January 31, 2020

Let’s Sway: How To Choose Your First Dance and Parent Dances

Explore how choosing your first dance can be simplified into three things - lyrics, tempo, and length.

Are you having trouble coming up with ideas for your first dance or parent dances? You’d be surprised how many people experience this same issue. So let’s simplify it. We want you to have a clear vision of what is out there and what type of music will fit for these special moments. 

Why not just choose a song off of a list you can Google? – “Popular First Dance Songs” or “Top Songs for First Dance and Parent Dances.” Well, you can most definitely go that route. However, the lists are usually massive, and they typically are not separated by genre or decade.

I think of three things when it comes to picking the right song: Lyrics, Tempo, and Length (the speed of the pulse of the song).


I would look up a song by some of my favorite artists, and read along with the lyrics to see if they match what you are looking for. Pick a song that has special meaning to you and your partner. You don’t want to choose a song that’s lacking in this department unless you’re just up there to party, in which I would say: pick a fun song you love. Naturally, we tend to gravitate towards songs and artists we are familiar with, so going down that path is the most popular.  

After you find a few songs by your favorite artists, you can narrow it down to the song that speaks the closest to what your relationship with your partner or parent is. We all want something relatable, and this is the most significant way to do that. Music has a funny way of reminding us of great memories, and especially relationships. I’m sure we have all come across listening to music and saying, “Wow, is this song written about me and ___ (insert relationship here)?” Sometimes, it really does feels like that. Those are the songs that hit home for me.


Tempo is an important factor when choosing your formal dances. Do you want to sway back and forth, or do you want to jam out with your dancing partner? The decision is totally up to you, and there is no wrong answer. After all, it is your wedding, right? You can do whatever you feel like doing!

Most couples pick a song slower in tempo so that they can have a sweet, intimate moment with his or her partner. These make for some great pictures to get up close and personal in a very vulnerable moment between you two. As wedding professionals, there’s nothing better than watching the moment of two people gazing into each other’s eyes. Having that slower tempo allows for those great moments.

If you pick an uptempo song, there are a ton of possibilities. I love how some daughters and fathers just jam out on the dance floor with a high-energy tune playfully utilizing their time. It’s unconventional, sure, but it’s becoming more and more popular among parent dances and even some first dances! So, if you want to bring a little more flair to your dances, pick an upbeat song to keep the energy going right through your introductions!


Believe it or not, choosing the length of your formal dance songs can be a bit challenging. It can also affect what song you choose if you are trying to shorten it. I always try to have the song go through at least one verse and chorus, so everyone who is listening can get the message of the song. If you are going to go with the entire song, then your options become more extensive, so make sure you keep that in mind when you are choosing your tunes.

Some couples don’t like it when an entire crowd of people stares at them as they dance for anywhere between a minute and thirty seconds up to four minutes. If you are one of those people, make sure you shorten it so you can get the moment in and get some great pictures, and then move on. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable for your day, so if shortening the song helps, do it! There is nothing wrong with that.

Lastly, speak to your entertainment professionals about the specific time marks of your first dance. If you do not want to hear a particular part of the song, like the introduction, for example, then tell your entertainment provider to cut that out and start from a specific part. Customizing what part of the song you hear is attainable and not difficult at all.


So, when you’re thinking about these formal dances, try to simplify your approach with these three points in mind. We sometimes overthink these short, but memorable moments in one of the biggest days of our lives. If you feel comfortable with your entertainment team, lean on them to steer you in the right direction. As wedding professionals, we have your best interest in mind! So, sway back and forth or just jam out – whichever you choose, make it memorable!

Mike Carleo is an EMG Partner & Music Director