first dance, fake song

by hannah robbins hopkins

Love letters: a series where members of our team share one piece of relationship advice. First up is Hannah, who tried to convince her wedding reception that she was Very Cool in under three minutes.  

Let’s get this out of the way right now: most of what everyone, including me, tells you about weddings isn’t true, helpful, or reasonable. Wedding blogs are mostly awful, and I deleted Pinterest the week I got engaged. If you’re planning a wedding, I wish you great luck and a huge tax return, and that’s almost all I can do for you. Almost, of course, because I do want to pass on the one thing I wish someone had said to us in the weeks (or heck, even hours) leading up to the big day.

My husband and I are art geeks who listen to a lot of records, which became a Big Deal when we were trying to select music for our wedding reception. We agonized over a first dance song for way too long, always shoving it back down to the ever-growing list of Complete Emergencies that seem to crop up when you’re trying to plan dinner and a show for 200. The emergencies did iron themselves out, of course, and we were thrilled to have a lovely half-hour service with our closest friends and family. By the end of the ceremony, we were free! We had done it! Or had we?

When we finally collapsed into our car on the way to the reception, it dawned on my new husband and me that we hadn’t chosen the song at all and that we were going to need to dance in thirty minutes.

If you’d been in the car with us on the sweaty seven mile drive from the church to the reception venue (don’t worry; we took the long way), you would have had a front-row seat to an event. My Spotify was riddled with non-starters and complete no-gos: all of our “songs” were either too dorky, too old, or just completely off the wall. Nothing felt right, and the songs that did remind us of our relationship were the same ones that would get the aux cord ripped from my hands on any road trip.

We’d spent years knowing we weren’t the hippest in our circle of artsy friends, but it hit us full-force when we were stuck trying to choose a three-minute composition that would somehow capture our essence as Totally Cool Young Married Couple That You’d Want to be Friends With Forever (TCYMCTYWTBFWF, if you must know).

From the beginning, we’ve had the same song -- a cheesy recording of a 1984 live show at the Astrodome, tinny microphones and all. It’s the song we sing in the grocery store, over voicemails, and walking down the sidewalk towards each other after a long day. It’s our go-to slow dance, our road trip jam, and our favorite housework tune; and we were convinced we couldn’t choose it.

Screaming down the backroads trying not to keep our grandmothers waiting too long, we finally decided on a song that was sufficiently cool enough to brand us TCYMCTYWTBFWF Material (not) and that was short enough for people to (hopefully) immediately forget. It wasn’t really special to us, but we did figure that it’d fit the bill without bothering anyone, and we were really just ready to be done. I promptly texted the song to my little sister’s friend who had agreed to DJ for us, and that was that. Our first dance happened, and it was sufficiently short and awkward and fine, and everyone got to eat barbecue after.

I count this all as a success, though almost two years later, I still can’t shake the thought that I wish we’d been brave enough to choose the song we’d really wanted to.

So here’s that thing I wanted to tell you: choose your for-real song. You know what I’m talking about. The one you play in the car when you’re in traffic and about to murder each other? Top of the playlist. The one you cue up when you’ve burnt whatever’s in the oven and you aren’t sure you have the energy to even order a pizza? Let ‘em hear it. The one you turn all the way up when you’re cleaning the house so that you can have a dance break? Yeah, choose that one. Your wedding is for you and your community to come together and celebrate love and family and whatever song makes you think about your main squeeze is fine.

It doesn’t matter if your sister hates it or if your girlfriends make gagging sounds whenever it comes on the radio or if your mom’s best friend’s husband thinks it’s in terrible taste. So much of your wedding gets recycled or boxed into storage or returned to vendors — the song, like the love you have for your spouse or your family or the strangers that somehow ended up on the guest list, is something that you can bring with you wherever you go. Dork it up. You’ll be glad you did.

Here’s our for real song. Don’t worry, we’re probably singing it right now.

Photo of our first dance by the incomparable  Gabbie Burseth , whom you should hire immediately.

Photo of our first dance by the incomparable Gabbie Burseth, whom you should hire immediately.