Non-sappy father/daughter dance songs

Performers! (Plus DIY candelabra by the bride's father!)
Photo from Tribesmaid @nrodell93088's wedding by Nima Salimi
I've spent the last two days scouring the 'net for a father/daughter dance for our wedding reception, and frankly, virtually every suggestion I've come across has a title that makes me throw up in my mouth a little like "Daddy's Little Girl" or "Butterfly Kisses."

I'm not opposed to sentimental songs but perhaps none with the bride=angel/child/doll theme I can't seem to get away from.

My dad's a '60s/'70s Classic/Southern rock kinda guy. There's gotta be something out there about years going by, getting older, moving on… I just can't seem to find it.

This is one of the few traditions we're actually keeping, so I'd like to find something right for us. —Sharon

Yeah, nothing like the creepy incest themes that seem to come up with father/daughter dances, hmm? That's part of why I skipped the tradition, but I do agree that with the right song it can be a nice moment. Here are a few non-icky song ideas pulled from all kinds of sources including the many, many, many suggestions in the comments:

Classic rock ballads and harder rock for those rockin' dads:

  • Led Zepplin's "Thank You" (hear it)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" (hear it)
  • Rolling Stones' "She's a Rainbow" (hear it)
  • The Cars' "Just What I Needed" (hear it)
  • Warrant's "Heaven" (hear it)
  • Neil Young's "Here for You" (hear it)
  • Bruce Springsteen's "When You Need Me" (hear it)
  • Queen's "You're My Best Friend" (hear it)
  • Guns and Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" (hear it)
  • Staind's "Zoe Jane" (hear it)
  • Tom Petty's "American Girl" (hear it)

Contemporary sentimental, but not overdone (yet!):

  • Loudon Wainwright's "Daughter" (hear it)
  • Five for Fighting's "100 Years" (hear it)
  • World Party's "She's the One" (hear it)
  • 10,000 Maniacs' "How You've Grown" (hear it)
  • Natalie Merchant's "Kind And Generous" (hear it)
  • The Cary Brothers' "Blue Eyes" (hear it)
  • Wilco's "My Darling" (hear it)
  • Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" (hear it)
  • Amos Lee's "Sweet Pea" (hear it)
  • Eva Cassidy's "True Colors" (hear it)
  • "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (hear it)
  • "Daughters" by John Mayer (hear it)

Softer rock classics (when you want to rock, but also keep it purty):

  • Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" (hear it)
  • Bad English's "When I See You Smile" (hear it)
  • Journey's "Lights" (hear it)
  • Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" (hear it)
  • Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (hear it)
  • Carol King's "Child of Mine" (hear it)
  • The Byrds' "Turn, Turn, Turn" (hear it)
  • Paul Simon's "Father and Daughter" (hear it) or "You Can Call Me Al" (hear it)
  • Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" (hear it)
  • James Taylor's "You've Got A Friend" (hear it)
  • Joe Cocker's "Darling Be Home Soon" (hear it)[related_post]
  • Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird" (hear it) or "Landslide" (hear it)
  • The Beatles' "Across the Universe" (hear it) or Rufus Wainwright's version
    (hear it)
  • Another Beatles selection, "In My Life" (hear it)
  • Lulu's "To Sir With Love" (hear it)
  • Gram Parsons' "A Song for You" (hear it)
  • Bread's "Daughter" (hear it)
  • Jimmy Buffett's "Little Miss Magic" (hear it)
  • Spiral Staircase's "I Love You More Today Than Yesterday" (hear it)
  • Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" (hear it)

Classics from the '40s and '50s

  • Ray Charles' "Ain't That Love" (hear it)
  • The Rays' "Silhouettes" (hear it)
  • Frankie Avalon's "Bobby Sox to Stockings" (hear it)
  • Elvis' "The Wonder of You" (hear it)
  • Sam Cooke's "Nothing Can Change This Love" (hear it)
Father Daughter Dance
Photo by Jennifer Morgan Photography

Crazy and funky:

  • Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" (hear it)
  • Voltaire's "Goodnight Demonslayer" (hear it)
  • Any version of "You Are My Sunshine," particularly the Johnny Cash version (hear it)
  • "Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (hear it)
  • LOTS from The Vitamin String Quartet. Try Sweet Child O' Mine (hear it) or "Don't Stop Believing" (hear it)
  • Kermit's "The Rainbow Connection" (hear it)

For the country dads at heart:

  • The Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" (hear it)
  • Kenny Chesney's "There Goes My Life" (hear it)
  • John Fogerty's "I Will Walk With You" (hear it)
  • The Judds' "Love is Alive" (hear it)
  • Rascal Flatts' "My Wish" (hear it)
  • Dixie Chicks' "Lullaby" (hear it)

Far out stuff for alterna-dads:

  • Yo La Tengo's "You Can Have It All" (hear it)
  • David Bowie's "Let's Dance" (hear it)
  • "Standing" from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical, sung by Tony Head
    (hear it)
  • The Dropkick Murphy's "Forever" (hear it)

And the strangest (but cool) suggestions from the comments:

  • Randy Newman's "Short People" (hear it)
  • Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains" (hear it)
  • Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five's "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens"
    (hear it)


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  1. Trying to pick one for my daughter's wedding and I think I have it narrowed down to two: Forever Young by Bob Dylan or Bridge Over Troubled Water by Johnny Cash from his American IV- The Man Comes Around CD. Thanks for all the ideas!

  2. What about "Isn't She Lovely?" by Stevie Wonder? I'm going through the same thing, not wanting a super sappy song, so I've been thinking about this song.

  3. John@254, I'm pretty lucky, Mr. Cash wrote a song on his children's album called "Miss Tara." That's my name, so it works REALLY well. It may for you too! Also, He and Fiona Apple did a version of "Father & Son."

    Other options:
    "Can't Smile Without You" Barry Manilow (I know you said not cheesy, but if you're going to do it, go all the way!)
    For the shotgun wedding, "Drivin' on Nine" The Breeders
    "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" Cyndi Lauper
    For the Mother Son Dance, perhaps some Danzig. It's always good for a sing along.
    "Reach Out (I'll be There)" The Four Tops
    "I Knew the Bride (When SHe Used to Rock & Roll)" The Knack
    "It's Not Unusual" Tom Jones
    "Handle With Care" The Traveling Wilburys or Jenny Lewis
    "You Got It" Roy Orbison

    1 agrees
  4. I totally hear you guys on the daughters one… that's on my don't listen to cuz it just hurts list! Is weezer "say it ain't so" appropriate? 😛
    LOVE the Tom Petty "square 1" suggestion though!!!!

  5. My daughter danced with her dad to "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder. They had a lot of fun with it and it was a wonderful choice. One word of caution, though. It is a very LONG song. You probably want to have the DJ fade out at an appropriate time.

  6. In case any of you are still looking after having read thru this whole thing: "Blue Skies" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street" are 2 good Sinatra songs just about life bein' good, la-de-dah. If you don't like Sinatra, both songs have been covered by various artists over the years.

    1 agrees
  7. *Should have said we'll probably do the Willy Nelson version of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" from his album Stardust. It's the most pared-down and his voice actually sounds great!

  8. I'm dancing with my dad to Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl. He used to sing it to me when I was a girl (which makes it sorta sappy) but the song itself is not.

  9. I'm dancing to "Easy to Love". James Congdon sings it. It's on iTunes.

  10. My dad and I danced to "In My Life" by the Beatles. It's nice and short and sweet, but not too syrupy…
    "Though I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that came before, I know I'll often stop and think about them -in my life I love you more". It seems just right.
    I couldn't bear reading the whole list (with so many repeats) to make sure this one wasn't already listed, but I thought it was worth mentioning just in case.

  11. My dad and I are going to dance to "Somewhere out there" from An American Tail. Its a special song for me and my family. When i was about 6, I took ballet and performed a solo dance to that song for my recital :). Of course…my dad doesnt know that is our song yet…and neither does my mom…im keeping it a secret. Mainly to see their reactions, hehehehehe

    2 agree
  12. Well, the song that always makes me think of my dad is Chantilly Lace by the Big Bopper. My sisters and I always had long hair in ponytails, and he used to sing it to us!!
    Hilarious and very upbeat and goofy. Just makes you want to dance! Just try playing it and NOT hop around your living room!

    2 agree
  13. I'm not even sure if I'll have a traditional wedding ceremony (the more I learn about them, the more tempted I am to just sign papers at city hall!) but if I have a father-daughter dance, it will have to be to "Just What I Needed" by The Cars, because my dad would bop around the room with infant me in his arms to it, and it always makes me think of him. We'd probably both cry no matter what!

  14. We're dancing to "Darlin be Home Soon." by Joe Cocker. Soulful, sweet, and badass beat. My dad introduced me to Joe Cocker and all his glory, so it's only right 🙂

  15. Holly- Alan Jackson actually wrote "Drive" for his daughters so it is completley appropriate!!

    I just found my Dad last year and am getting married in 3 weeks. We have spents MANY hours trying to find a song that is "right" for our situations and doesn't step on any toes.

    I am walking down the aisle with my Papa to "I loved her first" by Heartland
    and our "first dance" is "Then" by Brad Paisley
    and the song that I am dancing to with my Papa is "Who left the door to heaven open" by Hank Thompson and our "parent dance" is "Thanks again" by Ricky Skaggs.
    An amazing song for F/D (if he's been in your life all along) is "Tough little boys" by Gary Alan.
    They are all incredibly sappy though (Sorry ladies!)

  16. When my dad brought me and my sisters home from the hospital as newborns he would hold us and dance around the house to "Isn't she lovely" by Stevie Wonder so this is what we are dancing too. I love the song, it totally upbeat and only sappy if you have a history with it like us.

  17. My best friends father was an alcoholic when she was growing up, and in our teen years walked away from the liquor, to become an amazing parents and mentor.

    She chose "Have a little Faith in Me" by John Hiatt for her father/daughter dance. It was so beautiful.

  18. I know I'm super late…but just incase someone else looking for a son like me reads this post..I'd go with

    "Beautiful" by Smashing Pumpkins!!

  19. My dad and I picked the song that we use to blare while cruising with the top down in the MG and singing at the top of our lungs – "Coming up Close" by 'Til Tuesday. He was concerned that is was faster but I told him to follow me. We also faded it out after 3 minutes since it's a 5 minute song. It worked great (we even sang the chorus outloud while we danced). My sister used "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music – one of my dad's favorite songs and she was daddy's little girl. That worked well too!

  20. For you Rolling Stones fans, try 'She's a Rainbow.' Other classic rock songs/artists my dad and I considered (that are NOT sappy — you know, the whole point of this thread) were 'Blue Sky' (Allman Brothers), 'Here Comes the Sun' (Beatles), 'Just You and Me, Darling' (The Who), 'Here for You' (Neil Young), 'Teach Your Children Well' (CSN&Y), or 'Blackbird' (Beatles).

    In the end, he picked 'Rainbow Connection' and it brought the house down.

    1 agrees
  21. Hi -New here and geating a lot of great ideas, and strongly recommend not using John Mayer's Daughters in any part of your wedding. . .or any ceremony really. . .ever. Sorry, got off point! I am getting married in less than 2 weeks and need a song that is sung from a daughters perspective to her mother/father. This is my one chance to tell him how much he means to me. . .it is my choice so most of the wonderful suggestions here don't really work;they are all sort of sung by the parent to the child. So, from me to Dad because he is the strongest best man I have ever known and not sappy as I am a crier! Thanks in advance for your help!

  22. I was having such a hard time deciding, so I actually left it up to my dad. He is pretty excited about it and it is going to be a surprise on the wedding day.

    Just a thought – its always good to invlove as many people as possible especially considering how much the bride has to do!

    Good Luck!

  23. I'm using Wildflowers – Tom Petty because it really fits me. I joined the Navy out of college because I felt claustrophobic trying to decide what to do with my life. My dad has been my number one supporter since day one (even if he did think I was completely insane for joining). I think everyone will chuckle at the "You belong in a boat out at sea" part.

  24. My intentions are to use songs that are relevant to our lives. When I was little by dad you to play "I Get Around" by the Beach Boys off a vinyl and pick me up and dance around the living room… but is that song appropriate at all? And how on earth would you dance to it?

  25. My father and I chose Taylor Swift's "best day with you today" song…its awesome and totally fitting 🙂 Good luck with your searches

  26. I left it up to my dad, and he chose Rod Stewart's cover of "What a Wonderful World." He loves Rod Stewart, and it's actually quite a nice cover.

    1 agrees
  27. I would just like to say that this site is fantastic…and thank you to all of you for all your great suggestions. We still haven't picked our song, but thanks to all of you, I have so many new ideas.

    I also offer one:
    "Children will Listen", Into the Woods

    Thanks again for all of the help!

    4 agree
  28. Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" is, in my opinion, the perfect father-daughter dance. It's not ridiculously sappy, there's not mention of "my little girl is leaving me" or anything schlocky like that – it's just a simple reassurance from a dad to his daughter that "if you're lost, you can look; and you will find me – time after time." Beautiful. If you don't like Lauper's sound there are about 100 remixes of it.

  29. time after time… awesome idea. we've eliminated most of the standard traditions from our wedding – but when my dad called and said he wanted to practice dancing with me again before the wedding – I got a little teary & put the father/daughter dance right back in! some thoughts on lyrics though… don't sweat it! no song is ever going to say exactly the sentiment in your heart – it's like the pre-written verse in a greeting card instead of your own thoughts. dance to whatever makes you happy, and take the chance to tell your dad how you feel.

  30. The Beatles have a song "in my life" that is short sweet and not too sappy. My fiance is dancing with his mom to that song. Dave Mathews does a great version of it as does Bette Middler. Good Luck! and Congratulations
    ~The Future Mrs. Morneau

    1 agrees
  31. Since my father is deceased, I'm going to dance with my mom at the same time that my fiance dances with his mom. I think we're going to ask our mothers to give us some song suggestions, but does anyone have thoughts about good songs for this situation?

  32. the father daughter dance song at my wedding will be junior senior's "can't stop the beat." my father is planning on doing the robot while i do the running man through the entire song. its going to be sweet.

    5 agree
  33. There are lots of good suggestions here. I loved the last one with the robot and running man. I doubt my dad and I could pull off anything but slow dancing, so I think we are going with "Daughter" by Loudon Wainwright. It is kind of a funny father daughter song, that was actually in the movie "knocked up".

  34. Wow – My grandfather raised me and has refused to do a father/daughter dance with me – mostly because his mobility is really limited.

    I'm not too sad about this, but my first dance will be with my husband to a rahter unconventional song we've chosen.

    All of these suggestions are brilliant and if I can convince my grandfather to 'dance' with me a bit, it'll likely be to Roy Orbison's 'You Got It'

  35. There are some really great suggestions on here – and it's true when people point out the fact that some of the songs suggested, well, they meet that creepy factor all too well … or when you really listen to the song or know the history, well, you might realize it's no so good for a wedding afterall. I saw people addressed the Brown Eyed Girl and Daughters as well as Thank Heaven for Little Girls.
    But another song I STRONGLY suggest wouldn't be wedding appropriate (though I've been to tons of weddings that play it, ad it's a great song so I understand) is Good Riddance/Time of Your Life by Green Day. He wrote it as a breakup song. 'Nuff said.

    1 agrees
  36. My dad and I have had a rocky relationship so my dance was split with him and my step dad. I had to find the right song to fit both relationships which was SO hard!!
    After months my brother suggested we use a simple one.
    What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
    Not to slow, or fast and a great meaning with non of the mush!

  37. We are dancing to "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder and the band is saying "Theresa" instead of Aisha 🙂

  38. Does anyone think "Short People" by Randy Newman is as funny as I do?? My dad and I are both tall….

    Thanks to this site, I might do You Can Call Me Al or "Teach your children." I don't think really there will be a way to avoid the awkwardness. Neither of us dance….

    He wanted "Don't go breakin my heart" by Elton John and Kiki Dee – after he tried dragging me out of the bathroom at my sisters wedding when it played, I think he finally gets INCEST SONGS ARE WRONG! 🙂

  39. Hello all, I'm new here and looking for a song for my dad and I to dance to. We both don't like sappy songs, and he's very much into punk/alternative/metal music can anyone think of a good song?

  40. I can tell you right now, my father/daughter dance will be to Isn't She Lovely by Stevie Wonder. My dad used to dance with me around the room when I was a little girl to this song all the time, so I think he will like it.

  41. i think depending on who you are, each song could be considered appropriate or total cheese.

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