Letting loose on the dancefloor can come naturally to some whilst others find it much more complicated. Heck, it’s something you or your partner could be stressing about from the proposal until the big day.
Luckily, the boffins here at Story Amour have compiled this article all about how to dance at a wedding. It’ll tell you everything you need to know to become your very own versions of Baby and Johnny Castle from Dirty Dancing or better yet allow you to channel your inner John Travolta from Pulp Fiction or Grease.
We’ll take you through everything you need to know about how to dance at a wedding. From why it’s a thing in the first place, to the must-have dances as well as suggest some popular dance moves that anyone can do.
Right now you might be thinking you have two left feet. However, by the end of this post, you’ll be fully equipped to wow your guests with your slick moves.
Why is dancing a thing at weddings?
Tradition and Fun
Dancing is a staple of any traditional white wedding but it also features prominently in weddings from all different cultures from around the world.
Perhaps it’s because it’s such an unbridled expression of joy that it takes place at weddings. Weddings are celebrations after all and who doesn’t like to let loose at a party?!
It’s also a form of expression that brings people together from all different ages and is something pretty much anyone at a wedding can join in with.
Yes, even us! We’ve been known to bust out “the robot” on the dancefloor when challenged. No, we don’t just show up to random people’s weddings, do the splits, and then leave. We’ve photographed weddings for 15 years so have a pretty strong idea of how you should dance at a wedding.
A good party late in the day is the perfect way to round off the celebrations. It allows guests and the bridal party to relax after the stresses of the day. Have a drink or two or three…and just go all in to create the party of a lifetime.
Of course, fun is just one reason dancing is a thing at weddings. As we’ve already touched on there could be cultural reasons to dance at a wedding as well.
For instance, at most Indian Punjabi weddings a Bhangra will take place, involving vibrant costumes and people dancing to the beat of a Dhol (a traditional Punjabi drum). In China, you might find a lion dance taking place that is thought to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. You’ve also got the traditional money dance, particularly useful if you’re saving up for the perfect honeymoon, wink wink.
Each culture has its own unique dances and music and they can form a major part of the celebrations.
Most weddings though will end with a good 2-4 hours of an open dancefloor with a DJ blasting out the couple’s favorite tunes whilst everyone boogies like there’s no tomorrow.
What are some must-know dances at a wedding?
As we’ve said we’ve been to our fair share of weddings over our 15-year photography career. So we’ve also seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to dancing.
However, there are some dances that we see more often than not and they tend to happen in a certain order.
Let’s take a look at them in more detail.
The First Dance
If you’re nervous about hogging the spotlight then the first dance can get lots of people worked up.
This usually happens directly after the cake is cut. An EmCee will invite the happy couple to the dancefloor and either a DJ or live band will perform the couple’s favorite song, usually “Thinking out loud” by Ed Sheeran. And when we say usually we mean 99% of the time…
The couple will usually then do one of two things:
A slow romantic first dance
A couple will hold each other close and barely move making it the most awkward 4 minutes and 41 seconds ever (yes we know the length of the song!) Or they’ll do a little bit of swaying, some spins, and a kiss or two for which the crowd will go wild.
A choreographed routine
The alternative is that a couple has really thought about their first dance. They may have a routine nailed down and execute it to perfection. We’ve even seen it where a couple starts off with “Thinking out loud” only to cut it off after 30 seconds and break out more upbeat moves to something like “Jump around” by House of Pain. This always comes as a shock to the guests and is great to capture.
The Dad-Daughter or Parents Dance
Another traditional dance is the dad-daughter dance. It usually follows on from the first dance and if there were any dry eyes left in the house they’re sure to go at this point.
More recently this has become the parent and children dance. Or another type we’ve seen is the parents dancing with each other as the happy couple continues to another song.
This is really open to interpretation and is sometimes skipped by couples. However, we do think it’s a nice touch to pay homage to your parents or grandparents. Particularly so if they’ve helped out with financing the wedding.
Wedding Party Dances
After everyone has wiped away the tears from their eyes it’s time to give the wedding party their time in the spotlight. If they want it that is! The groomsmen could dance with the bridesmaids or whatever combo you think works best.
You could even skip the first dance altogether and replicate Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” dance routine. Whatever you want to do!
Guest Dances (the floor is open)
The above is what we’d classify as “formal dance” Now it’s time to let loose. Your DJ or band will usually invite everyone to join in on the dancefloor at this point.
Our advice is to make sure they put on a banger so everyone gets boogying straight away.
There are no rules here except the ones you’ll have put on your wedding signs of course.
Stating something like this “All ages and abilities welcome. Dad dancing will be applauded. As will the robot and wrapping ties around heads. 3 Dance off should be regular. 4. Lunges are encouraged. 5 Please wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care and dance!”
Speaking of dance-offs in that last section, these can be particularly fun. Of course, they don’t need to be taken seriously but are a good way to get lots of people involved and dancing.
You basically create a circle and then one person breaks out into the middle. They then challenge someone else to a dance-off. The crowd cheers for their favorite and the rest is history. This will help some people really come out of their shells. You’ll see that people you’d never imagined can really move and shake with the best of them.
Popular dance moves that everyone can do
If it’s your first rodeo then you’re probably unfamiliar with some of the classic wedding party dances. So let’s take a look at some so that you can be well prepared for the big day.
It’s actually illegal to not dance when The Macarena comes on at a wedding…Just kidding of course. But it’s definitely one we think you should learn as there’s a 99.9% chance it’ll be played.
It can be super fun as everyone on the dance floor is in unison to the catchy 90’s classic. This video we found will help you to get to grips with the moves required to join in
The Cha Cha Slide
Another classic and this one even comes with its own instructions.
If you’ve never done the Cha Cha Slide then where have you been living?! This is once again a fun dance that anyone of any age (within reason) can join in with.
Slide to left, slide to right, criss-cross, criss cross, cha cha real smooth. Yeh, that number is now thoroughly stuck in our heads for the next few days! If you do need help learning the moves so you can really impress everyone at the wedding check out this video.
The Cupid Shuffle
The Cupid Shuffle shares some similarities to the Cha Cha Slide in that it does give instructions. However, it’s a little more complicated and requires a little more energy.
Don’t let that put you off though it’s still super easy to learn and bust a move to. This handy video showcases the moves if you’re not familiar with the song and the speed you’ll have to move.
As long as you can move to the right, move to the left and kick you’re good to go. The song even has the lyrics “You gotta move your muscle, Brand new dance and it’s called the Cupid Shuffle, It doesn’t matter if you’re young or you’re old, We gone show you how it goes” So it’s inclusive of everyone regardless of ability.
Partner or Singles Dancing at a Wedding
The classic hip swing
There isn’t anything easier and more classic than swinging your hips to the beat of the music. So whether it’s Miley with a bit of “Wrecking Ball” or Taylor with “Love Story” it’s a fail-safe move. Essentially it’ll make it look like you know what you’re doing even if you haven’t got the foggiest.
Rocking your upper body
Following a similar theme to the classic hip swing, this one keeps your movements super simple. It’s great for those who are either not good with their footwork or a little uneasy on their feet. No, we’re not talking about Auntie Kate who’s had one too many at the free bar!
Instead of moving your hips, it’ll be your arms, shoulders, and even your head moving in time to the beat. You could even get crazy and combine this with a bit of hip action, it’s really up to you.
A great one to do with a partner on the D-floor is swaying in time to the music. All you do is sway from one side to the other. You can mirror your partner or go in the opposite direction, it really doesn’t matter.
You can sway slowly to those romantic ballads or sway quickly to the more up-tempo beats, whatever takes your fancy. Add in a clap to the beat if you like but you may be swaying into the realms of dad dancing. We think this is perfectly fine!
Tap and lift your feet
Not everyone will have the confidence to go all out on the dancefloor and we get it. However, for those who are a little more comfortable involving your whole body is the only true way to embrace dancing.
Tapping your feet in time to the music and lifting your heels or knees to your chest is one way to attract attention. You’ll have everyone in the room envious of your confidence and you may even insight a dance-off. So caution is advised!
Step tap and Side cross
This one is pretty self-explanatory and builds on another super simple move, the step tap. All you’re going to do is take one step to your side, left or right. Then you return to where you started. You can leave it there if that’s all you’re comfortable with. Or you can take it to the next level by crossing your outside foot over your inside foot. Consider your dancing game taken up a notch!
We don’t know why but the robot just feels like a 90’s dance move. It’s always effective at putting a smile on people’s faces. All you have to do is move in the most rigid way possible. Something that will come naturally to many anyway! Throw in some popping and locking in time with the music though and you’re guaranteed to draw a crowd to your slick moves.
The simple foxtrot
For those who are dancing with a partner the classic ballroom dance of the foxtrot is a no-brainer. It’s super simple but also highly effective. You can of course do a standard foxtrot if you and your partner are feeling up to it.
To do the simplified version your partner will take two steps backward whilst you take two steps forward. Introduce a bit of swaying to the mix and you’re foxtrotting baby!
Good dancing is all about good music
Having all those dance moves in your arsenal is all well and good. However, without some top tunes, the dance floor may be a ghost town.
Good music is essential to being able to dance well at a wedding. FACT! So make sure you allow enough room in your budget to hire a DJ who knows how to get the party started!
- Alright, stop, collaborate and listen: Collaborate with your DJ to create a playlist that hits all the right notes. You want some slow romantic songs as well as some upbeat classics. “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, for example, will get everyone bouncing around. Whereas, “Endless Love” by Dianna Ross will be a tune everyone can sway to with their partners.
- Involve your friends: Getting the opinion of others will diversify your playlist. They can either request songs through you or go directly to the DJ. A good DJ will read the vibe of the room and know when to add these into the mix.
- Who do you want on the D-floor?: You want to play music that everyone can be involved with at some point. Some slow songs are ideal to encourage older guests to get up and have a boogie. Equally, some child-friendly music can be a good idea for the youthful guest to dance to.
- The big songs: Try to break up the night by having lots of peaks and troughs of bangers. For example, don’t follow The Cha Cha Slide with The Cupid Shuffle, everyone will be exhausted from the first. These songs are designed to get everyone up on the dancefloor and involved so choose when to deploy them wisely.
Good music choices make it possible for everyone at the wedding to be able to dance the night away.
Improving your dance skills
If the thought of dancing at a wedding fills you with dread we do have some tips. These won’t make you into Beyonce overnight but they may help you to feel more comfortable getting involved.
Practice makes permanent
Not the saying you’re familiar with? Well, practice does make perfect if what you’re practicing is the right thing. Otherwise you’ll practice all the wrong techniques which will inevitably lead to failure.
If you want to bust moves with the best of them it’s going to take hard work and practice. You can even perfect certain dance moves with your partner.
Don’t forget the music either! It’s a romantic thing you can do with your partner in the lead-up to the wedding. Whether you’re the happy couple or guests at a wedding this is a surefire way to ensure you look great on the dancefloor.
Watch dancing videos
There’s so much content online these days that it’s never been easier to learn how to dance at a wedding. You can learn some of the moves we’ve already talked about in this post or discover some new ones. The world really is your oyster.
Book dance lessons
If you’re really struggling with how to dance at a wedding then it could be time to seek the advice of a professional. Of course, this will come at a cost but it may be a worthwhile investment.
A pro dance coach can show you exactly what you’re doing wrong, make you feel super confident, and have your guests scratching their heads never knowing you had this hidden talent.
A dance pro can also help if you’re planning to do a choreographed routine making sure you hit all the right beats.
How should men dance at weddings?
Men may avoid the dance floor for fear of looking silly. If they’ve had enough beers this might not be the case. However, both men and women can feel self-conscious on the dance floor. Regardless of how much they’ve had to drink!
Here are some handy tips to ensure you have a great time no matter your gender.
- Relax: No that doesn’t mean sinking another Vodka and Coke! You’ve just got to chill out. You don’t need to worry about being the best dancer in the room. This isn’t a competition, you’re just there to have a good time with your most favorite people in the world.
- Keep it simple stupid: We don’t want you pulling your hamstring when the first beat drops. Keeping it simple at the start will help you to gain confidence. See what other people are doing and read the vibe of the room. Doing cartwheels to “thinking out loud” may not go down well with others!
- Confidence is key: Try to show that you’re confident even if you’re not. Dancing is all self-belief. If you’ve followed our advice there’s also no reason why you shouldn’t be confident with the moves you’re bringing.
- Partner power: If you’re dancing with your significant other or a friend pay attention to what they’re doing. If they’re the better dancer then follow their lead. This can really help in making it look like you know what you’re doing to other people. Try to maintain eye contact so that you can get a better read of their body language. This can be really helpful as the dance floor is usually a pretty loud place to be.
- Enjoy it: There are no rules when it comes to dancing so just try and have a good time. Enjoy the party and try not to think too much about getting it wrong.
How to dance at a wedding if you’re single
Going to a wedding as a single person can be daunting, let’s be honest. However, not everyone dances with their partners on the dancefloor anyway. What you’ll usually find are groups of people that a single person can easily tag along with.
- Guest dances: Everyone gets involved with the Macarena. Use the guest dances as a chance to get up on the dancefloor. You’ll instantly form bonds with the other people doing this dance. You can then get involved with the dance after that and the one after that.
- Friends: As we’ve already touched on, people don’t always dance with their partners. Equally, there may be other single people there that you can bust a move with. However, you can also dance with friends or a group can all dance together. It’s usually these groups that form the circle for any dance-offs!
- Just say ‘YES’: If someone asks if you’d like to dance there’s no need to shy away from it. Just say ‘Yes’ and you can think about it later. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and get you up dancing to your favorite tunes.
- Be open to invitations: If someone asks you to dance, be open to the opportunity. It’s a chance to connect with others and have a memorable experience. Even if you’re not familiar with a particular dance style, give it a try and enjoy the moment.
- Get mixing: No, we’re not suggesting getting on the decks! But use the dancefloor as a way to strike up a conversation with people during slower songs. Have fun with people and it’ll make it a far more enjoyable experience for you.
FAQ for dancing at a wedding
Is dancing 100% necessary?
If you really loathe the idea of dancing at a wedding then it’s definitely something that you could skip. We know from our own experience that some couples simply dread the idea of doing a first dance in front of their family and friends.
It can cause them to stress throughout the whole day and will usually result in them freezing on the dancefloor when the time comes. If this sounds like you then you’ve of course got two choices. Go ahead with it regardless or simply just don’t do it.
You could however book yourselves some dance lessons. This will help you to feel super confident and is something fun and exciting you can do as a couple in the lead-up to the wedding.
It would be our advice not to skip dancing altogether though. Having a dancefloor and a DJ can really help to make your event a party to remember for years to come.
We also think you should encourage dancing with your wedding signs and by offering free sandals so that everyone can let loose. You could even have a neon wedding sign beaming next to the DJ saying “Let’s Dance!”. This would be a surefire signal to the guests that you’re banking on them bringing their A-game on the dancefloor.
What to do instead of a first dance?
As we’ve said a first dance isn’t for everyone but are there any alternatives?
Well, yes. Kick off the party with one of the group dances to ensure all the eyes aren’t on you and your partner.
Equally, just have the DJ invite everyone onto the dancefloor straight away for a slow number. There really are no rules so just do whatever feels comfortable for you.
How long should we book a DJ for?
The type of music chosen for a wedding will have a great impact on the way the dancing goes. It’s therefore important to book your DJ for long enough so that everyone can have a great time.
Don’t just book them for 1 hour as it won’t be long enough. Our recommendation would be to book a DJ for the whole of the reception so that they’re bringing the party vibes right until the end of the wedding.
In our opinion, there’s no better way to round off an awesome day than a wedding with some dancefloor action.
It’s not only great to photograph but we believe it’s also a giant relief for the couple. This is the point in the day when all the stresses of worrying about the ceremony or the speeches can be released. They can let loose and simply party the night away.
Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas on how to dance at a wedding. Whether you’re the couple getting married or a guest. Either way, it’s important to approach the dance floor with confidence and enjoy it as much as possible.
Make sure to get involved in all the big group numbers like the Cha Cha Slide and the Macarena, you won’t regret it! Ok maybe you will when you see the photos and video but weddings are there to be celebrated.
So, whether you’re having a dance for cultural reasons or just for fun make sure you enjoy it to the max.