Classical Music Suggestions for your First Wedding Dance
(For Lovers of the Symphony, the Ballet, the Opera, and Theatre)
With the advent of Pinterest and all of the wedding-planning sites and blogs out there now, finding a song for your first wedding dance has never been easier. It seems like everyone has a list for just about every style of music possible, whether your taste leans towards classic oldies, soulful jazz, movie themes, or something more modern; and each list purports to be unique. However, the one group that is frequently overlooked are classical music fans, so we decided to put together the following list for you with some of our favorites:
1. “Brudevalsen” (the Bridal Waltz from the ballet “Et Folkesagn”), by Danish composer Niels W. Gade.
This piece is a must at every Danish wedding. Traditionally the bride and groom go to the center of the dance floor, while the guests form a wide circle around them and clap in time with the music. As the bride and groom dance, the guests gradually tighten the circle, until the bride and groom cannot move and have to kiss. Should you choose to follow this tradition, you will be in good company: there is even video on YouTube of the Danish Crown Prince and Princess dancing it at their wedding. Of course, we believe “Brudevalsen” would also be lovely as a choreographed Viennese waltz first dance as well.
2. The “Grand Valse Villageoise” (the “Sleeping Beauty Waltz”) from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “The Sleeping Beauty”.
Not only is this waltz beautiful, but it is sure to be known to practically all of your guests, thanks to Walt Disney’s animated classic, “Sleeping Beauty”, whose theme song is “Once Upon a Dream,” to this very tune. There is probably hardly a little girl out there who has not twirled around her living room to this song and dreamed of one day doing so with her very own prince, and while it is performed as a celebratory dance by all the townspeople in the ballet, there is no reason why you cannot make it your special first dance as a married couple. It is probably best suited for Viennese waltz.
3. “Frühlingsstimmen” (“Voices of Spring”), by Johann Strauss, Jr.
The opening chords are perfect for making a regal entry onto the dance floor. From there, it transitions into a beautiful, joyous Viennese waltz. It was even choreographed for ballet by Sir Frederick Ashton. If you go on YouTube, you can see it being danced by, among others, our very favorites, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg.
4. “An der schönen blauen Donau” (the “Blue Danube Waltz”), by Johann Strauss, Jr.
Even though it is possibly the best-known and most frequently performed waltz in the world, that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t still make a wonderful first dance. The introduction is the perfect length for telling your love story lyrically, before breaking into a Viennese waltz.
5. “Wein, Weib und Gesang” (“Wine, Women, and Song”), also by Johann Strauss, Jr.
We love this waltz, because we are huge fans of the 1985, Kevin Sullivan version of “Anne of Green Gables,” and this piece was performed at the ball where Anne wore her dress with puffed sleeves. We also like it, because once you get past the introduction, it is actually a very danceable Viennese waltz.
6. “Waltz No. 7 in C Sharp Minor, Op. 64-2,” by Frederic Chopin.
This Viennese waltz, has many variations in tempo and might be a little fast at times for a bride to manage in a long dress; however, it is so beautiful, that we thought we should mention it, nonetheless. Our favorite version is the arrangement for the ballet “Les sylphides”.
7. “Emperor Waltz” and “Tales from the Vienna Woods,” also by Johann Strauss, Jr.
Really, any of Johann Strauss Jr.’s waltzes could potentially make awesome first dances at your wedding. There are truly too many to include here, but we thought these deserved mentioning too, as they are some of the more familiar, and thus likely to be well-received by an audience with mixed tastes.
8. “Jalousie ‘Tango Tzigane’” (“Jealousy”), by Danish composer Niels W. Gade.
By now you probably thought this was just going to be a list of Viennese waltzes. Well, surprise! There are plenty of other options with classical music. If you forget the title of this song and the lyrics to the Frankie Laine version, this famous tango would make a first dance that your guests will never forget. The opening is very dramatic, and then it breaks into a more romantic, lyrical tango. We can hardly think of a better medium for telling your love story.
9. “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (“Habanera”), from the opera “Carmen”, by Georges Bizet.
Never mind the nature of Carmen’s character or the French lyrics to this song. Nothing says that, if you choose this for your first dance, you have to act out the opera. It is a wonderful piece, pure and simple, and if you are a fan of tango, then you can dance your own story to it. It should also be familiar to most of your guests.
10. “Symphony, No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92: II. Allegretto”, by Ludwig von Beethoven.
This piece may seem a little somber for a wedding, but it is a gorgeous, lyrical tango. As a bonus, it has also been performed with lyrics as the song “Land and Liberty” (“Terra e Liberta”), by the opera-crossover group Amici Forever.
11. “Quando me’n vo’” (“Musetta’s Waltz”), from the opera “La bohème,’ by Giacomo Puccini.
While it may be hard for the true opera fan to separate this song from the original story, if you just think of it as a beautiful, romantic piece of music, then you can make it your own and dance a lovely, lyrical slow waltz to it for your first dance.
12. “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” (“My heart opens to your voice”), from the opera “Samson et Dalila” (“Samson and Delilah”) by Camille Saint-Saëns.
We all know the story of Samson and Delilah, but take this aria, which turns into a duet in the second verse, out of the context of the opera, and it is a gorgeous, romantic song that can be danced as a lyrical waltz.
13. “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18: II. Adagio Sostenuto,” by Sergei Rachmaninov, which has also been performed as the vocal song “Nostalgia” (“La Mia Nostalgia”) by the opera-crossover group Amici Forever.
This wistful movement from Rachmaninov’s famous “Piano Concerto No. 2” tugs at the heart and would make an unforgettable, lyrical bolero for the first dance at your wedding.
14. “Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia,” from the ballet “Spartacus,” by Aram Khachaturian, also performed as the vocal song “Ocean Heart” (“Oceano Cuore”) by the opera-crossover group Amici Forever.
In the spirit of the story of Spartacus, for any bride or groom who feels that they were rescued by their spouse, this adagio conveys that idea and is a beautiful, lyrical bolero.
Bear in mind that you always want to keep your first dance music to around 3 minutes, because you don’t want to have to learn choreography for too long of a song. To that end, if you cannot find a version that is already the right length, then talk to your DJ about cutting the music to near 3 minutes. Or, if you are having a live band or string quartet, then you can coordinate with your musicians.
Also, if your heart is set on a particular song, don’t let anyone tell you that it is too fast or too slow. Our suggestion is to keep your love song and to dance it lyrically, by which we mean you dance the steps with emotion, but without being overly concerned with the beat of the music. That is because the song that you first fell in love with has a great significance to you, and it is imperative that that song be implemented in your wedding.