If you’re working on your wedding reception timeline, you might be wondering when you should do your first dance. Should it be later in the evening, like after dinner, or earlier? Talk to your DJ or bandleader to help you decide when to do your first dance. You’ll need to consider your crowd, their energy level, the overall flow of the night, and what time you’ll need to be out of your venue. Here, we go through the options.
Typically, most couples save the first dance until after the sit-down dinner has finished; however, some prefer to head straight to the dance floor at the start of the reception, which is quite often referred to as the grand entrance.
For the next dance, it is the bride’s turn and her father (or the person who gave her away), while the groom dances with his new mother-in-law. For those that decide to do their first dance at the start of the reception, this should be done after the wedding breakfast. It is then the turn of the bride’s mother and father to dance, while the groom dances with this mother and then the groom’s parent’s dance with each other. The best man may then dance with the chief bridesmaid and the bridesmaids. These can be for entire or partial songs, and finally, all the wedding guests are invited up to the dance floor.
Many brides and grooms wonder if they should do their First Dance before or after dinner at their wedding reception. This will lay out the pros and cons of either option. Either way works, but you’ll want to assess which fits best into the overall flow of your wedding.
If, however, you both hate dancing, then have your master of ceremonies or the DJ invite the wedding party, family and friends to join you on the dance floor about 30 seconds into your first dance. This allows the photographer time to get a few of those all-important shots and takes the focus off you.
The song for the first dance should be personal to the bride and groom, and it does not necessarily have to be classically romantic either as long as it is of sentimental value. If couples are stuck for ideas, there are plenty of suggestions online – from the classic to the quirky and contemporary. Of course, there is no reason why you should follow tradition at all, and there are many alternatives to the first dance, especially if you want to do something completely different. Whatever you do, choose something that reflects both of your personalities.
There’s so much emphasis placed on your first dance: the song choice, dance moves, and any surprise elements—but when’s the best time during your wedding reception to have your first dance? Putting together your wedding day timeline can be challenging, but luckily, there are really only two good times to do your first dance.
The first time we recommend doing your first dance is immediately following your grand entrance into the reception. You can enter to a fun song while your guests clap and cheer, and then you can head straight to the dance floor to keep the momentum and excitement going. It also makes it the first thing you do at the reception, which is great if you’re both nervous and want to do it without further delay, or if you’re doing a surprise dance for your guests and want to show it to them or involve them early on. (You can also cut your wedding cake after that, too, if you wish to.) And if you want to get all of the dances done upfront, you can do any parent/child dances after the first dance as well. What can follow is everyone sitting down for the first meal course.
Once you’ve selected your wedding date and venue, booked your vendors, and mailed the invitations, it’s time to start thinking about the timeline for the ceremony and reception. You probably have a rough idea when several things will happen-the ceremony starts at 5 p.m., cocktail hour at 5:30, and the reception at 6:30-but what about the smaller moments that make up the celebration? Your first dance as husband and wife is one of the sweetest moments of the night, so timing it right is critical. Luckily, you have a few options. Here, we explain all of the times you can hit the dance floor.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Do You Introduce Your First Dance?
- 2 When Should We Do Our First Dance?
- 3 Ways to Maximize Dancing At Your Wedding
- 3.1 1. Consolidate your formalities towards the beginning of the reception.
- 3.2 2. Resist the temptation to offer any other distractions for your guests after dinner.
- 3.3 3. If at all possible, keep the bar in the same room as the dance floor.
- 3.4 4. Parent dances make the best transition from dinner to dancing.
- 3.5 5. Nothing kills a dance floor like a group photo.
- 3.6 6. Dance yourself!
How Do You Introduce Your First Dance?
Before announcing the first dance, make sure that you cue up the first dance song. It would help if you asked for a round of applause for the bride and groom twice, once at the beginning of the first dance and once at the end. Do not start the song until the bride’s father is close to the dance floor.
When Should We Do Our First Dance?
At the Beginning of the Reception
However, more couples these days prefer to introduce themselves as a couple at the start of the reception (this moment is sometimes called the “grand entrance”) and then head straight to the dance floor for their first dance. What’s nice about this option is that the grand entrance creates great energy and buzz in the room, and that momentum is sustained throughout the first dance.
First Dance Before Dinner
Doing the First Dance before dinner has a nice flow to it, especially if you are doing traditional bridal party introductions. Aside from the ceremony, this is the one time you ‘should’ have absolutely everyone’s attention in the room. (An experienced DJ/MC should not start this segment until he/she does) After seating the guests, the introductions start. The party gets introduced just before the bride & groom. The energy builds, sometimes a new song is played, and the couple is introduced, usually right into the centre of the room on the dancefloor. It’s a perfectly natural flow to transition into the couple’s first dance from this point. Again, the attention is completely on the couple. Guests are seated, and the First Dance commences. After the dance, they take their seats and you transition into possibly a welcome speech and a blessing/prayer and then into the dinner service. The family dances (Father/Daughter & Mother/Son) would then be done after dinner, and it a great way to segue into Open Dancing.
- It flows very naturally with the order of events.
- The focus is on you and remains on you during this time of the reception. As the reception rolls on, the focus gets spread about (toasts, family dances, drinking at the bar etc.)
- Attention is higher at the start of the reception, rather than after dinner. The one other time aside from the ceremony, we truly have everyone’s attention – seated in the room, ready for dinner, etc.
- It gets it out of the way. Many couples are nervous at the thought of their dance, so it’s nice to get it done with and out of the way.
- Brides – your hair, makeup and other niceties will be that much fresher, regardless of what a touchup will do. You both ‘may’ have fewer drinks in you too.
After the Meal
Traditionally, the first dance kicks off the dancing portion of the reception. So, most couples save the first dance until after the meal has been completed. This way, the evening’s dining portion has a more leisurely, relaxed pace; then, once everyone is done eating, you hit the dance floor for your first dance, which instantly shifts the mood into a higher gear. This also signals to your guests that it’s time for them to get out of their seats and celebrate with you on the dance floor.
The only caveat with having the first dance at the start of the reception is that you take away that signal to guests that the evening is segueing from dinner to dancing. However, an easy solution is to use the father-daughter and mother-son dances to kick off the night’s dancing portion. The parent dances will help focus attention on the dance floor and get the party started.
Depending on your ceremony’s start time and what’s on the menu, it might make more sense to start serving dinner before your first dance takes place. If you’re planning on serving multiple courses, meal service could go well into the evening, so carving out more time at the beginning for dances may not be in your best interest. Remember: Hungry guests are not happy ones. Even if you’re having a shorter meal, you may feel that it makes more sense to have your first dance after dinner. You’ll have time to adjust your makeup, change into a second dress if you’re having one, and relax a little before you become the centre of attention once more.
However, it may not always be preferred, or it may not flow as natural as possible to do the first dance before dinner. Therefore, it’s perfectly okay to do it afterwards. I believe this is more of an older tradition, and it seems that through the 2000s into the 2010s, it’s shifted more towards the latter. (I still meet with the occasional couple who seem surprised and never heard of doing it before dinner, which it’s totally fine too). The guests would be seated for the reception. We’d go through the typical bridal introductions, all to their seats and then essentially into the dinner service, possibly after a welcome and blessing/prayer. After dinner, speeches/toasts and anything else done during that segment, the dances would begin with the couple’s First Dance, followed by the Family Dances (assuming those are being done)
- Dancing is done in an entirely different room/area. This is a no-brainer.
- Logistically impossible – say you have a band or performer to sing your song that won’t show up until later into the dinner hour.
- You will not get introduced to the dancefloor. Possibly the dancefloor is on the opposite end of the room (not symmetrical), or the flow is otherwise too disruptive.
- The couple wishes to wait until after dinner to do all of the dances – either based on tradition or simply personal preference. That’s fine too.
After the Cake Cutting
Follow up on the momentum of cutting the cake with your first dance. Most guests will already be gathered around you and your partner, so it’s a natural transition. Plus, it’s custom to cut the cake after dinner so people will be energized and ready to continue celebrating by hitting the dance floor afterwards. Just remember to wipe off your face before the big moment if smashing the wedding cake is your thing.
Many couples don’t want to stop the party to cut their wedding cake, so by sharing your first dance immediately after the cake is cut, you’re effectively ensuring that your guests know it’s time to start celebrating. This works best if you cut the cake immediately after dinner, though, so make sure to time each portion of the evening correctly.
Either is Okay, Plan It
Either method is fine, and your experienced DJ/MC should be able to integrate either into the flow and work it nicely with the crowd, energy levels, etc. Just ensure you consider all circumstances and review them thoroughly with him/her during your planning sessions.
The second time we recommend doing your first dance is after the meal is over. Everyone will be paying attention (you may not get the same type of crowd if you do the first dance while salads are being served). You can easily segue into everyone being welcomed onto the dance floor right after (or after the parent/child dances, if you do those, then too).
Ways to Maximize Dancing At Your Wedding
Chances are, you’ve already been warned your wedding will go by in a flash – and it’s true – the day you’ve most likely spent a year, or more planning will be over before you know it. You’ll want to maximize those precious hours for dancing, so here are a few tips, based on our years of experience:
1. Consolidate your formalities towards the beginning of the reception.
As soon as guests are seated, introduce the bridal party, do your first dance, announce all toasts & blessings before dinner (you can save cake cutting & parent dances until after dinner – see #5 for more).
2. Resist the temptation to offer any other distractions for your guests after dinner.
We’ve seen couples provide cigar rolling stations, snack bars, outdoor lawn games, etc., all of which sound fun in theory but could provide an unnecessary distraction. Bands & DJs love a “captive audience” – in our opinion, an open bar and continuous dance music once dinner has ended enough to create an amazing party everyone will remember.
3. If at all possible, keep the bar in the same room as the dance floor.
Kind of an extension of the last point; you don’t want to give your guests any excuse to “escape” the dance floor. It’s too easy for guests to get caught up in a conversation at a bar located in a different room; it’s very difficult to lure them back onto the dance floor if the music is too far out of earshot.
4. Parent dances make the best transition from dinner to dancing.
Once your guests have finished dinner, the best trick to shift their focus from table conversation to the dance floor is to announce the parent dances. Then have the band or DJ invite all guests for one more slow dance, and BOOM! – Instant dance party! If there is nothing to serve as the transition, getting everyone’s attention could not be easy.
5. Nothing kills a dance floor like a group photo.
If you want the photographer to take group shots of college friends, families, etc., make sure there are taken care of during cocktails or dinner before the dancing begins. Once a DJ or band emcee has to make any sort of announcement or interruption, guests will stop dancing, and it may be not easy to get everyone back out on the floor again.
6. Dance yourself!
No doubt, your attention will be in high demand throughout your entire wedding day. You’ll be pulled here & there for photos, conversations, and congratulations all night, and there will come a time where you’ll have to put your foot down, get out there on the floor and enjoy the party! Guests will most likely follow you to the dance floor – so get out there and move!
If either of you are musically inclined, for example, you could perform a song that you have written for your better half. Alternatively, you could rent a trampoline and have the first bounce. Sporty couples could get the evening going with their favourite game (be it virtual such as Guitar Hero or recreational activity like rounders) and then ask the entire wedding party to join in.
And lastly, while the wedding and reception should be focused on you and your partner, bear in mind your guests when selecting the song list for your evening’s entertainment and think about including your parents, as well as the groom and chief bridesmaid, in the song selection.