Advice from a DJ | Setting the Tone for the Dance Floor

DEREK HALL

 

At balls and galas in the past, there was a dance of the time, such as the macarena or cha cha slide. In my opinion, the minuet, quadrille, or polonaise are the best part of any historical fiction show or movie. Historically, the party’s dance would be initiated by the guests of honor, often royalty--then the dance floor would be opened for guests to join. Social dancing is not quite the norm these days, but there is an opportunity to have some fun, relay beauty to your guests, and lead them into your celebration as you twirl about the dance floor.

I loathe being the center of attention; formal dances can be uncomfortable bubble of alone time in the spotlight. As a DJ, I have worked with many couples who want to be on and off of the dance floor as fast as possible. The truth is, you and your new spouse are the guests of honor on the wedding day. As you host your family and friends for the celebration, I encourage you to take on the responsibility of opening the dance floor with your first dances.

PHOTOGRAPHY:  Du CASTEL PHOTOGRAPHY

If you’re not having dancing, roll the first die of the board games, butter the first bagel of your brunch, bounce the first bounce in the bouncy house. (Yes, you can now have bouncy castles at your wedding.) The pressures we may feel as the center of attention are most often rooted in our own insecurities; rest assured, the other guests will not hold up scores of your dance at the end of the song.  

The truth is that not everyone is paying extremely  close attention to your movements. Some guests watch with admiration, some eat their cake and drink their coffee, some chat among themselves.

Regardless of the attention span of the crowd, these first dances are  one of the few times during the wedding day to have alone time with your parents or with each other. It is really just about the two of you on the floor. Sharing an intimate experience is not the same thing as being stranded on the dance floor. Dive into the opportunity to be vulnerable together, to create a memory, and to savor a moment. When the song ends, the DJ can easily fade out the song, turn the attention to the guests, and keep things rolling.

Though I don’t always enjoy being the center of attention, I love a good dance party. If we replace our fears with a smile and some joy, we can stir up the best start of a dance party you’ve ever seen. Below I share additional insight and advice from my experiences as a husband and a professional DJ.

Learn a new kind of dance

My wife grew up as an Irish dancer and I did ballroom for several years around college. We decided to do a waltz for our first dance--and later did an Irish dance. We worked on them for several months, but for us it was largely a fun project that was sincere to who we are. It was athletic, challenging, and something to do together outside of grad school and wedding planning.

In practicing the steps, my wife and I learned how to dance the movements of a waltz rather than memorizing specific choreography. If things come off the rails in a choreographed dance, it may be hard to adjust on the spot. Give yourself at least a couple of months to learn some specific steps. Get comfortable making mistakes and moving back into the music. Most people won’t know if you mess up, so follow the leader, laugh at yourselves, and enjoy the process of trying something new. .

Pick the perfect song

The perfect song is unique to each couple.  Often, nostalgia has more value than perfect lyrics. Most often, guests are either distracted during the first dance or are enamored by the loving embrace of the couple to pay attention to the words of the lyrics.

If you and your fiance don’t have a song that is extremely meaningful or appropriate for a first dance, choosing a new song gives you something special that will forever be anchored to your first dance. If you plan to learn a kind of dance--as suggested above--ask a professional for recommendations for types of songs to match with a specific type of dance.  

Do the first dance last

I have emphasized the importance of sharing an intimate moment on the dance floor. But consider that your first dance doesn’t have to last the entire duration of a song. I’ve worked with many couples whose  families don’t have a strong dance party tradition.Here’s my pitch: make a plan for your MC explain that the couple doesn’t want to just share a first dance on their own, but with all of the guests--the friends and family who helped them get here. The first dance immediately becomes communal, inclusive, and fun for everyone.

Your bridal party and immediate families can be a part of the plan, and join you on the dance floor after the first verse and chorus. At the end of the song, the next song should come right on and everyone can come in around you. I have had a couple of these types of starts blend right into an upbeat remix or some great sing-alongs (think “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”).  

Get great pictures

So, we have done something to create community and inclusion of everyone in the room. We are making dancing “the cat’s pajamas,” the thing to do. Grab grandparents for a dance. Sing along to your favorite Spice Girls song you drove around singing with your mom when you were young. Burn it down for 30 minutes. Your photo and video are generally scheduled for a short chunk of dancing, and they can capitalize on this initial time with the guests and guests of honor together on the dance floor.

If we have a slow build or if you disappear from the dance party at the beginning of the celebration , you are missing out on a great chance to create and capture special memories of the night.  Eventually, some people might leave, go back to their dessert, enjoy a drink, or get some fresh air. A good DJ or band will figure out how to keep the party going. When you look back at your photos, your favorites may be from those first 30 minutes of fun. The mood for the night has been set. Anything else is gravy.


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About the Author: Derek is one half of The Block Party, a DJ company specializing in playing vinyl, mixing records, and trying to pour as much warmth and friendship into the vendor process as possible. They have done weddings and events all over the country; when they aren't traveling to throw monster dance parties, Derek and his wife Clare are traveling to visit their nieces and nephews or adventuring as a couple.

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Tips for Choosing Your First Dance

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Perhaps there’s a song you’ve loved since long before you were dating your spouse-to-be, one you determined you’d dance to at your wedding. Maybe you and your beloved have had “your” own song from the start. But what if you don’t fall into those categories? Here, four considerations that can aid in your decision-making.

Is there a song that recalls a particular time or memory from our relationship?

Your song might not be one you’ve discussed outright in the past, but one that speaks to your history as a couple, nonetheless. Maybe hearing a song that was on heavy rotation at a memorable time in your relationship transports you vividly back to that moment. Perhaps there’s a piece that consoled one or both of you during a difficult time.

One of the songs with the strongest hold on my own memory, for instance, is one I actually experienced alone. Around the time I started dating my husband, I had recently bought Keith Urban’s album Defying Gravity; I’d repeatedly play one of the tracks, “If Ever I Could Love,” that captured the sense of newness, purity, and the joy of discovery I found myself experiencing. Take time to consider what titles have played a similar role for you; list the songs that have held a particular meaning in your own lives to this point or remind you of one another.

What songs are meaningful in our family cultures?

Dancing to your parents’ or grandparents’ wedding songs convey a sense of timelessness and of respect and affection for the bonds of love that make up your families and their traditions. Elise’s parents’ song, “It Had to Be You,” holds a fond and particular significance to her to this day.

Would we like to dance in a particular style?

If you and your beloved are skilled at swing, ballroom, or a style of dance that reflects your heritage, incorporating it is fun and takes off some of the pressure for your first dance to be a completely serious, romantic affair. At a wedding I attended were the groom was a theatre teacher, the couple included a choreographed entrance by the bridal party at the conclusion of their first dance. Jiza and her husband performed a swing dance.

And keep in mind that though your dancing style might not be contemporary, your song selection still can be: a friend and her husband waltzed to Lifehouse’s “You and Me” at their reception.

What do we hope to convey about love and marriage?

Your witness to lifelong love doesn’t end when your nuptial Mass does; it’s manifest throughout your entire wedding day. Whether you communicate it directly or simply through your actions and decisions, you and your beloved speak the language of free, faithful, fruitful, and total promises, simply by virtue of who you are and of choosing sacramental marriage. There are a wealth of selections, both secular and Christian, that embody the language of wedding vows; songs that speak to the longing of our hearts for something more than this life, the glimpse of heaven pure, sacrificial love affords us, the constant battle to allow love to prevail over lust and selfishness, and the perfecting love of the Father, who rejoices simply in the fact that we exist. Take them to prayer and see what lyrics stand out and might lend themselves to your first dance.

Choosing your wedding song one that expresses who you are as a couple and strikes whatever mood--romantic, lighthearted, or otherwise--you intend might feel like a tall order, yet as wedding planning goes, it’s one of the less stressful decisions to be made. The Father sings over us, his children, in a particular way through the sacraments, and no matter what selection you make, the love between you and your spouse makes his rejoicing so visibly evident.

Get inspired by the team’s love song suggestions here. We invite you to share your own favorites and first dance selections, as well. Tell us about your song in the comments and on our social media!

Editors' Picks | Vol. 2: Love Songs

At Spoken Bride, we love a good book, a good meal, a standout statement necklace, a heel you can dance in, and the list goes on. And when we make those discoveries, we want to tell everyone. So every month or two, we're sharing our latest and favorite finds in everything engagement, wedding, and honeymoon related.

Late summer's got us thinking about long, leisurely talks outside as the sun goes down and evening sets in--how could a little music not improve on the atmosphere (and maybe encourage a spontaneous dance)? Below, a few of our favorite love songs and first dance contenders. Click on the titles to listen in Spotify!

 

Andi, Business Director

 Colbie Caillait, "I Do:" I love how just casual and playful this song is and it brings a smile to my face. Definitely a good pick for an informal reception, maybe even one with a beach theme.

The Lumineers, "Ho Hey:" I coordinated a wedding where this was the song, and it made me love it a million times more than I already did. Sweet lyrics, with a fun beat and just a hint of quirk.

Michael Buble, "The Way You Look Tonight:" I chose Michael Buble's version of this standard because it's a little more upbeat and jazzy than other renditions, yet still a classic you can dance to every anniversary and never tire of hearing.

Matt Maher, "Set Me As a Seal:" It's a classic! I loved when my husband would sing this to me while we were engaged.


Elise, Social Media Coordinator

Jason Mraz, "I Won't Give Up"This song came out when I was studying abroad in Rome, during which my fiance Hunter and I had not seen each other for five months. The song gave me courage to keep pursuing our relationship though we were hundreds of miles apart. I love the line, "And God knows we're worth it".

Sleeping at Last, "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)"This is a bit of a slower song but I recently discovered it through a friend's wedding video and I fell in love. Such a dreamy song!

Harry Connick Jr., "It Had to Be You": This was my parents' wedding song, so I grew up with these tongue-in-check lyrics filling my household. I think it's a fun song and is great for a first dance.

Aretha Franklin, "At Last": An absolute classic that I've loved since college, this song always reminds me of the joy found in marriage, as it's expressed perfectly in Scripture: "Then the man said, 'This AT LAST is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man" (Genesis 2:23).


 

Jiza, Co-Founder + Creative Director

George Strait, "I Cross My Heart:" Just a good, classic country love song.

James Taylor, "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You):" Another classic throwback!

Jack Johnson, "Better Together:" So cute, laid-back, and fun.


Stephanie, Co-Founder + Editor in Chief

Dee Simone, "Lovesick:" The bride in the Song of Songs is all of us: deeply longing to find her love; on edge with hope and anticipation; freely willing to give herself to him entirely. "Is that your hand at the door?" Simone begins. I felt a pang in my chest, then sobbed the first time I heard this song written from the bride's perspective. The poetry and soaring piano and string arrangement makes me ache and is, in a word, breathtaking.

Jon Foreman, "In My Arms:" "Love, we sleep apart for the last time," sings Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot, on this solo recording; a tender whisper of a song that speaks to the dream and promise of two lives becoming one.

Brooke Fraser, "Something In the Water:" Hand claps, a driving beat, and relentlessly sunny images of wine on a summer night, lazing in a hammock, and daydreaming about your beloved: this is the sound of being joyously, boundlessly in love.

Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes:" This song is a classic, and with good reason. Most mainstream ballads don't touch on the less emotional, more spiritually-based aspects of love, and because "In Your Eyes" does, maybe that's why it's endured since the 80s. "The grand facade so soon will burn/without a noise, without my pride/I reach out from the inside:" looking outside of your own self, making yourself a gift, vulnerable yet unafraid of being truly seen and known, is the stuff marriage is made of.


Listen to all of the editor's picks over on Spotify. We love making new discoveries through each of you! Help our community grow and share your favorite love songs or first dance pick in the comments!