Wedding Choreography: Is It Right For You?

– posted by Maria

From Vince & Lisa's West Coast Swing wedding dance, taught & choreographed by Smoothstyle.

From Vince & Lisa’s West Coast Swing wedding dance, taught & choreographed by Smoothstyle.

It’s that time again! We are getting many inquiries about our Wedding Dance Package, and are helping some couples (as well as some couples AND their wedding parties) create memorable first dances for their special days.

For some couples and families, this can be a very fun and rewarding thing to do. Learning something new together is an incredible way to experience a partner or friend in a new way, and it can create a new level of bonding between you, or between a bride and her father or groom and his mother.

But it’s not always the right choice for every couple. While many people (O.K., let’s be honest, it’s usually the brides) have a romantic idea in their minds about the importance of a beautiful first dance, if that dream isn’t shared by all participants, it can make preparing for your wedding stressful and even contentious.

Here are some things to consider before embarking on Wedding Dance Lessons, some tips for making the experience more successful, and some alternative ideas!

Before Taking the Plunge

I’ll just tell it straight: if one of the wedding couple has performance anxiety or does not like attention being directed at him or her, the wedding day alone will be plenty stressful. Adding dance lessons and a dance performance to the mix is not a good idea UNLESS that individual has decided that he or she wants to use it as a challenge to overcome their fears (in which case it can be very exhilarating).

Before you take the plunge, have some honest conversations about it. In many cases, one partner wants to please the other, and will make a great effort to do so, but stress levels and tension simply mount as the day draws closer. You must be honest and open enough with each other to create a safe space of non-judgement for one (or both!) partners to admit, “I really don’t want to do this” without fear of crushing the other’s dreams.

Making Wedding Dance Lessons More Successful

From Paul & Sarah's wedding dance, taught and choreographed by Smoothstyle. Photo by Stephanie Cantin Photography.

From Paul & Sarah’s wedding dance, taught and choreographed by Smoothstyle. Photo by Stephanie Cantin Photography.

Some tips for success:

  • Set your expectations. Unless you have both had some years of dance training, your wedding dance is not likely going to live up to Hollywood (or Bollywood) standards. That doesn’t mean it won’t be fun and impressive — your guests are there because they love you and they will adore not only what you perform for them but also the effort and love that went into preparing it.
  • Choose a few different songs that you like, and let your instructor choose the best one for you. Different dances are made for different types of music, and your instructor will need the opportunity to choose a dance that can be learned based on your skills, strengths, and the amount of time there is for lessons.
  • Start 4-6 months in advance. Dancing With the Stars is not a normal person’s reality — those people spend 6 or more hours a day for a week preparing each dance — at least 30 hours. And they put their day jobs on hold to do it. And they have nannies.
  • Put practice into your schedules. A good rule of thumb is 4 hours of practice for every 1 hour of lessons. If that’s not feasible, you must be able to spend at least 20 minutes twice a week on this goal, in addition to your lessons.
  • Learn the dance in shoes similar to what you’ll wear at the wedding reception, and in clothing that is similar as well. Especially if you will be wearing a dress, come to the lessons and practice in a similar style and length of dress as what the bridal gown will be.
  • Focus only on you. This is good advice for any partner dancer, really. Rather than trying to “help” or coach your partner, leave that up to your dance instructor and focus only on YOUR part in the dance. Believe it or not, doing so will actually make you better able to contribute if problem-solving is needed during the big moment.
  • Plan for the unexpected and take it in stride. Perhaps there will be a wardrobe malfunction. Maybe someone will forget the routine in the heat of the moment. Sometimes the music doesn’t start properly and the DJ has to re-start. The dance floor might not be what you had expected. Laugh and move on – it’s what every great performer does. Anything can happen — in the end, it’s not about the dance itself but what it represents, so stay focused on that.

If you choose to have a choreographed (or un-choreographed!) wedding dance, never lose sight of what it represents: your love, your commitment to take on new challenges together, your desire to give back to friends and family just as they will give to you through your celebration and beyond.

Alternative Ideas

When we strip away the romanticized Hollywood/Bollywood concept of a first wedding dance, what we typically find wedding couples really want is something special they can do together to prepare for the wedding and to “give” to their guests in thanks. Here are a few non-dance ideas that might also fit the bill:

  • Take lessons together in something that doesn’t involve a performance. For example, you could make your own wedding invitations together. Example: StudioNo.Eight
  • Try a DIY pottery studio and make totally unique guest favours. Example: Gotta Paint
  • Get in better shape for the big day — members of your wedding party might be into that, too. How about group sessions with a personal trainer, gym memberships, weekly rock climbing dates, or group fitness classes?
  • De-stress from wedding preparations by taking yoga classes together — again, this is something that the whole wedding party can enjoy.
  • Start checking off your bucket list — why wait until after you’re married, had kids, etc.? Go hang gliding, skydiving, trampolining — whatever it is that will give you a sense of accomplishment and that you can do together. Make a slideshow of the experiences to show at your wedding.

I’m sure you’ll think of many other ideas, now that the option has been put in front of you.

I invite you to contact me to schedule a no-strings-attached initial wedding-dance-lesson assessment.