How do you create one of those memorable first dances which will take your guests completely by surprise? Including dance lessons, choreography, how long in advance you should start learning, tips for a great performance on the day, etc

There is nothing like a couple’s first dance to tell the world what they think of each other and of being symbolic for the life that they are about to embark on. So how can you create a truly memorable first dance; one that will take your guests completely by surprise?

A Short History of the First Dance

The Wedding Dance in a Barn (Private collection)

Image via Wikipedia

A bride and groom’s first dance is a commonly accepted tradition in both Europe and America and is based on the old-fashioned concept of the ball where the guests of honor danced the first dance; a choreographed dance to entertain the rest of the spectators. This tradition was adopted by weddings and in days gone by a couple’s first dance was usually a waltz. But as time went by and more and more people lost their dance skills, it became more common to hire an instructor to help the couple choreograph the first dance, sometimes even working in unusual ballroom styles or surprise elements to make a couple’s first dance truly unique. So how can you take the idea of the first dance and make it truly yours?

Using a Dance Instructor

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

While one or the other of you may have preferences when it comes to particular dance styles, your first dance should reflect the pair of you as a couple and showcase both of your best traits. This is where hiring a dance instructor to help you tremendously.
Your instructor can assess both the bride’s and groom’s dancing abilities and help you to put together a dance that will showcase both of you at your best, and if the element of surprise is what you want, they are also adept at being able to work with you in making this dance truly unique and reflective of your personalities.
If you plan on choosing an instructor and having your first dance professionally choreographed, you are going to want to allow for plenty of time when starting your lessons. In fact, most dance instructors recommend weekly lessons for 2-3 months before the wedding in order to get your dance professionally polished, so plan accordingly.

Even if you’re having your dance professionally choreographed, there are some things that you may want to consider adding to your dance to make it truly yours.

Ideas for Unique First Dances

Choose a Different Song.
Choose a song that is different than the usual acceptable first dance wedding songs if at all possible. This is an especially good idea if you are anything but the usual or traditional couple. Choosing songs from a favorite movie or a memorable event during your courtship can make this dance extra special.

Create a Surprise Dance.
Surprise dances are dances that start out appearing to be a usual or traditional dance but which then abruptly turn into something else, usually something more playful or upbeat or humorous depending on the couple.

Audience Involvement.
Creating a dance that starts with the couple but which then expands out to include other members of the audience can be a big hit. Dances such as the Conga can be adapted to this particularly well.

Costume Change.
Since the first dance normally comes at the beginning of the wedding (and after the wedding pictures have been taken) this is a great time to work in a costume change. Being able to take off the long skirt of your wedding dress to reveal a shorter dance costume beneath will not only get a lot of cheers from your guests, but will enable you to enjoy the rest of the evening without having to contend with the bulk of your wedding dress.

While these are by no means the only options available to today’s couples looking for a first dance, being able to smooth out the details of your choreography with a dance teacher and working in a surprise detail or two can make the difference between a hum-drum first dance and one that people will remember for years to come.

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