20 Unique Wedding Songs That Aren’t Played to Death

I don’t blame Etta James. Really, I don’t. It’s not her fault that she created one of the most amazingly beautiful wedding songs that was so romantic hundreds of thousands of brides chose it as their first dance song. And let me make this clear: Just because it’s popular doesn’t me you SHOULDN’T use it as your wedding song. If you love the music and lyrics (and who doesn’t) then you should absolutely consider it for your wedding song. However, if you’re looking for a potential wedding song that is a little more under-the-radar, I’ve come up with a list of what I consider to be underrated songs that could be perfect for your first dance.

Be warned, however, that this list does not include any recent Top 10, 20, or even 100 hits. A lot of these songs are from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. In fact, the most recent one is from way back in 2011. That’s not to say there aren’t any great underrated and unique wedding songs from the past couple years. It’s just that these are the wedding songs that seem to constantly take up rotation on my playlist so I wanted to share.

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1. I’ll Try Anything Once by The Strokes

This version of the song was an early demo of “You Only Live Once” from the Strokes third album, First Impressions of Earth. It’s completely different from the album version, and features Nick Valensi playing keyboards with Julian Casablancas singing the lyrics softly. I think the result is gorgeous, and would work great as a unique first dance song that most people probably haven’t heard yet.

2. Sweet Thing by Van Morrison

You’ll soon discover that there are two Van Morrison songs on this list (that also happen to be my two favorite. Period.). This 1968 song appeared on Morrison’s second album, Astral Weeks, and I could probably argue with you that it’s the most romantic song ever made.

3. Harvest Moon by Neil Young

I like Neil Young, but I’m not a die-hard fan. However, this song really, really, makes me want to be one. Every time this song comes on I sit and sulk that we can’t dance to it at home when we’re 95 and tell our great-great- grandkids about how this was our wedding song. Sigh.

WGM Says: Once you’ve picked your wedding song, check the other big items off your list with our wedding planning checklist.

4. California Stars by Billy Bragg and Wilco

If you’re not big into slow-dancing, this song has pretty much the perfect rhythm for just swaying back and forth. Which if I’m being honest is my go-to dance move when I’m not embarrassing myself trying to pretend like I can do more.

5. Wonderwall by Ryan Adams

Can we talk about how this version is even better than the original? And don’t get mad at me because Noel Gallagher said the same thing.

6. Sea of Love by Cat Power

I had my bridesmaids walk down the aisle to this song, though I think it could work equally as well for a first dance song. It’s slow and sweet and Cat Power is unique enough that your music nerd friends will love it and your parents will reminisce about the original version by Phil Phillips.

7. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths

The Smiths and Morrissey are huge in our household, which is why I’m surprised this song didn’t end up as our first dance song. (The winner is below). In my opinion it’s one of the most romantic Smiths/Morrissey songs out there that doesn’t have “Fatty” in the title. 🙂

8. Luna by The Smashing Pumpkins

Everytime I hear this song I’m instantly transported back to high school and all those serious adolescent heartaches…which means it’s probably achingly perfect as a first dance song. It’s also not as dated as some other songs from that time period, which means you can play it without anybody giving your the side eye. (Hello, Cranberries).

SEE MORE: 58 of the Best Wedding Songs EVER 

9. All I Want Is You by U2

I don’t automatically think of U2 when I think of wedding songs, but this one really is great. And unless you’ve been watching Reality Bites on Netflix as much as I have, there’s a good chance most people haven’t heard it in awhile.

10. Into the Mystic by Van Morrison

I realllllllly wanted to make this our first dance song. It’s on my Top 5 Favorite Songs Ever list, but my now-husband wasn’t a fan of some of the lyrics. And to each their own. I turned down several songs he loved because I just wasn’t feeling them. It’s all about compromise, right?

11. Never Tear Us Apart by INXS

This was our wedding song! We went back and forth on a first dance song we loved, and this ended up being one we both really liked. (It was also one of the only songs we could remember playing on the jukebox on one of our first dates.) While it might be slightly more played than a couple others on this list, I still consider it an underrated wedding song.

12. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel

Hipsters rejoice! Neutral Milk Hotel is one of those bands that’s popular but not TOO popular. That means if you use this as your first dance song you’ll still have some cred with the pickiest of friends. (Though Grandma might wonder who the hell is singing.)

13. Heroes by David Bowie

If I were to pick the best, most unique song on this list, it would have to be this one (I told you these weren’t in order). It’s a passionate, awesome song that I’ve heard zero people play as a first dance song. (Though if this was your song let us know!). Plus, Bowie never goes out of style.

14. Lucky Man by The Verve

My husband danced to this song with his step-mom, and it really was/is a great song. It’s one of those songs you never think about until it comes on and then you’re like “I love this song!!!”

15. Follow You, Follow Me cover by Red House Painters

We searched and searched and searched for a Red House Painters that could work as a first dance song. The problem, as most RHP fans know, is that while they have gorgeous songs the lyrics are usually about love gone astray. (As most good love songs are). But this cover is not, and it’s by the Red House Painters so it’s a win-win.

16. Holocene by Bon Iver

I think this song is heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s a little long so I would talk to your DJ about trimming it SLIGHTLY if you go with it as a first dance song. Otherwise, it’s sweet and romantic and downright cinematic.

17. Where to Begin by My Morning Jacket

This was an original song written for the Cameron Crowe movie, Elizabethtown, which makes it a bit more under-the-radar and unique (even if you’re not a fan of the movie). It still, however, has that gorgeous tone My Morning Jacket is known for, which means it’s a great choice for a first dance song.

18. Little Trip to Heaven by Tom Waits

If you’re a fan of Tom Waits, this 1973 song from his album Closing Time should definitely be a top-contender for you.

19. Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

So the next two almost didn’t make the list because they were deemed “too girly” by some male folk I know. (Husband, included). I still love these songs, though, and they’re not really played to death at weddings which means they’re perfect for this list. My teenage self is really happy with me right now, BTW.

20. Wild Horses cover by The Sundays

The only downside to this song? It will FOREVER make me think of that scene on the rollercoaster with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg in Fear. It’s still beautiful, though, Marky Mark be damned!

Looking for more musical inspiration? Check out my recent suggestions for best wedding music. Plus, keep in mind that several of these songs above can be used for other parts of your wedding. They can be used for your parent dances (just keep the lyrics in mind) as well as your processional, recessional, or wedding entrance!

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  1. says: Bridget Heidtman

    Thank u so much.. im getting married 2017.. holocene might not be romantic but the music was beautiful.. I could picture my future hubby n walking down the Isle or our 1st dance. ..either way it’s gonna be on our special day.. thank you again.. ❤

  2. says: Elizabeth

    Our first dance was to Heroes and it was amazing! We used the long version, danced our hearts out for the first 5 minutes, and then pulled everyone in to dance with us.

  3. says: maryam Nault

    Greatest list ever! One of my favorite songs is Mazzy Star Fade into You and you totally reminded me of that! Thank you!

  4. says: Andrea

    I LOVE this list!! Thank you so much. Some songs were such a welcomed blast from the past that I now NEED to find a way to include at our reception. We have chosen a not too well known song for our first dance but its by a band we both love: “Knock Louder” by Jr. Jr. Such a sweet song – we think 🙂

  5. says: Anonymous

    Thank you sooooo much for this list! I feel like I just hit the jackpot for my wedding. Sea of Love and Little Trip to Heaven will most likely play a role 🙂

  6. says: Nicholas Colitses

    Ashton Lane’s (Primrose Hill) does have that highly cinematic vibe of the best outside wedding songs. Written and set near the famous Abbey Road and sung for true hearts everywhere. Enjoy!!!

  7. says: Tyisha

    WONDERFUL LIST! Alot, ive never heard of! My FAVORITES were #5 & 6! I seriously got sooo captivated in that wonderwall cover i was really emotional about it and picturing MY WEDDING DAY with that song!! it’s a definate contender although we just arent doing a traditional wedding at all, but i should have a 1st dance an wedding song, and its GORGEOUS! THANKS FOR SHARING! great ideas, and excellent insight and research!!

  8. says: Dana

    I was introduced to a few new songs on this list… loved it, esp the Mazzy Star. How I love that song, let me count the ways.

  9. says: Nicholas Colitses

    Ashton Lane’s (Primrose Hill) would fit great here as an outdoor wedding song. With a cinematic vibe,set near the famous Abbey Road Studio and the most famous spot of all, 2 hearts in love.Enjoy!!

  10. says: Andi

    Holy shit – are you secretly my alter-ego who writes articles while I sleep? I’m getting married in October and I’m walking down the aisle to “Never Tear Us Apart,” my bridal party will probably be walking out to “Fade Into You” (or Explosions in the Sky’s “Your Hand in Mine”) and after the ceremony we’re walking out to “Heroes.” “Luna” and several Van Morrison songs (“Tupelo Honey” was my main pick) were kicked around for walking down the aisle and I’m hoping to get them into the ceremony or “important parts” of the reception somewhere. And, oh, the magic of Reality Bites – one of my bridesmaids and I watched it pretty much every weekend of ’95 and ’96. I don’t know you, but I like your style 🙂

  11. says: Jenny Beets

    THANK YOU! These are fantastic songs for weddings and I love the idea of “Sea of Love” as part of the ceremony. These are in line with what I am hoping to capture at our wedding in September. Other songs I’ve been toying with are “Times Like These” -Foo Fighters for the recessional, “Dream A Little Dream” – The Mamas and the Papas (basically just Cass,) “The Only One I Want” -The Charlatans. Not all of those are in the running for the ceremony, but for key moments within the reception. We clearly are from the same teenage era so I truly appreciate your ideas and perspective for wedding music.
    Also, I did get to see a couple do their first dance at a wedding to “Never Tear Us Apart,” and it brought tears to my eyes it was so beautiful. And yes, very refreshing because it wasn’t something I’ve seen a dozen other times. I’ll always enjoy hearing that song and am only rejecting it for my own first dance because a friend already did it.