relationship, or are marrying a stalker. Seriously, you and your guests would have to have really good senses of humor to have just about any Neko Case song.

    8 agree
  30. I walked in to Sufajn Stevens – The dress looks nice to you (hear it). We danced to Sufjan's – To Be Alone With You. (hear it)

    We are kinda Sufjan fanatics, but what can I say? It is good wedding music!

    1 agrees
  31. We used "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (hear it) but "Sweet Darlin'" By She & Him was a close second. (hear it)

    7 agree
    • i'm walking in to the acoustic version of "maps". YYYs are my fave! :)

      1 agrees
  32. We're doing Adele's cover of Dylan's Make You Feel My Love, which I love to pieces. Sweet and soulful. (hear it)

    10 agree
    • We are too! It's even weirder that this post came right after the one above it because my future husband still wants to use MAPS. We also tossed around Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.

      2 agree
  33. The Cure – Mint Car (hear it)

    The first verse is perfect can you get any better than…

    The sun is up
    I'm so happy I could scream!
    And there's nowhere else in the world I'd rather be
    Than here with you
    It's perfect
    It's all I ever wanted
    I almost can't believe that it's for real

    9 agree
  34. "In Your Eyes" always brings a tear to my eye, especially the acoustic version. I love it!

    "I Say a Little Prayer" is also a good one – very sweet and fun. Even an atheist like me loves it!

    2 agree
  35. Oooh!
    The cover of "We've Got a World That Swings" by They Might Be Giants.
    We're massive TMBG fans.
    "I'd like to take you on this wild, wonderful venture, fly like a kite through space, no strings…"

    1 agrees
    • TMBG all the way! "Another First Kiss" on their Mink Car album.

      2 agree
  36. i am slightly offput that there are no rock, metal or industrial songs on here. BUT, we alts/goths/metalheads don't really need help picking out songs 😉
    we tend to excel at it in the first place 😉

    2 agree
    • Lily! Please suggest some! I was at a total loss. And no one I asked had any ideas for me. If you suggest some I will totally add them and I would be grateful to you!

      2 agree
      • We're into punk, old rock n roll, and rockabilly. We did a swing dance to the pop-punk song "I'm a Pretender" by The Exploding Hearts. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKls3n6lpWU)

        Other songs we considered:
        "Do you wanna dance" (hear it), "I wanna be your boyfriend" (hear it), "Oh oh I love her so", "she's the one" – by the Ramones
        Rockabilly Ramones covers by Full Blown Cherry
        "I will rock and roll with you" (hear it), "She my baby" by Johnny Cash
        "Oh Boy" (hear it), "It's so Easy" (hear it), "Everyday" (hear it), "You're the one", "I don't care (baby your so square) by Buddy Holly (hear it)
        "Come on, let's go" by Ritchie Valens (hear it)
        "Church on Sunday" (hear it), "Poprocks and Coke" (hear it), "80" by Green Day
        "Chocolate Eyes" (hear it), "He's All Mine" (hear it – Kim Lenz

        Other ideas:
        Me first and the gimme gimmes does covers of various popular songs
        "1-2 crush on you" (hear it) – the clash
        "what's inside a girl" – the cramps
        "mass pike" – the get up kids (hear it)
        "great expectations" (hear it), "old white lincoln" (hear it) – gaslight anthem
        "feel like makin love" (hear it), "more today than yesterday" – goldfinger
        "sweetnes" – jimmy eat world (hear it)
        "do you wanna touch me?" – joan jett (hear it)
        "what a wonderful world" – joey ramone (hear it)
        "this is for real" (hear it), "it had to be you" (hear it) – motion city soundtrack
        "and i will be with you" (hear it), "i just wanna do it with you" (hear it)- mr. t experience
        "i will dare" – the replacements (hear it)
        "hot un" – granpaboy
        "question" (hear it), "indefinitley" – the old 97s
        "valentine" (hear it), "our love" (hear it) – rhett miller
        "luv luv luv", "kissed" – pansy division
        "love you in the fall" – paul westerberg (hear it)
        "love you til the end" – the pogues (hear it)
        "the sun always shines around you" (hear it), "fuck the world" (hear it) – the queers
        "i know" – save ferris
        "i think we're alone now" – penny and the loafers
        "punk rock princess" – something corporate (hear it>
        "what i like about you", "i never promised you a rose garden" – the suicide machines (hear it)
        "i wanna waltz" (hear it), "i'll be you my heart" – wanda jackson
        "when i'm with you, i'm ok" (hear it), "inside me, inside you" (hear it) – ultimate fakebook
        "for always" (hear it), "here with me" (hear it), "without you" (hear it) – mxpx
        'under the hedge" – ted leo (hear it)
        "i won't let me", "in love this way", "good good things" – the descendents
        "carry you" (hear it), "think the world" (hear it) – all
        "olive me" – nofx
        "this time darlin" – social distortion (hear it)
        "best of me" – the starting line (hear it)
        "no place feels like home" – midtown (hear it)
        "today's the day", "have you ever", "sweet sweet boy" – the unlovables
        "cupid's victim" – tiger army (hear it)
        "sealed with a kiss" – the eyeliners (hear it)

        uh yeah … so that's a lot but there's probably more ….

        13 agree
        • Ha. You just named, like, half of the music that was on my wedding mix. My husband and I had our first dance to the "I Want You Around" by The Ramones. The song "Danny Says" is actually really sweet too, but something other than junior high dance step pace was a little too much for us.

          1 agrees
    • I'd love some suggestions for first dance songs that are a bit rock-n-roll. Was thinking of "All I want" by Staind? (hear it)

      2 agree
  37. We danced to the Smashing Pumpkins version of "My Blue Heaven" for our first dance. Hubz is a HUGE SP fan… it worked out great, it's a waltz. (hear it)

    2 agree
  38. We're dancing our first dance to "Chariots Rise (Acoustic)" by Lizzie West and Baba Buffalo. The song is originally from the movie Secretary, but this version is much sweeter and softer. (It also replaces the line "what a fool am I to fall so in love" with "what grace have I to fall so in love") (hear it)

    2 agree
    • "Secretary" is my favorite movie of all time. I love, love, love the song too. I may even put Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man" to throw people off too. 😉 (hear it)

  39. My husband surprised me with our first dance song. It was How Deep is the Ocean by Billie Holiday. (hear it)

  40. I don't care how old-meme it is; we are totally Rickrolling everyone for our first dance. If you take the time to listen to it, it's actually a sweet song about love and commitment 😀

    Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down…

    9 agree
    • I wish I could find a photo someone sent me once – it was a Rickroll cake, just said…I think… "Never gonna give you up or dessert you." Coordinating wedding cake? :-p

      8 agree
  41. Last summer, my boyfriend volunteered to dj for some friends' wedding. She very desperately wanted to have The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" be their first dance, and my boyfriend balked because it's not very first-dance-able.

    He searched high and low, and he found a mashup of The Commodores' "Easy Like Sunday Morning" with the Cure's "Just Like Heaven". It was AWESOME. (hear it)

    8 agree
  42. probably Cure´s Lovecats, that´s the one the DJ played during our engagement, on the club where we first maked out!

  43. Love this list! Really liking the She & Him suggestions. Might I also offer The Blow's "Parentheses" to the indie category? (hear it)

    1 agrees
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