However, I also have couples contacting me to ask ‘what do we have to do for our First Dance?” and I write these words for those couples.
It’s the twenty first century and you are not bound by tradition to do any specific style of dance at your wedding, so it really is entirely up to you to decide. Even if your wedding is going to be mostly traditional, it still does not have to be followed rigidly.
Traditionally, the speeches follow the main meal, the cake cutting follows the speeches and the First Dance follows the cake cutting and is virtually the last formality at the reception. The First Dance is traditionally two things, your first dance as man and wife and also the first dance of the ‘party’ / general dancing part of the reception.
However, modern wedding do not necessarily follow the traditional protocols and your First Dance can performed at any time that suits you and will not be considered ‘bad form’. It is currently quite popular to have a ‘wedding entrance dance’ where the bride and groom dance their way into their reception venue making their way to the dance floor and completing the dance before being seated. If you want a very lively and fun reception this is a great way to get the party started. A wedding entrance dance may replace the First Dance or may be as well as the First Dance.
Some couples like to have their First Dance in between courses, some as the first item after the welcome speech/announcement, some before the speeches, some after. It’s really just a matter of working out what best fits your reception plans.
Your First Dance does not have to be whole song although i personally feel it is nice to dance the entire song if you are able, it just seems to make it more special. Some couples just want to make a quick appearance and dance for one or two minutes and then have the bridal party or the parents join them on the dance floor.
I encourage most of our students to dance for at least one and half minutes which is not very long even for those having difficulty with dancing. I do think it is much nicer to dance a bit longer and in my opinion I think that aiming for two and a half to three minutes is ideal.
When I start lessons with new students I usually advise them to leave that decision to the second to last or last lessons as the dance evolves through the lessons. When you’ve not yet had a lesson the idea of dancing for more than one minute can seem a bit daunting, but after a couple of lessons you can see that dancing for two minutes is going to be pretty easy.
Getting back to traditional again, the style of dance is traditionally the Waltz which is why the First Dance is also known as the Bridal Waltz. The only drawback with choosing to dance the Waltz is that you must also choose Waltz music which is 3 / 4 timing, whereas most popular music is 4 / 4 timing.
There are two types of Waltz, Viennese Waltz which is faster and Slow Waltz. The speed of the music determines which one is danced.
If you can’t find a Waltz song that you like there are other ballroom dances that are also traditional and that ‘look like’ the Waltz or can be modified a little so that they appear very similar, so choosing Waltz music is not essential unless you very specifically want to dance the exact Waltz dance.
Bridal Waltzes that we’ve taught have included all sorts of traditional dances as well as non-traditional and even entering the realm of the totally bizarre. The Slow Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Blues, Tango, Rumba, Cha Cha, Swing, Salsa and Rock’nRoll are all popular and everyday occurrences and contemporary dances such as hip hop, disco, are also common.
If you are not concerned about tradition then there’s really no limitation to your choice of song and dance, so just choose whatever suits your taste and personalities and what you are comfortable with.
Your guests are not a critical audience paying to see a professional ‘floorshow’, they are at minimum your family and closest friends who know and love you and are sharing your wedding experience with you. They want to see you dancing your First Dance and share the moment, not watch you trying to conform to someone’s idea of a standard or tradition.