Whether you are looking for upbeat tunes to pull your guests out of their seats, sweet serenades for your first dance as a couple, unconventional ceremony music to walk down the aisle or nostalgic melodies for your daddy-daughter dance, you’re sure to find every score you need as we journey through the decades!
Starting in the 1950’s
A time of excitement and celebration, America was coming out of war and ready to party! Rock and Roll was becoming wildly popular, accompanied by jazz and doo-op on the Billboard charts.
Love Me Tender
Billboard nominated Elvis Presley as the artist of the decade in the 50’s. His single “Love Me Tender,” is a perfect first dance song. After being pre-ordered 1 million times, it became the first song to go gold before even being released.
I Walk the Line
Johnny Cash’s first number 1 single “I Walk the Line” was a promise to his wife Vivian that he would remain loyal while on tour. It became popular in 2005 again when the movie of the same title came out starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reece Witherspoon.
Dean Martin’s Italian classic gained popularity from the film “The Caddy” in 1953, and was nominated for an Academy award as Best Song of the year. Audiences love its exotic and foreign love story; in 1997 it was played in the hit comedy “Friends” when Monica and Pete fly on a spontaneous getaway to Italy.
Ritchie Valen’s upbeat traditional Mexican folk song became a huge hit at weddings. Originally released in 1958, the song speaks about climbing the ladder to heaven and is filled with optimism. It is very popular with mariachi bands, and the title can be roughly translated to, “Swing.”
The popular 1959 song “Shout” by the Isley Brothers is a crowd favorite.
In the 1980’s, brides objected to this song being played at their weddings, as not to be associated with the wild college fraternity “Animal House” movie. However, it has since reclaimed popularity on dance floors as a song everybody can get involved with.
Other great songs from the 50’s include:
1960’s – A Time for Peace and Love
Some of the best love songs come from the 1960’s, including one of the most popular wedding songs of all time:
"At Last,” by Etta James is considered James’ most famous, and most covered song; it was originally written for the musical “Orchestra Wives.”
"L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole is another wedding classic. It was released in 1965, but became popular again as the opening song in Disney’s remake of “The Parent Trap” in 1998.
I Got You Babe
The infamous duet by Sonny and Cher was thought to be “anti-war” by some because of the lyric, “They say your hair’s too long, I don’t care, with you I can’t go wrong.” In 1993 the song dropped in popularity due to Bill Murray’s character being woken up by it every single day during the film “Groundhog Day.”
Can’t Help Falling In Love With You
One of Elvis Presley’s later hits, “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,” was featured in the artist’s “Blue Hawaii” film. Although this is one of Elvis’s most popular love songs, in the movie he actually sings it to his grandmother while giving her a music box as a gift.
Twist & Shout
While the 60s may get credit for some of the most romantic, peace-loving tunes, there were still a handful of chart-topping party favorites that came out of this decade too, including “Twist & Shout.”
Although it was written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns, and covered by several musicians, it was The Beatles that made this song the dance floor classic it is today.
A hit from day 1, landing a #2 spot on the billboard charts when it was released in 1964, this cover only gained more traction when it appeared as a feature soundtrack song in the wildly successful 1986 pop culture movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Because of this, “Twist & Shout” is one of those wedding reception songs that seems to appeal to nearly every generation.
Other love songs from the time include:
1970’s – The Disco Age
In the 1970’s weddings became less formal, were often outside, and incorporated lots of upbeat dance tunes into their receptions.
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
Who can resist Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop til you Get Enough”? When the song was being written, Randy and Janet Jackson reportedly tapped on soda cans to help Michael come up with the infectious beat.
You Are So Beautiful
Another classic first dance song, “You Are So Beautiful to Me”, was made famous by Joe Cocker who covered the original by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher in his 1974 album. In 2008, former President Bush’s daughter, Jenna, selected this song for her Father-Daughter dance.
I’ll Be There
A great option for a Father-Daughter dance is the Jackson 5’s most successful single ever, “I’ll Be There,” written by Berry Gordy, Hal Davis, and Willie Hutch. The song was re-popularized by Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz in 1992 live performance.
First Time (Ever I Saw Your Face)
Roberta Flack’s beautiful love song about love at first sight won the Grammy for Best Song of the Year in 1972. It remained number one on the charts for six weeks and was featured in the Clint Eastwood movie “Play Misty for Me.” It has been covered by many notable artists including Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
Nobody Does It Better
This song was written specifically for the James Bond movie, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” It peaked at number 2 on the charts, and is one of Carly Simon’s most famous singles.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
In recent years, couples have shifted from traditional church-style ceremony music to more modern choices and classic pop hits. Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is one of them. Used primarily as a recessional tune after the “I Do’s” have been said, it’s a fitting title for the moment.
Other fun 1970’s tunes include:
1980’s – Wild Parties & Rock and Roll
Although weddings reverted back to formal affairs, emulating the momentous Princess Di wedding, the music released in the 1980’s had a fun flair and Hard Rock edge to it.
Prince’s song “1999” was recorded in 1982, but topped the charts for a second time in 1999 at the end of the millennium. It is the only song to ever chart in the year it was named after.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
For decades, this was the signature song to which single bridesmaids danced and leaped their way onto the dance floor to catch the bride’s bouquet. Although it was written and recorded by Robert Hazard in 1979, it was Cyndi Lauper that brought the song its popularity in 1983. It’s considered her breakthrough hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Take My Breath Away
Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” from “Top Gun” was a part of the best-selling movie soundtrack ever. It humorously was also often used as the background music in many Michael Jordan highlight reels!
Celebration & The Electric Slide
While many think that a wedding isn’t really a wedding unless Kool and The Gang’s “Celebration” and Marcia Griffith’s “Electric Slide” are played, these days Hank Lane bands are typically asked to avoid these particular songs. Ric Silver was hired to choreograph the famous dance for a club opening, but its simplicity caused it to gain popularity at weddings all across the country!
Like “The Macarena” of the Nineties, these are songs, while immensely popular during their time, the fact that they reached such fad status and were so grossly overplayed, makes them songs that many would just as soon forget.
CongaIt’s not just a name. Many believe that Miami Sound Machine single-handedly brought the conga line tradition to American weddings with the release of this hit!
It’s also the song that Gloria Estefan credits to putting them on the map. “Conga” and a lot of other Gloria Estefan hits are currently enjoying a renaissance on Broadway in the autobiographical hit musical “On Your Feet.”
Other popular wedding songs from this time include:
The 90s swept in a variety of wedding music selections; some only popular in that day and others still standing the test of time. From first dances to father-daughter ballads and even line dance songs, this was a decade that brought wedding music variety.
The MacarenaEqually loved and dreaded by wedding attendees, “The Macarena” might be the most memorable addition the 1990’s made to weddings. The Macarena was released in 1995, was number one on the charts for 9 weeks, and broke the record by staying in the top 100 for 60 weeks straight!
The world record for the most people performing the dance was broken in the United Kingdom by 2,219 people dancing in synchronization. In 1996, over 50,000 people unofficially danced the dance together at a Yankees game.
I Will Always Love You
Brilliantly created by Dolly Parton, as a tribute to the man who helped her get her start in the music industry, this song was brought to the masses by Whitney Houston who performed it for the movie The Bodyguard.
Can You Feel the Love Tonight
The world was graced with the beauty of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John, from Disney’s the Lion King. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and was up against two other songs from the same film, both by John.
Feels Like Home
The popular ‘90s television show “Dawson’s Creek,” made “Feels Like Home,” by Chantal Kreviazuk incredibly popular as a first dance song.
Always Be My Baby
This song wasn’t just a first dance favorite in the ‘90s, it was also the tune that helped Mariah Carey break some impressive records. The song is credited as being Carey’s 11th chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100, bringing her head-to-head with both Madonna and Whitney Houston for most number one singles for a female artist.
Other 2000’s hits include:
2010 to Now – Today’s Trending Wedding Songs
And here we are! Today’s top trending weddings songs are fun, sweet and totally romantic.
Just the Way You Are & Marry You
Bruno Mars’ songs, “Just the Way You Are,” and “Marry You,” have become increasingly popular for weddings; not only as entrance and first dance songs, but as songs for proposals and engagement videos.
It Won’t Be Like This for Long
A sweet father-daughter choice is Darius Rucker’s “It Won’t Be Like This for Long.”
Thinking Out Loud
Sentimental Ed Sheeran tunes have become a staple at modern weddings. Spotify recently released research stating “Thinking Out Loud” is the number one song labeled the name “First Dance” on their music platform.
“Happy,” is a modern twist on the childhood classic “If Your Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands.” Sure to get guests of all ages up out of their seat and clapping to the rhythm, Pharrell’s number one hit from “Despicable Me 2” was the best-selling song of 2014.
Other popular hits from 2010 and on include:
List of songs courtesy of Hank Lane
Top Photo by:Elizabeth Medina
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