Performers! (Plus DIY candelabra by the bride's father!)
Photo 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)
Pull off awesome Father-Daughter dances with Liz's help.

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)
  • 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)
New England wedding photographers as seen on @offbeatbride

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)

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)

Prepare to squeal at the ARMORED corset dress at a medieval wedding

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)
Have you ever seen a happier dancing dad?

And the strangest (but cool) suggestions from readers:

  • 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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Comments on Non-sappy father / daughter dance songs

  1. Oh, this is awesome. I sent my Dad the WFUV playlist and I bet we can find something there. Thanks so much for posting my question, Ariel!

  2. I wanted a classic since they tend to be short, so we recently decided on “Ain’t That Love” by Ray Charles. We also wanted the groom and his mom to join in and this song seemed to fit.

  3. My dad and I danced to Tori Amos’s Winter. It was because he bought the album when I was in elementary school, and sat me down and had me listen to it. It’s also a good kinda touchy-feely-you always supported me kind of song. We spent the whole dance talking about her career, as evidenced by this photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thekellyg/498234898/

    In any case: what not go with something that is personally meaningful–a song that you and your dad can share for some reason.

  4. Maybe Paul Simon’s “Father and Daughter”? It fits with your dad’s preference for 60/70’s classic music.

  5. Well, my dad and I are kind of nuts anyway, and neither of us or into the sappy stuff, so we actually did our father daughter dance to RHPS Time Warp and got everyone to going in!
    It was great and the pictures will be entertaining for years to come. 😉

  6. I’m torn between two songs – – – either Landslide by either fleetwood mac or the dixie chicks, or angels flying too close to the ground by willie nelson.

  7. Thanks for posting some responses to this question! I’d been wondering myself just what to choose when the time for dancing arrives.

  8. What about that Tim McGraw song?
    Also- “If These Walls Could Speak” off the “Lead Me On” album by Amy Grant is very touching.

  9. Amen! I hate sappy songs – I love my grandfather, but I do not want one of those cry-your-eyes out moments. I want to smile and laugh the entire time! Thank you so much for posting some info on alternatives!

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