First Dance Tips & Options

First Dance Options

Place Your First Dance In The Best Time Of Your Night

The first dance at your wedding is the pinnacle of your wedding reception. It is the crown jewel of your celebration. It is when everything finally seems completely finalized and official and you are the happy couple everyone hoped you would be. Don’t think about it too much, but don’t screw it up. :)

Choose Your Own Adventure

While I can definitely provide you with a list of suggested songs, let me give you a few options as well. In fact, when I do the planning with couples who have hired me as their DJ, I compare the planning process of their wedding to one of those old children’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. If you’re unfamiliar with a CYOA book, when you get to the end of Chapter 1, it will give you a few options as to where you’d like to take the plot next. Here’s an example:

Option A: “If you want the main character to marry the princess, turn to page 39.”
Option B: “If you want the main character to dump the princess, turn to page 58.”
Option C: “If you want the main character to get thrown into prison and figure out a way to escape for true love, turn to page 77.”

Let’s say you choose Option A. You flip to page 39, read the chapter, and at the end you’ll get a few more options as to where you want to go in the plot next.

If you’ve never read a “Choose Your Own Adventure”, here’s one of the best-selling book sets. (Disclaimer: I’ve never read it, but the people who reviewed it seem to like it.)

While I’m not trying to sell CYOA books, I do want to make the point my wedding planning with couples is similar to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book:

“If you want to start off your reception with high energy, you can do this.”
“If you want to have a captive audience when it’s time to give toasts, do this.”
“If you want to end the night on an upbeat high note, make sure you do this.”

I lead couples step-by-step through each moment of their wedding, and the result is a highly-customized wedding that is built upon the decisions made by the couple, ultimately reflecting their tastes and styles.

Unfortunately this type of planning isn’t the norm for mobile wedding DJs, but there are many that will offer a similar planning service. In my opinion, this planning is the most valuable part of my DJ service. Providing couples with an order of service down the minute is a pretty cool tool so you can know exactly when your reception will begin, when your reception will finish, and there’s nothing to worry about in between because I know exactly the type of night they are hoping for.

That being said, let me give you the options when it comes to your first dance and the best placement for it.

First Dance Placement Options

Option A: At The Top 

What I mean by this is that your First Dance is one of the first things you do when you enter your reception. Typically guests are already gathered in your reception location prior to your arrival. You can have a Wedding Party Entrance or a Bride & Groom Grand Entrance, and then immediately walk to the dance floor to share your First Dance as a married couple.

Pros:
– Your hair, makeup and dress are all fresh at the beginning of your reception.
– Your photos will come out better at the beginning of the reception as opposed to later in the reception. (If you opt to place your First Dance later in the evening, you can always slip out of your reception and freshen up prior to your First Dance, although this may not always be the best choice.)
– You have a captive audience. Everyone has been awaiting your arrival, and to kick if off with your First Dance, you will set the tone for the night that you have thought out the direction of the night and fun is inevitably going to follow.
– The dance floor is officially open. This isn’t to imply that people will come up and and dance right away, but occasionally people will want to dance during your dinner. If you haven’t yet held your First Dance, it is bad etiquette for guests to dance prior to the newlyweds First Dance. Holding your First Dance at the top gives guests the option to dance as soon as they feel ready.
– This is unique. Most couples have their First Dance later in the evening, so if you hold yours toward the beginning of the reception, you’re likely to make an impression on your guests that “this isn’t your typical wedding”.
– If you’re nervous about the spotlight being on you, this rips off the Band-Aid and gets it out of the way.

Cons: 
– Your First Dance is often what your guests look forward to most. If you hold it at the beginning, they might feel as though the main event has already taken place.
– If you’re nervous about the spotlight being on you, you might prefer to build up your courage for the First Dance by getting through dinner and having a few drinks first.
– Your guests are likely hungry at this point, and delaying food to them any longer may cause a slight resentment (although they’ll get over it within 3-4 minutes).

Option B: After Dinner

Assuming you’re having a dinner, you can place your First Dance as guests are finishing up their meals. (Sidenote: Make sure you eat food at your own reception. Not eating food is one of the biggest regrets that I have consistently heard from clients after their weddings in my post-wedding surveys.) By tying it toward the end of dinner, it is a natural segue to the rest of the fun events you have planned for the evening.

Pros: 
– This allows you to build up anticipation for your First Dance throughout the course of your dinner.
– Because this placement disrupts conversations that are already taking place, many people will miss the fact that your First Dance has started. If you don’t prefer the spotlight attention, this is a good option since it is less obvious.
– This creates an easy connection to other traditional dances, such as the Father & Daughter Dance and Mother & Son Dance.

Cons: 
– Connecting your First Dance to the end of your dinner may seem to your guests less planned.
– Your guests will be engaged in conversation with one another when you take the floor. This means you will have less of a captive audience and much more banter taking place during your First Dance.

Option C: After Toasts

One of the best ways to re-capture the attention of your guests after dinner is with your toasts. If you have a Best Man, Maid of Honor, or any combination of other honored guests planning on giving a toast, you can end your dinner with their speeches. Then immediately following the speeches, you can come out to the dance floor for your First Dance.

Pros: 
– This is the most common placement for the First Dance at weddings.
– You create an easy transition to your next reception event.
– You have a captive audience since everyone was previously listening to a speech.
– You have a calmness after dinner where everyone is happily fed and ready for entertainment.

Cons: 
– Because this is most common, your reception may have more of a cookie-cutter feel to it. You can still make it feel non-cookie-cutter-ish by rearranging some of the other events in the remainder of your reception. (ie. Don’t put your Father & Daughter Dance immediately after your First Dance. Instead, consider cutting your cake, have the Father of the Bride say a few words, and have him then personally invite his daughter, the bride, to the dance floor for a dance with him. This will bring tears to your guests.)

Option D: After Your Cake Cutting

Some couples prefer to end their dinner by cutting their cake right away. In fact, some venues require it. (These venues oftentimes will place a table in the center of the dance floor featuring your wedding cake. By cutting the cake immediately after the dinner, it frees their staff to remove the cake from the dance floor and cut it back in the kitchen while the reception moves on.)

Pros:
– This allows the catering and/or venue staff to cut the cake earlier, which means cake will be served to your guests earlier.
– This is not a super traditional order of events at weddings, so it creates a bit of a unique feel to your reception.
– Your DJ can invite your guests around the dance floor to watch the cutting of the cake. They are then already in place to watch your First Dance immediately after.
– You can place disposable cameras on tabletops and invite guests to take pics of both your cake cutting and your First Dance, and you will likely score some decent pics of both.

Cons: 
– Because your cake is served earlier, this also means the banquet staff is usually released earlier. While venues may spin this as a positive option, keep in mind that they may be strongly encouraging it not because it is the best option for you, but because they save on overhead by sending banquet staff home early before your reception is over. Once dancing has began, you don’t have a great need for a bunch of servers any longer. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured into cutting your cake prematurely simply because it allows a venue to keep a higher profit margin by reducing employee wages.
– If you happen to be a “playful” couple and are entertaining the idea of smashing cake in each other’s faces, this will create a very awkward moment (primarily for your DJ) if you have to leave your reception to clean up when you should have been dancing to your First Dance. This one misstep could potentially derail your DJ’s credibility and possibly kill the energetic feel of the entire reception. (I strongly advise that you do NOT smash cake in your spouse’s face. This will be a blog entry of its own at some point.)

My Suggested Placement

Of course I always have couples ask me what I suggest for them to do. That’s not really the point of a “Choose Your Own Adventure”, but I also understand that I have witnessed the good/bad/ugly in each scenario dozens of times where most couples have not.

My suggestion for your First Dance is of course to do what is best for you and your partner. If you are more of the traditionalist, go with Option C. If you are a bit of a rebel, aren’t shy and prefer to do things that are memorable and unique, go with Option A. I have seen many couples get convinced to go with Option D (usually by a banquet manager), but it’s not my favorite. To me it seems too rushed having those two significant events crammed back-to-back. My preference is to separate the significant events and spread them throughout your reception to keep your guests wondering what’s coming next. I don’t like Option B since you don’t have a captive audience. Even if you’re shy and don’t like the spotlight, keep in mind that your guests are there to celebrate with you and for you. If you begin to celebrate without them, they might feel as though they aren’t all that important to you.

All things considered, I would opt for Option A or Option C, with my preference leaning toward Option A. Option A is selected less frequently than Option C, but I like the road less traveled. I like what is unique and doesn’t feel like every other wedding. However, take my preference with a grain of salt. More than likely, you nor your guests have been to 600+ weddings, so “normal” might not be a bad option.

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