You could say that Taylor Swift wrote the soundtrack for Abbey Leach-Haskin’s life. Leach-Haskins, a social media strategist from Grand Rapids, Mich., played the “Fearless” CD during carpools to middle school, then listened to Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” a “bajillion times” to get through a major high school breakup. In 2019, the especially romantic song “Lover,” thought to be an ode to Swift’s boyfriend, came out a week before she met her now-husband. Leach-Haskins fell in love alongside Swift’s melodies.
“I don’t even know how, but her albums coincided with what I was going through at the time,” Leach-Haskins, 27, tells TODAY.com.
So when it came to her wedding in October, Leach-Haskins says there was “no question” Swift would be incorporated into the ceremony.
“Daylight,” a track from the album “Lover,” played a starring role: They walked down the aisle to the song and had danced to it in their debut as bride and groom. “Daylight” was also inspiration for Leach-Haskin’s engagement ring by jewelry designer Maggi Simpkins.
For fans like Leach-Haskins, 31-year-old Swift has been a companion and guide through life milestones, from first loves to long-term relationships, and provided the background music to road trips and sleepovers.
Now, 16 years after she put out her first record, Taylor Swift is maturing, and her millennial fans are too. Swift’s first experiences with betrayal and best friendship were mapped out onto her fans’ lives with synchronicity — and now so is her turn toward finding love (Swift has been dating the actor Joe Alwyn since 2019), just as her fans are marrying and settling down.
“We were there when she sang about her first heartbreak; I had my first heartbreak around that time. It’s almost as if you grew up with her and she’s your best friend. I think that’s why she’s ingrained in our personal lives,” says Krista Schnur, a 30-year-old occupational therapy student from Austin.
So it’s no surprise that people in their late 20s and 30s are turning to Swift, who’s been dodging engagement rumors herself, to soundtrack one of their biggest life milestones — their weddings.
Jenny Johnson, 32, manages a live band company out of Kansas City, Mo. with her husband and says lately she’s seen couples select Swift’s songs for their first dance. “Three (couples) in the past year chose a Taylor Swift song. We rarely get any two that are the same, because from a first dance perspective, everyone has their own ‘song,’” she says.
Songs like “Lover” and “Invisible String,” both written with what fans believe are references to her relationship to Alwyn, are frequently picked (and recommended on threads about this very topic). Though older Swift “eras” are still represented: Marisa Berke and her wife used Swift's 2008 song “The Best Day” for their first dance with their moms.
Swift rarely speaks about her personal life in interviews, instead channeling stories into confessional song lyrics. So through one lens, her songs are a scavenger hunt of Easter eggs and references to Swift’s real life. But strip away the headlines, and her fans see them as universal.
“Her superpower is being able to write lyrics that so many people can identify with at various points in their lives, whether they’re getting over a breakup, happily in love or regretting decisions we made,” says Elana Fishman, 35, a self-professed Swiftie and editor at Page Six.
Fishman and her husband went to seven dancing lessons to choreograph a routine to the Swift song “Long Live.” She also walked down the aisle to Swift after some hesitation. “I was debating whether to use Taylor both for the ceremony and the reception and then I was like, ‘You know what? You get married once. The playlists should be an accurate reflection of your musical taste,” she says.
Amy Egan, a New York-based wedding planner and owner of Modern Rebel, tells TODAY.com she’s seen an uptick in Swiftian weddings, which go beyond just music.
“People before were incorporating maybe a song here or there, but it kind of exploded in the last year,” Egan says. She described how one client had a ring warming ceremony, where guests all put their hands on the wedding rings, to the Swift tune “Paper Rings,” and another who had a cardboard cutout of Swift in the photo booth.
Egan says that for couples today, weddings are meant to be a reflection of their values and their relationship history, rather than a cookie-cutter ceremony. “The reason that they’re choosing these things are because Taylor Swift is so connected to their stories. She’s been connected to memories and moments in the relationship,” she says.
For many couples, loving Swift has become a bonding exercise. Schnur says she and her husband dressed up as a misheard Swift lyric for Halloween (“all the lonely Starbucks lovers” instead of “got a long list of ex-lovers” in the song “Blank Space”), and they now make popcorn the night of her album releases to stay up and watch videos. Her husband, Logan Santos, tells TODAY.com he’s a “Swiftie by default” (and that his favorite album is “Folklore”).
Mike Armistead, a 31-year-old data scientist from New York, considered himself a closeted Swiftie when he met his now wife, Kristina Puff, 28, who says she knew she wanted a Swift song as her first dance since high school. “I thought I liked Taylor Swift until she actually opened up and showed her true self and then I was like, all right, so I just kind of like Swift,” he says. Now, he’s part of the fandom.
Acknowledging her role in couples’ lives, Swift has been known to show up at weddings or adjacent events, once serenading a couple at their engagement.
Keeping the distant possibility within reach, Schnur wrote handwritten invitations to Swift for her wedding in 2019.
“I wrote that I felt like we grew up together. You were the person I turned to when I had my first heartbreak. You were there the first night on my first date with (my husband) helping me as I got ready, fearlessly donning some red lipstick. You were there waiting in the car after he kissed me for the first time on our third date. You’ve been a part of our love story ever since. It wouldn’t seem right if you weren’t invited to share in our special day,” Schnur says.
Swift didn’t show up, but her husband did surprise her with a “Shake It Off” flash mob after their first dance to “Lover.”
Uzma Saeed, 32, a communications manager from New York, likens Swift to a “big sister,” and also wanted her presence at her wedding as a result, sending her an invitation. “She must not have seen it,” Saeed says, laughing.
“While Taylor couldn’t have been there, I wanted it to feel like she was there. And this way when I look back at photos, I’ll always look back and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I picked that for Taylor,’” Saeed says.
Saeed infused what was otherwise a traditional Pakistani wedding with Swift’s music and aesthetic. She searched the Bay Area for a string quartet that had an oeuvre of Swift songs, and walked down the aisle to “Enchanted” (her wedding theme was “Enchanted Forest”). She also chose the song “Mine” for the string quartet to play, because listening to the song at age 19 marked a “pivotal moment” in her understanding of “what love captures.”
There was also a surprise Saeed didn’t see coming: Her bridesmaids and best friends delivered a speech riddled with Swift puns. “I cried like three references, and then they just kept going,” she says.
For these newlywed fans, Swift’s perception of love has changed along with theirs.
Swift points to this evolution in the song “Daylight.” In it, she sings, “I once believed love would be (Burning red) / But it’s golden / Like daylight, like daylight.” The lyrics refer to her 2012 track “Red,” in which Swift depicts love as an intense and all-consuming experience (“Loving him was red”). Now, Swift’s lyrics have evolved — love is a sanctuary in the recent song “Sweet Nothing,” and a home in “Lover.” Some fans have even theorized that another new song “Maroon” is Swift revisiting the feelings explored in “Red” from a wiser lens.
“As she matured into love, it just so happened that I also seemed to be maturing in that way but I am nowhere near as eloquent with my words,” Saeed says. “Until she says something, I can’t articulate how I’m feeling. She helps me realize or comes to terms with how I’ve grown.”