How to: The Wedding Dance

Create the most memorable first dance for you and your sweetheart with just the right beat, and without stepping on each other’s toes.


Start With a Song

Do you have the coveted “Our Song,” with your spouse-to-be already lined up?  If yes, you are in perfect shape to start thinking about how your first dance will play out.  If not, there’s no need to worry.  There are thousands and thousands of songs, and nobody but you and your spouse-to-be get to choose which one to use. 
Even if you are unable to pinpoint that perfect tune right away, opting into a genre of music will get your toes tapping in the right direction.  You’ll find that traditional first dance songs come from classic crooners like Etta James, Nat King Cole, or Frank Sinatra.  Modern first dance songs may be performed by the likes of Elton John, Beyoncé, or even popular musicals like Phantom of the Opera.

To Choreograph or Not to Choreograph?

Ballroom dancing isn’t for every couple, but don’t let the word “choreography” scare you into sitting through your whole wedding reception.  Many couples seek out dance instructors have a whole “routine” created, while others simply take lessons to learn the ballroom basics.

Ballroom styles include:

  •  Waltz: This is a classic, romantic dance.  It is characterised by a slow tempo, and a rise and fall of extravagant movements.
  • Swing: Slip on a pair of saddle shoes and boost your blood pressure with the triple-step rhythms of swing.  A few styles of swing exist, from the slower, more formal West Coast Swing, to the lively East Coast Swing, to the fast, acrobatic Lindy Hop or Jitterbug.  Swing is a fun beginner dance, with spins, Charleston steps, and aerials for the bravest of newlyweds.
  • Cha-Cha: Originally called the Cha-Cha-Cha, this Latin dance was born from the Mambo and Rumba.  The dance relies heavily on Cuban beats, and flirtatious “1, 2, cha-cha-cha” rhythm.
  • Tango:  A passion-infused dance, the tango includes sharp, distinct footwork, and movements that are smooth and slinking like a cat.
  • Rumba: To put it plainly, the Rumba is a sexy dance.  It is top-notch in the Latin dance collection, with playful action-and-response movements, and exciting African-Cuban musical accompaniment.
  • Foxtrot: An American dance that is performed in a closed position, like the Waltz, but to Big Band or jazz music, like Swing.  The steps are divided into two categories, 2 beats per step for “slows,” and 1 beat per step for “quicks.”

But dance lessons aren’t just limited to ballroom, let alone the six ballroom dances above.  If you want to do something a little different, then consider a choreographed hip-hop dance.  Bust a move and show your guests what the newlyweds are made of!

Want to spend a few moments dancing with your new spouse but don’t want to steal all the spotlight?  A clever option for incorporating other dancers is by utilizing a new trend called a “Flash Mob.”

Prior to the reception, you and your selected dancers (most likely the wedding party) get together in secret to plan a routine.  Each dancer is given a musical cue to join in with the group.  The “Flash” in Flash Mob comes from the unsuspecting viewers who realize, as each dancer joins into the routing one-by-one, that there is a sudden, dancing surprise happening. 

Imagine the looks on your guests’ faces when you switch from a beautiful slow dance, to an upbeat dance with your wedding party.  The Flash Mob is a great alternative for shy couples wanting to let loose of the guests’ attention, and a great party starter for those looking to liven the mood.

Choose a Dance Instructor

It is recommended that you start your hunt for your instructor about 3 months from the wedding or, allotting yourself around 8-10 weeks of lessons.  You may want to start earlier if you have a complex routine in mind, or busy schedules to work around.

Check with your dance studios about consultations.  Most studios will offer you and your fiancé a mini lesson to showcase different dances, introduce you to the available instructors, and discuss wedding dance packages. 
If a free lesson is not indicated on their website, then simply ask!  Your first dance is like your wedding cake, and you deserve a ballroom “taste test,” before you spend money on a package of lessons.  Some instructors will even make house calls, if you’ve got the space to dance at home.

View your dance instructor as another member of your wedding party.  They should have a personality that meshes well with you and your fiancé, a sense of humor for when you’re nervous, and patience for when you just can’t grasp a perfect turn right away.  Some instructors may have a specialty dance style, while others adhere to strict schedules.  It’s important to voice what style or styles you are interested in, and make note of who teaches what and when, at your initial consultation.

Gowns, Tuxes, and Dancing

If you’re a traditional couple in formal wedding attire, than a waltz in a ball gown will be stunning, and practical.  On the other hand, if you are interested in choreographing flashy aerials into your swing dance routine, and you’ve got tux tails and a mermaid gown to contend with, your first dance may turn out memorable for the wrong reasons.

If you’re questioning whether your dress can shimmy and shake like you can, then simply put it on and dance!  Take it through a veritable “boot camp” of dance moves and see how it functions and feels against your skin.  Is your strapless gown drifting too far south?  Is it difficult to bend your knees?  Are you stepping all over your lace trimming when you spin?

The same test goes for heels and veils.  You won’t want to get tangled in a veil during your sensual tango routine, and wobbly ankles from platform heels won’t add any charm to your cha-cha-cha.

Getting into your groove may be as simple as bustling your train, and slipping on a shorter pair of heels.  For more intricate or lively routines, another option is to have a “costume change” before your grand entrance to switch to a dance-worthy party dress.

We Have 5 Songs…

If, after all the planning and song-hunting you are still unable to choose just one, ask your DJ, or even a local musician, to remix your tunes into a unique medley.  A remix is one way to showcase a timeline of your relationship via your favorite tunes throughout the years.  Or you may choose to pay tribute to those who are unable to attend by playing a clip that reminds you of them.  For the indecisive couple, it’s simply as a way to include all the songs you’ve been dreaming about.

Whatever you choose, from a few steps to a full routine, from swing to hip-hop, you are destined to be dancing on a cloud in the arms of the one you love most.  Enjoy it!