Make Your First Dance Memorable… Or Not

When Keith and Ashley got married this month, he played the guitar and sang a song to his bride (he’s in a band) – at which point he took her in his arms and they segued into their First Dance. By that time it didn’t really matter whether either of them could dance, because what guests would always remember was his lead-in.

The first dance, when the bride and groom dance together as newlyweds in front of their assembled guests, is a popular part of weddings in our area. But nothing about a wedding is de rigueur, mandatory anymore, beyond the stuff that makes the marriage legal.

If you are not a dancer or—more likely—if your groom is not a dancer and worse, would suffer excruciating embarrassment, ask yourself if anybody would really miss it? So the first question for you about the First Dance: do you both want it? The question should actually be: is this First Dance important to us? Because if it isn’t, then don’t do it. And if it is, it doesn’t matter whether either of you can dance.

There is simple dignity in the non-dancer simply turning slowly in a circle with his eyes, and arms, locked on his bride. In fact in our opinion, it beats trying to seriously dance fancy when you can’t dance at all. However, if you do this, you’d be wise to make the song about a minute long, no more.

And also something to remember – video is an integral part of today’s weddings, so there will be a videographer there capturing whatever your first dance is. If it will consist of the two of you planted firmly in the middle of the floor, swaying slightly and maybe even turning in a slow circle, just remember—that’s going to be on your wedding video forever. For everyone to see, even little ones who don’t exist yet. (Children are some of the biggest consumers of wedding videos, seeming to enjoy watching them over and over and over.)

Alright. Say you both want a First Dance (you especially) And say one of you is really not a dancer nor is likely ever to be. Here’s a thought: direct your videographer to skip the First Dance, and your photographer can capture some still shots of it.

Remember though that an experienced, talented videographer will be focusing quite a lot on the two of you—your faces, your emotions—more than on your feet. Capturing a moment’s fleeting emotions is what video does best.

This part of a wedding, like many other parts, is defined by the couple’s personalities. And this is why—if there’s a hope in the world of carrying off something a little more entertaining—there are other options to explore… like lessons. Many dance studios now offers lessons geared specifically to the non-dancing half of a couple getting married—to teach something that will be used on the big day. By this point, you should know if this would work with your time frame, your budget and your groom.

Or, if you’re both up for it, do it yourself. Joe and Kelsey had worked up an entire choreographed routine for their First Dance. It was more exuberant than emotional or perfectly executed; and you just know they had a blast getting ready for it together.

Your First Dance is allowed to have a little entertainment value, setting whatever tone you want it to— including something extra that can be charming and stay with you and your guests as a vivid memory. At one wedding Action Video Service captured, the First Dance was danced to a piano recording of a Cole Porter song played by the bride’s late father. How well they danced didn’t really matter with a set-up like that. Or you could incorporate that old Indian tradition we mentioned last week, of winding a garland figure-8 style around your necks, symbolizing “tying the knot.” Or you could have slipped, on the sly, into a pair of ruby, even “glass”, slippers. Or say you’re both Irish – you could show off some green socks or shoes, or even slip on green banners like the Celtic dancers wear.

You don’t want your First Dance to be cheesy, but if you don’t think the dancing itself will be spectacular then work in something the guests will remember first when they think of your First Dance. Some years back, a couple of young Mormon friends of ours married. Their ceremony was in the Temple in Salt Lake City, where very few people are allowed , so they held the reception back home. The bride was beautiful and gregarious, and it pained her to think that the public generally believes Mormons do not dance. And so, well into the reception, their First Dance was announced. She whipped off the bottom of her gorgeous and (who knew??) break-away gown, to reveal a skimpy dance skirt. And they launched into something worthy of “World of Dance,” ending, as I recall, with that breathtaking move when the man lets go of the woman rolling down his leg and then catches her last-minute at the bottom. Impossible to forget it or the roomful of guests, stopped in mid-move, eyes wide and jaws slack. Now THAT was a First Dance!