Congratulations on getting married!
I hope the magic of this time is outweighing the stress of event planning. As a ballroom dance instructor, I’ve choreographed and taught a great deal of people to get them ready for their weddings and I’ve had a lot of great experiences. Over time, I’ve figured out my way of doing things and it’s been very successful. Essentially, we determine a style, I give some basic (or not so basic, if you’re an ambitious couple) content that we bookend with a little razzle dazzle to get some beautiful pictures and some “oooh”s and “ahhh”s from the crowd. I try to take into account all the different factors of my couple, their style and the day in question to make each dance fit perfectly to them and their moment. Now, that sounds pretty easy and for the most part it is. If you’re up the challenge then let’s get started!
If you like to hear a little bit more about what’ll make the process smooth and easy, I encourage you to keep reading.
I have helped a lot of couples prepare for their first dance and have quite a bit to say on the subject. This page will try to communicate the many things I have learned over the years about the intricacies of preparing your first dance as well as any other performance or special occasion. My first question is are you willing to put in the work? If the answer to that was “yes” then feel free to keep reading.
Regardless of the complexity of your routine, your dance experience or amount of lessons, the factor I stress most is that practice is essential to anyone’s success. Most couples will have big ideas that will be severely limited by their ability to commit to a practice schedule. I always say couples should start by practicing separately once they’ve begun learning; you should try to do everything at least twice alone for every one time with a partner. Go at your own pace, find time within your own schedule and master your own part before attempting to coordinate with another person’s timetable and dance abilities. If you feel strong about your part, you will be a better-prepared partner and more able to push through difficulties. And practicing needn’t be a long, drawn out session. Break it up into small, manageable chunks that you can diffuse throughout your day. Make a little bit of time to dance a little bit. That way it becomes off-hand and reflexive and you won’t be too precious about it. World Professional Ballroom Champions Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova say they’ve never been satisfied with the way they’ve danced. The trick to dancing isn’t perfecting it, it’s sailing through the mistakes and continuing on with the same confidence you had before. So with all that in mind, all of our time in lessons will be better spent if you can commit to practicing and adhering to what you’ve learned.
Many couples have a song in mind for their dance with a special meaning behind it and that’s fantastic. The more meaning and sentiment you can infuse into your performance, the better. However if you don’t have a song in mind, not to worry! I would honestly say most couples come to me without a song chosen and many who do have a song aren’t particularly attached to it. To these couples I say, “don’t worry so much about the song itself, but the feeling of what you’re trying to present.” Once you figure out the tone you want, it’s very easy to decide upon a style and then a song. There are dozens of databases across the internet with songs for particular styles and I can provide a number of suggestions as well. If you do have a song, you must be willing to adapt yourself to it. If your song only works for waltz, you should probably dance a waltz. Otherwise, you can very easily look unprepared and off-time. Even if you only learn one figure, the most important thing is being connected and musical.
As I’ve said before, style is a large factor in wedding dances because they very much set the tone for your dance. Some folks already have a style in mind when they start thanks to dances they’ve seen on TV or pieces of music they’ve picked out. Some couples just find a style they like and build a dance around that. One of my favorite couples I’ve ever worked with came wanting to dance Viennese waltz and ended up dancing to the song I gave them for practice because they liked it so much. Unless your heart is absolutely set on one song in particular, come with an open mind and enjoy the surprise of creating something original and personal. But just to give you an idea of the styles, I’ve provided a short list of popular wedding dance styles below. This is more of a generalization than anything to take to heart but it’s a place to start getting an idea of how you want this moment to feel.
Fun & light-hearted: Swing, Merengue, Hustle
Regal & Elegant: Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot
Relaxed & Romantic: Nightclub Two-Step, Rumba, Foxtrot
Here are a number of questions I ask all my couples to help us all plan ahead. The answers will help paint a picture of the actual day and the actual dance.
How big is the floor you’ll be dancing on and what is it made of?
What sides will the audience be on?
Band or DJ?
Where will your photographer(s) be?
Do you already have your shoes or something analogous to wear to your lessons?
Do you plan on dancing your whole song? (Most couples dance about 90 seconds to two minutes.)
Do you want to walk on to your music or have it start once you’re on the floor?
Ladies (or gents, no judgments), is your gown long? Poofy? Strapless?
In the event of a dip, lift (tread lightly) or trick, do you have an injury or limitation you’d want me to avoid?