The Big Debate: to dance or not to dance?

A few weeks ago I posted about alternative first dance songs. The post had a great response, including one reader that raised a really interesting point: why do we need to have a first dance at all?

Yes, I know it’s tradition, but consider this: that tradition was born when the way most couples were introduced was through dancing – at a ball, at a dance – it’s where people went deliberately to meet other eligible young people. So back in the day they were more likely to know how to dance – and dancing formed a big foundation of romantic relationships.

Now? Let’s be honest – while there are people out there who met their future spouses on the dancefloor, a “dance” in its modern form (a nightclub) is hardly the place to go looking for a lifetime commitment. We meet our spouses online, in the office, through friends, at quieter bars, on holiday, at university… and courtship doesn’t really necessarily involve dancing any more.

The problem is that for many, the idea of having to dance at all, let alone with everyone watching, is enough to fill them with dread. John and I don’t dance. OK he likes to play invisible instruments (what can I say? He’s a “rocker” from the 80s *cough*) and I have my happy dance – which largely consists of me flailing my arms in the air with a maniacal grin on my face. In fact, if people saw us dance in public, they’d probably call an ambulance… so why do we keep doing this to ourselves for the sake of keeping up with tradition?

Some couples are natural born dancers (like this lovely pair) others really aren’t! Images © JBe Photography – full feature here

I sent Meryl (high five, Meryl!) out on Twitter to investigate how you all felt about the first dance. While we discovered that, for some of you lucky folk with rhythm, it was a lovely way to enter into a big commitment together, we also got the following interesting responses (which I’ve kept anonymous – but feel free to shout if your quote is featured!) We asked:

Is the first dance still relevant? 

♥ “Definitely relevant, and more people are making it ‘their own’ with choreographed or surprise routines.”

 “I’ve not done a wedding yet that has skipped the first dance yet.. cake cutting or speeches yes, but the first dance remains. Maybe not skip it but invite all the family [to join in]?”

“I haven’t come across a couple who’ve chosen to skip it yet. It’ll be with us for a long time.”

“I think it’s sweet, but we’re also doing a first bounce on the bouncy castle!”

“I think they are sweet and sometimes fun if they are good dancers! My hubs and I took lessons for our 1st dance, it was more fun than I thought and lessened our embarrassment. It was great, forced us to concentrate on each other instead of focusing on wedding stresses.”

“We didn’t have one, neither of us fancied swaying for 3 minutes under the gaze of everyone. Most people chilled out, ate cake, toasted marshmallows & chatted, we had music in a tent & people could dance if they wanted.”

“The first dance can be an awkward moment.. and I think only for the brave! Think everyone should get involved in the first dance.Way more fun!”

“As a photographer, I’ve never come across a couple who are too shy to dance! Does that even happen? I’ve had a few couples who have had dancing lessons so they can at least ‘dance’. When we had our first dance, we danced the entirety of the song which I liked. I’ve had couples who have danced for all of 30 seconds and then the DJ has ushered other people on to the dancefloor. Kind of takes away that special moment of the first dance I think.”

“I think in Scotland, we have a lot of couples opting for a ceilidh. It’s a great thing, as everyone generally knows the dance steps if you grew up in Scotland and got country dancing every week at school. Even those who don’t know, most ceilidh bands do a walk through before they commence with the song and dance. And when you have to change partners, then I think it’s a good way for ice breaking.”

“We just took the lead in a group ceilidh dance – much more fun that the two of us looking embarrassed & shuffling around!”

So what are the alternatives?

It seems a lot of you are still enamoured with the first dance – it’s a sort of ritual for many that signifies the start of married life and gives you a chance to focus only on each other. BUT there’s a significant dissenting voice. However, I do agree that it’s nice to kick-start the party and your married life with something special. So what to do instead?

Save the first kiss. Instead of kissing at the end of your ceremony, why not save it to kick off the party? Have everyone declare that you may now kiss each other.

Have everyone join you on the dancefloor for your first dance. If you’re going to dread it why not just bypass it and take the pressure off?

I’m seriously in love with this first bounce on a bouncy castle idea! And if you have anything else you like to do together, why not do that instead? If you’re musicians, how about a first song played together? Or how about exchanging a first gift – something meaningful to kick-start your marriage?

A communal dance sounds fun, like the Scottish ceilidh or the Jewish hora? That way the party’s well and truly started with no awkward shuffling!

What do you think? Is the first dance dead or is it here to stay? Are you dreading your first dance? Are you doing anything differently? Can you think of another alternative? I’d love to hear from you! 

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