Can You Feel the Awkwardness Tonight: The Quandary of The First Dance

Picking a song to dance to for the first time as a married couple can be difficult if you and your betrothed’s favorite slow songs are about dying of alcoholism and the perils of rodeo life. After combing our extensive music collections, I am now convinced that no musician worth slow dancing to has ever experienced happiness, or if they did, it lasted about one verse and ended with a broken heart and a solemn vow to never love again. And so the search for the right song continues. It’s not that Special Someone and I are so desperate to find the perfect summation of our love for each other in a three-minute ballad – we will happily settle for something far less meaningful. It’s more that we don’t want our guests wondering, “What does falling off a bar stool and hitting your head have to do with lifelong commitment?”

Slow dancing just the two of you while everyone looks on is an awkward ritual, made all the more awkward by the fact that these days, no one knows how to do it right (least of all us). Are you supposed to turn in circles the whole time? Because that is what I inevitably end up doing, but I think I must be missing something. (Special Someone is equally lost on this front.) I hear my imaginary Indie Bride friends whispering over my shoulder, “It’s your freaking wedding! Just say no to antiquated traditions that make you uncomfortable!” But, as ridiculous as we might look, I think I will feel unmarried if we don’t do a first dance. We’re planning on taking some lessons, and though these may help with footwork, I doubt they will help us look any less absurd. Can one really do a Viennese Waltz to a lo-fi hipster remake of some lesser Bob Dylan song? I guess anything is possible if you approach it with the right amount of irony.

An alternative is to pick a more fast-paced song and do a choreographed routine. This works for some couples and I have seen stunning proof. But at a wedding of up to 250 guests, many of them co-workers and family friends who don’t know you that well, and a majority of whom have never even met your groom, the prospect of “being yourselves” is intimidating. I don’t know if I’m ready for all of these guests to know how weird my fiancé and I truly are (though they might already be clued in somehow). On the one hand, watching us do our best impression of “Riverdance” or a dramatic interpretation of “If I Were a Carpenter” may be reassuring: “Those two rhythmless dorks were made for each other.” On the other hand, I have to see most of these people again, some of them at work.

Ugh. Well, that’s one more decision to put off until the last minute. And let’s not even start thinking about the father-daughter dance. In the meantime, in an effort to narrow things down, I have started compiling a list of songs that would NOT work for a first dance, but that I hope I can force our DJ to play at the wedding. They are all excellent in their own way, if not exactly marriage material.

Clarence Carter – “Patches” (Alabama sharecropper dies and leaves his son to care for the farm and family. Tear-jerking catastrophes ensue.)

The Shangri-Las – “Leader of the Pack” (High school charmer from “the wrong side of town” loses life in tragic accident.)

Hank Williams – “Wedding Bells” (This sounds like a winner! Until you remember the wedding bells are not pealing for Hank, but for the gal who dumped him.)

The Supremes – “Love Child” (Would definitely give people the wrong idea. Also, the repetition of “Tenement Slum!” seems just a little out of place in a country club ballroom.)

Tina Turner – “Private Dancer” (A not-quite-hooker’s lament. “You don’t look at their faces, and you don’t ask their names.”)

Billy Idol – “Dancing with Myself” (Self-explanatory.)

Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance” (Self-explanatory.)

Prince – “When Doves Cry” (“Maybe I’m just like my mother; she’s never satisfied.” Poor MOBs already get enough grief.)

Rick James – “Superfreak” (“The kind you don’t take home to Mother.”)

Paul Anka – “Diana” (For equality’s sake, we would also need to find a song with Special Someone’s given name, but our knowledge of Swedish techno is elementary at best.)

Wilson Pickett – “Land of 1,000 Dances” (On second thought, I love a good mashed potato almost as much as I love my fiancé, so this may be a First Dance contender.)


13 Comments on “Can You Feel the Awkwardness Tonight: The Quandary of The First Dance”

  1. Sarah says:

    Considering my final and forever seal of approval on this union came after watching the two of you dance at your Christmas party, I can’t wait to watch The First Dance! I think you should go balls out and be your weird-ass selves. If you can’t be yourselves at your wedding then it truly isn’t your wedding!

  2. Mim says:

    Um, why isn’t “Mrs. Officer” by Lil Wayne on that list?

  3. skepticbride says:

    Sarah: Don’t worry, we will be ourselves, for the most part. Just maybe no high kicks during the first dance.

    Mim: the list includes songs that will NOT be used in The First Dance. “Mrs. Officer” has yet to be eliminated.

  4. Mim says:

    Right. Fail. This is what I get for doing 8 things at once. 🙂 And in that case, “Mrs. Officer” would be a brilliant first dance.

  5. skepticbride says:

    I knew you would be relieved! 😉 Still wondering how our older relatives will interpret the lyrics, “when I get up all in ya” (among others)…

  6. Meghan says:

    How about “They Love Eachother” by The Grateful Dead. Slow and fast versions for you to pick from.

  7. Mim says:

    Ehhh, you’ll be married already so any references to fornicatin’ will be legal and therefore ok. Also, don’t eliminate all the Clarence Carter just because of one rather morose tune. Classics such as “Strokin'” and “Back Door Man” come to mind. Which would be perfect.


    Of course.

  8. Mary Kay says:

    I don’t know why I thought of Super Freak as one of those, “probably wouldn’t work” songs – but truthfully, I’m enjoying my visual of your dramatic interpretation of If I Were a Carpenter.

  9. skepticbride says:

    Meghan: good idea – I love the Grateful Dead, but unfortunately my fiance does not. It’s a shortcoming I can live with.

    Mim: hopefully Sanders is not reading this, but we found a cassette tape of “Strokin'” at a thrift shop and are planning to mail it to him anonymously. Once I have had my fill.

    MK: maybe we will act it out for you sometime!

  10. Caroline says:

    A few thoughts: Make sure whatever song you pick, it’s less than two minutes long. If its longer, do a shortened version. Spent all but the first 15 seconds of my first dance saying “OH MY GOD, I did not realize that this is the LONGEST SONG EVER.” (We did L-O-V-E, btw, not Alice’s Restaurant, or whatever.)

    Also: don’t go for something too slow. Pick something more uptempo than you think would be appropriate, because it’s especially hard to avoid the endless circle dance from junior high days if it’s a very slow/somber love song.

    Finally: I wish I’d taken lessons. Or at least attempted dancing to the song before the big day, which we did not. For some reason, it didn’t even OCCUR to me until we were being announced that, oops, we might have at least practiced once.

  11. Maddy says:

    Sexy Slow Song Suggestions:
    – “That Summer,” Garth Brooks
    – “It’s All Coming Back to Me,” Celine Dion
    – “Lady in Red,” Chris deBurgh
    – “2 Become 1,” Spice Girls

  12. Caroline says:

    2 Become 1 might’ve been Jesse’s ideal 1st dance song.

    But this would also be a good last dance song! Make sure you remind the crowd you’re going to go have lots of sex. Especially your elderly relatives. You really want to make sure you leave them with a lasting reminder of your plans to consummate the marraige.

  13. skepticbride says:

    Caroline: thanks for the advice! I’m trying to find songs that are about 2 minutes long because, yeah, even 15 seconds is pretty awkward.

    Maddy: Oh man, I WISH 2 Become 1 could be our wedding song! Like Alice Tinker and Hugo in The Vicar of Dibley. Or “That Summer”!! I’m starting to regret not having the small backyard wedding…

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