Photo by Marla Christina
Like many wedding traditions there are multiple opinions and variations on when to do your first dance. In my post called The Great Cake Debate - Two Schools of Thought I weigh in on the two most popular times to cut the wedding cake. Just like the ceremonious cake cutting there are really two key moments at your reception for your special first dance.
In California weddings it seems to be most popular to save the first dance until after the meal. Food comes first and latter half of the reception is all dancing. I see this order to be the preferred choice with most of my clients.
On the other hand some couples prefer to be introduced into the reception and straight onto the dance floor for their first dance. This style of introduction is especially popular on the East Coast. It was explained to me by a client who has attended many East Coast weddings that they often serve long sit down meals with many courses. To keep the guests entertained during these long meals dancing in between courses is encouraged. Since etiquette dictates that the bride and groom be the first to dance at their wedding the first dance following the grand introduction means the dance floor can then open to all of the guests.
So what are the differences between doing your first dance upon entrance versus after dinner?
My preference is to wait until after dinner to do the first dance and then begin the open dancing.
As a Master of Ceremonies I am always looking for key points and markers to make a reception flow smoothly. The first dance is a great transition from the dining segment of the party into the dancing time. It gives me the opportunity to get everyone's attention and focus it on the dance floor. The first dance is festive and helps shift the mood from fairly low energy into a higher gear. Most of all it says to the guests that now it is time for them to leave their seats and celebrate with dance.
I do like the energy that a first dance has following a grand introduction. The bigger the introduction the more you also need something big to follow it. If my couple is not dancing upon entering, then I always head directly into a best man's toast or father of the bride's welcome speech to continue the momentum created by a grand introduction.
The only caveat with having the first dance early on is that you take away that marker to segue from dinner to dancing. The best solution is to then use the Father/Bride or Mother/Groom dance to signal the beginning of your dancing time. These parents dances or a bridal party dance will draw attention to dancing and help get your party going.
One misconception is that having your first dance early will mean the guests will start dancing sooner as in the East Coast example. I find that once people sit down to eat they generally want to finish their meal first. At that point they expect to hear background music during dinner and not high volume dance music.
Whether your first dance upon entering or wait until dinner is over it is most important that you have entertainment that is sensitive to your audience and follows their energy. Weddings are dynamic and they should move from lower on the energy curve to higher towards the end so your exit will be as grand as your entrance.
My next tip will be all about your last dance.