The 'First Dance' is an integral part of any wedding, usually performed at the evening reception by the Bride & Groom as the guests of honour. It has become a tradition in European and American culture that signifies the start of the evenings celebrations.
I have been a professional wedding photographer for around 10 years now and a dancer of several disciplines for as long as I can remember. I have been to hundreds of weddings and have picked up a few tips and tricks that should help you to plan your own special first dance.
1. PICK THE RIGHT MUSIC
It may seem obvious that you should pick a song that is appropriate for a first dance but I have seen so many times that a couple has listened to the seemingly "romantic feel" of a piece of music but failed to actually listen to the song (see examples below).
Don't close your eyes - Keith Whitley
Don't get me wrong, Keith Whitleys' "Don't close your eyes" is a beautiful song that I have adored for years but it is not an occasion suitable song. I have seen many couples slow dance to this (me included) but if you listen to the lyrics it is a very one sided love song.
A more appropriate choice would be something a little more in keeping with a new and romantic relationship such as Ed Sheerans' "Thinking out loud".
Thinking out loud - Ed Sheeran
"Thinking out Loud" is an incredible love song which I believe was probably written with the intention of longevity in the wedding market; Sheeran even referred to it as a "walking down the aisle song". Not only a perfect song the video is just as amazing with its simple yet very effective dancing which was shot on 16mm film, giving it a real romantic and timeless feel.
Above all... Pick a song that means something to you both and that you both love. Picking the right song which you are passionate about helps to create the right mood for your photographs and will help to calm any pre-dance nerves.
2. TAKE DANCE LESSONS
There are two options to taking dance lessons, you can either go to a dance class or have a dance specially choreographed for you.
The benefits of dance classes are endless, I have bullet pointed them below to save you a lot of reading time.
Learn a new skill
Wow your guests
Make new friends
and the most important of all is that you get to share in something together as a couple. Dancing can be a great getaway from the stress of everyday life, where you can really let yourself go and forget all your troubles. My wife and I met at a dance competition 18 years ago and have danced together ever since. Dance has probably saved our relationship on more occasions than we would like to admit as we will always have this one thing in common that reminds us daily of just how much we have together and how much we love one another.
FIRST DANCE CHOREOGRAPHY
From complete novice to experienced dancer, having a dance choreographed specially for you is the perfect choice. There are specialist instructors who offer choreography in your own home or at a studio that can have a simple yet special dance put together for you in as little as a couple of hours. It does not really matter if you dance it perfectly on the big day but it will give you a superb start at getting you feet and body moving, wowing your guests and adding that extra element into your wedding photographs.
3. SOMETHING SPECIAL
Since the rise of social media and good quality video cameras on mobile phones the internet has seen many 'first dance' videos go viral. If you are of the more outgoing personality and want your first dance to be memorable then you could go down the route of enlisting your friends to create and perform something amazing.
Generally this type of dance starts off with the slow butt clincher and progresses into something a little crazy and worthy of a west end performance.
Shanee & Paul - Wedding Dance
If you have put together something incredible for your first dance it may be well worth booking a professional videographer to capture it in the best quality as possible. The video above is from a wedding I covered last year. We also as a favour did this video but we can only run one camera at a time and are not professional videographers.
If you have booked a singer / band you could consider dancing to a live performance. Speak to your booking for details of set lists.
4. CONSIDER YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
By the time the First Dance comes around your photographer has likely been with you for around 12 hours and will be looking at finishing up for the day in a short while. If they are anything like me they are usual feeling quite tired, hungry and dehydrated with feet that feel like they will burst into flames any minute, but will remain as enthusiastic as they have been the rest of the day.
We only need one minute... If you are a shy or nervous about your first dance and have been dreading it all day, just give us one minute. This short minute is enough time for us to get some great shots if you follow these simple tips..
Dance as close to the middle of the dance floor as you can. We would have set up lights to deal with difficult lighting conditions.
Give us little moments where you gaze lovingly at each other, embrace one another and smile or laughing at a little private joke.
Ideally we would want you to dance parallel to your guests but this will range greatly from venue to venue. Speak to your photographer before hand.
Let your photographer know what time you intend to do the First Dance.
Ask you DJ to encourage guests to join you on the dance floor at a specified time.
5. YOU'RE AMONGST FRIENDS
Anxiety about the 'First Dance' is surprisingly common and if you are nervous you are definitely not on your own. There are two things that you should remember...
You are amongst friends and family - These are the people in the world that you love and care for the most, no-one there will judge or laugh at you.
It is about the two of you - Having chosen a special song and decided how you are going to dance, You will take to the floor and as you dance together you will soon forget about the other people in the room.
No matter how your dance goes it will never be as embarrassing as the drunken antics of your friends and family as the night wares on.
Drunken Wedding Dancing
FIRST DANCE SONG SUGGESTIONS
Amazed by Lonestar
I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing by Aerosmith
Thinking out loud by Ed Sheeran
A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
Your Still The One or From This Moment On by Shania Twain
Your Song by Ellie Goulding
(Everything I Do) I Do It For You by Brian Adams
I Hate Love Songs by Kelsea Ballerini
Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars
Make You Feel my Love by Adele or Garth Brooks
Hero by Enrique Iglesias
Wherever You Will Go by Charlene Soraia
Iris by Goo Goo Dolls
I'm Yours by Jason Mraz
I Will Aways Love You by Dolly Parton (warm & sincere version) by Whitney Houston (grand & uplifting version)
There are so many songs out there that are perfect for a first dance. Why not tell us your favourite in the comments below.
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