The Perfect First Dance
by Amy Newson
Discover all you need to know about the first dance, from its very beginnings right up until today – and the answer to the all-important question; which song to pick?
The First Dance – A History
Perhaps one of the most symbolic and anticipated moments of a wedding reception is the first dance between the newlywed bride and groom. All eyes in the room turn on them as they spend this magical moment together. At the reception, where most of their time is spent celebrating with family and friends, the first dance is sometimes the first time the couple get to have an exclusive moment to themselves.
The tradition of the first dance is a popular element of European and American wedding receptions and is when the bride and groom, as the guests of honour for the evening, open up the party for the night.
But believe it or not, this is actually a more recently developed ritual. Before the Second World War, a proper wedding reception was the privilege of the rich. Wedding dances were exclusive to the upper classes and the reception part of the wedding was traditionally celebrated at the home of the bride. Families from lower classes wouldn’t have had the means to hold a dance to celebrate their daughters’ weddings.
Even for the wealthy, the first dance didn’t exist in the format it does today. A 1922 etiquette guide advises that the newlyweds shouldn’t join in the dancing until after their guests have begun to dance. They were then to only spend a brief time together before moving on to other partners for the rest of the evening.
After the turn of the 20th century, dance halls and other venue hires became a popular choice and the tradition of the first dance as we know it today slowly evolved.
The Modern First Dance
Nowadays ballroom dancing isn’t a common skill and luckily the style of the first dance is a personal choice. Modern couples will either enjoy a slow dance or learn a choreographed dance of some sort to entertain their guests and enjoy a memorable moment together.
There are still some weddings that will follow an etiquette code however. At a traditional wedding the bride and groom will start off the dancing part of the celebrations by dancing together. Then the groom will dance with his new mother-in-law, while the bride dances with her new father-in-law.
The groom will then dance with his mother and the bride with her father. The best man joins the dancing with the maid of honour or chief bridesmaid when the newlyweds first break apart to dance with their in-laws. Next the ushers and bridesmaids are invited to join. Once the first song has ended the rest of the guests are welcomed onto the dance floor. At less traditional weddings the first dance is often a more light-hearted affair.
How to Make Yours Special
It doesn’t matter what sort of wedding you’re planning, you will want your first dance to be special. One of the hardest choices to make – along with the venue, menu and everything else, is the music for your first dance. Not every couple will have a song that is ‘theirs’ (you know that symbolic, romantic tune that personifies their entire relationship – tricky!). If you get stuck, why not try perusing public wedding playlists online? They’re a great place to seek inspiration.
If you’re wondering what kind of genre to pick, some recent popular music includes: romantic (perfect for a slow dance), upbeat (to get the party started), indie (for a unique twist), jazz (a classic), fun (if you want a less traditional dance) and modern pop (for the chart lovers). From groovy funk to a romantic string quartet, remember this is your moment and it’s completely up to you how you want to showcase your debut as a newly wedded couple.
Don’t fret, everyone knows that the first dance can be a nerve-racking experience; after all it is a sort of public performance. Making these choices and preparing with your partner is the perfect team-building exercise in preparation for your upcoming married life together. But most importantly have fun with it; from the song choice to the choreography, it’s your wedding day!