Wedding Reception

Our guide to the all-important wedding dance

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The wedding dance can be something that strikes fear into the hearts of brides and grooms, but it’s still a bit of a reception must-do. Whether you’re known to slay the dance floor or you prefer to avoid the situation altogether, taking a twirl as husband and wife can make for simply beautiful memories. We promise. Need a little more reassurance? Here’s our guide to the all-important wedding dance.

Is the wedding dance still relevant?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the traditional wedding dance or first dance belongs in the era of grand balls and Shakespeare – to be fair, that is when it started doing the rounds. Today, it can be anything from a simple slow dance to an all-out disco number, so how you choose to get your groove on really is up to you. At its heart though, the dance should be all about celebrating your love for each other and enjoying the moment, which will always be relevant. “The fundamental things apply, as time goes by”, so the song goes…

When does the wedding dance or first dance happen?

Okay, we all know that the reception is the time to hit the dance floor, but exactly when is a bit unclear. Usually, couples will wait until what is known as the ‘party time’ of the reception, after guests have eaten, speeches have been made and the music livens up a bit. After the main course (if you’re having one) arrange for your band, DJ or MC to make an announcement inviting you to the dance floor. The bridal party normally joins in halfway through the song, followed by parents and guests. Another popular option is to have the wedding dance at the start of the reception when the bride and groom walk in the room and are announced by the DJ or MC. Instantly kicking off the festivities, this grand entrance will create a fun energy, but it does blur the line between dance time and dining. Whatever you choose, make sure your music provider and MC are in the loop, and keep in mind the time between your ceremony and reception. If your ceremony was hours ago, chances are your guests will be more keen for food than dancing… just saying.

Do I have to do the classic wedding waltz for the first dance?

Hell, no. The wedding waltz (or slow dance) is a go-to option, but it’s not the only one. In fact, many traditional wedding dances commonly involve all of the guests, making for a lively reception with instant party vibes. Have you got Scottish roots? A traditional reel will feel less like a scene from Braveheart and more like a festival when put to modern folksy music. Bollywood-esque dances at Indian weddings create a thrilling atmosphere that guests will love, while the traditional Greek kalamatiano will really get everyone on their feet. Embracing your heritage can be a fun way to mix things up, so don’t be afraid to do a little research or ask your married family members what types of dances they had at their weddings. We’d like to think your granny probably had a few sharp moves back in her day. Alternatively, getting creative with different dance genres can really make your reception memorable. Bust a move to your favourite top 40 tune, indulge in the cheese factor with some ’80s pop, or swing on in with ’40s big-band music. Choose music you love, something that reflects you as a couple and something that actually makes you want to dance (even if you do it badly). Getting creative with different dance genres can really make your wedding memorable.

Related article: Haven’t chosen a first dance song? Take a look at Spotify’s most popular wedding songs.

What about the surprise dance?

Ah, the surprise dance. Love them or hate them, you have to admit that they’ve boomed lately and have led to some unforgettable receptions. The idea is simple: start off with the DJ playing the expected playlist, then blast a chosen song – ideally well-known and fabulous – and burst out into a choreographed routine. Easy, right? Well, not always. Whether it’s your groom and his groomsmen showing off their hip-hop skills or the bridal party being fierce to some Beyoncé, the surprise dance is all about having fun. A bad surprise dance doesn’t come down to a wrong move, but someone being pressured to do something they don’t want to do. The other go-to tips are simple but important: make sure you’ve had some rehearsal time and wear something you can actually dance in. So, no strapless gowns. Bonus piece of advice? Kids on the dance floor might sound like a potential disaster, but they can be ridiculously cute if the moves are simple enough.

father daughter first dance
Photo by Evernew Studio

Are father-daughter dances still a thing?

Father-daughter dances are a long-held tradition that are incredibly sweet. Traditionally, the father danced with his daughter before ‘giving’ her to her new husband. However, today it’s more an acknowledgment of the people who raised you – whether that’s your mum, stepdad, grandfather, uncle or brother. The same goes for the groom and the mother-son dance. While they’re beautiful options, you also don’t have to stick to the waltz or slow dance. Celebrate the ‘dad dance’ and blast some classic rock, or get groovy with some Motown – it’s all about having fun and taking a moment to thank your dance partner for being there for you.

Feeling right on the night

The beauty of wedding dances is that they can be whatever you want. If you’re self-conscious, invite your bridal party and guests to dance when you and the groom take to the floor. Want to rock an on-fleek routine? Go for it. It’s your special day together and if you’re loving it, your guests will too.

Related article: Our fave 10 wedding dance videos


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