Planning your first dance

Mike Paul-Smith

“Welcome to our Event Planning Advice articles.

This is a series of articles written by me – Mike Paul-Smith, the Company Director of Mike Paul-Smith Music and Down for the Count Ltd

I’ve been running music at events since 2005 and have learnt a lot of lessons along the way. More than anything, I know that having live music at your event can be a significant investment – and I want to make sure that you make the most of it.

I hope the tips in these articles help you plan having live music at your event – whether you book one of my bands, or someone else’s. And if there is anything not covered in these articles you’d like to see, just let me know.”

I think it’s fair to say that planning the first dance is the one aspect of wedding planning that causes more unnecessary anxiety than any other.

Here, I’ll guide you through the steps to take when planning a first dance – and indeed discuss whether or not you should even have one!

Step 1: Do we have a first dance?

Whilst some couples have an exhibitionist streak and just love the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of their friends and family, for most people the idea of dancing in public view is horrendous. 

More and more regularly I’m finding myself encouraging couples just to skip the first dance altogether. It’s becoming more and more accepted to just ignore it, and skip straight to the party – I’m fairly certain that most guests don’t notice when there isn’t a first dance, and if they do notice, I guarantee you that they don’t care. 

Sadly I’ve lost count of how many couples only have a first dance because either they think they should, or because they feel that a relative has told them they should. It seems to cause some people genuine anxiety – but remember that it’s your wedding day, so if you don’t want a first dance, just don’t have one.

Step 2: What do we dance?

If you decide that you do want a first dance, you have two choices:

1. You can choose a slow song and have what I’m going to call an “old fashioned slow dance” – perhaps inviting guests onto the dance floor after 60 seconds or so;

2. You can choose to add an element of fun perhaps with some choreography (maybe even including other members of the bridal party)

There is no right or wrong answer, and the decision is totally yours!

If you do decide to have choreography, let us know – we may be able to put you in touch with the range of amazing dancers and choreographers we’ve worked with in the past, depending on your location. This is particularly the case if you decide you may like to learn some vintage dance moves which is perfect for the swing and Lindy hop music we perform. 

Don’t be afraid of option 1 – there is no problem at all with having an “old fashioned slow dance” and it certainly makes for great photos.

Step 3: What song should I dance to?

There are no rules to choosing a first dance song and we’ve received many weird and wonderful requests in the past. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your ideas and suggestions and we’ll see what we can do for you!

Here, we’ve listed the 10 most commonly requested first dance songs for our main party band, The Get Downs. As this band performs a mix of swing and soul music, these first dances trend towards a vintage theme – and obviously there are loads and loads of other great suggestions out there!

1. L-O-V-E (Nat King Cole)
In the top spot for the past few years is this Nat King Cole classic. We love performing this song – it’s not too slow, not too fast, and you can do all sorts of different dances to it (swing, “old fashioned slow dance” and so on). 

2. Let There Be Love (Nat King Cole)
Nat King Cole also has the number 2 slot with another classic, which also works for a variety of dance styles. 

3. At Last (Etta James)
A really well-known tune that is perfect for first dances. 

4. My Baby Just Cares For Me (Nina Simone)

5. Just The Way You Are (Billy Joel)

6. All of Me (John Legend)

7. Cheek to Cheek (Ella Fitzgerald)

8. The Way You Look Tonight (Frank Sinatra)

9. This Will Be An Everlasting Love (Natalie Cole)

10. Make You Feel My Love (Adele)

Feel free to check out our repertoire lists for other ideas (follow the links to find the repertoire lists for Capital Sounds Showband and The Get Downs) and remember that we’re often able to learn new requests for your first dance if your favourite song isn’t on there.

Step 4: Should I get the band to play my first dance?

There’s one final consideration – which is whether or not you should get the band to play your first dance. 

Getting the band to play your first dance is often a great idea – it adds a magic element to the proceedings and helps create some unforgettable memories. 

However, the band can’t precisely recreate a recording. There will always be some slight variations in the tempo/speed, instrumentation and musical cues. 

Usually those slight variations aren’t enough to put people off having the band play the first dance live, but if you’re particularly nervous or have complicated choreography, playing the recording might be best.

Just get in touch with your first dance ideas and then we can guide you through the options.

Any questions?

I hope this article has given you some ideas about your first dance – remember that there are no rules, so get in touch with your ideas and we’ll discuss the options with you!

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