Have you ever found yourself at a wedding, eyeing the dance floor and psyching yourself up to impress everyone with your smooth moves? Or perhaps you’ve felt the opposite–trepidation and an urge to slip out the door without anyone noticing and sentencing you to a night of moving your body around and wondering “Am I doing it right?”
Not everyone who gets married likes dancing…but dancing is kind of mandatory at a wedding. Especially when it’s your wedding. Whether you’re a natural dancer or a robot with two left feet, you’re going to need to prepare yourself to dance with your new husband or wife at your wedding. Here is our definitive guide to choosing the right dance style, mastering the dance floor together, adding flair, and overcoming nervousness in order to have the most memorable dance of your life.
Choose the Right Dance Style
Consider the overall theme and atmosphere of the wedding when selecting a dance style. If the wedding has a traditional feel, a classic waltz or foxtrot might be appropriate. For a more modern and upbeat wedding, you could opt for a lively salsa or swing dance. Choose a style that resonates with both you and your partner as well as the vibe of the wedding itself. Here’s your cheat sheet for common dance styles for weddings:
Aiming for a classic, elegant wedding? A waltz is the perfect complement to this style. Graceful and refined, the waltz is a good choice for formal weddings or those with a touch (or more) of traditional charm. It goes particularly well in venues with an air of sophistication, such as grand ballrooms, historic estates, or elegant banquet halls. If you’re going for grace and sophistication, look no further.
The Waltz is a ballroom dance characterized by its smooth, flowing movements. The music is written in a ¾ time signature, which means that it is separated into groups of three notes that usually follow a pattern of STRONG-weak-weak, STRONG-weak-weak. The dance starts off with a smooth, gliding step in which the dancers move together as one, rise slightly on the balls of their feet, and lower back down with a gentle sway.
The basic steps of the waltz involve a combination of forward and backward movements, turns, and rotations around the dance floor. Partners often perform sweeping, wide steps, emphasizing the elegance and fluidity of the dance. The lead guides the follower through various patterns, including natural turns, underarm turns, and promenades, all of which are executed with grace and poise.
Throughout the waltz, dancers maintain a sense of connection and frame, ensuring a smooth and synchronized performance. The movements are characterized by a sense of floating, as if the couple is gliding across the dance floor.
If you and your partner would like to perform a waltz at your wedding, be aware that there is somewhat of a learning curve. Unless one of you is already an experienced ballroom dancer, you’re going to need to set time aside to attend a series of classes or online lessons and to practice regularly on your own as well.
The Foxtrot is a smooth and versatile dance style that suits various music genres, such as jazz, big band, pop standards, easy listening, and traditional ballroom music. It combines slow and quick steps, making it suitable for both slow ballads and faster-paced songs.
The Foxtrot’s basic footwork consists of forward and backward movements, executed with a heel-toe action. Partners take long, gliding steps, smoothly shifting their weight from one foot to the other. The lead initiates the movement, guiding the follower with subtle cues. In contrast to the Waltz’ ¾ time signature, the Foxtrox is written in 4/4, which means beats come in groups of 4 and usually follow the pattern slow-slow-quick-quick.
Continuous rising and falling action are present, and partners rise slightly on the balls of their feet as they move forward and lower their bodies as they move backwards. They hold their upper bodies upright and maintain a slight forward lean. The dance progresses forwards and backwards but also incorporates rotational movements like turns and promenades.
Salsa is a vibrant and energetic Latin dance style known for its infectious rhythms, sensual movements, and passionate flair. The music usually features precision, brass, and strong rhythms. It brings a sense of liveliness and festive cheer to a wedding reception.
The basic step involves shifting weight between the feet while moving in a back-and-forth or side-to-side motion. Beyond that, Salsa footwork is dynamic and intricate, with various steps and patterns that create a visually appealing dance. Other common steps include forward and backward steps, side steps, and turns–all of which can be combined and embellished to create more complex sequences.
What really makes Salsa a unique dance is the fluid hip and body movements that accompany the footwork. The hips play a central role in the character of the dance, and are engaged in order to execute isolations, rotations, and sways that match the rhythm of the music.
Salsa also allows for individual expression and creativity. Dancers can add personal styling, body isolations, spins, shines (solo footwork), and intricate arm movements to enhance the dance. Styling choices can vary depending on the dancer’s skill level, personal taste, and the style of salsa being danced.
Salsa is challenging for beginners due to its intricate footwork and quick tempo. Choose salsa as your wedding dance style if you’re feeling ambitious and appreciate the passion and hip movements of Latin dance.
Swing dancing encompasses various styles like Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing. It is characterized by its upbeat and lively movements, making it a fun choice for a wedding reception.
An advantage of Swing is its joyful and energetic nature; it encourages interaction and lends itself well to a festive atmosphere. Like Salsa, it allows for playful improvisation. It can also be adapted to different music styles, such as big band, rock ‘n’ roll, and gypsy jazz.
Swing dancing typically involves a “rock step” and a “triple step” pattern. The rock step consists of stepping back on one foot, and then returning to the starting position. The triple step involves taking three quick steps in a shuffle-like motion, typically done as “step-step-triple step” or “step-step-step.” These basic footwork patterns create the foundation for many swing dance moves. The rhythm is lively and syncopated.
Some Swing moves require physical stamina and coordination, so be ready to invest time in learning and practicing the steps.
Of course, these are just a few examples. Some couples opt for dances choreographed to pop, rock & roll, soul, or another genre. Some couples improvise their wedding dances, including their first dance as a couple. The sky is really the limit here. Also, note that the style of the music you and your guests dance to can also vary throughout the wedding. For example, you could dance your first dance as a couple together to swing music, and then change up the mood with rock & roll being played later on.
Instead of choosing one of the common dances described above or another style, some couples opt to tango with tradition by choosing a dance that is emblematic of the culture of one or both people. Going this route is a beautiful way to honor your own roots and/or the lineage of your partner.
When choosing a dance style for their wedding reception, consider your comfort level, how much time you have available to invest in practicing beforehand, and the overall theme of the event. Ultimately, you should choose a dance style that reflects your personality as a couple and that will be memorable and enjoyable for your guests as well.
Master the Dance Floor Together
Now that you’ve chosen your style, here’s how to prepare.
No matter which style you’ve chosen, you need to make some amount of time to practice together before the wedding. Ideally, you should spend some time practicing in a space that has similar dimensions and a similar floor to the wedding venue, although practicing in a variety of different spaces will build your confidence and adaptability as dancers. Start with basic steps and gradually build up your repertoire.
Coordinate Your Outfits
While not essential, coordinating your outfits adds an extra touch of style to your performance. Consider matching colors or complementary outfits that enhance the visual appeal of your dance. That said, it is also essential that whatever you wear allows for easy movement and doesn’t restrict your range of motion. Some couples conduct their first dance in the same attire they wore to the ceremony, while others change their clothes before the reception.
Choose Your First Song Carefully
Your choice of song sets the mood for your dance and even for the rest of the event. Select a song that resonates with both you and your partner. It could be one that holds a special meaning for your relationship so long as it matches your chosen dance style. If this is the case, explain its significance to your guests.
Add Style and Flair
Once you feel comfortable with the basic steps of your chosen dance style, take it to the next level by adding style and flair. Here are some techniques to enhance your performance:
Incorporate Turns and Spins
Adding turns and spins brings excitement and dynamism to your dance. Practice executing smooth and controlled turns together with your partner. Start with simpler turns and gradually progress to more complex variations as you become more confident.
Add Arm Movements
Arm movements add grace and expressiveness to your dance routine. Experiment with different arm positions, such as holding hands, interlocking arms, or placing a hand on your partner’s shoulder or waist. Remember to maintain a gentle and comfortable grip, allowing for fluid movement.
Make Use of Musicality and Timing
Of course, dancing is not just about executing the steps; it’s about interpreting the music and expressing its rhythm. Adjust your dance moves to match the music’s beat, melody, and emotions, accentuating certain beats or pauses for added impact.
End with a Flourish
As the song comes to a close, end your dance with a flourish. Do a romantic dip, a final spin, or a stylish pose to make your dance extra-memorable and leave a lasting impression.
Overcome Nervousness and Build Confidence
It’s natural to feel nervous before performing in front of others, especially if you’re not an experienced dancer. Here are some strategies to help you overcome nervousness and build confidence:
Before stepping onto the dance floor, take a moment to relax and calm your nerves. Simply taking a few deep breaths, doing some gentle stretching, or taking a moment of silence to just notice the sensations in your body and relax any areas of tension can do wonders.
Visualize yourself performing the dance with confidence and grace. Try to imagine every detail, such as the looks on your and your spouse-to-be’s faces (will you look serene? Excited? Connected?), the sequence of steps you’ll go through, and the feeling of the floor under your shoes.
Positive self-talk also boosts confidence. When you notice yourself engaging in harsh or critical self-talk, pause and ask yourself whether you’d speak to someone else the way you’re speaking to yourself at that moment. Then, reframe your thought in a gentler and more encouraging way. If you’re thinking “I’m never going to get that turn right”, reframe it to “I’m going to try my best on that turn, and if we goof it up, it will make a funny story and a cute photo.” Focus on the excitement and enjoyment rather than worrying about making mistakes.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
The most important aspect of dancing at a wedding with your partner is to have fun and be yourself. Let loose. Laugh. Enjoy the moment. Everyone around is there because they love and support you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Dancing at Your Wedding:
Q: What if I have two left feet? Can I still dance at a wedding?
A: You bet! Dancing is not about being perfect; it’s about enjoying yourself and having fun. Take it one step at a time, practice, and embrace your unique style. The most important thing is to let go and enjoy the experience.
Q: Is it necessary to take dance lessons before a wedding?
A: It’s not strictly necessary, but dance lessons are certainly beneficial, especially if you want to learn specific dance styles or feel more confident on the dance floor.
Q: How long should we practice before the wedding?
A: The amount of practice depends on your comfort level and the complexity of the dance routine. Start practicing at least six weeks in advance to give yourselves enough time to learn the steps and build confidence. Aim for regular practice sessions to maintain consistency and improvement.
Q: Can we improvise our dance or should we have a choreographed routine?
A: Both options are valid. If you prefer a more spontaneous and relaxed approach, improvising is fine. However, if you want a polished and well-coordinated performance, choreographing your routine is the way to achieve that. Choose what feels right for you as a couple.
Q: Can we include our own personal touches in the dance?
A: Absolutely! Adding personal touches, such as inside jokes, special moves, or surprises makes your dance even more meaningful and memorable. Let your personalities shine through and create a dance that reflects your unique love story and vibe as a couple.
Whether dancing comes naturally to you or not, the bottom line is that the time spent dancing at your wedding with your partner should be enjoyable. Do whatever you need to do to make that happen, whether it means taking lessons in advance, making things up as you go, adding your own style and flair, or anything else. So, let your inhibitions fade and relax into the magic of your wedding day.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]