By Veronica Braun with Simply Ballroom

One thing many couples tend to fear is the tradition of the first dance. Especially for nondancers, the idea of having to dance in front of all your friends and family (knowing they will record it and post it to YouTube) can be overwhelming! Sound like you? Then hiring a good dance instructor will be money well spent. Most people hire a wedding planner, caterer, photographer, florist, etc. to make sure their special day goes off without a hitch. Why leave your first dance to chance? Not only can a good instructor make your first dance easy and fun, but you will be investing in a skill that you can share with your partner for a lifetime!

Most dance instructors are very experienced in working with wedding couples and can help you whether you want something elegant and simple or something more extravagant. Here are some tips for a successful wedding dance.

1. Start early.
The biggest mistake instructors see is last minute couples. Dancing is like learning a language or playing a sport or instrument. You don’t necessarily need to purchase lots of lessons, but you do need time to develop muscle memory if you want to be comfortable and confident with your dancing skills. We suggest starting your dance lessons 2-3 months ahead of your date. Most couples take 5-10 lessons and practice in between. Keep in mind that the week or two before the wedding is usually very hectic, so trying to cram in last minute dance lessons can add stress to an already stressful situation. Do yourself a favor and start early!

Nicole Vance Photography

2. Keep it simple.
There are lots of crazy wedding dances on YouTube. Between that and Dancing with the Stars, we often get requests for extravagant dances that people have seen online or on TV. If you or your fiancé are non-dancers, keep in mind that learning to dance is a skill that takes time to develop. We can absolutely take a couple with two left feet and teach you something simple and elegant. But be realistic in the time and budget you have to dedicate to this. If you want something that you “saw on TV or YouTube” be prepared to spend more time practicing and money in lessons. It’s usually better to do something simple and with confidence than to stress over memorizing complicated moves. If one of you is a dancer and the other is not, respect the potential stress level of the non-experienced partner and for his/her sake, keep things simple!

3. Pick a song with a good beat.
Often times we get couples who bring in a special song that is very difficult to dance to. Pick 2-3 songs and bring them to your instructor to evaluate. Many popular songs are not intended as dance music and have a beat that is complicated to move to, especially if you are inexperienced. A good dance song can be slow or fast but should have a clear beat that is easy to follow. Also, not all wedding songs are a waltz. If your song is in 4/4 time (which most wedding songs are) it will likely not be a waltz. Slower, romantic type ballads are usually Nightclub 2-Step or Foxy. And more up-tempo songs can be a Foxtrot or Rumba. If you are looking for something very energetic, Salsa and Swing are good choices. If you are unsure, your instructor can give you some guidelines and help you pick a great song that suits your personality and wedding theme and will be easy to dance to.

Hayes & Fisk Photography

4. Use pre-recorded music.
It is not recommended that you have a live band for your first dance, even if you have hired one for the reception. Rather, it’s strongly suggested that you use a pre-recorded version of your first dance song. It is important for the music that is played on your wedding day to be the same tempo and arrangement as what you have practiced to! Many times, the version the live band will play is nothing at all like the recorded. If you insist on using a live band for your first dance, make sure you get a recording of the band’s version of the song. Nothing like spending time and money to learn an awesome dance only to be surprised (and probably freaked out) when your band’s version of the song is nothing at all like the one you’re used to.

5. Keep your dance short and sweet.
Most wedding dances are no more than 2-3 minutes. It may sound short, but when you are out there by yourselves on the dance floor with all eyes on you, it can feel like a lifetime! If your song is longer than 2-3 minutes, you can have your DJ fade the music when you want to end or invite other couples onto the dance floor. You want your dance to be fun and entertaining for the audience and not drag on and on.

Nicole Vance Photography

6. Practice in your wedding shoes.
If you plan to wear heels, make sure you practice in them prior to the wedding. This applies to not only heels but any other type of footwear that is not your normal footwear. It’s important to practice in the shoes you will be dancing in as this can make a huge difference. This goes for both partners in a couple! Also, practice in clothing similar to what you will be wearing. For instance, if you have a long skirt or tight skirt, it is a good idea to get used to that feeling and how it may restrict your movement. You do not have to wear the actual wedding attire, but you should practice at least once beforehand in something of similar length and fit. Be sure to let your instructor know if your movement will be restricted in any way. Underarm turns can be difficult if you have very tight, fitted sleeves. Dips and drops may have to be modified if you have a sleeveless top as you won’t want anything falling out!

7. Have fun!
Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves to perform the “perfect dance.” Enjoy the process of learning a new skill with your partner. Dancing is something you can enjoy together for the rest of your lives, not just the wedding. Don’t worry about making mistakes in front of your audience, all they will notice is if you are enjoying yourselves and having fun on your special day!

Simply Ballroom is a ballroom dance studio located in Chesterfield County, VA. To learn more about how they can help you with your wedding dance needs or venue rental, please visit www.simplyballroomva.com.