Top 10 First Dance Songs

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Over 200 First Dances!

In our career as a Surrey wedding band, The Winklepickers have performed at over 200 weddings. This means over 200 first dances!

I have compiled a list of my top 10 below. These vary from the most beautiful to the most unique and fun to play!

Ed Sheeran - The King Of The First Dance?

Mr Sheeran has made huge waves since he burst onto the scene in 2011 with his debut album "+". This has been reflected in first dances. We have been asked to play the following two songs many times as couples share their first steps on the dancefloor. "Thinking Out Loud" takes the top spot but that may be only because it has been around longer than "Perfect".

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are
— Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud
Well I found a woman, stronger than anyone I know
She shares my dreams, I hope that someday I’ll share her home
I found a love, to carry more than just my secrets
To carry love, to carry children of our own
— Ed Sheeran - Perfect

Other popular Ed Sheeran first dances include "Photograph" and "Tenerife Sea".

Van Morrison

Before Ed Sheeran, there was Van "The Man" Morrison. His best known hit "Brown Eyed Girl" is a wedding music staple and always fills the dancefloor. We have played it countless times as both the first dance and as the Father and Bride dance.

Standing in the sunlight laughing
Hide behind a rainbow’s wall
Slipping and a-sliding
All along the waterfall
With you, my brown-eyed girl
— Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl

We have also performed "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You", "Bright Side Of The Road" and "Into The Mystic".

The Classic Crooner

Nothing says "I Love You" quite like a smooth swing number fronted by some chocolatey vocals from the likes of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra or the modern equivalent, Michael Bublé. Here are two of our most requested jazz first dances.

L, is for the way you look at me
O, is for the only one I see
V, is very very, extraordinary
E, is even more than anyone that you adore

And love
Is all that I can give, to you
Love, is more than just a game, for two
Two, in love can make it
Take my heart, and please don’t break it
Love, was made for me and you
— Nat King Cole - L.O.V.E.
And in this crazy life,
and through these crazy times
It’s you, it’s you, you make me sing.
You’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything
— Michael Bublé - Everything

"Fly Me To The Moon", "It Had To Be You" and "The Way You Look Tonight" are just a handful of the many other jazz classics which we have played as first dances.

From The Movies

Who doesn't remember the iconic closing sequence of the 2003 classic British film "Love Actually"? We have been asked to play "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys from the soundtrack on many occasions and it always starts the night off beautifully.

Equally, we have had a lot of requests for "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri which was written for the wedding scene in Twilight Breaking Dawn: Part 2.

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it
God only knows what I’d be without you

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would livin’ do me
God only knows what I’d be without you
— The Beach Boys - God Only Knows
And all along I believed, I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me,
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more
— Christina Perri - A Thousand Years

Slightly Different First Dances

Some of our favourite first dances, both to learn and to watch have been the more tongue-in-cheek numbers. Two which stick out for me are "Dance Wiv Me" by Dizzee Rascal (which came complete with a choreographed dance routine involving the Bride, the Groom, and most of the wedding party!) and "Ignition" by R. Kelly. Both definitely had the guests talking for years afterwards!

I got my left eye checking out your scenery
I got my right eye right where it needs to be
Don’t matter how I look at it
You look good to me
— Dizzee Rascal - Dance Wiv Me
Crystal poppin’ in the stretch Navigator
We got food everywhere
As if the party was catered
We got fellas to my left
Honeys on my right
We bring em both together we got dancin’ all night
— R. Kelly - Ignition

The Personal Touch

Most couples have a song which is personal to them. Whether it was playing at where they first met or came up in an early conversation. For that reason, we have learned and played a vast number of one off first dances which were unique to the couple. One Groom even wrote us a completely new set of lyrics to give his Bride an extra special surprise.

Another great memory is when we were asked to start the first dance with something slow such as the opening bars of “You Raise Me Up” before launching into a blistering version of the rock and roll classic “Johnny B. Goode”. The couple didn’t want to do a traditional first dance but wanted to surprise their guests. Needless to say, it worked!

As we are talking about the personal touch, I have included "First Day Of My Life" by Bright Eyes which The Winklepickers performed at my own wedding (with a deputy on double bass as I was obviously needed on the dancefloor!) It is an incredibly special song for myself and my wife Charlotte and I will remember the moment fondly forever.

Yours was the first face that I saw
I think I was blind before I met you
I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where I’ve been
But I know where I want to go
— Bright Eyes - First Day Of My Life

So There You Have It...

My top 10 first dances in no particular order:

1) Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran

2) Perfect - Ed Sheeran

3) Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison

4) L.O.V.E. - Nat King Cole

5) Everything - Michael Bublé

6) A Thousand Years - Christina Perri

7) God Only Knows - Beach Boys

8) Ignition - R Kelly

9) Dance With Me - Dizzy Rascal 

10) First Day Of My Life - Bright Eyes

It's Your First Dance!

But...it's your first dance and it should be unique and memorable to you. This list is only for suggestions if you are struggling for inspiration. It is no means exhaustive! If anything, it just proves that whatever you want goes. And that we would be more than happy to learn a special first dance for you, or to play the original audio through our sound system to help create the perfect memory.

Have fun choosing!

Ben Arthey

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How To Choose A Wedding Band

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Helpful Advice On Picking A Wedding Band

 

Over the next few months we will be going into some of the sections of this post in more detail but for now here is a summary of the key things to look at when hiring your wedding band.

 

Your wedding day is perhaps the most important day of your life!

 

A lot of money, energy and emotion is invested in these 24hrs! Live music can really add a spark to the occasion… or alternatively prove to be just an expensive mistake.

This guide includes advice on booking a band, and how to make the best use of your wedding venue for live music. It also covers many other logistics which will help you avoid the many mistakes I have witnessed in my work and ensure that you get the most from any live music you may plan to have on your big day.

I hope you enjoy this information and it proves helpful in creating a perfect, memorable live music experience for your wedding.

 

The Band

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When looking for a band for your wedding there are a few things which will help you find the right act.


Varied Repertoire


I’m guessing the age range at your wedding will vary considerably. Ideally you want a band who will cover a lot of well known songs from various styles and eras of music.

For example, although you may not fancy hearing an old crooning number, guaranteed it will make the older members of your wedding party beam with happiness as memories come flooding back and they take to the floor for a slow dance with whoever is within arms reach. This is also why, unless the entire guest list of your wedding is obsessed with Robbie Williams, a tribute act may get tiresome. You want more variety and the flexibility to cater to everyone’s tastes.

Your band should provide you with a repertoire or “set list” which will enable you to check that they have an expansive time-line of popular songs which cover a wide variety of genres.


Flexible Set Lengths


No matter how many hours you put into slaving over the details, planning the perfect itinerary for your special day, your wedding will not run precisely to schedule. I have yet to perform at one that does! You are trying to organise people who want to socialise, catch up and have a good time celebrating your marriage with you. A lot of the time alcohol will be involved as well and we all know how a bit of drink has a tendency to adjust timekeeping skills!

This does not mean you should worry, it just requires you and your band to be flexible and have options. It may be that after the speeches have run on a little further than planned, there is only time for the band to play for half an hour before the evening buffet is served. Your band should be flexible enough to adjust their sets to accommodate this. If you have hired them for two one hour sets, they should be able to play for 30 minutes before the buffet and 90 minutes afterwards. They should also adapt their song choice accordingly playing good, medium tempo music in the first set then letting loose with upbeat numbers to fill the dance floor for the entire second performance.

 

First Dance

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Another great advantage of booking a band for your wedding is the opportunity to have them perform your first dance live, right before your eyes. A good band should provide the option of learning and performing that special song just for you.

It is important to note however that due to the instrumental make-up of your band, or the sampled sounds on your particular first dance, it may not be possible to completely duplicate the recording. So if you are desperate to hear the 26 piece big band swing classic version of your special song, it would be a better idea to simply ask the band to play your iPod through their speakers.

A final note on the first dance. In my career I have witnessed many couples who learn a step by-step dance routine to their song. This is a wonderful idea and can add to the first dance experience. If you decide to do this and have your band perform the song, it is essential that you inform them of your dance routine. Many times a band will take it on themselves to reduce or extend sections of the songs to cater for the live performance. This could severely jeopardise your routine!

 

Background Music


So what happens between sets when your band is taking a short break? Complete silence?! Of course not, your band should provide suitable background music throughout the night. This will keep the party atmosphere alive while the musicians get ready to give their all in the next set.

One thing I have experienced at some weddings which adds a personal touch and is well worth considering is a pre-prepared track listing provided by the couple. The bride and groom simply give the band an iPod, laptop, or CD with a playlist of all their most memorable songs, prepared by them. Imagine the background music at your wedding containing the song that reminds you of when you first met, had your first kiss, went on your first holiday together. Your band should provide you with the necessary facilities to accommodate this.


Public Liability Insurance And PAT Certificate


This is a must and most wedding venues insist that the band performing hold Public Liability Insurance and a PAT certificate. The license ensures that if there is any problem during the evening caused by the band, any legal proceedings will be covered fully. The Musician’s Union offers its members Public Liability Insurance up to the cost of £10 million. With this option available there is really no excuse for a band not to have cover.

It would be wise to ask to be emailed a scan of the license and certificate before proceeding with booking a band.


The Venue


In order to get the most out of your band, certain aspects of the wedding venue need to be considered. In fact most of these aspects are important even if you aren’t trying to accommodate live music.

 

Room for a Band

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You may think it rather arrogant for a band to want as much room from the edge of the dancefloor as possible, but the reasons why have little to do with ego! I have spent years seeing enthusiastic dancers knock the microphone stand and send the mic straight into the teeth of the singer. The dancer is just enjoying themselves as they should, and a reasonable amount of space would allow them to do this without adding to a vocalist’s dental bill!

A good band should offer you various line-up options for your wedding and suggest a suitable choice for the size of room and space you have to accommodate them.

 

The Bar


Unsurprisingly, the majority of your guests are going to congregate where the drinks are being served. Primarily this is due to the fact that your wedding is a cause for celebration and most people would like a glass to raise, and the consumption of a drink or two (or three or four!) is common at such an occasion. As people mill around the bar they will begin to mingle with others and start conversations. Therefore, like it or not, the bar is likely to be the most attended area of your wedding reception.

I have seen it countless times. The bar is in a room on its own several doors down from where the band are to play. Only the adventurous few are willing to leave the social atmosphere at the bar and move to an entirely different room for a dance.

You are most likely to get the most out of your band l if the dancefloor is in the same room as the bar. The queue for drinks will begin to merge with people standing chatting who break off for the occasional dance. As a result the dancefloor will seldom, if ever, be empty!


Other Logistics


Here are a couple of other considerations which help you get the most out of your wedding band.


Evening Food


Many weddings which I have had the pleasure of performing at have included an evening buffet or hog roast. Food in the evening is an excellent way to refuel your guests, spurring them on to party late into the night.

A wise wedding planner would allocate the evening meal during a break where the band is playing. I remember an occasion where the band I was part of began playing and the dancefloor filled rapidly. All of a sudden people started leaving the room until we were playing to no-one and wondering if we had made some horrible faux-pas! It wasn’t until we finished our first set 20 minutes later and left the room to witness a swarming buffet that we realised what had happened. The guests had stopped dancing in order to sample the food; they knew the band would be playing all night whereas the buffet had a more limited lifetime.

In order to get the best value for money from your live music, it is best to maximise the time people will be able to enjoy the band and try to organise any evening food to coincide with a break for the musicians.


Setting Up / Sound Check

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Obviously your band will need to set up at some point before performing. A good band will bring with them a fair amount of equipment in the form of instruments, speakers and cables etc. They should be able to set up and do a sound check within 45 minutes to an hour. I would thoroughly recommend that this is not during your wedding meal or the speeches!

If you have the luxury of a separate room (some venues use a false wall which can be folded away) where the meal and speeches are to be held this is not an issue. However, if you only have one room where your wedding is being held, a good band should offer you the option of an early set up. This means that for a small extra fee the band will be soundchecked and out of your way before you and your guests arrive. It is worth enquiring as to whether your band will offer this for you.

 

I hope this information is of use to you in planning your special day, and I wish you and your future spouse a lifetime of happiness!


Ben Arthey

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