18 Dolly Parton Love Songs for the One You'll Always Love

You might be surprised to learn which song didn't make the cut.
Dolly Parton performing on stage
Photo: Getty/ NBC / Contributor
Taylor Carson - The Knot Contributor.
Taylor Carson
Taylor Carson - The Knot Contributor.
Taylor Carson
The Knot Contributor
  • Taylor writes wedding venue roundups for The Knot.
  • Taylor was formerly the Assistant Managing Editor at Philadelphia magazine, and she continues to freelance for Philadelphia’s lifestyle and wedding verticals.
  • She received her degree in journalism, with a minor in English, from Temple University.
Updated Nov 20, 2023

Are you interested in featuring Dolly Parton love songs in your wedding playlist? If you or your spouse-to-be loves the singer-songwriter, you're not alone. Having written over 3,000 songs and released 49 studio albums throughout her decades-long career, Dolly has cemented herself as a beloved legend not just in country music, but in the entire music industry at large. In this roundup, browse 18 of the superstar's best love songs—each worthy of inclusion in the lineup of hits played by your band or DJ.

While you may be expecting the smash hit "I Will Always Love You," penned by Parton back in 1973 and famously covered by Whitney Houston, to be at the top of this list, we're here to dispel the common assumption that the tune is a love song appropriate for a wedding. As Dolly told CMT back in 2011, the song is about gratitude for—and moving on from—a relationship. "It's saying, 'Just because I'm going don't mean I won't love you. I appreciate you and I hope you do great and I appreciate everything you've done, but I'm out of here,'" she shared in the article. With that in mind, consider some of the loved-up options below instead.

1. "Here You Come Again," Here You Come Again

Lyrics you'll love: "All you gotta do is smile that smile/And there go all my defenses/Just leave it up to you and in a little while/You're messing up my mind and filling up my senses"

First up is "Here You Come Again," released as a single and the title track of the album Dolly released in 1977. The tune was a chart-topper, winning the 1978 Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and showcasing her crossover into pop music. The song is about the effect encountering an old flame has on the narrator, but the upbeat melody could make for a great cocktail hour song.

2. "From Here to the Moon and Back" (feat. Kris Kristofferson and Jeremy Jordan), Joyful Noise (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Lyrics you'll love: "I want you to know you can always depend/On promises made and love without end/No need to wonder how faithful I'll be/Now and on into eternity"

For the 2012 film soundtrack Joyful Noise, Parton wrote "From Here to the Moon and Back." The ballad was inspired by Parton's longtime love and husband, Carl Dean. It's beautiful, romantic and a wonderful first dance contender.

3. "Think About Love," Real Love

Lyrics you'll love: "We were strangers/Now I'm already wrapped around your finger/Oh what's a heart to do/'Cause it lingers/And the thought of you/Wantin' me as much as I want you"

If you're looking for a recessional song, consider Parton's "Think About Love" from her 1985 album, Real Love. Why? The song is happy, perfectly paced for a moment like your recessional, and filled with lyrics that work great for a wedding song.

4. "Islands in the Stream" (feat. Kenny Rogers), The Essential Dolly Parton

Lyrics you'll love: "Islands in the stream/That is what we are/No one in between/How can we be wrong?/Sail away with me/To another world/And we rely on each other, ah ha/From one lover to another, ah ha"

Wedding guests both young and old will sing along to Dolly Parton's iconic "Islands in the Stream." Released in 1983, the love song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and it remains popular 40 years later. The easy-to-sway-to beat would work great for your first dance, final song of the night, or any moment in between.

5. "Forever Love," Pure & Simple

Lyrics you'll love: "You are my joy and my laughter/You are the moon and you gave the stars light/You are my ever after/Forever love, the light of my life"

Celebrate your marriage to your forever love by dancing to Parton's "Forever Love" during your first dance. The melodious ballad is the quintessential first dance song—Parton even sang the song to her husband at their vow renewal in 2016, in honor of their milestone 50 years of marriage.

6. "Sweet Summer Lovin'," Great Balls Of Fire

Lyrics you'll love: "Though the sun may be dawning/You're the one that lights the morning/As I awake to the heaven/Of your sweet summer lovin'"

"Sweet Summer Lovin'" was the second single from Parton's Great Balls Of Fire album, charting as high as number seven on U.S. country charts. The fast-paced, cheerful tune would play into the seasonal, sensual setting during cocktail hour at a summer wedding.

7. "Real Love" (feat. Kenny Rogers), Real Love

Lyrics you'll love: "We got real love/Not infatuation/Real love/Our hearts' celebration/I love you/Real love/Not an imitation/Real love/You're my destination/Baby, you and me/We got everything we need"

Another hit shared between Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers is "Real Love," from the country star's 1985 album of the same name. With loved-up lyrics and enjoyable instrumentals, it's yet another lovely option for your first dance—or for a slow dance during the reception.

8. "You Are," New Harvest…First Gathering

Lyrics you'll love: "Sometimes I try to count the ways/And reasons that I love you/But I can never seem to count that far/I love you in a million ways/And for a million reasons/But more than this I love you as you are/More than this I love you just as you are"

From Parton's 18th studio album, "You Are" is the type of sweet-sounding ballad you might expect to hear in a romcom from decades past. It's slow enough to work for your wedding prelude or, of course, your first dance.

9. "Love Is Like a Butterfly," Love Is Like a Butterfly

Lyrics you'll love: "Your laughter brings me sunshine/Every day is springtime/And I am only happy when you are by my side/How precious is this love we share/How very precious, sweet and rare/Together, we belong like daffodils and butterflies"

"Love Is Like a Butterfly" dates back to 1974, evident in the melody that evokes feelings of a bygone era. If you're a fan of classic songs and cheesy (but cute!) metaphors, this may be your ideal first dance track from the songstress.

10. "Baby I'm Burnin'," Heartbreaker

Lyrics you'll love: "The way that you love me/The way that you touch me/The way that you whisper my name/I cannot resist you/Each time I kiss you/Then everything goes up in flames"

Get the party started at your reception with "Baby I'm Burnin'" from 1978's Heartbreaker. The energetic tune has catchy lyrics (like "Hot as a pistol that's flamin' desire/Baby, I'm burnin', you got me on fire") that are sure to have guests amped up for a good time—all in the spirit of love.

11. "I Really Got the Feeling," Heartbreaker

Lyrics you'll love: "I really got the feeling that I'll love you for a long long time/I felt it from the moment we met you didn't ask me my sign/I love my daddy but it really don't matter what my daddy might say/I really got the feeling that I'll love you 'til my dying day"

Another hit from Heartbreaker is "I Really Got the Feeling," a single that topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. The pleasant song can be a consideration for your first dance as newlyweds.

12. "My Eyes Can Only See You," Love Is Like a Butterfly

Lyrics you'll love: "When your eyes meet mine, my heart beats out of time/And I burn with desire through and through/I can't help myself, I can see no one else/'Cause my eyes can only see you"

For lovers of old-timey tunes, "My Eyes Can Only See You" has equal parts romance and nostalgia. Let it accompany the music you play during cocktail hour, or give it the coveted title of your first dance track.

13. "The Way I See You," Coat Of Many Colors

Lyrics you'll love: "What a love in the way I see you/I compare it with the beauty of the dawning/Or when the sun sets and paints its picture in the blue/Like a butterfly that has a million colors, oh such beauty/Like the love in the way I see you"

The eighth track on Parton's 1971 album Coat Of Many Colors, "The Way I see You" may not be the singer-songwriter's most popular love song, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthy of consideration for your wedding playlist. Parton's lyrics in the ballad are poetry for the strength of her love—making them relatable to how you'll feel during your big day.

14. "It Must Be You," Jolene

Lyrics you'll love: "Just like the tide goes with the sea/We belong together, you and me/Just like the dawn followed by day/We'll always be together/And that's just how it will stay"

From 1974's Jolene, "It Must Be You" is an upbeat song about everlasting love. The charming two-minute number can be your background music during your recessional, reception entrance, first dance and beyond.

15. "The Only Hand You'll Need to Hold," The Bargain Store

Lyrics you'll love: "I can be the one that makes you happy/I'll be your umbrella when it rains/I will be someone that you can count on/In other words, I'll be your everything"

Looking for a catchy track for your recessional or first dance? Look no further than "The Only Hand You'll Need to Hold" from 1975's The Bargain Store. Your guests won't be able to help themselves from nodding or swaying along to the appealing beat and memorable lyrics.

16. "Marry Me," Little Sparrow

Lyrics you'll love: "He's gonna build me a pretty little house/Have a pretty little made-for-three/'Cause he's done kiss me on the mouth/So he's gonna marry me"

This list would not be complete without Parton's "Marry Me," an aptly named acoustic song on 2001's Little Sparrow. The song isn't a ballad, though. It is a fun, lovey-dovey tune that would be great for cocktail hour or your reception.

17. "I Want to Be What You Need," The Bargain Store

Lyrics you'll love: "When you're not strong and need someone to lean on/Let me be your strength when you're weak/When you need somebody to comfort and love you/Let mine be the arms that you seek"

The Bargain Store's "I Want to Be What You Need" is an intimate ballad through which Parton describes her commitment to her partner and her willingness to be whatever they need. The tune could easily resonate with you during your first dance, and it may also strike a chord with onlooking guests.

18. "Do I Love You? (Yes, In Every Way)" (Paul Anka with Dolly Parton), Duets

Lyrics you'll love: "I believe in you, don't ever take your love away/Do I love you, don't you know by now?/Do I love you, must I show you how?/Do I love you, do I have to say?/Do I love you, yes, I love you/In every way"

Last on our list is a duet between Paul Anka and Parton: "Do I Love You? (Yes, In Every Way)." The striking ballad is truly perfect for a first dance, featuring passionate lyrics sung by two talented legends.

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