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Top tips for your first dance

First dance! That phrase has either just filled you with joy or terror. If it’s joy, congratulations – the world is your oyster. If it’s terror, then you have my sympathies.

In the past 10 years the first dance of the bride and groom has been elevated to quite an art form. Where once a simple shuffle around the dance floor hiding your head in his shoulder was de rigueur, now couples take it much more seriously, with Strictly-style choreographed routines (sometimes with a supporting cast of bridesmaids and ushers).

It doesn’t have to be like that of course. Historically a first dance was something used to open a ball or special event, and as such was led by a high-ranking guest. As a wedding tradition it originally did not even require the groom and bride to start the dancing, but to join in once the other guests had begun ‘before moving on to other partners’ (according to a 1922 etiquette manual by Emily Post).

First dance

In days gone by being able to ballroom dance was a much more common thing than it is nowadays, which is why the first dance has become much more of a mixed bag – from simple to goofy to full-on Thriller-style routines. Thus leaving the modern bride with a dilemma – to show off, or not?

The short answer is – if you can dance, and so can your other half, why not? The surprise first dance (where you begin with a slow dance, usually pretty cheesy, and then break out into a funny routine) gained in popularity in the mid 2000s, with this video from 2007 that caught everyone’s imagination and went viral. This one has everything – the surprise, the couple can dance and are clearly enjoying it, and the choreography is very funny.

Wedding dance companies have sprung up all over the place (such as offering training in your own home, or of course you can just have fun working out a routine together. Its only for the very brave though, as it’s just one of a million things you’ll have to think about and get nervous about on the day – do you want to be worrying about your moves all the way through the service, vows and wedding breakfast?

Lucy Dylan Weddings

Perhaps rather than a full-on funny routine, you’d prefer to sway to a song that holds lots of meaning for you both. I married a musician who had played at hundreds of weddings and was thus extremely picky about his first dance – when you’ve played it 100 times for other people, it’s hard to be excited about it for your own wedding. We chose Northern Sky by Nick Drake as we had listened to it a lot together and both loved it. That one won’t make any top 10s any time soon, but if you’re keen to know what couples are choosing nowadays, here is the top 10 from 2015:

1. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
2. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri
3. Everything – Michael Bublé
4. All Of Me – John Legend
5. At Last – Etta James
6. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Andy Williams
7. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
8. Stand By Me – Ben E.King
9. Ho Hey – The Lumineers
10. L-O-V-E – Nat King Cole

(List taken from

Enjoy choosing, and keeeeep dancing! Let us know what you will be dancing to for your first dance below.

Pic credits:
Header image: Fionas Wedding Photography
B/W couple Lucy Dylan Weddings
Colour photo: Sean Molin





Sarah has been a journalist and writer for more than 20 years, including 12 at The Telegraph Magazine, and is still dining out on her own wedding tales after more than a decade.