Wedding Waltzes

By Chandra Orr

December 19, 2008 5 min read


So you think you can't dance? Let the experts show you how

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Worried you might look a little silly doing the slow dance shuffle during your first dance as a couple?

Thanks to television shows like "Dancing with the Stars," an increasing number of brides and grooms are turning to professional dance instructors and wowing guests with elegant waltzes, sexy salsas and high-stepping swing moves.

"Unless you majored in dance when you were in college, it's unlikely that you and your fiancé are professional waltzers, but since all eyes will be on you for your first dance, you don't want to be stumbling across the dance floor," said wedding planner Joyce Scardina Becker, founder of Events of Distinction in northern California and author of "Countdown to Your Perfect Wedding" ($17, St. Martin's Griffin).

Don't worry if you're not the most graceful couple or if performing in front a crowd sends you into a panic -- your guests aren't expecting a Broadway performance, and there are plenty of little tricks you can employ to make sure you shine on the dance floor. The key to pulling off a killer performance is all in the planning.

Schedule your first lesson at least a month before the big day. During the first appointment, your instructor will help with the music selection and make recommendations on which dance styles best reflect your personal style and the tone of the wedding.

At a minimum, you'll want to schedule three or four sessions to learn the basic dance steps, and you'll need even more time to practice if you plan to perfect elaborate choreography.

"Take the dance lessons early, and don't take on a more difficult dance than you are comfortable with. A good instructor and choreographer can work with the couple's strengths and customize something specific to the music they have selected," said wedding planner Laurie Schmalzel, owner of Laurie Schmalzel Events in Sacramento, Calif.

Choose a song you love and a dance style that speaks to you. It's okay to buck tradition -- there's no law that says your first dance has to be a slow dance.

Whatever you do, don't over-commit yourself. If an upbeat two-step to the latest country hit is what you have your heart set on, then go with it -- just be sure you have the perseverance to practice, practice, practice. After all, the more you practice, the more confident you'll be on the dance floor.

"If you take lessons, make sure the dance is something you can manage to learn in the time you have," said Jolyn Saramaga, owner and lead wedding planner of Nuance Occasions in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. "Fred Astaire didn't become a superb dancer in six weeks. Make sure you work with a company or choreographer that recognizes your current skill level and gives you a routine you can manage under stress."

Keep in mind that the longer the song, the longer the dance and the more you have to learn and practice. To save time and sanity, skip the eight-minute classical interlude and opt for a short contemporary song for your first dance.

"If it's the spotlight you don't enjoy, then consider having parents and wedding party cut in half way through your song, after your professional photographer has gotten their pictures," Saramaga said. "For many couples, having additional people on the dance floor will put them at ease and make it easier to keep smiling during the song."

If dancing just isn't your thing, don't stress it. Your first moments together as a married couple shouldn't be awkward, uncomfortable or a chore.

"If it is not fun, scrap the performance," Schmalzel said. "Dancing is a wonderful activity that couples can enjoy for years to come, but if they are not cut out for the swirls and dips, the whole dance can look a little painful."

Instead, use your first dance to focus on each other and reflect on the momentous occasion.

"So much of the day is spent talking to guests. The first dance is often your only alone time on your wedding day," Saramaga said. "If you don't enjoy the spotlight or feel awkward dancing in front of others, simply stare into each other's eyes and talk about what you loved so far about your wedding day.

"Your entire wedding should be focused on the two of you, so if a tradition doesn't fit, find a way to make it your own and make it more comfortable."

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