Preparing your Wedding First Dance – 5 Things you Need to Know
So. You’re getting married and you want your first dance to be special…
Here are some things you need to know to make sure that you get the most out of your dance experience:
1. Start 3 – 6 months ahead.
Unless you both already have an extensive dance background, learning to dance takes time. Especially if you want to feel comfortable out there.
Imagine if you wanted to play the piano for your friends and family at your wedding but had never played before – would you start lessons 3 weeks before the show? Of course not!! Learning to dance is like learning a musical instrument – it takes coaching and practice.
If you are just hoping to get through your first dance without falling on your face and don’t care about comfort or flare, 1 month ahead is great. Anything more than that, leave yourself time. If you have 3-6 months, or more, reserved for dance lessons, the worst thing that could happen is that the two of you turn out to be prodigies, discover you learn super fast and so end up being over-prepared and having some fun dancing together along the way.
2. Make sure your dream matches the investment you’re willing to make.
What is meant by this statement? It’s the same thing you’ll hear when you shop for a wedding dress – if you want a custom Vera Wang dress, for instance, you need a significant budget as well as time for fittings and travel. If you don’t have that kind of time or budget, you need to make sure that your dream dress is something that you DO have the budget for – when planning your wedding you need to make sure that your expectations are in line with the time and money you are willing to invest.
Having worked as a salesperson in a bridal store before I was a dance professional, I found the same problem in both places: many brides had dreams that didn’t match what they were willing or able to invest, and hadn’t done the research to be able to set reasonable expectations of what they could afford or accomplish. This situation always resulted in leaving us bridal shop employees and dance teachers in the unfortunate position of having to tell them the truth. This broke my heart every time.
So what should your expectations be? Well, I can’t tell you what a Vera Wang dress costs currently, but a choreographed and polished dance can take anywhere from 15 to 30 lessons. Something super simple and elegant can be as few as 6 – 8 lessons. It often helps to go in with very few expectations, a sense of adventure together and ready to discover the possibilities.
3. Listen to the pros.
I can’t tell you how many couples have tried to convince me over the years about what fantastic things they could accomplished with minimal investment and no prior experience. It’s great to have high self-esteem for your learning but you can set yourself up for potential learning disaster if there is too great a discrepancy – the last thing you want is to be the latest photo that comes up from the “wedding dance fail” searches:
YouTube can be great for inspiration, we love to see what inspires you so that we can build the right dance with you, but it can be horrible for setting expectations. Admittedly not all, but most, of the wedding dances you see when researching on YouTube are the result of months or even years of training. They don’t tell you that on the video. So when you bring in an inspiring dance video, be prepared for the dance professional to tell you that it might not be possible in the time you have .
Can we take a few ideas from a video and alter them to match your skills as a new dancer? Most likely. But again, it takes time. If a dance professional tells you that your dream dance will take a certain amount of lessons, they aren’t pulling your leg or trying to get you to spend more money – they are trying to be realistic and help you. We WANT you to be successful on your big day, partly because most dance teachers are big mush-balls who get very personally invested in their students, and partly because if we tell you something will work, when really it won’t, that sets you up for failure. If we set you up for failure, there goes our reputation – and, in addition, our personal investment in helping you create your dream is also crushed. Listen to the pros, believe what they tell you, and you will have a much more successful special day.
4. Go old school – call around, ask questions, do the research.
Talk to someone at all of the studios you are considering. Few people do anything in person anymore, but they should. You can get basic information like prices and hours of operation through email, but the best studios will create a program just for you based on your goals, time frame and experience, which means you can’t look that information up online because they can’t plan until they start getting to know you.
They also often choose a teacher they know will do a great job for you based not only on your goals, but on your personality to make sure that you have a great experience. Most studios offer either a consultation or a sample lesson free of charge – take advantage of these. You want to find a studio that feels right, that you feel comfortable in. I know many wedding couples are put off by a busy studio – how can they practice their special dance when surrounded by others? That’s a fair concern, but on the other hand, what does it say about a studio if it’s always dead empty? Look online for reviews, and ask questions. Does the busy studio have a system for dealing with wedding dances amid the bustle? (The answer is usually yes) Is the quiet one empty because they don’t do good work, or simply because they have quiet times set aside for weddings? When you called, did they listen to your goals or concerns or just give you a scripted quote and hang up? You want a studio that gives you the warm fuzzies and does their best to work with you and alleviate your fears.
5. Don’t forget about the marriage.
Alright girls, I’m going to say something you are never supposed to say to a bride – it’s just a party. The wedding industry makes billions of dollars by making us think that this one day is the most important day of our lives and must be exactly right, requiring a year of planning, stress, and financial output. Is this day important and special? Yes!! Of course it is! This is the day that you create a life long and legally binding bond to another human. And you get to share this wonderful promise with your closest friends and family. However, it is just one day, and is actually supposed to be about this promise and the family you have just created. The marriage is supposed to last for the rest of your life. That dress is on your body for about 8 hours. So, check yourself periodically during the wedding planning process. What are the two of you doing to strengthen your relationship?
Wedding planning can be stressful, which makes it great practice for future stressful life events that may come your way. Are you looking at the future, talking about life after the wedding? Are you making sure to have conversations that are not wedding-related? Have you considered that something like dance lessons could be a great couples activity that is fun, active, team-building and relationship-strengthening? What will you do when the day is done and it’s your turn to be a guest at someone else’s wedding? Will you grow together to become that old couple that dances the night away in each other’s arms? Keep the marriage at the front of your mind – it’s the whole reason you are doing any of this 🙂
Christy Consell – New Student Department Supervisor and Teacher Extraordinaire at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Coquitlam, British Columbia. Christy has many years of dancing and teaching experience to share!