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Why do we have a “first dance” at weddings?

Why do we have a "first dance" at weddings?

Wedding DJ & Party Entertainment in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk

This week’s Wednesday Wedding Fact is all about The First Dance…..just the mere mention of it sends shudders down the spine of many of the couples I meet with before their wedding day!

I have to admit, it’s not something my own wife and myself looked forward to nearly 20 years ago.

The thought of all eyes watching you wobble awkwardly around the dance floor for 4-5 minutes is something a lot of couples dread.

Where did the tradition come from?

Wedding DJ services from Imagine Wedding & Party EntertainmentBefore we tackle the modern day tradition of the first dance….where did it originate?

As with most wedding customs, the first dance has its origins buried deep in history.

In days of old, the wealthy used to hold formal balls. These could be for a particular celebration, or just to demonstrate their wealth.

European royalty was particularly known for such grand occasions.

The tradition in those days was for the host or guest of honour to open the evening’s dancing by being the first to take to the dance floor – thus taking the first dance.


The modern first dance

Nowadays it’s a traditional custom at weddings for the guests of honour (the newlyweds) to open the evening’s dancing with their first dance as a married couple.

How can the newlyweds be the guests of honour I hear you ask? 

That’s another old tradition which is rarely followed these days whereby the wedding reception was paid for by the father of the bride. 

It was traditionally a party to honour the bride and groom to celebrate their marriage.


What track should you choose?

Jamie & Gareth's first dance at The Sheene MillThat I’m afraid, is entirely your choice.

Traditionally it’s supposed to be the first song you danced to whilst dating each other. It could also be something related to a special moment such as a song that was playing in the restaurant on your first date, a song that was on the radio when you proposed, or it could just be a favourite song that both of you like.

Although I work very closely with my wedding couples and understand their choice of a first dance song, it’s really so personal that it’s not something I’m able to tell you what to select.

There are, of course, several songs which appear frequently as first dances

Those such as Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”, Aerosmith’s “Don’t want to miss a thing”, Bryan Adam’s “Everything I do I do it for you” and Lonestar’s “Amazed” are in my own very humble opinion, rolled out way too often. But – it’s YOUR choice.

It doesn’t even have to be a slow song by the way. In the past, I’ve experienced couples performing a rock and roll jive on the dance floor for their first dance and even had couples being carried aloft on their guests’ shoulders to a Fat Boy Slim track!

It doesn’t have to be scary!

Some couples opt to take dance lessons for this one, and relish in showing off a fancy routine to the delight of their assembled guests.

Most though will shuffle around the dance floor, some enjoying the moment, others not so much.

It’s also a great photo opportunity for the photo album to look back on in years to come.

There are options to this tradition which you may not have thought of though to make it just a little less scary…

Very few of my own wedding couples now do the entire first dance alone, especially if they’re nervous.

The current trend is for the couple to perform maybe around a minute of the dance alone, just enough time for the official photographer to do his or her bit, and then invite their guests to join them on the dance floor. It works really well!

But, how do you get your guests to join you?

Amy & François Wedding Reception at Witchford Village HallThere are several ways to achieve this. The obvious one is for me to ask them over the microphone to join you. Depending on who your guests are and how the rest of the day has gone, this isn’t always guaranteed to work though. Plus, they themselves might be shy to be the first to join you.

By far the best way to make this happen is to speak to selected members of your wedding party such as your parents, your bridesmaids/groomsmen and their partners before the big day and ask them to join you when indicated or at a certain point during the song. Other guests will naturally follow.

Coupled with this method, another way to open the floor to your guests is the use of a confetti cannon. They’re unfortunately not allowed in some venues due to the amount of clearing up involved at the end of the evening, but where their use IS allowed, it’s the perfect way to signal to your guests that it’s time to join you.

They also make a fantastic photo opportunity (I always work with the photographer when using this effect so that they’re aware of when it’s going to be fired).

Of course, you don’t HAVE to do the first dance at all! It’s entirely up to you and I certainly won’t force the issue if it’s not something you want to do….it’s YOUR wedding after all.

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