The tradition of the first dance goes back to formal, European balls in which the guests of honor “opened” the floor for the rest of the dances. While the tradition has become a staple of Western weddings, some couples prefer to skip the dance altogether. If you’re considering opting out, know the ins and outs of skipping the custom.
Dancing in front of a crowd is lovely and exciting, unless you have two left feet. The couples who excel at first dances, and who enjoy them most, are usually natural dancers. All the classes in the world aren’t going to turn a klutz into a champ, and if the idea of waltzing in front of the crowd terrifies you more than the actual wedding, it’s your right to decline.
“Some people don’t like to be in the spotlight,” says Danielle Bobish of Curtain Up Events in New York City. “They push themselves through it, and they torture themselves, because they know people expect it.” Bobish adds that, if you’re on the fence about the dance, “Do it. You don’t want to regret the decision years from now.”
Bobish says that if you’re not the greatest dancer, but decide to forge ahead, “take lessons, but don’t do anything choreographed. Just have someone teach you how to move, and then practice at home. It’s very romantic.”
If you drop the first dance, you should instruct the DJ or band leader to play a slow dance, and to announce that, in lieu of a solo dance, the couple invites everyone onto the dance floor. “Make sure you join the dancers,” says Bobish. “And tell your wedding party ahead of time to get up, so any confused guests will know that you’re not doing a solo.”
Should any guest ask why you skipped the first dance, or be upset that you didn’t “perform,” politely explain that you didn’t feel comfortable with the custom. Says Bobish, “Weddings are a party, and if there is anything you really don’t want to do, that’s your choice.”