(Nearly) Cheese-Free Father-Daughter Dance Songs

by Emily Threlkeld, Contributor

When I was about eight or nine, I was at the park with my dad and I fell off the merry-go-round. Through the strange physical laws of childhood, I landed under it with the thing still spinning madly an inch from my face. My dad rushed over, stopped the thing so I could get out from under it, and asked if I was okay. I stood up, brushed myself off, then proceeded to get mad at him for asking. In a lot of ways, I was daddy’s little girl, but I was never going to be the kind of girl—or woman—who played “Butterfly Kisses” at her wedding reception. To be fair, I’m pretty sure my dad and I listened to that song at some point, and I’m pretty sure that he teared up. But that saccharine stuff isn’t quite up my alley.

Of course, I missed my chance for a father-daughter dance entirely, because I had to say goodbye to him when I was only twenty-three. I don’t wish the three weeks I spent in the hospital on anyone, but in a lot of ways, I still feel lucky. When he died, I knew how much my dad loved me, and he didn’t leave me with any lingering questions. We didn’t have a complicated relationship, and I know how fortunate I am to be able to say that.

That said, it’s still fun to think about what we would have danced to, to browse his CD collection, the cases making their clicking sounds as I flip past them. My dad is the one who built my musical foundation. From The Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel to Carole King and Carly Simon, he played albums on Sunday mornings and cranked up songs in the car, sitting in the parking lot until they were over, two habits I still indulge in. So here are twenty of my picks for cheese-free (almost… there is a Billy Joel song in there) songs to dance with your dad to.

(Nearly) Cheese-Free Father-Daughter Dance Songs from practicalmaddie on 8tracks Radio.

  1. “Vienna” by Billy Joel
  2. “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles
  3. “Why Walk When You Can Fly” by Mary Chapin Carpenter
  4. “Both Sides, Now” by Joni Mitchell
  5. “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor
  6. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Birds
  7. “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” by Paul Simon
  8. “Carry Me” by Crosby & Nash
  9. “Turn Around” by Nanci Griffith
  10. “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” by Simon & Garfunkel
  11. “Let There Be Love” by Nat King Cole
  12. “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” by Judy Garland
  13. “Wide Open Spaces” by The Dixie Chicks
  14. “My Girl” as covered by The Rolling Stones
  15. “Let it Be” as covered by Aretha Franklin
  16. “Never My Love” by The Association
  17. “Child of Mine” by Carole King
  18. “May You Never” by Eric Clapton
  19. “The Glory of Love” by Otis Redding
  20. “Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon

Unexpected Parent Dance Songs

First Dance Songs, Volume One

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First Dance Songs: Slow And Weepy

Last Dance Songs

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All of APW’s Playlists

Photo by APW Sponsor Hart & Sol West

**This post was sponsored by Monogamy Wines. Thank you Monogamy for helping make the APW mission possible!**

Emily Threlkeld

Emily’s first marriage was to her stuffed raccoon Ringo (named for the Beatle). She wore her yellow Easter dress to the ceremony and her mother officiated. She has a BFA in Creative Writing, a cat named after the heroine of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a permanent case of wanderlust.

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  • Rebecca

    These are great! My dad did the same thing with his albums, and he always played “Yer Birthday” from the white album on my birthday. We talked about “Here Comes the Sun”, but decided that it was too difficult to dance to so we are going with “In My Life”.

  • Amanda

    Question – does anyone know the song “Amanda” by Waylon Jennings? Would it be inappropriate for a father/daughter dance? My dad always played Waylon Jennings on road trips. It’s a nice waltz, but I don’t want the lyrics to make it sound like I just married the wrong person…
    The chorus:
    Amanda, light of my life
    Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife

    • Amanda too

      Another Amanda here! I was named after that song (my dad actually picked my name out way before I was even born), and I’ve always wondered the same thing. I think it would be sweet for a father/daughter dance because of its history in our lives, but I’m totally unsure about the lyrics—they’re kind of weird for a father/daughter thing. I’m still on the fence, so I’m not much help, just wanted to let you know you’re not the only one! (And luckily not planning a wedding anytime soon, so I have plenty of time.) Good luck!

      • Amanda

        I think since you’re named after the song it would be really sweet. I wasn’t actually named after it (I don’t think!), but it has a special place in my heart since my dad always played it. And as Lydia said below, the gist of the song really is that she deserves the best, which fits for father/daughter.

    • Lydia

      Aw, it’s your name, and a sweet song. Seeing as the intent in the song is more that she deserves the best, I think it’s fine. Especially if you make it clear in every other way that you Have married the gentleman of your choice. If you felt at all awkward, you could maybe have the DJ say something after about your “gentleman”. But I think it’ll be clearly about you and your dad wishing you the best.

      • Amanda

        That’s a good point about the intent of the song. And good idea about having the DJ say something.

        • Amanda too

          That is a really good point! :)

  • Lena

    Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd is the song that perfectly encapsulates my dad’s wants and wishes for me (and its not extreemly sappy), plus he is a biker how can there not be some Skynyrd at my wedding?

  • alyssa

    My dad and I danced to Nat and Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable.” That song will forever remind me of my father!

  • Rachel102712

    Also a favorite: “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. My dad and I danced to a blue grass cover of it, and it’s one of my favorite memories of my wedding day. :)

    • Laura C

      A bluegrass version of “What a Wonderful World”? Nifty — I’d love to hear that.

    • Sarah

      This sounds just about perfect for me too! What’s the bluegrass version? Thank you!

  • Kristen

    My Dad and I danced to “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper. The main verse really fits our relationship: “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me. Time after time. If you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting. Time after time.” We felt it wasn’t too sappy and being an 80s kid, it seemed just right!

    • Sarah

      My dad and I danced to this song too! It’s such a perfect father-daughter dance, and the fact that my dad went to see Cyndi Lauper around 10 years ago and became a huge fan was icing on the cake. I always thought it was funny and adorable that my dad loves Cyndi Lauper so this was one of the very aspects of my wedding that I knew would happen before I even met my husband!

  • We did ours to “Rainbow Connection,” after a lovely speech including “Fish Heads” and “Fight for Your Right (to Party).”

    I loved the father-daughter dance.

  • Jess

    I’m having a hard time picking out a song for this but man, that Paul Simon song…I love it!!! Thanks for this playlist!

  • E

    My dad and I want to use a Prince song and I’d appreciate any suggestions for something that people would think is a good idea. Any tempo is fine, I’m just finding like 1 or 2 lines that don’t quite fit in every song that I think might work.

  • Carolyn

    These are all so great. I have so many childhood memories of driving around with my dad, listening to the Beatles, old Benny Goodman, and a lot of classic rock, too. We had a hard time choosing a song to dance to that wasn’t super cheesy, super long, or just flat out super weird. We chose Stand by Me, by Ben E. King. And it was wonderful.

  • kcaudad

    Suggestion: have your dad pick out the song… problem solved! We also let hub’s mom pick out the song she wanted for the mother-son dance.

    • Gina

      Yes! An easy way to involve your dad in the wedding. Especially when he could care less about flowers and details.

    • Carolyn

      Agreed. My dad is a big Elvis fan, and I was like, “awesome go for it.” We did “Love Me Tender” which is a bit on the sap-side of things, but it was meaningful to him which made it meaningful to me. Everyone else be damned.

    • Or, if you want some veto power w/o hurt feelings, have him pick out a short list and you make the final selection.

    • Beth

      I tried this with my dad and he ended up picking the worst, cheesiest, most awful song that I couldn’t even get through because I hated it so much. Instead I sent him a bunch to choose from and we ended up agreeing on the one he picked anyway!

    • Steph

      We did this and I’ll be rocking with my Dad to the Beatles and my poor fiance is stuck slow dancing with his Mom to Celine Dion

  • mari

    My parents raised me in a mainly Spanish household, and most of my days were filled in the backseat of my dad’s car watching him sing along to classic Spanish Rock. My natural inclination was to go with a MANA song, but going through the lyrics, I really probably should not have been singing along with him at 5… We danced to Amigo, by Roberto Carlos. Because that is what he is.

  • My dad and I used “In Your Wildest Dreams” by The Moody Blues. It starts out slow and turns into this amazing jam. My dad surprised the hell out of me and led me in this awesome fast dance the everyone thought we planned and choreographed. Best part of the reception hands down. He’s a huge Moody Blues fan and that song is one I associate with him.

    We were considering “Roseanna” by Toto because he would dance me around the living room when I was three.

  • Gina

    These are amazing! I’m so feeling you on Butterfly Kisses–haha, that was never an option.

    We were torn between Jimmy Buffett’s “Little Miss Magic” and “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. Neither are cheese-free, I admit. We went with “Sunrise, Sunset” because it’s so unique and both my dad and I have loved that movie since I was little.

  • There wasn’t even a question of what my dad and I would dance to–it had to be “My Girl” (classic Temptations version). Not exactly cheese-free, but I think it’s way less cheesy than, say “Butterfly Kisses.” The only other father-daughter dance song I can remember is my cousin-in-law, who danced with her dad to “Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon. Love love love that one, too.

  • Alyssa

    My dad loves all things blues, so we danced to “Come Rain or Come Shine” by BB King and Eric Clapton. It was a perfect fit for us.

  • Michelle

    I, too, lost my dad in my early adulthood and as soon as I see posts that mention the whole father-daughter dance thing, I immediately avoid. Today, however, I thought, “I’m fine! It’s been 5 years! I’m not going to have a parent-daughter dance at my wedding anyway, I’ll just take a peek at what it has to say.” This post is the reason that I love this blog, because not all families look the same, and as I’m entering wedding planning sans parents, I’m so glad to find a community where many have faced similar difficulties.

    My dad most definitely was my foundation for my musical tastes, and I still blast Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Pride and Joy with my windows down and think of him often. So, now I’m going to put my headphones on, listen, and totally pretend I am not now crying in the cafe I’m in.

    • Emily

      It gets better. I don’t think I would have been able to make this playlist a year ago.

      SRV is such a good choice!

  • Caitlin

    We went with “Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright III. It was perfect and felt like it could have been written about us. Plus my dad can really dance and its up beat tempo meant he could spin me around the floor to “I lost everytime I fought her” which was perfect, funny, accurate, and makes me tear up with joy thinking about it. :-)

  • Jessica

    My dad and I danced to “Rock Around the Clock.” I think the DJ thought we were nuts (in announcing it, he was like, “They picked this one out themselves!”), and my dad totally had to take off his tux jacket before we could get started, but it was a blast. It made for awesome pictures, too – lots of spinning and such. At first, I wanted to dance to “Do You Believe In Magic,” but my husband strongly associates it with the McDonald’s commercial from, like, 15 years ago, which kind of killed it for me…

  • Becky

    As my dad was leaving the hospital the day I was born to get a few hours’ sleep before coming back, “Forever Young” came on the radio. For us, it was never even a question — that’s our father/daughter dance song. Cheese free? Absolutely not. But I can’t wait!!

  • Concetta

    We danced to an old Sam Cooke song “Nothing Can Change This Love” which I think I first heard about on this site :-) As a dance, I mean, we have it at home. It works as a father/daughter dance (or a couple dance, too, I suppose). Sweet song and struck the right tone of passing time, forgiveness, and avoided too many “little girl with daddy” references since I am way closer to 40 than 30. Plus, my dad “gets” Sam Cooke more than a more modern artist.
    I saw a version on YouTube with images and lyrics that were specifically geared towards a dad and his new daughter… it made me cry big time the first time I saw it (and the second, and the third). Of course, I was crying at the drop of the hat at the end. Great song-check it out!

    • That will be my dad’s and mine as well, next month! I knew the song but hadn’t listened to it in a focused way until he suggested it as a possibility. Playing the copy he sent me, I got to the line “if you wanted/ to leave me and roam/ when you got back/ I’d just say welcome home” and burst into tears at my desk. I mean, I was PMSing at the time, but I still took it as a sign.

      • Concetta

        See! It wasn’t just me, crying at everything the month before the wedding! The first time I made it through that song without crying was at the wedding. Two months later, TO SAVE THEIR LIFE, no one (besides my husband and me) could tell you what any songs at our reception were. Which is to be expected – it wasn’t their wedding, it was ours! Lesson learned: please yourselves and have fun with the music, because you are the ones who will remember the what and why.

        • You have NO IDEA what a relief that is to hear (signed: someone who’s already spent way too much mental energy obsessing over the playlist).

          • Concetta

            Liz, how did it go?

  • Beth

    Oh man, trying to find a non-pukeworthy song for the father-daughter dance was really hard for me. If my husband and I hadn’t chosen a Sam Cooke song for our first dance, I would have wanted to dance with my dad to Cooke’s “I Wish You Love.” Instead we danced to “Rainbow Connection” kind of by accident. I sent him a bunch of songs to choose from and was joking to my husband about how funny it would be to do Rainbow Connection, and then when I talked to my dad about it he kind of sheepishly said, “Well….I kind of like Rainbow Connection…” and we had a “Oh my god, let’s do it!” moment. And we did! My mom was a little uncertain, but it really is sweet.

  • Katelyn

    I’m picking Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” since my dad loves Roy and I thought it was a cute nod to the fact that I’m a spoiled brat :)

    • margi

      Roy Orbison!!! My dad’s favorite! I just listened to this song and it made me bawl. What a perfect song!

    • Emily

      I love that song! It’s so happy.

  • Brittany

    Love the Paul Simon song, but my Dad is more likely to be awkward if I play anything dealing with emotions. Going with “You’ve got a friend in me” from the Toy Story soundtrack :)

  • MDBethann

    We did “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban. It might be cheesy and I know it’s been over used for patriotic reasons, but Dad’s always been there supporting me and lifting me up, so it seemed appropriate. That and we both love Josh Groban and I really wanted a slow Josh Groban song played at our wedding and my DH is not a fan of his music (music is one of the few areas where our tastes are drastically different).

  • Concetta

    A helpful tip we got from our DOC here in Denver: Cut all the dance songs and make sure your DJ (if you have one) has the shortened version of your songs. Our fabulous (and affordable) planner has a background in dance instruction, and although we weren’t sure about her advice at the time, she was right. Even though our guests love us, they didn’t want to watch all four minutes of our first dance (Harvest Moon). Sam Cooke’s song for the Father/Daughter was already pretty short, so not a big deal. Her advice? “Keep it under two minutes for sure since most people lose interest after only a minute and a half.” Good advice!

    • Emily

      Good advice! I’ve also heard the advice to have the DJ invite other fathers and daughters to the dance floor after two minutes. At some point, I’m pretty sure Alyssa of ATP talked about giving some of her family members THE NOD to invite them to do the same thing.

  • Kat

    We’re doing a real oldies song by a group called the Teddy Bears, “To Know Him is to Love Him.”

    • Kat

      Bonus…the song is already 2:24 so like the above post about keeping things short we’re not dancing to a full 4 or 6 minute ballad that makes people want to gouge their eyes out.

  • MG

    Love all these songs! Dancing to “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac with my dad on Saturday, and can’t wait.

  • Soraya

    My wedding was a week and a half ago. We did more of a parent/child dance to Cat Stevens “wild world” . I danced with my dad and he danced with his mom and it was the most perfect song for the occasion. Maybe because we’re both only children. But it’s one of my favorite parts of the night and that’s a long list.

  • Elizabeth

    We did Julie Through The Glass, by Carly Simon. Maybe a little cheesy, but ya know. It’s always been our dad-daughter song.

    “We want you to learn to love the world, to know it well and play a part. And we want you to learn to love yourself, ’cause that’s where loving really starts.”

  • Lady K

    Charlie by the Milk Carton Kids was our father-daughter song, and it was absolutely perfect for us. It has a beautiful, Simon & Garfunkel sound, and the lyrics are all about a father passing along words of wisdom to his smart, strong daughter.
    Still makes me tear up whenever I hear it:-)

  • Steph

    When I was little my dad used to go on a lot of business trips. The night before he left he would always sing me All my Loving by the Beatles (Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you…). I’ve always known that’s what we would dance to, it’s probably been the easiest decision of the whole wedding!

  • Marie

    Will there be a Mother/Son playlist? My fiancé gets a deer-in-the-headlights look whenever I mention it and I’m struggling trying to find some suggestions for him!

  • My father played “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” on my sister’s marriage. That’s really a wonderful song. Michigan Wedding DJ

  • Fred

    My ex-girlfriend’s daughter asked me pick out a song for our father/daughter dance at her wedding! I met her when she was ten after I started dating her mom; when she was 18 broke up with her mom (who told me that even though we were no longer together, she wanted me to remain in her daughter’s life because I was more of a father to her than her natural father); and she now is getting married at 27 in a year. She is the daughter that I always wanted (I have a young son). Below are five great songs from which I am trying to decide:

    It Won’t Be Like This For Long – Darius Rucker
    Daughters – John Mayer
    My Little Girl – Tim McGraw
    Never Gonna Be Alone – Nickelback
    Landslide – Fleetwood Mack

    Though they all say what I want to say, I am leaning towards the Darius Rucker song (which left me in tears). Time flies far too quickly. Cherish every moment because “it won’t be like this for long”.

  • April

    Great post, and great comments! This is so helpful.

    I think my front-runner right now is one I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    Soulshine by the Allman Brothers

    It is is an amazing blues song, sweet, not at all cheesy, and could work for both father daughter, and mother-son. My dad taught me my love of the blues, so I think it will be the perfect fit for us.

    Another unknown I wanted to mention, although too sappy for me personally, I think:

    Baby Girl by Will Hogue

    A relatively unknown artist, but the lyrics are the most perfect I have ever heard for a father expressing his wishes for his daughter.

    Good luck, everyone!

  • Beth Schmitz

    We danced to You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You by Dean Martin. Short, fun and not cheesy.

  • emily

    My dad and I are dancing to Wildflowers by Tom Petty!

  • marbella

    :) sweet memories. I am also not a butterfly kisses type of girl, and grew up with my dad playing records loud enough to wake us all at the weekends. Í asked my dad to pick the song, and we danced to ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles. His other option would have been ‘Morning Has Broken’- Cat Stevens’ version.

    • marbella

      I should probably add that we did a dual mother-son, father-daughter dance.

  • Lexi

    I’ve been searching and searching for a father-daughter song wide across the web, and I cannot thank you enough for your list. My father is a musician and has a well-trained taste for the kinds of “B-side” music it seems you and your father shared as well. When I was a young girl, I nearly wore a hole in his copy of Nanci Griffith’s “Other Voices” album. I’d nearly forgotten it. I think it could be the perfect song! Thank you!

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