First Dance FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions – About Your First Dance

1. Q: If you do not have a special song, how do you go about picking one that is perfect?

A: Let me begin by presenting my ideas about what a first dance song should be. The song or lyrics of a song that really occur or define the moment when a couple KNOWS they have fallen deeply in love. Think of your song as a musical and emotional photograph that fulfills the time, place, and circumstance of the realization of your love. When you hear this song you can think of nothing else but spending the rest of your life’s dreams, hopes, & wishes with that special person.

Now that we have set the mood criteria for a couple’s song (“Our Song”) we must decide if it is danceable. At our 1st meeting when making your appointment for your 1st lesson with me I’ll check several of your choices with the tempo, and the dance type or characteristic. So we’ll both know what type of dance you’ll perform the day of your wedding. Please excuse the usage of the word perform, but in reality that’s what you are doing. A dance in front of an audience (all be it an audience that is both compassionate & sympathetic) along with still and moving photography is a performance. If you are prepared your first dance can be as memorable as your choice of song. The danceability of a slow rhythm ballad becomes more difficult as the rhythm or tempo (Bars Per Minute) of a song is reduced. In other words, the slower the song the harder it is for dancing. If your selection falls under the categories of a named dance like Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, and even a Slow Ballad Rhythm you have some additional work to do.

When I am asked to do so as a dance instructor and educator it would always be my preference to direct a couple’s choice, to a song whose tempo incorporates of the named dances. In the case of a, “First Dance,” I would lean toward the Waltz, Foxtrot, or Slow Ballad Dancing. These three narrow the selections down for the couple but more importantly, when people learn a named dance they have learned a life skill as opposed to learning something just for a milestone date. They have afforded themselves the opportunity to dance with a broader spectrum of people over a wider range of time and circumstances. In keeping with this line of thought at your wedding both the Brides & Grooms will dance with a parent or surrogate. This dance partner will be twenty or more years older than either the Bride or Groom. It is my observation they are more comfortable dancing with a standardized dance frame rather than in a romantic dance position. Don’t worry when you have finished your lessons you won’t look anything like two monkeys huddled together in the rain!

To review the criteria of the perfect, “First Dance,” song you must ask yourself, “can I dance to this song and does it let others know that I am completely in love with my spouse to be?”

2. Q: How long should we dance?

A: Many of the most popular first dance songs are over 3 to 4 minutes long. Although three minutes does not seem to be a long time-when you are the only couple on the dance floor it can seem an eternity especially if you’re not properly prepared!

The optimum time for a first dance should be 2-2:30 minutes long. Due to the length of some of the songs popular among engaged couples this will require some coordination between the wedding couple as well as your D. J. Listen to your song and find the verses that are most meaningful for you. Either you or the D. J. should prepare audio media of the exact time duration that pleases you with the lyrics that are most meaningful. I often make these recordings for my students who are about to get married. In this way the engaged couple can dance to exactly their preference including a segue of songs if they so desire. Also by keeping the songs shorter and more meaningful all attention will remain focused on the dance floor!

3. Q: In what order and timeline should we dance at the reception?

A: I’m happy to help you with this one, I can see some sticky areas here and appreciate your concerns.

1. The Bride & Groom must be first! This is your first act as man and wife and IMO should start every wedding reception. I accept but do not necessarily agree with other formats. Immediately following your introduction to the guests. This opens the dance floor up for dining and dancing.

2. Father of the Bride or whoever presents the Bride with the Bride after the cake cutting.

3. Groom with natural Mom and then Step-Mom

4. Both sets of Parents dance with each other at the same time and have the Best man dance with your Mom. That will make her feel special rather than left out. A close uncle or her brother could also pinch-hit. I’d go for the Best Man!!

 4. Q: What other preparations should we make regarding the DJ and MC?

A: When making wedding preparations we often fall into the attitude that the people we have hired are professionals – they’ve done lots of these – they know what to do!

Don’t forget this is your day! Don’t leave it only in others hands! Although it means spending extra time on what appears to be small details, it will be worth it. Being prepared and knowing exactly when things should and will happen will ease some of your nervousness. I recommend preparing a script, there is an example of one in my book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ballroom Dancing”. Once you have put something down in writing, those that you present it to, will have to abide by what your requests are or have a good explanation as to why they did not!

Be very certain that the MC (sometimes one in the same as the D.J.) knows how to properly pronounce all the names of the wedding party! They should also know the exact order of the dance presentations and plan the length of each dance etc.

It sounds like a lot of extra time and effort but it will be well worth it. Have a meeting with either or both of these professionals and go into that meeting prepared with written questions and ideas. Each and every wedding reception has similarities as well as great differences, please don’t leave anything to chance!

5. Q: Do you have any suggestions regarding the grooms attire for dancing comfortably?

A: Many times in the excitement of outfitting the wedding party, individuals forget that they won’t be posed for photographs all day! They will actually have to sit down, walk around, bend over, hug people, and yes, dance! Keep this in mind as you try on your wedding day attire. Actually go through the motions when you have your gown/ tux/ bridesmaid/ attire on. Many a bride and groom have made their entrance onto a dance floor only to find one member of the couple (or both!) can’t raise their arms to form the dance couple.

While the groom may remove his wedding jacket later on in the reception he must be able to dance in it for their first dance. A good tuxedo is constructed so that the cut from the jacket body to the sleeve is higher up in the armpit. This is called a military cut. Notice that serviceman’s jacket never rides up from his shoulders around the neck. The higher this cut increases the movement capability the jacket. Dance jackets for professionals are actually constructed in such a way that we must push our arms into the sleeve and feel a tightness under the arm resulting in a very flexible arm and a very neat bodice. If this is not possible, wear a vest and leave the jacket unbuttoned.

If the groomsmen or the groom himself is wear patent leather shoes please use Vaseline where one shoe touches the other. This will prevent the patent leather from sticking together and the man from tripping as a result.

6. Q: Why and when should we learn to dance?

A: Your First Dance as Husband and Wife should be memorable and emotionally touching. Historically the First Dance is symbolic of the consummation of the wedding vows. This Dance is the wedding couples first cooperative engagement and joint endeavor. When the Bride accepts Her dance with the Groom she accepts it for the rest of her life. The frame and posture of the Groom while he proposes that the Bride accept this dance all speak of the source of strength, love, companionship, and guidance he offers his Bride.

The following is a list to help you make these moments as meaningful and memorable as possible.

1. Learn to dance no later than 3 months prior to your wedding date. If at all possible avoid doing this at the, “panic stage,” or last minute. You must be relaxed and in a good frame of mind to learn effectively. Having said that I have been able to perform “miracles” in short periods of time! Yes something is much better than looking like two young teenagers rocking back and forth.  We’ve developed our Wedding Dance Boot Camp and Wedding Dance Specials for maximum effectiveness in the minimum of time and money.

2. Select a song that you love with a good dance tempo. I teach 27 different dances some are easier than others so I can help you in many ways with either great simplicity or complexity as you desire.

3. You Tube is a great social media source but it will never replace a good teacher!!!! My book and DVD, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ballroom Dancing”, can save you time and money but let me take a look at what you’ve done at least once just to be sure.

4. You must be willing to practice often but in short increments.

5. Never make your 1st Dance at the Wedding the first time you are dancing in public. You must get out on a social dance floor and “swim with the sharks.”

6. Be kind, understanding, and forgiving to each other and yourself when learning to dance together. It isn’t easy and it will be a good test of your patience and cooperative skills as a couple. After all you’ll have to do things together, not unlike this, the rest of your lives.

7. Q: How do I select a good dance instructor?

A: This is a very important question especially since it involves the prudent use of your money and time. In the USA there is no requirement for dance instructors to be A) Licensed, B)Examined, C)Educated at the University Level like all other teachers who deal with topics of much less difficulty. Dance instructors, like doctors or lawyers, are NOT created equal. So here are my recommendations:

1. ISTD Credentials which would make this teacher fit to teach not just in the USA but anywhere in the World especially where A & B are required.

2. A full time Dance Instructor with a minimum 8 years’ experience. Preferably a current or former Professional Open Competitor.

3. An independent who charges one at a time at around $70.00/hour. So you don’t have to deal with contract and “sales bologna” that only gives our profession a black eye. If you hear a cheaper price ask about their credentials. Sometimes cheaper in a service business turns out to be much more expensive!

4. Be very leery of FREE and “too good to be true” offers – they are setting you up and really are only marketing ploys. You be able to tell if the teacher is “Real & concerned”, by their passion when you speak to them and their willingness to discuss their dance and teaching experience.

5.At many studios as a beginner you’ll get the teacher who is low man on the totem pole. Muscle memory is indelible and you want a good foundation. This does not mean you’ll be a pro – it means you’ll be able to dance at your wedding with the least amount of lessons! That will save money.

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