Compare Wedding Insurance Guide to a Dazzling First Dance

Is waltzing round the dance floor at your wedding reception to the gentle crooning of Celine Dion not enough of a show-stopper for you? Perhaps you want to make a bold statement and have your first dance stand out in the memories of your guests. One of the hottest wedding trends is to learn a choreographed routine for your first dance as husband and wife. Increasing numbers of newlyweds are abandoning waltzing to traditional classics and instead are performing strategically planned dance displays to music such as the signature tune to Dirty Dancing, MC Hammer's “Can't Touch This” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.

According to Adam Gardner and Gemma Rogers of wedding dance company First Dance UK,

"It's very rare for a couple to just ask to be taught the waltz. A lot of the requests are weird and wonderful”.

You only have to take a look at one of the many videos of other couples performing their first dance on YouTube or Google Video to see this for yourself. We're just hoping some couples decide to copy the Austin Powers theme tune dance – it looks hilarious!

While we also love newlyweds Brian and Sandy Lundmark’s awe-inspiring rendition of Michael Jackson's Thriller dance, we have to say our personal favourite amongst the first dance wedding videos on You Tube is the body popping couple – it's so good!

This is a wedding trend which does not look likely to end anytime soon. In fact UKTV Style even devoted a new show, “First Dance”, to just that! Each show follows one of 15 couples on their journey from learning their specially-choreographed secret routine to executing it at their wedding reception. According to the Sun Newspaper, newlyweds Andrea and George Georgiou from Edmonton, who featured in the show, said they wanted to try something a bit different for their wedding day. They spent weeks preparing for their first dance to perform in front of their 500 wedding guests and their verdict was,

"It was a bit nerve wracking but when it came to do the dance, all the lights went down and everyone was laughing and cheering as we performed. It was amazing."

If you want your first dance to be a show-stopper and know nothing at all about dancing above and beyond a quick boogie at your local club then perhaps you should think about engaging the services of a dance choreographer. Companies such as First Dance UK offer a helping hand by teaching couples how to put together a dance routine for their wedding to surprise their guests. The choreographers can come to your own home and teach you a unique routine tailor-made to your choice of song and to your dancing ability. You don’t need to have any previous dance experience. A 1 hour trial lesson, costing £60, is recommended if you simply want to learn a few basic moves that you can link together for your first dance song. Alternatively, if you want to learn a full routine for your first dance song they offer a package of 5 lessons for £250.

Whatever you decide to do before you embark on the challenge of organizing your first dance here are some tips from us here at Compare Wedding Insurance:

  1. Orchestrating Your First Dance

    Initial decisions

    • You don’t have to be an exhibitionist to try a choreographed first dance - nobody is going to force you to re-enact the legendary dance sequence from Dirty Dancing. You could try something as straightforward as learning how to foxtrot round the dance floor or a few simple spins, dips and salsa moves. Whatever you do it is sure to be memorable to both you and your wedding guests (hopefully for the right reasons!).
    • You can choose private lessons with a choreographer, as mentioned above, or opt for the cheaper alternative which is group classes at your local community centre or school.
    • If you are on a tight budget and cannot factor dance lessons into your wedding plans then how about working out your own dance routine. Plenty of couples do it (take a look at the videos on YouTube to see other DIY first dances). Even if you don’t have the dancing prowess of Cheryl Burke or Patrick Swayze you can still put together a first dance sure to impress your wedding guests.
    • Be creative! The abovementioned newlyweds who body popped their way through their first dance came up with the choreography themselves. See what unique dance ideas you and your fiancé can come up with yourselves. You don’t necessarily need a professional choreographer or dance lessons, all you need is some confidence, the desire to entertain your wedding guests and a willingness to have plenty fun.
    • If you are looking for inspiration then look no further than the internet. As mentioned, there are hundreds of videos to choose from on the web.
    • There are also many easy-to-follow instructional videos and DVDs available to buy or rent which can teach you dance moves in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
    • Initially you should decide on a song you would like to dance to. There are plenty of options available to you. If you are undecided about your first dance song why not search online for a huge selection of appropriate wedding dance songs.
    • The best type of song to use for your first dance is one with a distinctive beat which is easy to hear.
    • If you are having trouble picking a song try practicing some dance moves together to your favourite two or three songs. Settle on whichever of the songs you both feel most comfortable dancing to.
    • Once you have chosen your first dance song let your choreographer know your choice. They might well ask you to let them have a CD copy of the song so that they can listen to it in advance of your first meeting to begin to visualize a suitable dance routine for you.
    • It is best that you dance to recorded music so that you get used to the timing of it and know exactly what to expect on your big day.
    • However, if you are intending to dance to live music make sure the band know how you want the song to be played. Provide them with a CD copy of the song you would like to dance to so that they can familiarize themselves with it before the wedding day. Additionally, it would be wise to hear the band play in person or request a recording of their version of your chosen song so that you can be sure they are going to play an accurate version for your first dance.
    • Alternatively you might prefer to copy a well-known dance routine (e.g. Dirty Dancing, Thriller, and Pulp Fiction) and use the specific song which goes in tandem with it.
    • Another decision you will need to make early on is whether or not you would like your choreographed first dance to be a secret or not. Part of the appeal is surely to see your guests’ shocked reactions on your wedding day as you wow them with your first dance?
    • Once you have decided this, consider whether you would like to invite family members or members of your bridal party to participate in the dance with you (We say participate because under no circumstances should you force an unwilling groomsman, bridesmaid etc to take part in the first dance if they are at all reluctant!). If they are agreeable you could arrange group dance lessons.
    • Some people feel that the first dance is the bride and groom’s moment to shine in the spotlight and thus the wedding party should not be included in it. If you feel this way but want to include them in your dance routine somehow you could have them participate in the latter part of the routine (check out the Dirty Dancing routine where the bridal party joined in at the end of the dance – it was really effective, particularly as the groomsmen were able to assist the couple with perfecting the infamous lift at the end of the song!).

    • Alternatively you could consider a second song for the wedding party to perform their own dance routine. We love this video of the bride’s father, brother, brother-in-law and groomsman replicating “Ok Go’s” dance routine to “Here It Goes Again” – what a fabulous way of entertaining your wedding guests. Your only fear with something like this happening at your wedding is that they will steal you and your spouse’s thunder on the dance floor!
    • When learning the moves for your first dance, try not to be overly ambitious. There is no point in you and your fiancé pushing yourselves beyond your comfort zone – you want to look happy and comfortable during your first dance not like a couple of deer caught in headlights! Be aware of your limitations and adapt the dance to suit you and your dancing ability. For example in one of the episodes of “First Dance” the groom-to-be suffered a bad back so he opted out of lifting his bride-to-be during the first dance routine they learnt.

    The 3 minute rule

    • Here at Compare Wedding Insurance we know that one of the most important things to bear in mind when choosing the song to dance your first dance to is that less is always more! You don’t want to choose a song that lasts longer than 3 minutes or you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention.
    • Just as wedding speeches should be kept short and sweet so that they don't bore your wedding guests, the same applies with your first dance. Ok, you might have spent months practicing the moves and you really want your guests to appreciate all of your hard work, but you can achieve this in 3 minutes – you don’t have to let the first dance drag on.
    • Remember that your first dance is supposed to be a gift to your guests not a means of torturing them!
    • If you do choose a song which lasts longer than 3 minutes, bear in mind that you do not need to dance to the entire song. Ask your DJ or nominated person in charge of music at your reception to cut the song or fade it out after a pre-determined point or if you are having a live band ask them to play a shortened version.
    • Alternatively you could invite your wedding party or even your guests as a whole to join you on the dance floor for the latter part of the song. Just make a decision in advance of the wedding day and let your DJ or person in charge of your music know what is going to happen once your 3 minutes in the spotlight are up!

    Practice makes perfect

    • You should plan your first dance well in advance of your wedding as you will need as much practice as possible. Ideally you should begin practicing your first dance 6 months ahead of time. If this is not possible, at the very least you should start your private lessons or your own practice sessions at least 3 months in advance of your wedding.
    • The earlier you start practicing your dance routine the more time you will have to make necessary changes before your wedding day. Having to make last-minute alterations to your choice of music, style of dance, etc are very likely to cause you stress (something couples certainly do not need in the weeks prior to their wedding day!).
    • First Dance UK recommends that typically couples require 5 hours of lessons to learn a first dance routine.
    • If you are involving friends and family in your first dance routine you must find time as a group to practice together. It can sometimes be tricky to schedule practice sessions for a large group. Make sure they can all commit to the practice sessions before you start learning your dance routine. It would be a shame if members of the group decided to pull out once you have started rehearsals.
    • Get as much practice with your fiancé as you possibly can (at least twice a week). The more you rehearse your first dance the more comfortable and confident you will feel and look on the actual wedding day.
    • If you are having private dance lessons, practice in between them at home. All you need is half an hour here and there and a bit of clear floor space.
    • Whilst it is important that you get to know every beat of the music in your first dance song, choreographers recommend that you practice the dance routine without the music too - this will help you to focus solely on perfecting your dance moves.
    • Remember that you are not a professional dance duo. Don’t be too hard on each other whilst you are learning and practicing your dance routine. It is inevitable that you will make mistakes but the important thing is to keep practicing and not fall out over it.
    • In the run up to your wedding you want to be able to enjoy your dance lessons with your fiancé so make sure you allow enough time. Taking an hour out of your schedules once a week in the busy build up to your wedding will probably be beneficial to both of you. Your dance sessions can become a date night where you spend time together and enjoy each other's company away from all of your other stresses, strains and wedding preparations.

    Dress to impress

    • It is important when planning your first dance to think carefully about what you will be wearing on your wedding day. You need to be able to comfortably perform all of your dance moves.
    • Check the length of your wedding dress. If it is too long your dancing partner might step on it during the first dance. During your dress fittings check that your heels are not likely to get caught in its hem. Ideally the hem should be at least 1.5cm off the floor.
    • If you have a wedding train be sure that you have the option to pin it up at the back or have it attached to your wrist to keep it swept up and out of the way during the first dance.
    • You might find that the shape of your wedding dress dictates what style of dance you are able to perform. For example, if you have chosen a dramatic ball gown style with a full skirt are you really going to be able to participate in a swing dance? If you are wearing a low cut strapless wedding dress are you definitely going to be able to execute a backward bend during the first dance without showing more than a bride should?
    • Is your dress tight fitting? Will you be able to dance comfortably in it?
    • If you have any worries at all about your ability to perform your chosen dance routine in your wedding attire, let your dance teacher know.
    • You might well find that some dance moves have to be moderated if your dress restricts them. For example, if you are unable to comfortably raise your arms in your wedding dress then you will be unable to incorporate spins into your dance routine as these require you to raise you arms above your head.
    • Whilst watching one of the first dance videos on You Tube, the team here at Compare Wedding Insurance couldn’t help but notice that every time the groom was spinning his bride on the dance floor both he and she were catching their hands and arms on her huge tiara. If you are wearing a tiara as part of your wedding attire choose one which is not going to hinder your all important dance moves. Our advice is to have a practice waving your hands above your head when choosing a suitable tiara - you might get some strange looks in the shop but it will give you one less thing to worry about during your first dance.
    • The best thing you can do when practicing your first dance is to dress in clothing similar to that which you intend to wear on your wedding day. In one episode of “First Dance” the choreographer arranged for a mock-up of the bride’s fish-tail wedding dress to be made up in cheap fabric for her to practice in.
    • If the groom-to-be intends on keeping his jacket on for the first dance then it makes sense that he should practice the dance routine in a jacket. This will be a great way for him to determine whether or not his dance moves will be restricted by wearing a jacket.
    • It is also important to make sure that you feel comfortable dancing in your wedding shoes. You should wear the shoes you plan to wear for your actual first dance to your dance lessons. This is important, so that you not only have the chance to practice your dance routine in your wedding shoes but you will also be breaking them in so that they adjust and stretch to fit your feet prior to your big day.
    • To avoid getting your wedding shoes damaged or scuffed during dance rehearsals you could wear a similar style of shoe to get used to the heel height etc or you could protect your actual wedding shoes by covering them with athletic socks or nylon stockings.
    • For the groom it is very important that he makes sure that the soles of his wedding shoes are suitable for the proposed dance floor surface. The last thing you want is for the groom to be sliding about the dance floor (keep in mind the episode of Friends where Chandler surprises Monica by announcing he's been taking dancing lessons but his wedding shoes are so slippery, he is incapable of dancing and ends up doing the splits on the dance floor!).
    • Also, if the groom is going to be wearing patent leather shoes for the dance, make sure that you break them in prior to the wedding dance as they tend to squeak when rubbed together. The solution is to rub some petroleum jelly or even hair conditioner onto the shoes where they rub.
    • If your shoes are too uncomfortable or impractical to perform your first dance in then there is nothing to stop you changing your footwear prior to the dance.

    • The same goes for your clothing - there is no shame in changing into an alternative outfit to perform your first dance in if you feel more comfortable doing so. Changing your clothing could be beneficial if you are copying a known dance routine (the groom in the Dirty Dancing video on YouTube changed from his wedding outfit into a black vest top and trousers, so he really looked the part). Consider your choice of clothes carefully – are you really going to feel relaxed body popping in your voluminous princess style wedding dress!

    Get to know your dance floor

    • The last thing you want before you perform your first dance on your wedding day are any last minute surprises so make sure you know the exact layout, size and shape of your wedding reception dance floor well in advance.
    • Even if you cannot see the actual space in situ you can at least ask the hotel or venue manager for the measurements of the dance floor you will be using on your wedding day.
    • If you have an idea of the size and shape your dance space will be you can practice and get used to dancing in the same amount of space. During the show "First Dance" the choreographer marked out the dimensions of the couple’s proposed wedding dance floor on the floor of her dance studio with tape for their practice sessions. This is a great idea as it means that if you are expecting to dance in an awkward shaped dance space on your wedding day you will be well used to it. You don’t want to run the risk of having your first dance cut short as you crash into a wall or collide with a pillar do you!
    • The size of your dance space can influence what type of dance routine you are able to perform for your first dance. If the space is miniscule you might have to moderate your routine and do similar dance moves but on a smaller scale.
    • If possible examine the dance space in person and try dancing on it (or at the very least walking on it) with your wedding shoes on. If your chosen dance space has a highly polished floor covering such as marble you might find it to be quite slippery to dance on (again, think of Chandler in Friends ending up in the splits position on the dance floor – not how you want your wedding guests to remember your first dance!). At least if you know what flooring you will be working with in advance you can adjust your dance routine accordingly.
    • In the same vein, if your wedding reception is going to be outdoors make sure that there is going to be a proper dance floor installed for you on your wedding day. If performing your first dance on grass is your only option then make sure you have plenty of practice dancing on this type of surface (and remember that the bride will definitely have to forsake her high heeled wedding shoes unless she wants to get stuck in the grass!).
    • When looking at your dance space you should plan where you are going to start and end your first dance. If you are using a professional choreographer take their advice as to what will work best on your wedding day.
    • Once you have decided, make sure that the wedding reception venue staff, DJ/band members/person in charge of your music, photographer, videographer and anyone else assisting you with your first dance (including backing dancers) know precisely where you will be entering the dance floor and where you will be exiting. You want helpers who are aware of your surprise first dance to be able to direct the wedding guests to the dance floor area at the right time and position them appropriately without any guests, venue staff or band members encroaching on your dance space!

    Things to remember in the run up to your wedding day

    • Ensure your DJ, band leader or nominated person in charge of music at your wedding reception is clear about when you are starting your dance routine and what is happening at the end of it.
    • You are better off performing your first dance at the beginning of your wedding reception’s entertainment. Once the dance is out of the way you can relax and enjoy the rest of the party.
    • Make sure your DJ has the correct version of the song you want to dance to – sometimes songs have alternative and remixed versions. It’s probably best to provide the DJ with a CD of your song just to be on the safe side.
    • Keep your reception venue fully informed of your plans for your first dance. Remind them that it is a secret from the rest of your wedding party and guests so that they do not ruin your surprise and also ask that the wait staff avoid the dance floor area for the duration of your first dance.
    • Remember to let your photographer and/or videographer in on your secret dance routine. They will need advance notice so that they can find the best viewpoint at your wedding reception to capture your dazzling performance.
    • Discuss with your photographer what style of photos you would prefer when it comes to your first dance. Full body shots of the two of you are preferable as you don’t want your fancy footwork to be overlooked in the photos!
    • The same applies to your videographer if you are using one. Let them know the layout of the dance floor and discuss with them the best positioning for their video cameras.
    • When you and your other half take to the dance floor for your first dance together as a married couple everyone is going to be watching – remember though it’s not just your wedding guests who might be witnessing your first dance. Newlyweds Julia Boggio and James Derbyshire received over 1.3 million views after the video of their first dance to the Dirty Dancing tune made it onto YouTube. What a novel idea and a sure-fire way to make your wedding reception not only stand out in every one of your wedding guest's minds in the years to come but also capture the interest of a million YouTube viewers!
    Dance tips for on the day
    • Your partner might feel nervous about dancing in front of all of your wedding guests - before the performance tell them how much you appreciate that they are participating in this with you and give them a reassuring hug.
    • Take time before and during the first dance to encourage each other. A smile from you is sure to do wonders for your dance partner’s confidence levels.
    • Walk onto the dance floor with confidence and hold yourself tall and proud.
    • Even if you are concentrating hard on remembering your dance steps, make an effort to smile.
    • Remember to look straight ahead and not at your feet when dancing (it is tempting to watch your feet if you are trying to perform complicated dance steps).
    • Listen to the beat of the music and make sure that you keep in time with it.
    • Whilst it is important that you maintain eye contact with your partner, try to enjoy the moment and look out at your audience too. It will give your confidence a great boost when you see all of those familiar faces cheering you on!
    • Also, try to look towards the photographer and videographer when you get the opportunity so that they get some good shots of your face.
    • Try to loosen up. There are plenty of first dance routines where the bride and groom are really stiff and unnatural looking and look like they wish they were somewhere else. Don’t let nerves get the better of you – after all your hard work try to enjoy your first dance and have some fun.
    • To prevent blocking each other's view as you dance, the bride should try to look diagonally to her right over the groom’s left shoulder.
    • Never surprise your partner with unrehearsed moves on your wedding day. Whilst it is great to be innovative with your dance routine prior to your big day do not try to introduce new dance moves during the first dance. You run the risk of throwing your partner off course or worse still off balance!
    • If anything goes wrong during the first dance just smile and keep going. So long as you look like you are having fun your guests will not even notice your mistakes.
    • Remember that you are not contestants on “Strictly Come Dancing” or "Dancing With the Stars" - your wedding guests are not judging your dancing skills! These people witnessing your first dance love you and will be enjoying seeing the two of you dance for the first time as husband and wife – that overrides any dancing faux pas you may make.
    • No matter how relieved you feel at the end of your first dance don’t forget the most important part of it – to give your dancing partner a well-deserved kiss!

We hope that these tips have helped you decide whether or not a dazzling first dance is for you. If you are considering putting together a dance routine for your wedding to surprise your guests then we recommend you watch the show “First Dance” which was first broadcast on UKTV Style.

If you follow our advice then your first dance should be exactly what it is supposed to be – a fun and romantic experience, the memories of which will last you a lifetime!


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