Dance Month: Top Tips for First Dances from Wedding Experts

February 27, 2012


Most of the focus in Dance Month has been how to use Dance at Corporate Events, Product Launches and Awards Ceremonies - we haven't quite spent as much time on weddings and that's something we need to rectify right away with a dazzlingly witty and informative blog post... Which is what this is.

But when it comes to dance at weddings, we rarely think about booking in dancers to do the dancing - the first thing that comes to mind is usually the all important First Dance (swiftly followed by the "Cringy Dad Dance" and the "Small Child Sliding Across The Floor On His Knees Dance")

So rather than listen to us blather on about how to have a perfect First Dance, we've enlisted the help of a handful of our favourite wedding planners, bloggers, acts and photographers to offer their tips on creating the best First Dance possible.

Read on for More...

Wedding Planner Isabel Smith (IS Wedding Design)

A marriage means the bringing together of two people's characters and lots of compromise - and boy can this come to the fore when choosing the first dance track!  How do you combine the romantic sentiment of your first dance together as man and wife when all you listen to is Prodigy and she'll never be swayed from Take That?  My advice to couples who don't have 'a song' is to play it safe and opt for something harmless - Better Together by Jack Johnson, Let's Stay Together, by Al Green for example.  A clever band can always arrange a mash up so the slow swooney number can soon turn into something more lively and representative of your tastes.

Wedding Blogger Anna from 'Anna and the Ring'

First dances. What a minefield (almost literally if you have not thought to score your shoes and/or if you have evil friends who polish the floor without telling you). We had so many different choices, we just couldn't decide. In the end we wrote all of our song choices onto separate post-it notes (heart shaped of course) and stuck them to a mirror. One by one the golddiggers and crazy in loves fell to the floor and we were left with a beautiful song. A song for which we choreographed no dance. To me that would not have been us. So we twirled and giggled and looked deeply into each other's eyes and we were happy. Choose a song that is beautiful, choose a song which makes you incredibly happy when you hear it. It will make you smile every time. 

Andrew Shanahan from Mens Wedding blog 'Staggered'

The first dance is more often than not a trial by embarrassment that the groom (and many times, the bride) hate. Naturally, they bear it with good humour and do that bloody awful shuffle around the floor to some grotesquely syrupy tune. This is an affront to dignity and the art form of dance. Frankly, I wish the first dance could be forever sealed in concrete, or blasted into space. As this seems unlikely I wish that couples would understand that they have the absolute right to do whatever form of first dance they wish. If they choose to have none whatsoever then that's absolutely fine. If they choose to gather all of their guests together for a Hokey-Cokey, that's fine too. Your wedding is about a celebration of you. Unless you absolutely love shuffling around rooms then make the first dance a ritual of movement that better reflects you.

Samira and Pasq - Bride and Groom

We started to talk about the first dance quite early in the wedding preparation talks, although the choice of the song came at a later stage. I think we heard it in the car or in a shop and straight away agreed it would be the one! We didn't want to think about the song choice for ages, we wanted the song to come almost naturally to us. And it did! I think a good first dance song should be able to "speak" to anyone, to a certain extent. I guess everyone knows the Beatles' "All You Need is Love" so our choice was quite easy. We wanted a love song, but more than that, a song about universal values since Pasq and I come from such different backgrounds. 

Wedding Planner Lucy Watson (Lucinda George)

Do you know the lyrics of the song you are dancing to? It is important to have a listen prior to making a decision on your first dance, as some song choices are a little surprising. For example, although 'Perfect Day' by Lou Reed happens to be a song that is really popular and regarded as wonderfully sentimental by many, the lyrics on closer listening reveal it is actually all about the singer's heroin habit. Such a theme definitely reduces its suitability for a wedding celebration! It's always best to closely read through the lyrics beforehand prior to confirming on a potentially unsuitable song.

Ben Marlowe from Wedding Videographers Kissing-Gate Video

I remember one that I really enjoyed (Julie & Ben if you get a second.)They basically followed no routine whatsoever and just had fun and danced as if they were on a night out. The end result was natural, fun and not awkward. Awkward is what you get if you rehearse something. Painful to watch. If you are going to do a routine, you really need to smash it. I once saw a full Bollywood routine which was amazing, every routine since has kind of fallen short. My advice is not to think about it, get out there and do whatever comes naturally. Or you could do what one of my brides did, not bother. As soon as the band started everyone got on the floor and went off... much better!

Kevin Fitzsimmons - Ratpack Singer and Bandleader

As a singer/bandleader I can honestly say I've seen it all when it comes to first dances and first dance songs! The 'first dance' is definitely a part of your day when literally "Anything Goes"... but don't feel under any pressure to make a big thing of it if you don't want to. Just keep within your comfort zone - whether that's a 'Strictly-style' job or a simply shuffle - and it'll be a beautiful, memorable part of the day, unique to you and those who mean the most to you. Also, keep in mind that no one is judging your song-choice or your dance-steps, and don't be embarrassed to ask me for any quirky/unconventional first dance song. If it's within my genre of music (from vintage 1920's right up to Buble's latest hit) we do it!!

Richard from Function Band Bellissima

My band Bellissima have played over 400 first dances in the last 7 years. I can safely say that we have most definitely seen and played it all!  As a band we'll play anything a couple asks us to (within reason!) We've played everything from the sweet and soulful  "Have I told you lately that I love you" by van Morrison to the raspy rock anthem "Slide Away" by Oasis. The only real bit of advice I can give you is to keep it relatively simple for yourselves. Learning some nifty choreographed dance floor moves can be a lot of fun and very impressive, but if your not a pair of seasoned dance hall movers it might also induce a fair bit of anxiety in the hours leading up. If you are a little self conscious then you can always ask the MC to invite everyone to join you on the dance floor after a minute or so. This is also a great way of getting the party started with a bang.

Alexis from wedding blog OMG I'm Getting Married 

So many people told me before my wedding day that I needed to make sure I took a moment to step back and take everything in. I tried my best to do this and remember sitting at the dinner table looking out across the room at all of my amazing friends and family and feeling incredibly lucky. People also told me to make sure I took a moment with my new husband, just the two of us, because you can so easily get caught up in the mix of dancing, chatting with guests and general excitement, it's easy again to have the whole night whizz by at 100 miles an hour.

There are probably loads of tiny little moments you can steal throughout your wedding day but they're hard to plan and you will probably just want to go with the flow. The one moment that is entirely yours, however, is your first dance. For the 2 - 3 minutes that you're dancing just the two of you, talking or not talking, laughing or crying, joking or being serious, you have this weird feeling of being with all of your friends and being completely alone as well. It's fabulous. My top tip for any bride to be is to make sure, during your first dance, to savour this incredibly close, personal moment and enjoy the fact that you have just married the love of your life!

Have any First Dance tips or anecdotes? Let us know in the comments!

Title image from Marianne Talor Photography