Choosing A Perfect First Dance Song Is The Most Important Part Of A Wedding

Senior Pop Culture Editor
07.03.13 33 Comments

frank sinatra

I’m getting married in three days and, outside of that whole “being with the one I love for the rest of my life etc. etc. etc.” business, the aspect of the wedding I’m most looking forward to is mine and my soon-to-be wife’s first dance. I’m also dreading it, not only because I’m as a nimble as you’d assume a six-foot-plus white Jew would be (picture a green bean in the wind), but because I’ve been working on our first dance song for months now. It’s an important moment; it’s the first major event a man and a woman (or a man and man or a woman and woman) do together after they exchanged vows. Plus, as someone who, y’know, writes about music for living, I can’t fuck it up.

Here are some of the songs I thought about picking over the last half-year.

“Do You Wanna Dance” by the Ramones

An obvious selection — it’s like choosing a song with “Christmas” in the title to be the first thing you hear on December 25th — but sometimes that’s the best way to go; you want to pick a song that’s accessible, yet also means something poignant to you and your husband/wife, and “Do You Wanna Dance” fits that criteria for us. (We’re getting married in Queens; the Ramons formed in Queens.) BUT. Remember that whole Jew thing? Yeah. Pogoing and I don’t mix. Plus, a punk song might not exactly go over well to the crowd at the wedding (even if that f*ck yeah 1-2-3 drum kick to begin the song can win over even the most non-Suzy Headbangers of the world).

“Can It Be All So Simple” by Wu-Tang Clan

Every wedding has a story. They’re like snowflakes or farts in that regard: they all look and smell different. Our story goes like this: I’m marrying into a Muslim family. Her parents are more traditional than she is, meaning it’s been a long process convincing them that a white guy is right for their not-white daughter, a series of events that culminated last week with my converting to Islam. (The Jewish references above are purely instinctual and a goddamn lie, depending on who’s asking.) It’s a tale as old as time, right down to the dry wedding (eep) and the fact our first dance can’t be to “Day one, yo, growing all up in the ghetto/Now I’m a weed fiend jetting to Palmetto,” despite our lives being EXACTLY like that. Well, we COULD, but it’s best not to, which effectively rules out any and all rap and Anal C*nt. (The exceptions: certain Kanye and most Tribe Called Quest songs.) Oh well. Peace to mankind.

“The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra

Ol’ Blue Eyes recorded some of the most gorgeous music known to mankind (dolphin songs make Sinatra sound like four orangutans mating). That’s why ballads like “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “The Way You Look Tonight” are played at EVERY bar mitzvah, graduation, anniversary, and wedding, and will be until the end of time. They’re endlessly romantic and appeal to both kids who only know Sinatra through the context of blog posts about Ocean’s Eleven and grandparents who saw the legend himself perform at the Sands in Vegas, but because everyone uses them, they don’t feel as personal as a first-dance song should be. They’re like Office Space quotes: still funny (or in the case of “Tonight,” pretty), but tired, too, and I’ve always gotten the sense that the reason Sinatra’s used so often is because he’s a safe choice. No one’s going to be offended by “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and that’s fine; it’s just not for us. Now, his cover of “MacArthur Park,” that there’s a song that’ll jump start the waterworks.

“Sister Ray” by the Velvet Underground

Most people have had the funeral song discussion, occasionally during dinner, often after downing a fifth shot of Jameson in an hour. It says a lot about a person, what they want their last song to be, especially teenagers, because teenagers are the worst and they always choose something either ironic or SO COOL. At a certain point in definetly-not-this-guy’s-life-nope-it-was-a-friend-of-a-friend-named-um-Billy’s life, he wanted his family and friends to have to suffer through Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” while he was being lowered into the ground, or shot into space on a gold-plated rocket ship, as the case may be. Acting a fool is a requirement for any half-humans between the ages of 13 and 16, and there few better examples of fool-acting than picking “The End” by the Doors as your funeral song. The same goes for weddings — it might seem like a good idea to pick an inside joke of a song, but it’s not. It’s never a good idea. For a very, very, very brief, yet still too long minute in my life a few months ago, I decided “Sister Ray” should THE SONG. “Sister Ray” is over 17 minutes long and includes the lyric, “She’s too busy sucking on my ding-dong,” sung repeatedly by a blessed-out, hypnotic Lou Reed over a maddening, repetitive buzz. It’s amazing. But not for a first dance. Remember the signature that girl left in your middle school yearbook, the one about “god, fourth period lunch was so funny when Jacob did that thing,” and you can’t remember what “that thing” was all these years later? Yeah, that’s “Sister Ray,” or any song that clocks in at over five minutes.

“Divorce Song” by Liz Phair

She said no. Next.

“The Rains of Castamere” by the National

Our hopefully-optimistic future said no. Next.

“Spit on a Stranger” by Pavement

Here’s what we actually went with. It’s one of our favorite songs from one of our favorite bands with one of our favorite lyrics: “Honey, I’m a prize and you’re a catch and we’re a perfect match.” The fact that the track is delivered with Stephen Malkmus’s unmistakable slacker irony only seals the like-you-know-whatever deal. So, I’m curious: what song did you all choose for your first dance? I’m prematurely apologizing if it was something by Sinatra.

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