Of all the wedding day rituals, the first and last dance as a newly married couple is, perhaps, the sweetest. It reminds us all of the promise that having a lifetime partner holds and recalls our thoughts of romance and permanence. Of course, it can also be a source of stress for the couple involved if they have not spent any time preparing beforehand.
Partner dancing is a skill like any other and with a minimum of practice and preparation, any couple can take the spotlight with confidence and grace on their big day.
So, how should you prepare? What are your options and where do you start? Following are some tips and suggestions that will help you make this moment fun and special.
Have you chosen a song for your first dance?
If you have not yet chosen a song, you may want to consider what type of dance you would like to do and work backwards from there.
Would you want the classic romance of a waltz, or would you prefer a relaxed and jazzy foxtrot? Maybe the exuberant energy of a swing dance or the intensity of an Argentine Tango is more your style. If you enjoy Latin rhythms you may like a slow rumba or a lively salsa. A simple slow dance is always an option.
Please keep in mind that some dance styles are easier to learn than others, so time may be a factor in your decision.
Will the band be playing your song or will you be dancing to a recording?
This decision will also affect what song you choose. Standards such as "Our Love is Here to Stay", "It Had to Be You", and "Time after Time" are songs that every jazz band should be able to play; if you let them know in advance.
The bandleader should also be told what tempo to play the song and for what length of time. If you have been practicing to a certain recording of your song, be sure to make a copy for your bandleader so that he or she understands exactly what type of arrangement and feeling you are expecting. The same song may be played in many different ways, so it is important to communicate to avoid surprises on your wedding day.
Should you take dance lessons to prepare for your first dance together?
Don't take lessons because you feel that some sort of performance is expected out of you. Remember, this is your day and should reflect something about you.
However, if dancing together is something that you've always wanted to do but never had the time or the nerve, now is a great opportunity. This will be something that the two of you can share forever. There will always be plenty of opportunities to enjoy your dancing skills: at a friend's wedding, a fancy function, or even a nightclub.
Where should you go to take lessons?
You should be able to find teachers who have experience with wedding couples at your local ballroom dance studio. When you call, ask if that studio has any special wedding packages available.
Most ballrooms offer both group classes and private lessons. Group classes are certainly more affordable, but a private lesson will focus only on what you want to learn and go at whatever pace is best for you.
You should expect to pay $25 to $80 per hour for a private lesson and $12 to $30 each for a group class. If you intend to attend these sessions alone, the cost may reduce by half. Costs may vary due to experience, availability, and location.
There are many types of partner dancing, so it is important to make sure your instructor specializes in the dance style that you have chosen.
Depending on your location, it is often better to go to the clubs if you are interested in a nightclub dance such as swing, salsa, or Argentine Tango. Many clubs offer lessons before the band plays or the dancing begins.
Once you have found a teacher that you feel comfortable working with, be sure to bring him a recording of your song. If you haven't chosen a song yet, your instructor may be able to make some suggestions.
If you have trouble finding a teacher that you like, or if time and money are considerations, you may want to try learning to dance from an instructional videotape. There are several videos that cater specifically to wedding couples and their special needs. This will allow you to learn at any time and in the privacy of your home, which is ideal if either of you are nervous about learning to dance.
Some people find that they feel under pressure with the constant attention of an instructor in a private lesson, and they are too shy or self-conscious to learn in a group. There are several videos that cater specifically to wedding couples and their special needs.
No matter how you decide to tackle the learning process, remember to be supportive and have patience with each other's difficulties. The reward will be well worth the effort.
How will your first dance begin and end?
Your bandleader or DJ can call you out to the dance floor and announce your first dance.
Traditionally, the father of the bride will eventually cut in and dance with his daughter. This may be done to a new song or during the original song.
At this point the groom may ask the bride's mother to dance. Then the groom's father may dance with the bride, at which time the bride's father may cut in on his wife and the groom.
The groom may then ask his mother to dance. Additionally the groom may dance with the maid of honor and the bride with the best man, while the in-laws dance with each other.
Finally, the entire wedding party, and then the guests may join in the dancing.
As the wedding couple you must decide before the ceremony which part of this traditional order you would like to follow, if any. This is only a guide and it is your choice who to involve in the dancing. It is important to notify the individuals that you want to participate, and instruct them as to when they should join the dance, and with whom they should dance.
Depending on how many people will eventually be dancing, you may have to select additional songs for everyone to dance to.
Your first dance should be one of the many beautiful memories of your wedding day. By preparing in advance you will be able to relax and have fun with each other, enjoying your moment.
Don't think of this as a performance but as a ritual; part of the vows and promises that you will exchange on this special day.