Non-sappy father/daughter dance songs

Updated Mar 15 2021
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)
  • 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)

WANT EVEN MORE!?

  1. I really want "Box of Rain" by the Grateful Dead but it's too long, so I'm gonna try to figure something out.

    • I wouldn't cut it out just because it's long, although it is a song with a sad history…Box of Rain was written from the son to the father who was passing away, it's about life and death and the afterlife "believe it if you need it, or leave it if you dare." Sad to think of the song being about death, but a beautiful Dead song, my #1 favorite.

  2. I haven't read all the way through these 13 pages of suggestions, but I doubt this one is listed already.

    A few years ago I was in a wedding in which the bride's father–who is very much a music lover–chose the song, and kept it a secret until the time came to dance. He chose "Three Times a Lady" by Lionel Ritchie, and it was surprisingly appropriate. Not a dry eye in the house!

  3. My Dad and I are dancing to "Papa Was a Rodeo" by Magnetic Fields. It may or may not be a gay love song but I cry everytime I hear it. :O)

  4. My dad passed away in 2007 but we plan on doing a photo montage and I'm using The Dropkick Murphys "Forever"

  5. I can't believe how many other people are having the same problem as me!! I thought I was going nuts because I can't pick a song to dance to with my dad. He loves Grateful Dead (which we grew up on) and Bob Dylan. Any suggestions????

    • The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion – not sappy AT ALL, just about being happy and having a good time…so Dead!
      "See that girl, barefootin' along,
      Whistlin' and singin', she's a carryin' on.
      Got laughing in her eyes, dancing in her feet,
      She's a neon-light diamond and she can live on the street.
      Hey hey, hey, come right away
      Come and join the party every day.
      Hey hey, hey, come right away
      Come and join the party every day.
      Well everybody's dancin' in a ring around the sun
      Nobody's finished, we ain't even begun.
      So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat.
      Try on your wings and find our where it's at.
      Hey, hey, hey, come right away
      Come and join the party every day.
      Hey hey, hey, come right away
      Come and join the party every day.
      Take a vacation, fall out for a while,
      Summer's comin' in, and it's goin' outa style
      Well, lie down smokin', honey, have yourself a ball,
      Cause your mother's down in Memphis, won't be back 'till the fall.
      Hey, hey, hey, come right away
      Come and join the party every day."

    • Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion? A song just about having fun and being happy…
      See that girl, barefootin' along,
      Whistlin' and singin', she's a carryin' on.
      Got laughing in her eyes, dancing in her feet,
      She's a neon-light diamond and she can live on the street.
      Hey hey, hey, come right away
      Come and join the party every day.
      Hey hey, hey, come right away
      Come and join the party every day.
      Well everybody's dancin' in a ring around the sun
      Nobody's finished, we ain't even begun.
      So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat.
      Try on your wings and find out where it's at."

    • Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion – The Grateful Dead…awesome! I tried to post the lyrics but I guess it was too long or something…

  6. My daughter is letting me pick our dance song at her wedding. Since we're having a band, we can play around with a song & wanted one that we could slow dance to at the beginning but that could crank up to get everyone to join in as the song progresses. I'm leaning toward "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby". There are many versions from slow/melodic (Joni James or Nancy Lamott) to the upbeat jazzy, swinging version by Bobby Darrin, so the band can morph the song's tempo. I think this song would also work for those fathers & daughters who have had estranged relationships.

  7. Does anyone know of a good
    Waylon Jennings
    Willy Nelson
    John Cash
    or Kris Kristoferson song
    My dad's a big fan of the "classics"

  8. My dad is a fan of classic country
    does anyone know a waylon jennings / kris kristofferson / johnny cash or willie nelson song that might work for a first dance

  9. I'm not getting married for another 4 years or so, but I really think we're gonna dance to either "Friday I'm in Love" or "Just Like Heaven" by the Cure. My dad and I are into those songs…and they're just our 'happy' songs.

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