By Tommy & Mairi Bettin

Dancing is a great way to help enjoy the journey before the wedding and makes the wedding day itself one to remember.  A fun way to start preparing for your first dance is to just go for it!  Throw on your song and just dance together.  Feel each other and get used to the way the both of you move to the music.  If you are looking for more than the high school sway, twirl and dip, however, it is not uncommon to bring in the professionals for some help.  Here are some options that are popular at the moment:

Choreography (The Classic)

This is where you will get a dance choreographed just for you.  As not all styles can be danced to all songs, we recommend that you choose your song first and then your instructor can teach you the appropriate style.  For example, “Open Arms” by Journey is a Waltz, whereas “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars is a Cha Cha Cha. When you feel confident with your moves and can do it on your own, the next step it to blow everyone away on your wedding day!

Who? Newlyweds, Father & Daughter, Mother & Son

Recommended preparation time: 2 months minimum

Recommended Length of Dance: 1.5 – 2.5 minutes

tips for first dance
Julie J. Photography


This is when you actually learn to lead and follow through your song.  Perhaps your instructor can choreograph a little entrance and exit for some extra applause, but that’s it.  When you choose this method, you’ll end up with a beautiful wedding dance and a skill that you can enjoy and share together for the rest of your lives.

Tip: Practice makes perfect! The more you practice, the better you will feel.  Try to practice in shoes that will be similar to the ones you will be wearing on the wedding day.

Who? Newlyweds, Father & Daughter, Mother & Son

Recommended preparation time: 4 months minimum

Recommended Length of Dance:  1.5 – 2.5 minutes

tips for first dance
Orrie Gaines Photography

The “Surprise” Mashup

This method is used to shake things up a bit. With first dance videos going viral lately, this is a popular choice.  It starts out with a traditional wedding dance song and then breaks out into an upbeat song with some less “traditional” dance moves such as the “Whip and Nae Nae” or even a popular country line dance.  This gives your dance a personalized feel and is a great way to incorporate your favorite songs and surprise your guests.

Tip: It’s always a great idea to make an extra copy of your music to have on hand the day of the wedding.  And make sure to let your DJ know the plan!

Who? Newlyweds, Father & Daughter, Mother & Son

Recommended preparation time: 2 months minimum

Recommended Length of Dance: 2-3 minutes

Rule of thumb: Leave your guests wanting more. Any longer than 3 minutes and they will get bored and distracted!

“Dancing with the Stars”

This is for the couple that really wants to shock and wow their guests!  If you have ever seen “Dancing with the Stars,” you understand the preparation is immense. The key to this method is patience! You will reach your goal with a positive attitude, consistency, and time.  This will absolutely top any wedding that you have been to and will become forever imprinted in your guests’ memories as the dance to beat!

Tip: Bring a notebook.  Writing down your steps and corrections allows you to practice in between lessons.  You can also ask the instructor to video your dance each time to see your progression and have help remembering what you did on your last lesson.

Who? Most popular with Newlyweds, but Father & Daughter and Mother & Son combos are getting in on the fun, too!

Recommended Preparation Time: 6 month minimum

Recommended Length of Dance: 1.5 – 2.5 minutes

tips for first dance
Paige Stevens Photography

No matter what you choose, take each step with a smile.  Remember, your guests are not there to judge!  All you have to do is get your lessons scheduled and enjoy the ride.  Congratulations on making sure the first steps of the rest of your life are done in style!

Tommy & Mairi Bettin are the owners of MaiTy Dance, the premier Ballroom, Latin, Social, and Wedding dance studio in Richmond.  As professional dancers and instructors, they provide top-of-the-line private custom dance lessons to students of any age and ability.  For more information, please visit