15 Inappropriate Mother-Son Dance Songs That Are Just So Cringey

Sorry, Mom.
Mother and son wedding dance
Photo: DGLimages / Shutterstock
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
The Knot Contributor
  • Jenn writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in planning advice and travel.
  • Jenn also writes for a myriad of other large-scale publications, including SELF, Women's Health, and more
  • Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Jenn worked as an on-staff editor at WhatToExpect.com, American Baby, Fit Pregnancy and FreshDirect.
Updated Nov 02, 2023

If you've been to a wedding recently, you probably saw the groom dance with his mother, something known as the mother-son dance. Traditionally, this dance is set as the backdrop of a sweet and loving wedding song, often about a mother and her son; however, there are plenty of inappropriate mother-son dance songs out there and it can be tricky to know which to avoid and which will come across the way in which you intended.

This dance is one of the most looked-forward-to events for the mother of the groom, so it's important to get this right and to set the scene for a meaningful and monumental moment shared between mother and son. That's why we made a list of 15 mother-son dance songs you shouldn't play at your wedding below, along with similar alternatives to consider.

"Through the Years," by Kenny Rogers

Questionable lyrics: "Can't imagine needing someone so/But through the years, it seems to me I need you more and more"

Why you should avoid it: At first listen, this sounds like a song match made in heaven for a mother and her son who are so close, however, some of the lyrics are a head-scratcher for this pair. It doesn't really sound like Rogers is talking about a mom and son when he says, "I've loved the life we've made," and we don't think any new wife would appreciate her groom feeling that he needs his mother more and more as the years go on.

What to use instead: "Twenty Years Late," by Aaron Lines

"Something About the Way You Look Tonight," by Elton John

Questionable lyrics: "It's that feeling I get about you, deep inside/And I can't describe"

Why you should avoid it: Elton John has some really beautiful love songs and many of them can be used to share the love between a parent and child. While this inappropriate mother-son dance song, which talks about his admiration for how someone looks tonight and how it takes his breath away, is best left between two lovers and not a mother and son. Plus, the person who should be taking your breath away on your wedding day by how they look should be your partner—not mom.

What to use instead: "The Way You Look Tonight," by Frank Sinatra

"Endless Love" by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross

Questionable lyrics: "Forever, I'll hold you close in my arms/I can't resist your charm"

Why you should avoid it: Yes, this is a beautiful song, but definitely a little too romantic for a mother-son moment. If your mom is a fan of this tune, play it at another point in the evening, whether for a slow dance, anniversary dance or during dinner. It's just not the vibe for a mother-son dance song.

What to use instead: "A Song for Mama" by Boyz II Men

"Every Breath You Take," by The Police

Questionable lyrics: "Every smile you fake/Every claim you stake/I'll be watching you"

Why you should avoid it: Can you say creepy? We love to sing along to this song, but there's no denying that it's a bit stalkerish—and probably one of the worst mother-son dance songs. No one wants their mother, or their mother-in-law for that matter, to be "watching" them every step they take, every move they make and every vow they break!

What to use instead: "Unforgettable," by Nat King Cole

"Mama Tried," by Merle Haggard

Questionable lyrics: "No one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried/Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied"

Why you should avoid it: This song is about a man talking about how hard his mother tried to keep him out of trouble to no avail—aka his mother was unsuccessful in her attempt to raise her son right. One of the lyrics is "And I turned twenty-one in prison doin' life without parole"—not the right vibe any groom wants to set for the mother-and-son dance song if you asked us!

What to use instead: "Because You Loved Me," by Celine Dion

"I Will Always Love You," by Whitney Houston

Questionable lyrics: "So goodbye, please don't cry. We both know I'm not what you need."

Why you should avoid it: We all love this classic song from the movie The Bodyguard, but if you really listen to the lyrics, it's rather sad. Despite the name of the song being the sentiment a mother may want to send to her son on his wedding day—"I will always love you"— the words in the lyrics are certainly not meant to be shared between these two family members.

What to use instead: "I Hope You Dance," by Lee Ann Womack

"Mamma Mia," by ABBA

Questionable lyrics: "And when you go, when you slam the door/I think you know that you won't be away too long/You know that I'm not that strong"

Why you should avoid it: This is such a fun dance song and definitely something your guests will enjoy dancing to at your wedding. While it does have the word "mamma" in the title, it's hardly fitting for a mother and son dance song. The song itself is actually about a toxic relationship that involves cheating and breaking up.

What to use instead: "There You'll Be," by Faith Hill

″(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson

Questionable lyrics: "I'm so glad, I've finally found you/Yes that one, in a million girls"

Why you should avoid it: This feel-good song sounds like it would be a good mother-son dance song for a mother-son pair who aren't looking for a slow song, but rather a dance song that celebrates the bond they share. However, upon close listening, it's most definitely about a romantic love affair.

What to use instead: "Forever Young" Rod Stewart

″River" by Leon Bridges

Questionable lyrics: "Oh, I wanna come near and give ya/Every part of me/But there is blood on my hands/And my lips aren't clean"

Why you should avoid it: There is one beautiful part in this song that relates to mother and son and it's when Bridges says "In my darkness I remember / Mama's words reoccur to me / Surrender to the good Lord / And he'll wipe your slate clean," but the rest of the song is about redemption from the Lord and not about the mother-and-son relationship whatsoever. It's also a bit dark and not really fitting for the wedding reception in general.

What to use instead: "Never Alone" by Lady A

"Wild World" by Cat Stevens

Questionable lyrics: "Now that I've lost everything to you/You say you wanna start something new"

Why you should avoid it: This song has a lovely tune and overall sentiment, but in an interview with Billboard Magazine, singer Cat Stevens said that "Wild World" was really "my parting song with my girlfriend Patti D'Arbanville." Needless to say, it's not the most fitting for a mother and son to dance to on his wedding day. It also says "girl" quite a few times, which may also be off-putting for this kind of traditional dance.

What to use instead: "Beautiful Boy ," by John Lennon

"Dear Mama," by 2pac

Questionable lyrics: "I hung around with the Thugs, and even though they sold drugs/They showed a young brother love"

Why you should avoid it: This song is a beautiful and poetic dedication from rapper Tupac Shakur to his mother, Afeni Shakur, however, it's very specific and detailed in regards to their life and history together. Unless you truly feel that you can relate it's probably best to skip this one for your mother-son dance.

What to use instead: "I'll Be There" by Mac Miller ft. Phonte

"Perfect," by Ed Sheeran

Questionable lyrics: "I found a lover, to carry more than just my secrets/To carry love, to carry children of our own"

Why you should avoid it: According to The Knot's Real Wedding Study, Ed Sheeran's mega-hit song became one of the most popular first-dance songs in the U.S., but between the newlywed couple, not the mother and son and that's because it details a romantic love story, hence the mention about the woman carrying his children someday.

What to use instead: "Yellow," by Coldplay

"You're Beautiful," by James Blunt

Questionable lyrics: "And I don't think that I'll see her again/But we shared a moment that will last 'til the end"

Why you should avoid it: This song has been around for more than a decade and continues to be played on the radio today, however, if you listen to the lyrics it's a bit creepy and most certainly not between a mother and son. In fact, Blunt talks about never seeing this woman's face ever again—not the sentiment to send to mom on your wedding day, not to mention that part about being high.

What to use instead: "Letter to My Mother" by Edwin McCain

"Make You Feel My Love," by Adele

Questionable lyrics: "I know you haven't made your mind up yet/But I will never do you wrong"

Why you should avoid it: Most of this song is truly fitting for a mother and son since it talks about an unwavering love for someone, however, there are a few lines that are questionable and may make some wedding guests scratch their heads. This one is better left for a slow song in general and perhaps not the best to choose for your mother-son dance.

What to use instead: "Two of Us," by Louis Tomlinson

"When a Man Loves a Woman," by Percy Sledge

Questionable lyrics: "I gave you everything that I have/Tryin' to hold on to your heartless love"

Why you should avoid it: We love that this song is a dedication from a man to a woman, a sentiment that might feel right for your mother-son dance, however, upon listening intently to the lyrics, it's clear that this talks about a romantic love and not one shared between a mother and her son.

What to use instead: "Sweet Creature," by Harry Styles

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