wedding dance

Your Wedding Dances: Planning and Etiquette

A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event for most people, and so it's important to make sure that your special day goes off without any issues. But, of course, one of the most fun parts about a wedding celebration is getting to participate in all of the dancing!

Whether you're planning your wedding and have not yet decided on the type of dance or are simply looking for some tips to ensure that you execute every moment with grace and style, this blog post is the perfect place for you! We'll be talking about common types of dances at weddings, what's expected from each couple in terms of planning their dance, as well as etiquette during the event.

There are many different types of dances you may want to have at your reception, but today we're going to focus on your "first dance" as well as how you should do the traditional father/daughter dance. We'll also talk about some etiquette tips for when it comes time for everyone else at the party to go out onto the floor.

This blog post covers various aspects of wedding dances and how to plan for them. From figuring out what type of dance you're going to have to what the etiquette is, this blog will help you navigate your way through the planning process.

Wedding dances are an important part of your wedding reception and can be a fun way to make memories with family members and friends. Read on for tips on making sure your special day goes smoothly!

Planning for your wedding is a lot of work. There are so many details to think about - invitations, flowers, venues and more. One detail you may not have considered is what dances you will do at your reception. The bride and groom typically get out on the dance floor first with their father or mother, but there are other options as well!

What type of dance should you choose? Dancing can be an exciting way to tie in some traditions from different cultures, or it can be a time where the newlyweds get together with all of their friends and family to celebrate how much they love one another.

Sometimes choosing the perfect song is enough for people who want something short but sweet (or maybe just really cheesy). Whatever works best for them!

Let's get started!

1. Steps to Planning the Wedding Dances

The wedding dance is one of the most enjoyable parts of the reception. First, guests can enjoy the music to their hearts' content. Beautiful music is playing in the background. Then, the newlyweds entertain their guests with a choreographed first dance. This will be a wonderful time to take some pictures that capture the spirit of the event.

Dancing at a wedding involves some etiquette. The bride and groom can arrange the order of dancing.

Choose your wedding dances

Not every couple opts to stage every wedding dance at their reception. Instead, decide which ones are important a few months in advance, enough time to prepare.

Book your choreographer

Many couples want to perform a unique routine designed by a professional. While it’s obvious that everybody has a different learning curve, we always recommend starting early since things can get crazy as the weddings get closer.

We also want people to feel confident and comfortable performing which comes with practice. So we recommend starting 2-3 months before the big day.

Reach out to involved participants

If you want the parents' dance or the anniversary dance at your wedding, give involved participants ample time to practice and choose their music.

Choose your music and prepare your band or DJ

Choose the music you want for each different wedding dance, then make sure your band or DJ is equipped to play it for you.

Practice

We hate to say it, but the most important thing is to practice. The less you have to think about the steps and remember the choreography, the more you'll truly enjoy performing and adding extras like smiling.

Have fun 

On the day of the wedding, everyone's there because they love you and celebrate your big day. So at that point, don't worry about the steps and just enjoy performing. No one else knows the choreography but you, so as long as you smile and have fun, you'll be a hit.

2. How to Host a Dance Party

A sign of an unforgettable wedding is when the dance floor is filled with laughter, dancing and all your guests, no matter their age. It can be intimidating to be the first on the floor, let alone the one planning it all, so MJ Entertainment is sharing a few expert tips to make you and your guests comfortable enough to get up and keep grooving.

wedding-dance-happy-couple

Kick it off on the right foot

After all the special dances are done, pick an upbeat song that your wedding party (or close friends) can dance to. Then, have the band leader ask your wedding party to join you on the dance floor and announce that the floor is open.

This doesn’t have to be choreographed or cheesy, but everyone up and dancing together makes for a fun, less frightening atmosphere for everyone.

Know your guests

Add in some special slow dances and call up couples to dance. Then, take some time to grab a few special guests and have them join you on the dance floor.

Trust the band

Let your band leader read the room. If guests are gravitating to certain songs, allow him/her the freedom to slightly switch up the setlist to keep the party going strong.

Map out the room

Ensure the band is in direct proximity to the dance floor and that no tables are in between. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of having the band directly in front of the dance floor. It's all about the exchange of energy between the band and the guests.

Make the bar accessible

If possible, have the bar in the same room as the reception. Guests tend to linger near the bar. Keeping everyone close to the music makes it almost impossible not to jump in.

Mingle early

A good time for the bride and groom to mingle with each table is after the toasts, during the salad course. This way, after dinner, you’re ready to cut the cake, dance with your parents and then get the party rolling.

Remember, your energy is contagious

Finally, and perhaps one of the most important tips of all, if the bride and groom spend a lot of time on the dance floor, so will the guests. If the newlyweds are up there busting a move, the guests will be excited to celebrate with the happy couple.

3. The First Dance

The couple's first dance is one of our favourite times of the day for capturing some stunning images. It's the time that the couple's true love for each other shines through.

Photography that personifies the couple and their new marriage are highly likely. Then, as friends and family gather around and the lights dim, they launch into a carefully rehearsed (or not!) routine to a favourite and meaningful song.

Poor Lighting For Ambience, Not Photography

You can never be quite sure until the lighting will be and have to act to adapt appropriately quickly. DJ's often love to dim the lights and use their own 'disco' lights for ambience.

This means you have to work fast to adjust the camera settings to preserve the atmosphere and get the shot.

NB: In poor light situations, conversion to black and white works well, and colours can appear muddy and dull.

How To Photograph The First Dance

It's very important that the newlyweds feel confident and relaxed going into their first dance.  Alcohol usually plays a large part in how they and their guests feel and behave from the reception onwards (more on that below).

You can try to chat with them beforehand and ask them not to worry about what you are doing but just enjoy their moment together.

As far as the photography is concerned, discretion is important, but you can use a wide lens and go in quite close for the more intimate close-ups.

We feel it is important to take a mixture of these and some wider, more contextual shots with guests in the background looking on, which adds context. If possible, you may like to take a sequence of photos, as this works well over a double spread in the wedding album.

Top First Dance Tip: Couples are sometimes unsure about having the first dance as they feel they will embarrass themselves. Don't worry – just 'be together'. Go for it and have fun (as in the photo above).

However you approach your dance is up to you, but don't overthink it and do try to enjoy it…As far as photography goes, it is crucial to have the first dance as it finishes off the set of photographs, and the results can be well worth the effort.

We’ve Danced Together, Now What?

At some point before the end of the first dance song, the couple usually beckons everyone else to come and join them on the dance floor.

During the second song, the floor is often busy with everyone wanting to dance, and it can be tricky to negotiate your way between people to get shots of the dancing and fun. Be sure you don't mind this at all.

The couple themselves often dance with their parents: the groom dances with his mum, whilst the bride sways with her father.

The Evening Entertainment

As with most facets of the wedding day, the entertainment options for later in the day are almost endless.

Some couples opt for a DJ, whilst others prefer a live band. Some even go for both for a little diversity throughout the evening.  We’ve attended weddings with comedians and drag queens too.

Ideas for entertainment for your guests needn't be confined to music or comedy either.  Other ideas include a photo booth, garden games in the summer (popular with the kids!), sweetie cart, a quiz game, dance-off or talent show or any combination of these and many more.

However, it’s the traditional DJ or band that couples return to for their partying time and again.

wedding-dance-love-couple

End Of The Wedding Photographer’s Day

You can normally stay until about half an hour after the first dance. By then, you have taken a huge selection of shots throughout the day, as well as some of the couple and their guests dancing.

You can always liaise with the couple before departing, and if they want me to stay later, I don't mind doing so at all.

4. Sequence of Dance Partners in Wedding

The bride and groom will dance first. This is the usual format. Then the parent dances with the couple - the father with the bride and the mother with the groom.

The groom's father will then dance with the bride and the groom with the mother-in-law. The meaning of this dance is that the bride and groom are each welcomed into their new families. If the groom or bride has step-parents, then it is proper to ask them to dance with the couple.

After dancing with the couple, the parents then pair with each other. After that, they pair with the other parents.

The sequence continues with the best man dancing with the bride and the maid of honour with the groom. Bridesmaids and ushers follow next until the entire wedding entourage has danced. The guests then can join in the dancing.

5. The Exact Order of Dances at a Wedding Reception

You just said, "I do", and now it's time to let loose! Dancing is one of the most popular wedding reception activities. In addition, certain traditional wedding dances—like the newlyweds' first dance, parent dances, and more—make the celebration even more meaningful.

But what is the order of these dances at the wedding reception? While the dance timeline might not seem that important at first glance, following a schedule will ensure that your reception flows well and gives guests time to eat, drink, mingle, listen to toasts, and yes, hit the dance floor, without feeling overwhelmed, or perhaps even worse, bored.

Work with your planner or venue coordinator to create a wedding-day timeline, and be sure to share it with all of your other vendors to make sure everything runs smoothly on your big day.

The DJ or bandleader has a particularly essential role here, as they'll likely be the emcee during the celebration. Ready to learn the order of dances at a wedding reception? Here's how your party timeline should look.

The Married Couple's and Wedding Party's Grand Entrance

While this may not technically be a dance, the grand entrance is still an important dance floor moment during the wedding reception.

As cocktail hour comes to a close, the wedding party members, including bridesmaids, groomsmen, best man, maid of honour, matron of honour, bridesmen, grooms ladies, flower girls, ring bearers, and more, are gathered and line up (often in pairs).

Once the guests have entered the reception and take their seats, the DJ/emcee will play some lively music and announce the wedding party members by name while the pairs enter the room. Instead of taking their seats, wedding party members may circle around the dance floor. Last but not least, the newlyweds enter the reception to great applause.

First Dance

After the newlyweds make their grand entrance, they may almost immediately begin their first dance. If guests are sitting down to dinner after the grand opening, the first dance will happen after the meal.

The first dance is a special moment as it's the first time the couple cuts a rug together as a married pair. The couple may have taken dance lessons for their moment in the spotlight, or they might choose to wing it—it depends on their comfort level and style.

Hora (for Jewish Couples)

At Jewish weddings, the hora, a lively circle dance, may directly follow the first dance to start the reception on a vibrant, joyful note. It can also begin after dinner to kick off the main dancing portion of the event. The couple, as well as their parents, are typically lifted on chairs during the hora.

Parent Dances

Parent dances, such as the father-daughter dance and mother-son dance, may occur at several points during the wedding reception, depending on the order of dances you wish to follow. Sometimes, parent dances arise immediately after the first dance. Other times, these dances will take place toward the end of dinner, after the toasts, or after the cake cutting.

For heterosexual couples, the bride dances with her dad, and then the groom dances with his mom. Other special relatives, like grandparents, may join in at the end.

However, you can handle these dances in many different ways—some couples may want to dance with step-parents or other important people, and LGBTQIA+ couples can also choose how they'd like to handle parent dances.

wedding-dance-couple

Wedding Party Dances

After the parent dances, the wedding party is invited to take the floor. The best man and maid of honour traditionally dance together first, followed by the rest of the crew. However, if the parent dances occur after dinner, the couple may opt to skip the wedding party dance altogether, simply inviting all guests to the dance floor.

However, if you're concerned that your guests will need a little push to start dancing, having the wedding party kick things off may be a good idea.

Party Time

The rest of the wedding guests are now invited to take the floor. An experienced DJ or bandleader will read the room and choose the right mix of fast and slow songs to get everyone moving and grooving.

Anniversary Dance

The anniversary dance, also known as the bouquet dance, is a sweet tradition that some couples include in their wedding reception. First, all couples in the room are invited to the dance floor as a slow, romantic song. The DJ or emcee then says something like, "Couples who have been married for less than a year, please take a seat."

Your emcee will then ask other couples to leave the dance floor until the longest-married couple is left dancing. After that, the longest-married couple may receive the bouquet (if there's no bouquet toss) or simply a round of applause from their fellow wedding guests.

Bouquet Toss and Garter Toss & Dance

Traditionally, the bride tosses her bouquet to the single ladies in the room, and the groom removes and tosses the bride's garter to a crowd of single men. After this takes place, the "winners" are expected to dance together.

You don't have to include the garter and bouquet toss in your reception—many couples feel that this tradition and corresponding dance is embarrassing and plays into gender stereotypes, plus it interrupts the blocks of dancing.

Post-Cake Cutting Dancing

Some couples choose to cut their cake directly after dinner, while others wait until later in the reception. If you're opting for the latter, another block of dancing should follow the cake cutting.

Because it's later in the reception, and perhaps your older guests may have retired for the night, this block of dancing can be geared toward your younger guests with a focus on more modern songs.

Money Dance or Other Cultural Dances

In many cultures, a money dance, also known as a dollar dance or apron dance, is a popular tradition and part of the order of dances at a wedding reception.

There are several ways to handle the money dance—guests paying to dance with the couple, for example—but they all end with the couple being given cash. This dance typically takes place toward the end of the reception.

Last Dance 

For the last dance of the evening, the couple may choose an upbeat song with everyone singing along, or they may select a slower, more emotional tune to close out their event. If there's an after-party following the reception, a livelier song is best to foreshadow the celebration to come.

6. Other Dancing Alternatives

This is the traditional sequence of wedding dancing. It is not unusual for couples nowadays, however, to do some variation on this pairing order.

Sometimes if parents are divorced, this kind of sequence might cause some awkwardness on the part of the parents. This is why in most weddings today, the traditional first dance of the newlywed is observed. After that, there is no particular sequence to be followed.

The bridal entourage can join. At times the guests participate with the entourage too. This set-up is more informal, and most couples prefer it this way.

Another alternative to dancing at a wedding is after the full dance routine of the bride and groom; the wedding entourage will also perform a full routine. This, however, will take time to learn and might be expensive too. But this is one of the popular alternatives used in weddings these days.

The first wedding dance of the couple is usually done after the serving of the main course. Often, it is performed right after the cake cutting. First, the Master of Ceremony must announce the cake cutting. This will signal that the dance is about to happen.

If the couple does a full dance routine, the guests should not cut in while dancing. Instead, the MC should announce that the guests cannot cut in or join in the floor until the dance is finished. This will ensure that the couple will have the floor to themselves, and the dance routine will not be interrupted.

The couple has free rein on how the order will go in dancing. After all, it is their wedding, and they can invent a tradition if they want. However, the couple must let the people who will dance know in advance.

They should be instructed as to when they are supposed to cut in or join in the dancing. The MC can announce the order by calling the next participant to the dance. If the order of people dancing is long, then expect to play several wedding dance songs.

wedding-dance

7. Wedding Dance FAQs and Etiquette

Sure, most weddings involve attendees boogieing down on the dance floor. There's hardly a better way to celebrate a new union. But many weddings also include special, traditional dances that spotlight honoured guests.

There's the first dance, where the couple takes their first spin on the dance floor. During the parents’ dance, the couple enjoys a special moment with the people who raised them.

Lesser known is the anniversary dance, which salutes couples who have been married the longest and the money dance, where guests surround the couple and slip cash to them.

How many traditional wedding dances are there?

There are four main ones: the first dance, the parents' dance, the anniversary dance, and the money dance. Different cultures and religions also have their customs like the hora, a traditional circle dance performed at Jewish weddings or the raas garba, a night of folk dances before Indian weddings.

Who participates in traditional wedding dances?

There are some general rules. The first dance, for example, is performed by the couple. After that, the parents' dance is performed by them and their parents (the traditional father-daughter dance now usually includes both parents, hence the name.)

The anniversary dance can include the longest-married couple in attendance or all the couples married over a specified number of years. The most inclusive wedding dance is the money dance; all wedding guests are invited to participate.

Browne has seen couples include wider groups in their traditional dances. We've seen a trend that consists of a slow dance by the couple that turns into a high energy Bollywood/Bhangra performance that includes family and friends and the bridal party.

When do the wedding dances take place?

While some couples like to start the reception with the first and parents' dances, others opt to spread them throughout the reception.

The money dance (also called the dollar dance or the apron dance) is usually performed at the end of the reception. That way, guests can symbolically send the couples off into a happy future.

Regardless of when the wedding dances take place, the key is to keep them short and sweet. You want to leave your audience wanting more.

Is it required to do all the wedding dances?

They are definitely not mandatory. But we think couples should consider incorporating dances since they are vibrant and festive and bring joy to the celebration.

What do guests do during the dances?

Some of the wedding dances invite participation. All guests, for example, can join in the money dance, and many older couples can show off their moves during the anniversary dance.

During the parents' dance and the first dance, guests are customary to watch as spectators until they are invited to join on the dance floor.

Browne has seen more guests get involved in traditional wedding dances. With more interracial and mixed weddings, we've seen lots of couples opt to include dance lessons to kick of the festivities but also teach their friends and family some Bollywood and Bhangra dance moves that they can perform or just use when they're on the dance floor. It's a lot of fun.

Do the dances have to be choreographed?

Absolutely not. While some couples like to have a choreographed routine for the first dance (also some parents want to have it for the parents' dance), it is not obligatory. It can be just as meaningful to watch a freshly married couple slow dance slowly together than have them twist and turn and leap.

Regardless of whether the dance is choreographed, it's important to remember that  "less is more". So make sure to create choreography that suits your style and is not overly complex or daunting.

What music is played during the wedding dances?

The couple and the people they are dancing with get to choose the music. Some people pick songs that are meaningful to them (perhaps it was playing during their first date or a father used to sing a song to his daughter when she was younger?)

Remember to keep it tasteful and a song to which you are comfortable dancing. Pick a song you connect with. You'll have to listen to it a million times throughout your lessons.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most couples will clearly state the dress code on their invitations, so guests need to pay attention to their wishes. However, there is one wedding guest etiquette rule that all the experts agree on: Guests should never wear white, ever! ... “Under no circumstances should you wear white to a wedding.

In a heterosexual partnership, the bride dances with her father, and the groom dances with the bride's mother. After that, the bride's parents dance together, the groom asks his mother to dance, then the groom's parents dance together.

Talk personally (not over the microphone) to the remainder of the bridal party to get them up. Have the Bride's and Groom's parents on the dance floor after a minute or so. At the end of the first Bridal Waltz, announce: “Ladies and Gentlemen, (Bride and Groom) invite you all to join in the dancing.”

Wedding Dos and Don'ts
  • Do hire a wedding band. ...
  • Don't bend your wedding budget. ...
  • Do hire a professional wedding photographer. ...
  • Don't do your own hair and make-up. ...
  • Do remember you're in charge of the guest list. ...
  • Don't forget about life after the big day. ...
  • Do wear in your wedding shoes. ...
  • Don't Rush Down the Aisle!

Your first dance should be between 2.5 to 3 minutes long. Unless you are a professional dancer, dancing in front of people for more than 3 minutes could feel like forever! Plus, you don't want to bore your guests with the limited dance moves you have.

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