Preparing for your wedding dance

Why is the wedding dance such a stressful moment? As an anthropologist, I look at this from a cultural perspective. In Western weddings, this first dance symbolizes the couple's first appearance as a unit. Therefore, there is pressure to perform well together, to show that you will be a good team. You are demonstrating cooperation, communication and the beauty of your union, all in three minutes. THAT is why the dance can be stressful! Even in progressive, DIY Portland, Oregon, taking a few lessons from a professional will make your wedding day less stressful.

When I help people prepare for their first dance, I try to help them plan the lowest possible stress level into the dance, so that it doesn't add to the general stress of the event.

Learning to dance together gives a couple an opportunity to learn a new way to communicate and a deeper way to tune into each other than speech. The person coaching the dance needs to listen to what is needed, and mediate between the partners to find a dance that works for BOTH the bride and the groom.

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Choosing music

For a lot of people, the first dance starts with the music. Often, the couple have a song that is "their song" and we need to work the dancing around that tune. Many rock songs do not fit perfectly into a classic ballroom dance scenario; but I think that the message of the song is really important to the couple, and the dance can be adjusted to fit. For example, one of my wedding couples last year had a song that they wanted to use, and we incorporated some fancy moves from swing into a basic rumba because that worked best for the song.


Most wedding dances that I choreograph are not completely memorized. Most couples don't have the brain capacity to deal with three minutes of choreography on top of the pressures of a wedding day :-)

Instead, I teach three to six basic steps of a dance and we practice doing them so that they move around the appropriate amount of space. These steps don't have a specific order, but provide the framework for the dance. That way, the groom does not have to spend a lot of time desperately remembering what to do next.

After establishing basic moves, we gradually add several fancy combinations that look nice and ARE memorized. Usually, the couple decides on an order for these. We plan an entrance and an ending to the dance. If the beginning and end go well, most couples (and the people taking pictures) feel good about how the dance went. Usually, the ending has to be a pose than can be held for several seconds so that Aunt Sally can whip out her camera and take a picture.


Most of the pictures on my website have been done by two excellent photographers. Claude Laviano did all the performance shots of me dancing with Jose Garofalo. Edis Jurcys photographed my wedding, as well as doing a photoshoot for my teaching photos. Both are not only great photographers, but also great people to work with.