If you can’t dance, or are terrible at dancing, the thought of dancing your First Dance on your wedding day is really stressful! But don’t worry, as I am going to tell you how to do a first wedding dance and how to do it brilliantly! The likelihood is that you dislike dancing, because it makes you feel silly or self-conscious. The truth is, even people who are usually confident on a dance floor can get anxious about their First Dance. These feelings are totally justified, as until you get married, usually ‘dancing’ involves bopping around at a nightclub or party. The lights are dim and you are surrounded by other people doing the same thing. Your first dance is totally different, there’s nowhere to hide. Obviously it’s just going to be the two of you, with all your wedding guests watching. Even worse, your guests might have high expectations of your dance moves, seeing as Strictly Come Dancing has made us a population of arm chair dance experts.

Do we have to do a first dance?

For most couples, dancing together happens occasionally, perhaps at clubs, parties or other people’s weddings. If you avoid dancing at those events, because you don’t feel confident enough, then the thought of your own first wedding dance is likely to be negative and full of anxiety. In this situation, you have two options. The first is, don’t do a first dance. That may sound dramatic, but if it’s really going to stress you out, it isn’t worth it. You should only do things that make you feel good on your wedding day. The second option is simple, although it will sound impossible at first. You need to learn how to dance. The good news is (believe it or not) that it’s actually way easier than you might think.

Learning Your First Wedding Dance

If you believe you ‘can’t dance’ the only way to fix that is to learn how to dance. You’ll need a wedding dance teacher, who will teach you progressively, literally one step at a time. Organising that is really very simple, you just need to book your wedding dance lessons (if you want to do that now, click to choose a wedding dance lesson package). Depending on how much time and budget you want to invest in your first dance, you’ll have either 3, 4 or 6 lessons, after which you will know your first dance. This sounds impossible right? Let me explains how it works…..

Bride and groom dancing their first wedding dance
Holly from Carter Hair Make Ups first wedding dance

How do we learn our first dance?

Imagine being on a nightclub dance floor about to dance. You can hear the music and you know you should move your body, but you have no idea which part of your body or in what direction. You might side step back and forth for a while, with a bit of a swing in your arms, but after a while that feels silly. In dance language, what you are trying to do here is called ‘improvisation’ or ‘improv’ as we call it in the dance world. You might know it as freestyle. The honest truth is that improv is REALLY difficult. Most trained dancers hate improv. I hate improv. Improvisation involves thinking of dance moves on the spot and somehow making them look good. Unless you are naturally gifted with rhythm and confidence, improv is super stressful and not fun.

Strictly First Wedding Dance

We’ve all seen Strictly right? We know they learn a dance in the week leading up the Saturday night live show. They don’t improvise, they literally learn it step by step, always doing the steps in the same order, practicing it again and again. This is the only easy and enjoyable way for most people to learn a dance. Your wedding dance teacher will start at the beginning with a ‘now you do this’ and ‘then you do that’ narrative. You’ll practice even the smallest of sections several times, until you know it. Then you’ll move on to the next part. Your brain and your body will know which part to move, in which direction and that makes dancing so much easier. The sequence of moves will always be the same order, so once you’ve learnt it, you can practice it. The more you practice, the less you’ll have to think about it, your brain will just know. You’ve taken the pressure off yourself to improvise or freestyle, so that stress will be gone, your confidence will grow and you’ll actually start enjoying it!

First Dance Routine vs Wedding Choreography

Knowing a sequence of dance (which is simply the order of the moves you have learnt) is called a ‘routine’ or ‘choreography’. A lot of wedding couples don’t like either of these words, as the feel it will be cheesy, staged and a bit showy. Often couples tell me they don’t want to learn a routine as it will look unnatural. Sometimes brides or grooms phone up to discuss their wedding dance lessons and say that they don’t want to learn a routine but just a few moves. The problem with this is that without the forward planning of which moves will happen when, your dance will be an embarrassing mess. Once the music starts and you start dancing, how will you know which move your dance partner expects to do next? Unless you can read each other’s minds, the only way to do dance fluidly together is to plan in advance the order that you’ll be doing various moves. Therefore you’ve made a plan, the plan is your routine, so you’ve ended up making the choreography that you were trying to avoid!

There is a disclaimer to this… couples with significant dance experience will be able to freestyle together, which is improv, or in simple terms ‘making it up on the spot’. This is because one of the dancers, which is often the male or tallest dance partner, has learnt how to lead. Learning to lead successfully takes years of dance training. Dancing with a good leader is a joy, as you are basically guided around the dance floor by them. It literally feels like you are floating. The leader decides the direction, pace and type of moves you’ll be doing. It’s fabulous. But sadly it takes a very long time to learn how to do it well and when your wedding day is looming, there isn’t time to learn such skills.

Wedding Industry First Dance Advice

We spoke to some fellow wedding industry professionals to see what their thoughts are on first wedding dances. Holly Carter from Carter Hair & Make Up said “I often talk about the first dance during hair and makeup trials, as I did a choreographed first dance at my wedding and loved it! It was actually my husband’s idea, which surprised me. He wanted a real shock factor as no one would have expected it from him. It was so much fun and we got some beautiful practice shots from our photographer too, as well as guests surprised faces on the day. It gave us a little secret plan together and we had so much fun doing it. It also took away the stress, knowing we had proper steps we’d practiced. We still got others to join us after about 40 seconds of dance, but it was a fab start to the evening and got everyone hyped up to dance”. Thank you to Holly for sharing your gorgeous practice shots for us to use on this blog, you look incredible!

Kelly Hawes is a modern wedding celebrant who you may have seen on Married At First Sight. She married Ella & Nathanial in the 2023 series, Keisha & Kwame in 2022 and Tayah & Adam in 2021. Kelly said “wedding dance lessons weren’t really a ‘thing’ when I got married back in ’94. I remember feeling really awkward just holding each other, rocking and going round and round – it was embarrassing. I really believe that if we had even just a few steps that looked like we could dance, this would have been so much more settling and enjoyable for us and our guests!”

The Best Way To Do An Amazing First Dance

So now we know, for people who can’t dance, the best way to learn how to do a First Dance before your wedding day is via a dance routine. Wedding dance choreography is a time saving hack to achieve your goal of doing a great first dance and more importantly, thoroughly enjoying every second. Enjoy!