white wedding in melbourne first dance

Which Dance Comes First At A Wedding?

The wedding dance is one of the most enjoyable parts of the reception. Guests can enjoy the music to their hearts’ content. Beautiful music is playing in the background. The newlyweds entertain their guests with a choreographed first dance. This will be a wonderful time to take some pictures that capture the spirit of the event.

Dancing at a wedding involves some etiquette. The bride and groom can arrange the order of dancing.

Weddings are events that linger in people’s minds long after they are over for obvious reasons. They’re heavily photographed, video recorded, and talked about for years. They are also the beginning of a new chapter for two people and their families. The wedding is possibly one of the first memories of the families coming together, and the dance gives them a chance to make it a fun experience.

One of the most fun elements in many weddings is the dance. Some brides and grooms involve the entire wedding party in a dance production that involves hours and hours of practice, but there is nothing wrong with a more traditional approach to the wedding dance. Whichever you choose is fine, but make sure you keep in mind that it’ll be hard to forget if you do something embarrassing. 

Sure, most weddings involve attendees boogieing down on the dance floor. There’s hardly a better way to celebrate a new union. But many weddings also include special, traditional dances that spotlight honoured guests.

There’s the first dance, where the couple takes their first spin on the dance floor. During the parents’ dance, the couple enjoys a special moment with the people who raised them. Lesser known is the anniversary dance, which salutes couples who have been married the longest and the money dance where guests surround the couple and slip cash.

Even couples who love to dance can find it intimidating to think through traditional dances. Should they wing them or perform a choreographed routine? Will older guests cherish the anniversary dance or feel put on the spot? We asked Reba Browne, who helps run a wedding choreography business, to answer your most pressing questions.

General Wedding Dance Tips

  • For the first dance, choose a song that you love and speak to the relationship between the bride and groom.
  • Practice dancing to the song before the wedding. If either of you has little or no experience on the dance floor, take a professional lesson. A few ballroom dance lessons can make a big difference between feeling clumsy and having the confidence to dance in front of others.
  • If your wedding dress is long or has a train, bustle it, so you don’t trip over it.
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable for dancing. If you aren’t used to high heels, wear lower heels or flats. 

Types Of Wedding Dances

There is a proper order for these wedding dances, but these days people tend to enjoy mixing things up and doing something different from time to time. So, feel free to do them in a way that fits your wedding plans.

Newlywed Couple’s First Dance

The 1st dance will be for the bride and groom to dance their 1st dance as a married couple. This is the dance that has everyone’s attention as they watch the happy couple hold each other while swaying and listening to everyone’s cheers.

Parents Dance

Immediately after the couple has had their first dance, it’s time for the parents to join them. The bride will typically dance with her father, and the groom typically dances with his mother. If the parent is not present, then a substitute from the family will replace the parent.

Wedding Party Dance

Next onto the dance floor is the wedding party. The groom will dance with the maid-of-honour and the bride with the best man. All the bridesmaids dance with groomsmen, the ring bearer with the flower girl, and the ushers with each other or their dates.

Wedding Guests Dance

Once the above dances are completed, the wedding guests are invited to join the dance floor.

Money Dance

Late into the reception, the Money Dance begins. The bride dances with guests and they pin dollar bills to her dress, then they dance. It’s a lovely way to add a little cash to help the newlyweds start their life together.

The Sequence Of Dance Partners In Wedding

The bride and groom will dance first. This is the usual format. Then the parent dances with the couple – the father with the bride and the mother with the groom.

The groom’s father will then dance with the bride and the groom with the mother-in-law. The meaning of this dance is that the bride and groom are each welcomed into their new families. If the groom or bride has step-parents, then it is proper to ask the step-parents to dance with the couple too.

After dancing with the couple, the parents then pair with each other. After that, they pair with the other parents. The sequence continues with the best man dancing with the bride and the maid of honour. Bridesmaids and ushers follow next until the entire wedding entourage has danced. The guests then can join in the dancing.

How and when to get wedding guests on the dance floor.

When you start the dancing depends upon what type of reception you are having. If you are having a more formal affair with a sit-down dinner, you will want to wait until after dinner has concluded. Otherwise, start the dancing soon after guests have arrived and they have been greeted in the receiving line.

The first dance is traditionally between the bride and the groom. The song selection is often a large focus for the couple. Many couples pick a song with sentimental value, perhaps the one that was playing in the background on their first date. This dance can be anything the couple wants, however. Some couples opt for humorous choreographed routines, others just a traditional slow dance.

The second dance is usually reserved for the bride and her father, and eventually, the groom and his mother may join in. You don’t have to have the parent dances directly following the first dance. At some point, the wedding party should start dancing, or the DJ can announce to the crowd so that guests know they may now join in the fun!

Wedding Dance Floor Melbourne

Traditional Wedding Dance Order

Although there’s a specific order for the traditional wedding dance, any part of it may be changed according to the couple’s needs and tastes. Please make sure everyone in the entire wedding party understands their part.

  • After introducing the bride, groom, and the rest of the wedding party, the bride and groom share the first dance. Many brides and grooms practice this dance before the wedding because they know everyone will be watching.
  • For the next dance, the bride’s father dances with the bride, and the groom dances with the bride’s mother. After that, the bride’s father dances with her mother, and the groom asks his mother to dance, and then the groom’s parents dance with each other.
  • Starting with the best man, each of the groomsmen may dance with the bride, and the groom may dance with the bridesmaids. These can be for entire or partial songs, depending on the length of the reception.
  • Eventually, all the wedding guests should have some time on the dance floor.

Remember that all of these traditions are editable. There may be variables that prevent tradition, such as a disabled or deceased parent. Remember that the main goal of dancing at weddings is for the guests to have fun celebrating the new couple and often to create a tender moment that will have everyone swooning.

First Dance Etiquette

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.

If either of you are feeling at all nervous about your first dance, you should know both practice dancing to the song before your wedding. If the bride is wearing a long wedding dress or it has a train, she should ensure that the bustle is fitted to avoid tripping over it and also wear shoes that are comfortable for dancing. 

For those who want to be a bit more creative with your wedding dance, you could take up dance lessons. You could start out with a slow shuffle and then break out into a humorous choreographed routine to really help kick-start the reception, alternatively surprise guests with traditional ballroom dance.

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 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.

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. 

Wedding Dance Style

The Sway

This is the typical, go-to move for those couples looking to spend little to no time preparing for their first dance and focus energy on other aspects of wedding planning. Think of this as the “slow dance” you know from the high school dance floor – a simple sway back and forth with arms wrapped around one another. It can be performed to a variety of slower songs chosen for their personal meaning. This allows for light, sentimental chatting between the pair and a chance to relax after your “I dos.”

The Slow Dance (or Nightclub Two Step)

Many people wonder how to slow dance, but it’s actually pretty simple! This is a more formal version of “the sway,” as it includes a certain “hold” – right hands held together and left hands placed on either the shoulder/upper back or the waist – side steps on particular counts with the music, and some pivots. This wedding dance requires a touch more preparation than “the sway” to make sure you and your love agree with certain moves on the dance floor, and the song choice will be similar to that of “the sway” as well. Adding in some slow spins, dips, and lifts is a popular way to customize this form.

The Classic Waltz

Contrary to popular belief, a Waltz is slightly faster than traditional slow dance. There are a few different forms of a Waltz, including American, International, Country Western, Cajun, French, and Viennese. This style will require a bit of choreography – either by the couple or by a professional at dance lessons – as there are specific moves that make it into a Waltz: it involves a set of box steps and turns patterns. Song selection will likely be drawn from a sweet, modern ballad.

The Swing

A variety of different styles fall under this category, including the Lindy hop, jitterbug, jive, boogie, East Coast, and West Coast swing. If you’re looking into this wedding dance, be wary of your attire and make sure you feel comfortable – it’s quite fast-paced with more than a few lifts, fast turns, and leg kicks. It’s a fun, lively way to kick off your marriage – especially if you have a flair for vintage details. We recommend a professional choreographer! Ladies might consider changing out of their wedding gown and into a shorter, flowy dress with shorts underneath and comfortable shoes. Gentlemen should be wary of their shoes and take the time to remove a tighter suit jacket.

Dancer's dance steps

Mambo & Salsa Dance

Though technically different, salsa and mambo share a few key characteristics. Both are more fast-paced than the rumba and incorporate some complicated steps. The mambo is a touch more staccato, while salsa is fluid and rhythmic. If you want to bring a certain sensual but up-tempo flair to your first dance, either of these styles is an excellent choice. Please select a song that reflects the style: it doesn’t necessarily have to be Latin in origin, but those are always excellent tunes for this form. Work with a professional to make this performance all it can be, and note that a costume change into more appropriate clothing for this ballroom dance will likely be required. Note: a tango dance on wedding dance floors might also be an option, though it is a touch more sexual and serious than these two options and may not go over well as a dance at wedding events.

Hip-Hop Dance

The dance starts at the 2:00 mark. If you and your beloved are more inclined toward modern music than the classics and you’re looking to get the party going right off the bat, a hip hop dance number would do the trick. As a popular dance style of only the last few decades, there are many different moves from hit songs to choose from. Depending on your dedication, a change of attire may be necessary to get into this wedding dance. The key to hip hop is fun, and you won’t need a choreographer to make up your routine – typically, you can form one out of the moves you already know. Most modern hip-hop, rap, or R&B songs will create the perfect atmosphere for your dance. This form of wedding dancing makes a great transition into the celebration and will be enjoyed by wedding guests.

Enjoy the Dance

Regardless of what style of dance order you choose, enjoy it. This is a celebration, and everyone on the dance floor should have a good time.

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