The first dance

Published date: 12th June 2019

At what point did the first dance become such a big thing at weddings here? Thirty years ago it was pretty much unheard of. Now it’s accepted that – where there is to be further dancing afterwards – the bride and groom will get up and lead the terpsichorean charge as all their guests look on, the speeches over and the dinner eaten. As if the day was not packed with other nerve-wracking occasions.

We can probably blame Hollywood (though blame is the wrong word, the first dance is a nice symbolic gesture of love and your togetherness), first dances make for great drama: in The Time Traveller’s Wife we well up to Love Will Tear Us Apart, at once poignantly appropriate and inappropriate. But we don’t all dance like the beautiful people, so what are our options?

First up is the laziest – just wing it to something slow and smoochy. We’ve done it a thousand times at clubs and parties and other people’s weddings, holding each other close and turning a slow circle, hoping to avoid too much toe-crushing. Norah Jones’s Come Away With Me is fantastic for the sixth-form shuffle. But it is after all a special day, and you may want to prepare for this moment with a bit more vim. Dance schools all over the country advertise crash courses (not the most apt description, except in lesson one) to give you some moves. You never know, you could get the Strictly bug, and learning how not to look foolish is a good incentive for a groom previously reluctant to rumba, or too timid to tango.

Some couples like to make this a surprise element of the big day. That can be the nice surprise of them moving with unexpected grace to a romantic song of their choice. Or it can be an attempt at a big joke. Some of these work, but not many. That’s not to say that it should only be a slow dance – there is nothing wrong with a well executed but of funky struttin’. Good taste is always the safest option. If you can do the Travolta-Thurman twist moves from Pulp Fiction – Chuck Berry’s song is about a wedding after all – that could work, but can you?

A word about organisation: it would be a huge shame if you had learned to dance to one version of a song, and the band played another, or didn’t know it, or the DJ didn’t have the music available. Bands will nearly always be happy to add a song to their repertoire, but most will charge – they will need to rehearse it after all.

What do the stars do in their weddings? Jay-Z and Beyonce kept the royalties in the family by choosing their first collaboration, Crazy in Love, as did Sir Paul McCartney for his union with Nancy Shevell, though with his back catalogue there were plenty of options – they chose My Valentine. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban went with At Last, the Etta James classic (and they are far from alone in choosing that one). With as it proved a tipper-truckful of irony Kim (what does she actually do?) Kardashian and Kris Humphries selected Let’s Stay Together by Al Green – great song, rubbish marriage. Almost anything by the Reverend Al is good by the way. Brad and Jennifer had The Way You Look Tonight in the Sinatra version, class but it wasn’t to last.

In choosing the style of the song you need to think about the setting (it’s a wedding guys), your dancing abilities, and what the song actually says. Smack My Bitch Up is a great number from a great band, but on this day? Really? What will grandma say? Though soon she’ll have danced to it herself. Another one to avoid for obvious reasons (if you know it) is Yvonne Fair’s It Should Have Been Me, though by this time you are safe from any due cause or impediment interruptions.

Given the wedding is all about you as a couple it is good to find something that you both love, and of course that fits the day. Cue much debate. A hint to grooms – she’ll probably be the one to choose in the end, get used to it and realise that she’s probably right anyway…

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