8 ways to find the perfect first dance song

For many modern couples, it’s out with tried-and-true wedding traditions and in with trends. One wedding ritual, however, has stood the test of time: the first dance.

For many modern couples, it’s out with tried-and-true wedding traditions and in with trends. One wedding ritual, however, has stood the test of time: the first dance.

But choosing a song for your first foray onto the dance floor as a married couple can be daunting.

“For many couples, it’s the thing they sweat the most,” says DJ Heather Femia, who has been spinning in Washington for about 12 years.

It also doesn’t help that there are seemingly endless options. It can be fast or slow. Acoustic or electric. Current or classic.

Whatever song you choose doesn’t have to be timeless or perfect, or even mention the word love. In the end, you both just need to love it. “It can be something really special, if you allow yourself the time to explore it, and enjoy it,” Femia says.

Here are ideas and suggestions on how, and where, to find first-dance inspiration.

1. Pick something significant and sentimental: Take a trip down memory lane and come up with a list of songs that are meaningful to both of you and to your relationship. Maybe it’s the song on the radio during your first date or the encore to an unforgettable concert you attended. If one song doesn’t emerge as the winner, a list will help you formulate an idea for what genre and lyrics you both gravitate toward.

2. Listen to your music libraries on shuffle: Play your favorite iTunes or Spotify playlists back-and-forth for each other on shuffle. Pause and note particularly dance-worthy tracks. Like the song but not sure whether it will fit the mood of the evening? Try giving your partner a spin in your living room.

3. Use your venue as inspiration: Getting married in a century-old barn in the country? Consider an acoustic, country or folksy track. For a more formal evening in a museum or historical building, consider a classic. For an offbeat location, such as an art gallery or brewery, consider “I Found You” by Alabama Shakes, “I Do” by Meiko or “May I Have This Dance” by Francis and the Lights and Chance the Rapper.

4. Steal your favorite celebrity couple’s song choice: Former perennial bachelor George Clooney and his now-wife, Amal Alamuddin, danced to Cole Porter’s “Why Shouldn’t I?,” while Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux opted for the unconventional track “Chandelier” by Sia. Former boy bander Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel swayed to “A Song for You” by Donny Hathaway.

5. Play your favorite movie soundtrack: No one captures romance quite like Hollywood, and luckily, some of film’s most memorable, heart-swooning moments are tied to music. Who could forget John Cusack’s boombox, blasting “In Your Eyes” in “Say Anything,” or Adam Sandler serenading Drew Barrymore midflight with “I Wanna Grow Old With You” in “The Wedding Singer”? Borrow their happily-ever-after musical moment for your own.

6. Enlist your DJ or band’s help: Music is literally their business, so chances are they can help you set the right tone, mood and atmosphere.

7. Consider a mash-up: Looking to add a wow or surprise factor to the dance? Consider a fusion of songs, such as a simple, classic romantic ballad that segues into a happy, upbeat number that will encourage guests to make their way to the dance floor.

8. Still at a loss? There’s always Google. Or, yes, “At Last.” There are hundreds of first-dance wedding lists and suggestions online, from genre-specific curated lists to perennial favorites. Comb through lists with your loved one and see what jumps out at you. If all else fails, Etta James’ “At Last” is always a fail-proof choice.

—Megan McDonough | The Washington Post