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Everything You Need to Know About The First Dance

By Rebecca Padgett


To many, the first dance is representative of your first moments together as a married couple. Your entire wedding day will likely be a blissful blur of greetings, photos, dancing, drinking and celebrating with your guests. These few minutes of being together, focused on each other, are very special and sacred to many couples.

To others, you may not see the significance or want to make a big deal out of this moment. To decide what works for you, we delved into where the tradition of a first dance originated and the details that are involved in planning your own.

Photo by Sarah & Paul Photography

What is it?

Traditionally, the first dance came about in the times of kings and queens, who invited guests to balls. The first dance was always led by the guests of honor, and it signaled the start of the ball. After the pair of honor completed their dance, the attendees could step on to the dance floor.


Do you have to?

Absolutely not. “Tradition” is not synonymous with “must.” A tradition is only worth doing, if it’s something you’re genuinely excited about. Maybe you have two left feet? Or maybe you’re a dancing queen? Maybe the thought of even more attention makes you tense? Maybe you adore being in the spotlight? Whether you decide to do a first dance or not is completely up to you as a couple.

Photo by Amy Riley

How to pick a song?

Start by selecting a genre or searching one out that you both like. Next, a good starting point is to look for lyrics that apply to your relationship or pick a love song you both love. If you can’t decide on just one, you can have the DJ or band compile a mix of your favorites. Feel free to think outside of the box in terms of what qualifies as a “love song” to you as a couple. It might be important to consider the tempo of the song, depending on the dance you want to do. A waltz won’t work well with a fast song, and you can’t necessarily salsa to a slow song. If you’re sure of a song, it’s possible you can find a different version or nicely ask your band to pick up the pace. Many people tend to put emphasis on the notion that the first dance song is the song of your relationship. Don’t get hung up on this, it doesn’t have to be a song that forever defines your love, but it will be a signifier of your love at that moment.


Choreographed or not?

This needs to be a decision made between you and your partner. Is taking dance lessons something that will stress you out? Or is it something you would both have fun with? For some this sounds like torture. To others, this sounds like something that will only bring you closer. It’s important to agree on if taking dancing lessons is something you want to spend money on and commit time to.

Photo by Paul Johnson Photography

How long should it be?

Around 2–2½ minutes. Less is not enough time to truly sink in the moment together. Much more, and people lose interest and you begin to feel a bit uncomfortable. If your selected song is longer than that, you can have it faded out or have the band play a shortened version.


How to make yours stand out? 

If you or your friends and family have musical talent, you can commission your own, unique song to be written. A costume change is something the attendees will take notice of. You can either change outfits completely or add props to your wedding attire. Flash mobs don’t just happen in the movies. Start with just you two dancing and then add in others. This is a great way to incorporate your bridal party and have them bond over learning the dance beforehand. It’s also a surefire way to get the party started.

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