6 Dos And Don'ts Of Planning The First Dance
It should be the most romantic experience of your life. The moment you fantasise about when you’re 15: an absurdly handsome man gazing into your eyes as you waltz around the room to the perfect song, your guests bursting into spontaneous applause at the drama and beauty of it all.
But the reality, well, that can turn out a little differently. From grooms shuffling awkwardly across the dance floor with a stricken expression on their face to brides with wardrobe malfunctions, it is all too easy to turn from blushing bride to blushing with embarrassment.
In fact, a quick browse on the Mail Online reveals the seemingly infinite ways a first dance can go disastrously wrong: a groom accidentally kicking his new wife in the head as they attempt a backflip, for example, or a bride breaking her ankles as they try to recreate the popular Dirty Dancing lift.
Luckily we’re here to ensure that, firstly, the paramedics will not number among your guests, and secondly, you won’t howl with embarrassment when your maid of honour sends you a clip captioned “The First Dance”.
“Learning to move together involves trust—knowing when to lead, when to follow; it builds patience and encourages teamwork and chemistry between two people set on working through life together,” says Stephanie Loh, artistic director at STEP Studio.
Here are the rules to a smooth first dance:
1/6 DO be realistic about your dancing ability
If you have always been the life and soul of the dance floor, skip this point and plan an elaborate dance routine. It will be fabulous. But if your style is more along the lines of awkward shuffle, then keep it simple. “Don’t think of your dance as an entertainment segment. The guests are your friends and loved ones who are there not to judge you but to share your sweetest moments together,” says Gladys Tay, principal and dance director of Shawn and Gladys Dance Academy. If you get the jitters, consider a vodka shot and asking your maid of honour, best man and parents to join in midway.
2/6 DO think about timing
Traditionally, the first dance kicks off the dancing portion of the reception and most couples save it until after the meal, signalling to guests that it is time to get off their seats and ramp up their flirting on the dance floor.
However, couples are growing increasingly fond of a grand entrance, which means arriving at the reception after all guests are in place and launching into the first dance. This can create fantastic energy from the start, but makes it harder to drag your guests away from dinner.
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3/6 DO consider the venue
The size of the dance floor can affect the range of movements, so have this information handy at your first lesson. Tay says, “Some venues have a dance floor or stage specially set up for the dance, but even if there isn’t one, you can dance down the aisle!”
4/6 DON’T pick a song that actually means “it’s over”
The most popular first-dance song of the past 20 years is I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston, but while the title is perfect, not all the lyrics are. “Bittersweet memories, that is all I’m taking with me. So goodbye. Please don’t cry: We both know I’m not what you, you need.” Hmm... ...So, pick a song that’s meaningful to you.
“You can dance to any song. We never choose the song; it’s the couple’s decision to make but it should be 1.5 to 2 minutes long, and we choreograph the moves based on their affinity for dancing and the wedding theme,” says Stephanie. “We once did a first dance for a couple that went from typical slow waltz to funky upbeat music—it was fun and showed their personality.”
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5/6 DON’T have a wardrobe malfunction
When buying your dress, try dancing around the boutique with your best friend and if you find you cannot move properly, get it altered. “We always ask clients about their outfit in the first meeting. The moves are highly dependent on the bride’s gown and heels. We’ve had clients who wore simple dresses and gone barefoot so they didn’t have to worry about tripping, but they are usually in their wedding or evening gown,” says Stephanie. Additionally, you should wear outfits and shoes similar to your actual-day outfit during your dance lessons.
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6/6 DON’T brush off lessons
Your best man wouldn’t want to give his speech off the cuff, and neither would you want to hit the dance floor without practice and risk falling flat on your face (literally).
“A professional dancer can choreograph a proper routine to suit the chosen music and your personalities, and teach you all the moves that are right for you, so that you look good and feel confident,” says Josephine Liew of John and Josephine Dance Creative. “Two to three practices in the month before the wedding is ideal. We video record practices so couples can self-practice,” adds Stephanie.
Professional dancers can choreograph a routine that fits your song choice, gown and ability, but if you are determined to do it yourself, here are some tips. “The first thing to decide on is the theme of your dance: elegant and classical or fun and upbeat? This will impact the outfit. The most popular style for weddings is the waltz which is romantic and elegant,” says Gladys. “However, we usually take our lead from the song the couple chooses. We have choreographed many styles for wedding dances, from foxtrot, cha cha and samba to jive, rumba, hip hop and even Bollywood!”
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If you do not have any background in dance, complex movements are best avoided. Beginners should choose music pieces that are simple and not too fast with an easy beat to follow. And keep it short so you can remember all the steps. At the end of the day, it’s about creating the atmosphere you want rather than appearing like a professional dancer.
Josephine offers a final note: “Start early and do not rush things. Have fun, enjoy yourselves and work as a team.”