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How to Have the Perfect First Dance at Your Wedding

Andrea planned her own wedding during the pandemic, which was an incredibly stressful time. She learned a few tricks along the way.

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Perfecting Your First Dance

Some of my favorite pictures from my wedding are my dance with my father and the first dance with my husband. Dancing means something to me, so I imagine it will be helpful to get some wedding dance tips from me.

I want you to nail this portion of your wedding to the point that you get stunning photographs from it.

My first suggestion: think way in advance. If you've never danced in public, if you feel weird with eyes on you at a party, or you can't find rhythm to save your life, then it's perfectly okay to skip the traditional dance part of the reception.

If done right, your first dances can be insanely romantic and memorable for others.

Your wedding dance should be something you enjoy and look forward to. The most important part of the dance is that you should feel comfortable and relaxed.

Your wedding dance should be something you enjoy and look forward to. The most important part of the dance is that you should feel comfortable and relaxed.

Take Dance Classes

One of the more fun things to do in adulthood is taking community dance classes. Knowing how to break into a waltz, do the foxtrot, or the tango will come in handy. I started taking dance classes before I started dating the man that would eventually be my husband.

He also was taking dance classes in his city before he started dating me.

Dance classes, well ahead of your wedding, are the best way to nail the first dance with your spouse. Dance classes are also a great way to meet people in your community, and if you're single, maybe find an eligible bachelor, etc.

There is no better way to learn how to dance than from a professional dance instructor. It's also good to take classes because it gives you some fitness. If you're worried about putting on pounds before your wedding, dance classes will help you stay trim. Seriously, you could take dance classes instead of pay for a monthly gym membership.

You can dance in whatever way you want for your wedding. You can get onto the dance floor and bust a move like it's 1999, but if you know how to elegantly do the waltz or foxtrot, you will wow your guests. (The tango might be too spicy.)

I recommend the waltz because it's actually really easy to learn. It's one of the most accessible dances for beginners.

  • Waltz songs can be limiting. They're in 3/4 time.
  • Foxtrot is essentially a revamped version of the waltz.
  • The cha cha is a heck of a lot of fun.
  • The tango impresses, but if you don't feel comfortable being sultry in front of your grandma, maybe save it for the honeymoon.
  • West coast swing is exceptionally popular and is diverse.
  • East coast swing is adorable, and I considered doing this dance for the wedding, but I eventually opted for the waltz.

A dance instructor can help you perfect your dance for the wedding or even help you come up with a unique routine. I highly encourage this if you have time because it will be a good bonding experience for you and your partner, it gives you something to look forward to during the wedding planning process, and it adds some movement into your day.

What Do I Need for Dance Classes?

  • Good solid shoes. You could buy dance shoes online, but it's not required. You do want shoes that are closed. Don't wear flip-flops. You need shoes that don't come off too easily. Avoid shoes with too much heel or don't feel right to you.
  • Once you know what shoes you'll wear for your wedding, bring them to your dance lessons.
  • Wear something nice. You may want to practice dancing in a dress that's similar to your wedding dress. You should talk to your dance instructor about that instead of coming to class in a ball gown.
  • Come to the lesson with a good attitude. Be willing to listen and adjust, don't talk back, be like clay that can be molded. Trust your instructor.
  • Don't come to dance after a big workout. This will exhaust your body.
  • Put on the deodorant.
  • Make sure your hands and fingernails are clean.
  • Bring a bottle of water. They may have water for you as well.
  • Don't wear clothes that are too tight.

Don't Stress!

When it comes to the wedding, relax. Don't worry about whether you nail moves or get that spin right. The key is to make it look like you didn't screw things up. Go with the flow. Most of the people in your audience likely won't know if you did anything wrong. Be flexible and improvise. Smile and don't frown.

  • Keep your shoulders up and stand straight.
  • Don't look at your feet the whole time.
  • Breathe
  • Laugh if you like.
  • Exude charm, not fear.

Selecting the Right Song

You should practice dancing to the song you want to play at the wedding. I recommend not making the song too long or too short. It can feel like an eternity when people are watching you. It also will feel like it went by really fast because everything in a wedding goes by really fast.

  • Select a song that goes with the style of dance.
  • Ask the dance instructor for help.
  • Pick a song that is meaningful to you as a couple.
  • Pick a song that's classy and won't offend your guests.
  • If your partner is shy, maybe sing along with the words.

Dancing with Your Father

Maybe your dad is a great dancer, and maybe he isn't. Maybe he practiced for the wedding, and maybe he didn't.

You want your dad to feel comfortable and that he got to have his moment too. A lot of people are going to remember your dance with your father more than your husband. It's meaningful. Your dad may have thought about this moment for a long time, so cherish it.

  • If your dad doesn't want to dance, don't force him.
  • Thank your dad if he danced with you because he went the extra mile.
  • If he isn't used to dancing, pick a short song! He doesn't want the spotlight on him forever.
  • Pick a classy song. Don't go for something cheesy.
  • Your dad may be super nervous, so smile and help him to feel confident.
  • Again, don't look at your feet the whole time.
  • Keep a good form even if he doesn't, but relax a little. You don't want to look like a toy soldier.
  • Don't stare at your photographer.
  • Don't stare at your guests.
  • Be in the moment.
  • Pick a song that's really easy to hear and understand the beat.

My dad had fun recommending various terrible songs for the wedding. I let him have his fun. Don't get mad at your dad if he recommends a whole bunch of awful songs. Find the humor in it. Let him feel comfortable. Often the bride knows more about dance than her father. And that's okay.

Try to play a song he at least knows. People love old songs. Look for a crowd pleasing song. It also should be appropriate.

Tips for your first wedding dance (1) wear shoes that you're comfortable wearing, (2) change to a dress that isn't too long and won't get caught, (3) smile and give eye contact to your partner, (4) don't overthink things.

Tips for your first wedding dance (1) wear shoes that you're comfortable wearing, (2) change to a dress that isn't too long and won't get caught, (3) smile and give eye contact to your partner, (4) don't overthink things.

Other Tips

It might help you to perfect your dance by recording a video and watching it. You don't really know what you look like to other people. You may notice little things to adjust to make the overall experience better.

There are lots of dancing videos on YouTube, I recommend watching these. If you can't afford professional lessons, watching videos online is a good buffer to it.

Practice dancing at home in an open space. You don't want to try dancing in a hallway or a spot that is surrounded by furniture.

Those leading need to be sensitive to how much pressure they're putting onto their partner's hands. You can really hurt someone's shoulder if you're not careful. If someone wants less pressure on their hands or form, listen to them.

Try dancing solo to music and seeing if you can comfortably find the beat and come up with moves on your own. The more comfortable you feel dancing, the better you will feel at your wedding.

Dancing in a Wedding Dress

I recommend that if you have a really long gown or complicated wedding dress to buy a reception dress. A dress that is shorter and has less risk of dragging on the floor is better for dancing. Your dress could get ruined if someone steps on it and drags the fabric. You could also fall and hurt yourself.

I recommend not spending too much money on either your wedding dress or reception dress. I found both of mine on Etsy. I really wanted a long pretty one for my wedding, but I knew it wouldn't work for dancing.

What Makes for a Good Dance Dress?

  • It's easy for you to move in it.
  • You won't flash people if you spin. (Your partner should also be smart enough to know not to do that.)
  • You're not dragging the dress on the floor.
  • The dress is light, not heavy.
  • You don't feel tight in it at all.
  • You can raise your arms up. If you can't bring your arms at least to your shoulders, than it's probably the wrong dress.
  • You look good in it.
  • The dress adds a certain kind of magic for the evening.
  • You don't have to have a white reception dress. I've seen people change into a red dress, a polka-dot dress, or whatever.
  • Your dress isn't prone to wardrobe malfunctions.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence

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