Groom-to-be seeking advice for our "first dance" at the reception
April 29, 2013 4:20 PM   Subscribe

I am a groom-to-be seeking advice on how two confirmed non-dancers can handle the "first dance" at our wedding reception. Difficulty: something we can figure out in less than 2 weeks.

We have put off this particular aspect of the reception because frankly neither of us is particularly eager to think about it. To be clear - this is mutual reticence, and would not be a source of tension or anxiety except, there is going to be that moment where we get introduced at the reception and have to go to the dance floor and do... something.

I (groom) have taken some ballroom dance classes, like about a decade ago, and could probably marshal the basic steps for a couple Latin dances, swing, etc. She (bride) has no dance background and thinks she is an uncoordinated klutz. I disagree with this perception, but anyway, we are not the most graceful dance couple is what I'm trying to say here.

My ultimate question is, what can we do for the "new couple's first dance" at our reception, given our level of non-expertise, and with only a couple weeks to figure it all out? We'd be somewhat embarrassed to go out there and "sway back and forth like we were at a middle school dance," as she puts it, but we also lack any other particular ideas. I understand that everyone has a different take on how to approach weddings and in particular how to manage the couple's feelings vs. the families' expectations, but I am hoping to AVOID advice like "OMG, it's your wedding, F the world, do what you want!!1" Our families have clearly expressed interest in the whole first-dance sequence, then dancing with the parents, and all that; we would really prefer to find a low-stress solution that mostly gives them what they want without making it awkwardly obvious for the first 3 minutes that we have no appreciable dance skills. Please feel free to ask for any clarification as needed.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault to Society & Culture (19 answers total)
 
Hmm. Are you willing to go...goofy?

I admit I am drawing inspiration from a clip I saw from an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond", where a couples' first dance at their wedding turns out to be a gag the couple have pulled on everyone - rather than the sweet slow song everyone expects, they dance all silly to Elvis. And thus if you want to try that approach, the Chicken Dance would be short - and hilarious.

If not - you could have a word with your DJ to kind of cut in halfway through and invite everyone else to join you after a minute or so to lessen the "on-stage" time; I just saw that happen at one of my good friends' weddings this weekend (they did the "slow sway like middle school" thing for a minute or so and then the DJ rallied other dancers to join them). The groom isn't usually all that sentimental (at least publically so), so I suspect that he had a lot to do with asking the DJ to help out there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:30 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been to a lot of weddings where the couple just sways back and forth to a song they like for their first dance. IME, at that point everyone will be so high on good feelings that it won't matter much what you do. Also, it doesn't have to be a full three minutes of the two of you - you could invite the rest of your bridal party out on to the floor after, like, a minute.

Alternatively, two weeks isn't too short of a time to learn a basic box-step waltz, if you contact a dance instructor right away and do a couple classes a week. That would be too stressful for me but it is an option.
posted by muddgirl at 4:31 PM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Every wedding that I have ever been to; the first dance is nothing more than the bride and groom holding each other, sometimes not moving much at all, more circling each other.
I think the point here is that the guest should see the love between the bride and groom.
Trust me, not one person at the wedding will ever think "God those two sucked at dancing!" They are going to be all "OH They love each other so much."

Play some slow song, my personal favorite is Tony Bennet's Just the Way You Look Tonight.

I apologize for the intro in the video. I couldn't' quickly find the perfect verson of this song
posted by QueerAngel28 at 4:32 PM on April 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


You can mostly do the swaying-together provided you really sell it by gazing soulfully into each others' eyes. Unless the bride has an enormous train, then practice a couple of spins and a dip for the end and you'll be in good shape. Both of these things are easy crowd-pleasers. For extra confidence, call around to see if you can spend a couple of hours at a ballroom dance studio for a private lesson anytime in the next two weeks.

If she DOES have an enormous train, then it is ridiculous to expect choreography from her.

Also, congratulations! As long as you end up married at the end of the night, nothing else matters.
posted by Andrhia at 4:33 PM on April 29, 2013


It's a slow dance. You sway to the music. You don't need dance skills, you don't need to know any steps. You don't need need to bean plate it. On the list of things that can go wrong on your wedding day, the first dance is down there near where the bride doesn't show up or grandma drinks too much and starts taking her clothes off.

Relax. Have fun. It's your day.

And congrats!
posted by COD at 4:35 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ask for a simple waltz. Arrange it in advance with the DJ.

You can both learn this on Youtube with no problem (unless there's a significant vision impairment for both of you ... in which case a waltz is probably easy enough that a semi-capable dance-person, not to say instructor, can walk you both through it).

Then plot out the waltz (as in: we will proceed to this pillar, then we'll angle toward the food table, then we'll angle toward the DJ, then it's back to the pillar). Waltzes are sufficiently simple that it's nearly impossible to look inelegant while doing one, as long as both partners have a general understanding of what's likely to happen.
posted by aramaic at 4:43 PM on April 29, 2013


You can also prepare a special cut of your song, if that works, so that's it a little shorter (fading in or out early) to cut down on the awkward "swaying in front of everyone" part. Dips at the end if you can safely handle it are always well-received, I think! And if you're doing a waltz or box step, make sure she's practiced it in her dress (bustled if necessary) and shoes so that it doesn't get caught!

Seriously though I think you'll be pretty adorable no matter what. Congrats!
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:18 PM on April 29, 2013


If you want a super-simple ballroom dance, you can absolutely both learn the basic east coast swing dance step, plus a turn or two and a dip if you're willing to give it a few hours of practice. My now-husband taught me in about that time frame, and it doesn't require much coordination. Borrow a dancer friend (preferably a lead) if you can, if not, YouTube has plenty of instruction.
posted by tautological at 5:22 PM on April 29, 2013


Unless it's a highly choreographed number, I've seen first dances that use one longer song, but the couple changes partners throughout in order to cover dances with parents, siblings, etc. You can all practice a simple waltz step and then all first dances can be easy and uniform.
posted by quince at 5:27 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


We were more concerned about being the awkward centre of attention for the first dance, rather than the dancing itself. It's awkward for everyone -- as the guests, it's not very exciting to watch two people dance by themselves for very long and then you're just staring. So! Make sure the song is short, short, short. (Ours was "I Will" by the Beatles, coming in at a blessed 1:46.) We didn't do anything fancy, just swayed. The mother-son and father-daughter dance were shared (and again, mostly just swaying) -- we did the whole song, but you could easily get your DJ to pull people on the floor in the middle of that one and take the focus off of you and your dancing. It'll be totally fine no matter what happens. Enjoy your day and congrats!
posted by pised at 5:31 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just follow Diamond Joe's lead.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:52 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the big reasons we picked Holly Cole's cover of Tom Waits' I Want You" is that it's only 3 minutes long. We told our friends to join us when the DJ transitioned to "Call the Doctor."

Dance Parties Erase All Memories Of Poor Slow Dancing.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:04 PM on April 29, 2013


I have been to a wedding where there was whispered shock over the couple simply swaying back and forth for the first dance. Why? One of the newlyweds was a dance instructor, and people were hoping to see something more creative.

If none of your friends and relatives are waiting with baited breath for your latest choreographic masterpiece, it's pretty standard to just sway back and forth.

However, if you want to actually dance in two weeks, you have time to take a few private lessons. Practice with the music you'll be using, the instructor might have some good suggestions. If the bride truly can't dance at all and isn't willing to try, you can dance with her as though she had limited mobility -- people who use canes don't tend to be able to do much footwork, but can still have the experience of the first dance.
posted by yohko at 6:22 PM on April 29, 2013


I honestly wouldn't worry about it. At our reception, my Dad and I started the dancing, then my husband cut in partway through and took over. None of us are trained dancers, we were just moving around the floor in time to the music, but it was fine. (Okay, by about 11 seconds into the song's intro, Dad had a slightly worried expression on his face and whispered "The actual song part is going to start soon, right?" but then the melody kicked in and it was all good.)
posted by Lexica at 6:28 PM on April 29, 2013


My wife and I took lessons, practiced different steps...all of that. And we STILL wound up just swaying and make little turns during the first dance. And it was just fine.

Just hold your heads up, square your shoulders and hold each other like you're dancing real steps and nobody will know the difference. Remember to smile since the photographer (if you have one) will be shooting the whole time.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:06 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just sway back and forth. You don't want to worry about choreography on your wedding day.

Having the DJs invite others up is a good idea -- either have other honor guests (parents, grandparents) join you, or get all the obligation dances out of the way in one dance number (people don't really like sitting through all those special dances in a row), or have everyone just come up (insist your best man/maid of honor/sibling is sworn to grab their date and join you to start the rush).

I was at a wedding where the DJ invited the bride's great-grandparents, as the longest-married couple in the room (BY A LOT) to come join the bride and groom after about 90 seconds of the first dance and said, "Bob and Linny, married 62 years, folks!" Then he invited all the couples who'd been married more than 25 years to come join everyone on the dance floor ... more than 20 ... more than 10 ... and so on. It sounds a little gimmicky in the retelling but it was really adorable and it was a nice way of honoring the older people in the room and the idea of marriage itself.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:36 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Remind your bride-to-be that she will be wearing a wedding dress during this dance. Nobody will be able to see her feet. All she has to do is shuffle around a bit and smile and it'll look like she's gliding gracefully across the dance floor.

We took some dance lessons before our wedding, and while it was fascinating from a sociological standpoint -- a surprising number of women in NYC get themselves totally hammered and then go to dance classes I guess hoping to meet single men and then look tragically disappointed when it turns out that there are no single men because everyone else there is part of a couple practicing steps before their wedding* -- it was not terribly useful during the wedding itself, because we pretty much immediately forgot all the steps we'd practiced because frankly we had other things on our minds like the fact that we were MARRIED HOW DID THAT HAPPEN, and we reverted to the middle-school circle-and-sway which worked just fine and is what most people do I think.

* seriously this happened twice during the six weeks we were taking lessons it was bizarre and terribly depressing I mean probably more so for them than for us of course but still
posted by ook at 7:45 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had two receptions, one without dancing and one with an impromptu, "Oh my god, you said we weren't going to have to dance in front of people!" sort of ambush from some well-intentioned friends. We obliged with the middle-school sway and felt like dorks. However, the video from that looks completely different: we were locked in an embrace, whispering to each other about the day, and taking turns singing the lyrics to each other quietly. We were afraid we'd look like idiots, but we didn't. We looked like a bride and a groom enjoying a semi-private moment in a day full of public declarations of our intentions.
posted by kellyk801 at 10:15 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, it doesn't have to be a full three minutes of the two of you - you could invite the rest of your bridal party out on to the floor after, like, a minute.

Lest you think this is some made up thing, I've seen couples who were nervous about their dancing skills do this, and it turned out great and every liked it.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:45 PM on April 30, 2013


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