20 Great Father-Daughter Dance Songs for a Country Fan’s Wedding
A bride's father is the second most important man at a wedding, and he's deserving of a song that brings significance to his role. Here are 20 perfect father-daughter dance songs from some of country music's biggest stars.
The perfect song captures a father's emotions in giving his daughter away — a timeless tradition that has kept its place in most wedding receptions, even as more progressive points of view about gender roles replace the values our grandparents shared. The best father-daughter dance songs may also spell out what the bride is thinking. In fact, the lyrics help cultivate a beautiful conversation between the two, giving words to a moment many men struggle to describe.
Classic songs from Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney are listed with touching tributes by Aaron Watson, Holly Dunn, Rascal Flatts and more. It's a male-heavy list, but a few songs performed by female vocalists carry messages that every man can relate to as he says goodbye to his daughter. This list will make you cry if you're a parent. If Chris Cagle can't do it with "Dance Baby Dance," then perhaps Carrie Underwood can with "The Girl You Think I Am."
We ranked the 20 songs on this list of father-daughter dance songs using reader response, staff opinion, commercial performance and overall legacy as key indicators. While the No. 1 song comes from a future Country Music Hall of Fame artist, superstars do not get an edge. In fact, three of the Top 5 songs on this list of father-daughter dance songs are by one-hit wonders, or something close.
No. 20: Brad Paisley, "He Didn't Have to Be"
Brad Paisley's contribution to this list of wedding songs is for a specific father-daughter relationship. While "He Didn't Have to Be" comes from the perspective of a boy about his father, the lyrics could easily be taken on by an appreciative stepdaughter.
No. 19: Billy Ray Cyrus, "Ready, Set, Don't Go"
Billy Ray Cyrus wrote "Ready, Set, Don't Go" for his daughter Miley, but not for her wedding. The actress was preparing to leave for Los Angeles for what would eventually be a role as Hannah Montana. This acoustic story finds a dad literally watching his daughter chase her dreams and can be applied to love as easily as Cyrus applies it to life.
No. 18: Craig Campbell, "When She Grows Up"
Craig Campbell's sweet letter for his daughter is the kind of tearjerking daddy-daughter song a bride looks for on her wedding day. "When She Grows Up" is from the father's perspective, and he sings to the man he hopes to be always for his little girl. Strong, caring, patient, reliable ... all the things that nurture a strong relationship.
No. 17: Josh Turner, "I'll Be There"
"I'll Be There" by Josh Turner is a great bluegrass-inspired father-daughter dance song, but the irony is, Turner doesn't have any little girls at home. A comforting bass assures his kids that he'll be on their side forever, through all the cycles of life. It's hard to think of a more appropriate message as a father prepares to give his daughter away.
No. 16: Gary Allan, "Tough Little Boys"
This one might hit too close to home. Sure, you want this dance to be an emotional moment to remember, but dad may not recover after dancing to Gary Allan's "Tough Little Girls." Lyrically, Allan sings about raising a little girl and the emotions of sending her off into the world. "When tough little boys grow up to be dads / They turn into big babies again," he repeats.
No. 15: Krystal Keith, "Daddy Dance With Me"
Toby Keith's daughter Krystal brings a different perspective to this list of father-daughter dance songs. Few women have tried to capture what a daughter is feeling during this priceless moment, and even fewer have done it with any sort of commercial success. "Daddy Dance With Me" is vulnerable and reflective. It offers the assurance a father may need at a country wedding, especially as she sings, "Today I became his wife / But I'll be your baby girl for life."
No. 14: Aaron Watson, "Diamonds and Daughters"
Aaron Watson is a girl dad who has no doubt given this moment some thought, even if his oldest children are still a ways away from marrying age. A light fiddle accents this Texas country singer's acoustic wedding dance anthem. For the man who can't find the words, Watson provides "Diamonds and Daughters."
No. 13: Lee Ann Womack, "I Hope You Dance"
Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" is a song for so many occasions. In fact, you'll find the iconic ballad on our list of mother-song dance songs, too. The message is one every father hopes to leave his daughter with as she becomes a Mrs. If nothing else, it's a beautiful vocal performance that everyone at the wedding will appreciate in their own way.
No. 12: Kenny Chesney, "There Goes My Life"
Kenny Chesney's 2003 ballad "There Goes My Life" tells of an unplanned pregnancy and how the father turns his selfish feelings of woe into love and generosity until he ultimately sends his baby girl away to college. That message — that your kids are everything — will resonate at any wedding, but if your story matches his in the first verse, then this is the song you need to dance to on wedding day.
No. 11: Martina McBride, "In My Daughter's Eyes"
Martina McBride recorded a number of mother-daughter songs, so on the surface, "In My Daughter's Eyes" seems like a poor fit for a father-daughter dance. But examine the lyrics more closely to find the perfect song for that transition in any relationship between parent and daughter.
No. 10: Trace Adkins, "Then They Do"
You'll find several circle-of-life songs listed in the Top 10 of this father-daughter dance songs list, including "Then They Do" by Trace Adkins. As a father to daughters himself, it's personal for the country tough guy. Adkins explores the bittersweet in two verses and an extended bridge. If you're the last one to leave home and you don't want to see dad cry at your wedding, choose another song.
No. 9: Chris Cagle, "Dance Baby Dance"
Chris Cagle's "Dance Baby Dance" follows a similar arc as Adkins' "Then They Do" and a few others on this list. It's a bit more traditional and wasn't the same kind of hit song, but it's equally fitting for any wedding.
No. 8: Darius Rucker, "It Won't Be Like This for Long"
We told you there are a lot of circle-of-life songs on this father-daughter dance songs list. Darius Rucker adds a little more vocal calisthenics and some tempo to his hit from 2008. It has held on as one of the finer parent perspective songs of the 21st century.
No. 7: Carrie Underwood, "The Girl You Think I Am"
While an album cut from Storyteller, "The Girl You Think I Am" is one of Underwood's best songs. She tells the same kind through-life story, but from the daughter's perspective, capturing the same emotions of men with daughters at home. It's really easy to compare this song to Keith's "Daddy Dance With Me."
No. 6: Holly Dunn, "Daddy's Hands"
Many of the songs on this list of father-daughter dance songs seem tailored for a wedding, but Holly Dunn's "Daddy's Hands" is probably a better Father's Day song. Nowhere does she mention spinning around on her wedding day, but she does share her respect and appreciation for dad and all the hard work he put into raising her.
No. 5: Chuck Wicks, "Stealing Cinderella"
Chuck Wicks didn't have much success at country radio before beginning his broadcast career, but he left a mark with "Stealing Cinderella," an essential father-daughter ballad from 2007. While the story centers on an interaction between the father and groom-to-be, the background relationship between both men and "Cinderella" is special. It's a one-of-a-kind way to give your daughter away at her wedding.
No. 4: Rascal Flatts, "My Wish"
"My Wish" is a more contemporary, all-male version of the message Womack sings in "I Hope You Dance," but being that it's performed by a man it feels like a better fit for a father-daughter dance at a country wedding.
No. 3: Bob Carlisle, "Butterfly Kisses"
Bob Carlisle's song from 1997 was a minor country hit, but he enjoyed great success on adult contemporary radio. "Butterfly Kisses" finds a man recalling his daughter at every stage of life, including the day she changes her last name. It's an iconic wedding song.
No. 2: Heartland, "I Loved Her First"
Heartland are true one-hit wonders, but "I Loved Her First" was a huge hit in 2006. The ballad finds a father reminding the groom that he loved her first. He struggles with giving her away, something rarely captured on this list, but totally appropriate and real.
No. 1: Tim McGraw, "My Little Girl"
The great Tom Douglas co-wrote "My Little Girl," McGraw's finest daddy-daughter song and the No. 1 song on this list of best country father-daughter dance songs for a wedding. The words are a bit more poetic than many others found above, but the universal language remains forefront as he tells his circle of life story. McGraw has done very little writing during his storied career, and his daughters were far from marrying age when he helped pen this song. The two men sure did capture the right mood.