20 Mother-Son Dance Songs That Are Perfect for a Country Fan’s Wedding
In every important family moment, Mom deserves a spot at the head of the table -- and a wedding celebration is no exception. Below, The Boot counts down 20 perfect song selections for the time-honored tradition of the mother-son dance, one of the most emotional parts of any ceremony.
Whether your family goes all in on the sentimentality of the moment or you're looking for something a little bit more lighthearted -- comedic, even -- country music has the perfect song to show your beloved mama (or soon-to-be-wedded son!) just how you feel about them. From tear-jerking classics by Randy Travis and the Oak Ridge Boys to newer selections from the likes of Sugarland and Lady A, there's bound to be something on this list that fits the bill for your unique ceremony and mother-son bond.
The feeling of being loved by a good mother is a universal one, and it's at the center of many a classic country song. Of course, there are plenty of songs centered around gratitude for Mom's constant dedication, and there's plenty of that to be found in the songs collected below, especially in emotional ballads from Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks. But as any parent knows, raising a child isn't all fun, all the time, and there's a classic from Johnny Paycheck on this list that pays a nod to the tough times every kid puts their parent through now and again.
These songs dip heavily into older classics, but that doesn't mean there aren't newer country artists who haven't mastered the art of the mother-son ballad. In fact, our No. 1 song is a hit from 2006, by a band that was initially criticized for being "not country enough" when they first got their start six years earlier. Read on to find out what it is:
20. Trisha Yearwood, "The Sweetest Gift"
Another perspective on sorrowful stories of sons gone astray like Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," "The Sweetest Gift" shares a message of a mother's unconditional love, no matter what kind of misdeeds her child commits. This song was a duet between Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris on Ronstadt's 1975 album Prisoner in Disguise, and in 1976, Dolly Parton invited both singers onto her short-lived TV program, Dolly!, where they performed the song. In fact, their appearance on the show was the first time fans got to see the three women as an ensemble, over a decade before they released their collaborations album, Trio, in 1987. Though Ronstadt and Harris' version would make a lovely choice for a mother son dance, Trisha Yearwood's 1994 version provides a somewhat glitzier and more danceable version that might be a more suitable choice for a celebratory event.
19. Glen Campbell & Steve Wariner, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"
This 1987 selection hails from Glen Campbell's 43rd studio album, Still Within the Sound of My Voice. A duet with singer-songwriter Steve Wariner, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is an ode to Moms of every age and stage, coming to the conclusion that "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." When the song first arrived, it's sentiment was popular: "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" made it to the No. 6 spot on Billboard's U.S. Hot Country Songs chart. Though it may not be a chart hit these days, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is still a sweet favorite for mothers and sons everywhere, and it's sure to leave a few misty eyes in the audience as the backdrop for a mother son wedding dance.
18. The Band Perry, "Mother Like Mine"
Sibling act The Band Perry tributed their relationship with their own beloved Mom when they wrote "Mother Like Mine," off their 2013 album, Pioneer. At the time, they told Billboard that the song's inspiration struck when they started thinking about how much better off the world would be if everyone had a mother like theirs: "The opening line of the chorus says 'The wars would all be over, because she'd raise us all as friends.' Our mother is our personal hero," bandmate Kimberly Perry explains. For the son who sees his mom as a superhero, this song is an obvious mother son dance choice.
17. Johnny Paycheck, "I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)"
Let's face it: Sometimes, despite a mother's best intentions, those babies grow up to be cowboys. For any son who put his Mom through hell now and again as a rowdy teenager, there's no better selection than Johnny Paycheck's "I'm the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised," which will get some laughs out of the crowd during a mother dance song while still conveying the the love the two have for each other. This song is also a good selection for mothers and sons who don't want their special moment to get too sappy or sentimental!
16. Garth Brooks, "Mom"
Originally recorded by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler 2013, "Mom" soon caught the attention of country superstar and self-proclaimed "mama's boy" Garth Brooks, who included a rendition of it on his 2014 album, Man Against Machine. The song imagines a conversation between God and an unborn child, the latter of whom is somewhat reluctant to leave his cozy spot up in Heaven and head down to earth.
15. Sugarland, "Mother"
Sugarland emphasize the universal importance of unconditional love in "Mother," which comes off their newest studio album, Bigger. In the song, they reflect on the importance of having someone who's always there to offer love and support to her children, no matter what it is they're struggling with or going through. As the band told The Boot in 2018, there's a broader message to the song, too: It's meant to encourage fans to treat the world with the same kind of love and open-ended acceptance that a good Mom provides.
14. Tim McGraw, "I Called Mama"
Released just before Mother's Day and with a music video that feature his own Mom, it's no secret that mothers everywhere are the heroes of Tim McGraw's 2020 tear-jerker, "I Called Mama." The song was a Top 5 hit at country radio in both the U.S. and Canada, and it's a perfect choice for the mother-son duo who appreciates a traditionalist slant in their country music, but still likes to stay up to date on the latest goings-on in the genre. Written by Marv Green, Lance Miller and Jimmy Yeary, "I Called Mama" also focuses on the importance of never taking time spent with loved ones for granted -- a sentiment that's especially powerful for a post-pandemic wedding, when in-person gatherings are rare and -- when they can safely occur -- particularly precious.
13. Jim Brickman and Lady A, "Never Alone"
Pop singer-songwriter Jim Brickman enlisted star country trio Lady A (then known as Lady Antebellum) for this powerful, gospel-tinged ode to how a mother's love stays with a child long after they've grown up and moved away from home. The song also stresses the importance of maintaining faith throughout the ups and downs of life, making it the perfect mother son dance selection for a family that prioritizes their faith.
12. Eric Church, "Like Jesus Does"
Another song in the vein of "I'm the Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised)" is Eric Church's "Like Jesus Does," a song about a rebel son who still thanking his lucky stars for unwavering love. "I'm a lead foot leaning on a souped-up Chevy / I'm a good ol' boy, drinking whiskey and rye on the levee / But she carries me when my sins make me heavy / And loves me like Jesus does," Church reflects in the song. Coming off of his 2011 studio album, Chief, "Like Jesus Does" isn't explicitly about a mom and son, but it is about unconditional love, and it's a great selection of mother-son duos who prefer to opt for a less obvious choice for their special moment.
11. Randy Travis, "Angels"
In 2004, Randy Travis released Passing Through, his15th studio album. One of the singles pulled from the project was "Angels," a reflection on the everyday superhero feat a Mom achieves when she gives birth to or raises a child. Although it didn’t chart high, the song was accompanied by a popular video, and the song remains a popular tune for Mother’s Day and an appropriate selection for the mother son wedding dance song.
10. Tim McGraw (feat. Faith Hill), "Meanwhile Back at Mama's"
Tim McGraw finds a new perspective on honoring Mom in "Meanwhile Back at Mama's," his 2014 duet with Faith Hill. In this song, he's not speaking directly to his mother: Instead, he's speaking to a girlfriend, and realizing that she's the one for him when he sees that she would fit in back at home at his mother's house in the country. The song also ties in themes of an adult son being homesick for his rural hometown after he moves away to the city, making it an especially fitting song selection for mothers and sons who live out in the country.
9. Shenandoah, "Mama Knows"
Whether it's a secret cigarette with a high school buddy or a walk on the beach with your first love, there's some things that Mom just seems to figure out, no matter how hard you try to hide them. That's the message behind Shenandoah's touching tribute to mothers everywhere, "Mama Knows," which comes off their 1989 The Road Not Taken album. For sons who've never been able to pull the wool over their moms' eyes, "Mama Knows" is a sweet selection that's also catchy enough to light up the dance floor.
8. Kenny Chesney, "Don't Blink"
Kenny Chesney's powerful 2007 tear-jerker, "Don't Blink," isn't specifically about a mother-son relationship, but it does convey important life lessons that any mother would want to share with her son on his wedding day. The song is told from the perspective of a young man watching a TV interview with an 102-year-old man, whose life advice is to stay present and soak in each moment. The song was a big hit when Chesney first sent it to country radio, landing at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
7. Reba McEntire, "I'll Be"
"I'll Be" landed on Reba McEntire's lap courtesy of legendary songwriter Diane Warren, whose track record includes "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion, "How Do I Live" by Trisha Yearwood, "I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing" by Mark Chesnutt, "There You’ll Be" by Faith Hill and so many more. The song arrived at country radio in January of 2000, the second single from McEntire's So Good Together album, and quickly became a Top 5 hit. With its evocative message of support, no matter what the future brings, "I'll Be" perfectly encapsulates a mother's unconditional love.
6. Lee Brice, "Boy"
Anyone who is a parent -- or even just has a parent -- can be forgiven for being reduced to a weepy mess by the lyrics of Lee Brice's "Boy." The song shares a powerful message about watching a young son, knowing how quickly he'll grow up and become an adult in his own right. While it's not specifically a song about mothers and sons, it does include the line "You're gonna be so stubborn / You get that from your mother," a line that's sure to strike a chord with plenty of moms who share that personality trait.
5. Oak Ridge Boys, "Mama's Table"
This sweet selection from the Oak Ridge Boys is sure to bring childhood memories flooding back to anyone who hears it. The song's story line revolves around a familiar, beloved table that the narrator and his siblings grew up eating all their meals around, a table that his mom inherited from her mom before her. "Mama's Table" was written by George Teren and Jamey Johnson, the latter of whom also recorded a version of the track for Dave Cobb's 2016 Southern Family compilation album.
4. Kenny Rogers, "Through the Years"
The words of 1982’s ‘"Through The Years" by Kenny Rogers are the perfect backdrop for a mother and son to dance to at the son's wedding. Tears are sure to fall when they hear "Through the years you never let me down / You turned my life around / The sweetest days I’ve found / I’ve found with you / Through the years." The song actually peaked at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary charts, even higher than its No. 5 position on the Country charts.
3. Lee Ann Womack, "I Hope You Dance"
"I Hope You Dance" is full of lyrics to live by. Since its release in 2000, the song has become a staple at wedding receptions. Of course, the universal message of the song makes it an easy fit for other occasions, like graduations and birthday celebrations. Lee Ann Womack’s Grammy-winning performance of this hit is a perfect choice for any Mom wishing her son well as he ventures out into the new life stage of marriage.
2. Tim McGraw, "Humble and Kind"
Tim McGraw's 2016 mega-hit "Humble and Kind" isn't specifically about mothers per se -- but it was written by one! McGraw's hit comes to him courtesy of in-demand Nashville songwriter Lori McKenna, who explained to CMT in 2016 that she wrote the song with her five children in mind. The song struck a chord with fans of all description, too: It was a No. hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart following its release, and earned RIAA platinum certification. Today, five years after its release, "Humble and Kind" remains a huge fan favorite for McGraw, and a powerful choice for any wedding song.
1. Rascal Flatts, "My Wish"
In "My Wish," Rascal Flatts found a song that shares a timeless and universal message of love and hope. A No. 1 country radio hit from 2006, the song was written by Steve Robson and Jeffrey Steele, the latter of whom went into the writing session that day determined to write a song for his youngest daughter. Not only was he successful, but "My Wish" would go on to be a favorite for countless parents and children all over the world, and a staple of any wedding DJ's playlist. The powerful message cements the song's spot on our list of songs, but it's Rascal Flatts' soaring harmonies and singer Gary LeVox's towering vocal runs that bring "My Wish" to the very top spot.