Many couples leave it up to the band or DJ to choose their first dance song, and this is not the worst idea - these music professionals will have many good ideas for what will work well. However, just as you wouldn’t trust your dressmaker to pick a dress for you at random, you are better off carefully choosing your first dance song together as a couple, knowing it will be a memory you will treasure.
Choosing your song
Image by Fabien Barral
Your first dance song is your song. Maybe it’s that song that takes you back to that romantic getaway you had early in your relationship. Maybe it’s the song that was playing in the restaurant when your fiancé proposed. Maybe it’s the song the DJ selected as your eyes met across a crowded nightclub. Or even still, it could be the song your phone was playing when you matched on Tinder. There are no hard and fast rules - it’s about you, your partner and no one else.
If you can’t nail down a specific song, just write down all the songs that spring to mind, and then whittle down that list to your perfect choice.
Image by Cody Allison Photography
Professional dance lessons may be a good idea if you want to perform a tightly choreographed dance routine, but these are not mandatory. If you do decide to go the professional route, my advice would be to keep routines simple and flexible, rather than a professional style ballroom dance. The pressure of getting things just right in front of everyone, coupled with a few champagnes, often means things do not go as smoothly as they did at the dance studio.
If you opt not to take professional lessons, try not to overthink it - you are surrounded by the people that love you, and no matter what you do, it will be okay. Just relax and enjoy this special moment with your partner.
Image by Anne Edgar
Some couples desire a very romantic ballad, and this is what we think of when we think of the traditional first dance. However, this is just one option. You can choose something wild, something modern, something funky or evoke a particular era such as the 1920s or 1950s. Anything goes, and this is all about you putting your own stamp on your wedding reception.
Image by Alvin Mahmudov
The tempo, or speed of the song, will dictate the dance and energy of the song. A fast, upbeat song will create an “instant party” atmosphere that will likely set the tone for the night. However, a beautiful ballad (slow, romantic song) will create an emotional memory for you, your family and friends, so there is no right or wrong choice here.
Be careful with lyrics - Google search “(your song name) lyrics” and read them before committing to a song. Some songs that seem to be about one thing are actually about the opposite. Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” (which was very popular in 2016) is not about a long lasting relationship - it’s about a one night stand!
Image by Mitchel Orr
A typical pop song is 3 - 4 minutes long. That’s a long time to be out on the dance floor on your own, and many couples will prefer a shorter dance than this. There are a couple of ways to handle this: either ask your bridal party to partner up and join you on the dance floor at a certain point in the song or ask each of them to select a guest from the audience to get everyone on the dance floor as soon as possible. You may also ask the band or DJ to fade the song out at a given point and go into the next song. Let your music professional know what you want to achieve - more often than not; this will be “everyone up and dancing”, so you’ll want a high energy tune to set the tone for that moment on, even if your first dance was a ballad.
Image by Roberta Sorge
If you are using a band or DJ, make sure they can either perform your song or use your phone or music player through their system. This is pretty standard these days, but it’s still worth checking. It’s also worth having your best man or bridesmaid do a soundcheck with your music professional in the afternoon before the reception, so the volume is correct for the dance. Too quiet and it feels awkward and uncomfortable. Too loud and it will be distracting. I would strongly advise having your band or DJ take care of playing your first dance rather than leaving it up to the venue - in more cases than I care to remember, the venue’s sound system is not really up to the job and spoils this special moment. Even if the system is suitable, often the staff member who plays the music will have the volume set incorrectly (almost always too quiet). Also, for obvious reasons make sure you have set the phone to aeroplane mode if you are using a phone as your first dance music player.
Image by Andre Hunter
You’ll want to set up the first dance in such a way that the photographer can capture good photos of you both, as well as your audience. Ask your photographer to communicate with your band or DJ with regards to stage lighting - your music professional will be happy to redirect their lights onto the dance floor for your dance, ensuring a magical “lit up” dance floor. As with every important moment of your wedding, ask your guests not to take photos or videos via their phones during the first dance, as this can spoil your official photographer's first dance photos.