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Wedding Dance Information
Written by Marla Archer

In the five years I have taught Wedding Lessons, I have prepared 500 couples for the important First Wedding Dance.  Every couple has one thing in common - the men are anxious.  They have every right to be!  

The one thing you have to keep in mind is that it is important to show some style when all eyes are upon you. 

A situation like this can be a lot more stressful than you realize. Standing out there on an island known as a dance floor isn't as easy as it sounds.  Unfortunately learning to dance gracefully to slow, romantic music is not as easy as most people might think.  There is definitely a trick to it. 

Since the Art of Formal Dancing is something of a "Lost Art", most couples prefer to ask for help.  Occasionally the Grooms are willing to fake it.  However the Bride-to-be usually has the sense to insist her future husband at least prove his dancing ability with a trial run on the living room carpet.  After all, one of her greatest fears is tripping in the middle of the floor wearing that gorgeous dress!

After a couple stumbles and a few stepped-on toes, the women put their foot down so to speak and march their men straight into dance lessons.  Good move, Ladies! 

Every woman's worst nightmare is to fall on her backside in the middle of her Wedding Dance.  A few lessons and lots of practice should solve that problem nicely.  My goal is take the stress out of the Wedding Dance and to make it fun.  It's a lot easier to smile out there with just a little preparation!

   

How Many Lessons are Necessary?

This is the most frequently asked question.  "How many lessons will it take?"

Having taught Wedding Lessons for five years, I would say on average I teach 3 to 5 lessons per couple. 

There are a lot of variables.  One major variable is the difficulty of the dance.  Waltz and Night Club are the most difficult, Slow Dance is the easiest.

However, hand's down, the most important variable of all is the dance experience of the Groom.  I estimate that 90%... let me repeat... Ninety per cent of all my men have NEVER partner danced in their lives.

Let me be direct about something - some of these men with no dance experience really struggle. 

Take Jason for example.  Jason took two hours of Introductory Dance Lessons at a dance studio before I met him.  Jason was so frustrated because the instructor kept giving him too much information and not enough repetition.  His fiancée, Alyssa, was worried because he was so overwhelmed.  Alyssa spoke to a co-worker who had recently gotten married herself and suggested she email me. 

When I met Jason, I quickly realized he couldn't remember a thing I taught him.  Quite frankly, I have never met a more discouraged young man.  They had shown him so much material that he got overwhelmed.  So my first job was to insist he get one move right and dance it to music.

So what is my point?  If you start early enough, even a man who initially struggles will get it!  Furthermore, there is no stigma being forced to take five lessons instead of four.  No, Jason was not a natural dancer.  So what?  It took Jason five lessons where most men need four lessons to accomplish the same thing.  That's really not so bad now, is it?

Of course, Alyssa was the champion.  Where there's a will, there's a way.  When Jason wasn't looking, I whispered to Alyssa that she make him practice every day between our lessons.  I told her they didn't need to practice for hours on end, but to just walk through the steps for 5 minutes each day.  5 MINUTES!  Keep it simple.  Dancing once a day for five minutes is all it took for Jason to develop enough muscle memory between lessons.  As a result we didn't have to spend the whole next lesson just reviewing.  Practice at home goes a long way.

Another variable is how much time do you have?   I will help you the moment you get in touch with me, but if I had my druthers, I would like to see you three months ahead of time.  That's about right.

That said, for some reason, the wedding dance seems to be the one item people drag their feet on.  There's an old saying that if it weren't for the Last Minute, nothing would ever get done. 

Yes, there are those who wait till the last-minute.  I would guess that 25% of my couples show up with just two weeks to go.  If you wait till the last minute, you will only have time for one or two lessons, I will be honest and say some of my students have just enough time to avoid being thrown to the wolves. 

However,
the big danger here is if you have a Groom like Jason who simply cannot be rushed, you are going to have a Wedding Dance that will make you shudder for the rest of your life. 

It really all boils down to the man.  If a man has little prior experience at partner dancing and he has ONE LESSON to prepare, there is just so much that can be accomplished.
That is not enough time to put a polished project on the floor.  However, if that's all the time you have, then we will do the best we can.

If you don't have much time to prepare for your First Dance, I do have a simple suggestion - cut your song down to a minute and a half.  More than one unprepared couple has come back to me and reported how much they wished they could fast-forward the song to the finish!  "I thought that song would never end."

Plus dancing the same thing gets old quickly.  Please don't wait till the last minute.

Some people take these Wedding dance lessons pretty seriously.  I had one couple take ten lessons, but they were the exception.  Oddly enough, they were better than average dancers.  However it was a "Society Wedding" and they wanted to impress people.  Considering how hard they worked, I imagine they did!

However I would not dream of obligating any couple to multiple lessons ahead of time.  I always schedule just one lesson.  Then at the end of the first lesson, the three of us talk it over and decide what to do next.

Now it is true that most couples come to see me expecting they will only need one lesson.  Having never danced in their life, they have no way of being realistic in their expectations.  However, once they see this dance stuff is trickier than they realized, they typically come back for a couple more trips.

The problem for most wedding couples is they have little dance background and yet suddenly they are expected to look like someone from "Dancing with the Stars."

With everyone watching and of course the videotape camera running, every wedding couple wants to shine in a situation like this.

So there are always two concerns: 
1. How can we look good? 
2. How can we avoid embarrassing ourselves. 

And the question gets asked, "How far ahead should someone start?" 

The experts say six months, but it can be done quicker than that.

Remember: The single most important variable is how much previous dancing the Groom has done.

People always ask me in their emails: how many lessons will it take?  C'mon now, I am not psychic.  I can't possibly tell you seen unseen.  All I can give you is a range.

One in ten couples can get by with one lesson... and half of that total is skewed because they only have time for one lesson.

If the Groom is a beginning dancer and you have time, I say three, maybe four lessons may be needed. 

If the Groom has prior experience with partner dancing like Country-Western dancing, Salsa, or Swing dancing, then you will likely shave one or two lessons off of that total.

Now... at  this point you might have a couple of questions.  Write it down while you are still thinking about it and include them in your email.  By the way, guess what your next step should be?   That's right.  Schedule your first lesson.

 

Schedule Your Wedding Dance Lessons

Email me to set up an appointment 
marla@ssqq.com

I teach most of my Wedding Dances here at my home in the Heights.  I have a spacious 500 square foot dance floor complete with mirrors, sound system, and barking dogs outside.  Just kidding.

The advantage of doing lessons here at my house is that I can charge less - no expensive rooms to rent at a dance studio - and I can schedule the lessons at practically any time that is mutually convenient.  Most lessons are done in the evening from 5 pm on, but I can do them during the day and Saturdays as well.

The one thing you can't do is just show up. You need to make an appointment so please email me: marla@ssqq.com  (or call me if you prefer: 713 862 4428). 

While you are at it, answer these Questions in your email:

1. When is the Wedding?
2. What Song did you pick?  (more about this in a moment)
3. What Dance do you think you want to learn? 
4. How large is the Dance Floor?
5. How much dance experience does the Groom have?
6. How much dance experience does the Bride have?
7. What is your time availability?  List two or three different times that would work for you. 

 

Step Three: Pick a Song!

Picking your song is very important. I would say that two-thirds of my couples have their song picked out ahead of time.  Since the song always determines the dance, I can usually preview the song on the Internet and give you a suggestion what dance you will be doing.

You don't have to have your song picked out to schedule the lesson.  It would be nice, of course, but not necessary.  If you don't have a song, I can help you pick one when I first meet you.  Whatever you do, don't postpone your dance lessons till you find "the perfect song".  Remember, the sooner you start your lessons, the more you will reduce the stress involved.

We can start the lessons without a song.  For that matter, if you pick a song and change your mind, that is not a problem either.  Just be aware that if your new song is a complete change of pace, we might need to switch to another dance.  So it helps to choose the song first.

If you don't have a song, then think of what dance style (i.e. Foxtrot, Slow Dance, Waltz, etc) you prefer.

The song determines what dance you will use. Many people don't have a clue what dance will work to the song they choose, but fortunately there is always some dance that will fill the bill nicely. 

Fortunately my husband Rick has about 2,000 dance songs on file.  If you are looking for a suggestion, Rick usually has some pretty good ideas.  We can handle that during your lesson.

Over the years, the following dances have been used for the Wedding Dance. I have listed them in order of frequency.

  1. Foxtrot (40%)
  2. Slow Dance (30%)
  3. Twostep (10%)
  4. Waltz   (5%)
  5. Swing   (5%)
  6. Polka  (2%)
  7. Night Club  (2%)
  8. Tango  (2%)
  9. Cha Cha  (2%)
  10. Rumba (2%)

SLOW DANCE

Marla agreed with me that most couples dance a Slow Dance.  

Here are some the Slow Dance songs my couples have used:
"At Last" by Etta James
"Unforgettable" by Nat and Natalie Cole
Sam Cooke's "Only You"
Sam Cooke's "You Send Me"
Percy Sledge "When a Man Loves a Woman"

"This Guy's in Love" by Herb Alpert
"What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
"How Sweet it is" by James Taylor
"Falling in Love with You" by Elvis Presley
"Because You Love Me" by Celine Dion
"I'll Stand By You" by the Pretenders
"You and Me" by Lighthouse


FOXTROT

When it comes to Foxtrot, Frank Sinatra is VERY popular, especially his song "The Way You Look Tonight". Good choice. Classy song, great lyrics.  Another popular Foxtrot is "It Had to Be You" by Harry Connick, Jr.

Other songs my couples have used for Wedding Dances:

"More" by Bobby Darin.
"Moondance" by Van Morrison
"Can't Take My Eyes off of You" by Frankie Valli
"Just in Time" by Frank Sinatra
"Night and Day" by Frank Sinatra
"L.o.v.e" by Nat King Cole

My husband's favorite is "Moondance".  This is an excellent Foxtrot choice that has been used several times. ("Well it's a Marvelous Night for a Moon Dance With the Stars Above in Your Eyes... It's a Fantabulous Night to Make Romance Beneath the Cover of October Skies!").  The main drawback to the song is that it is a bit fast.  


WESTERN MUSIC


Western Music is used a lot more often than you might guess.

One popular Wedding Twostep is "The First Step is the Twostep" by Tracy Byrd.  

Rick once trained a couple to Polka to
"The Bluest Eyes in Texas" by Restless Heart.

The nice thing about Western Music is that it tells a story.  Some of the most romantic music ever recorded can be danced to at a Wedding using Twostep or Polka

SWING MUSIC

There is the occasional off-the-beaten path song choice. I recently prepared a couple to dance Swing to another sexy Van Morrison song "Brown Eyed Girl".

In early 2005 we had a couple named Kathy and Philip Ritchie who danced Swing at their wedding. Kathy was twirling around the floor with the huge gown and all. I have no idea how she managed to succeed, but I have the picture to prove it. 


Night Club is an option similar to Waltz in that it is an ideal dance for a wedding if you are an experienced dancer ahead of time.

Following the longtime SSQQ tradition of finding your future husband or wife at the studio, legendary SSQQ instructor Sharon Crawford and her husband Bill Shaw were no exception.  They met through the studio and fell in love. Due their strong dance background, Bill and Sharon danced a romantic Night Club at their March 2005 Wedding to a romantic Western slow dance song.  I was very impressed with their dancing and thought they looked terrific together out on the floor.

Night Club is a highly sophisticated form of Slow Dancing based on the Latin dance Bolero that is an option for advanced dancers. Like the Waltz, you need to plan ahead. Private lessons will always help, but I recommend you take the group class first.  Bill and Sharon's lovely dance made it clear that Night Club is a great option at a wedding.


Tango is an excellent possibility.
One couple learned to Tango to "Ecstasy". That brought a smile to my face.  Tango is a real eye-catcher to be sure, but a little on the racy side.  Tango music reminds me more of "passion", but Romance can be found in all types of music.

Once we spent several lessons teaching a couple from the studio how to dance Salsa to Rosemary Clooney's song "Mambo Italiano". Somehow it seemed to be an odd choice for a wedding song, but it's what they wanted. And apparently they had fun because they came back for group lessons after the honeymoon with nothing but smiles!

No one has ever tried a Rumba to my knowledge, but this beautiful Latin dance of Romance would be perfect if anyone found a sultry slow jazz song with a Latin beat.

Any woman dancing to Diane Krall's sexy rendition of "The Look of Love" would have every guy in the house mesmerized, I promise. But then maybe that isn't the right idea, is it?  Or maybe it is!

As a reminder, if you can't pick a song yourself, you are always welcome to ask me for suggestions.  I will turn on the Jukebox and let you listen to our extensive collection of songs. If you like one of our songs, we can make a copy of it for you on the spot.  If you prefer Western, let me know and I will grab Rick.  He knows tons of great Western songs.

 

 

WALTZ

In everyone's mind, Waltz is the preferred dance of choice. Most people agree it is the one dance most associated with "Romance".

Like Cinderella and her Prince Charming at the Ball, Waltz is considered the most Romantic dance of all.

Foxtrot is good and so is Slow Dance. But honestly speaking no other dance comes closer to capturing everyone's imagination than Waltz with its graceful, floating style. 

However you might be
surprised to discover that Waltz is almost never used for the First Dance.  I estimate one in twenty couples actually end up dancing a Waltz.

So how could this be?  Everyone assumes a Waltz, the beautiful and romantic dance of all, will be the first dance at the wedding, right?  Wrong. I rarely see anyone try a Waltz. 

So why not?  Why isn't Waltz ever used?  There are two reasons.

PROBLEM 1: PEOPLE WAIT TILL THE LAST MINUTE

First, Waltz is very technical. A strong sense of rhythm and a deep understanding of the complicated footwork is necessary. A dance this difficult requires a long preparation time and many lessons. As we know, most people wait till the last minute.  With time running out, the result is they have no choice but to opt for an easier dance. 

Not everyone waits till the last minute. In November 2003
SSQQ instructor Vicki Bernard and her fiancé Johnny Smith danced a show-stopping Waltz at their wedding. It was not just a wedding dance, it was a performance.  People were so amazed they stood up and clapped!!  They never seen such fine dancing done live in their entire lives. 

Vicki had a huge edge: she had been a Waltz assistant for two years!  She knew just what she was up against. So when she and Johnny got engaged, the two of them actually sat down and worked out their wedding dance plans. Johnny began by
taking Sharon Crawford's amazing Western Waltz course for 5 months in preparation to Waltz at their November wedding. Then every Wednesday night after class he and Vicki practiced down in Room 4 for at least 30 minutes.

During this time,
Vicki assisted in the Sunday night Western Waltz class as well and Johnny took the class just for extra practice.  I watched them over a period of six months. I can say beyond a doubt that Vicki and Johnny prepared more thoroughly for their First Dance than any couple I have ever known!!

So the girl is a ringer and the boy has game.  You would expect them to be confident, yes? 'Hey man, No Sweat! Piece of cake, Dude.

This was not the case. I asked both of them how they felt as the wedding date approached.  Johnny said before the dance he was scared out of his wits. Vicki said she was extremely nervous!  Is there any hope for the rest of us?

Considering how extensive Johnny and Vicki's preparation was, I expected an attitude verging on cocky.  Instead when I asked about their upcoming dance, I was taken aback at their response. Both of them hinted that they need more patterns, more polish, and more practice. Waltz footwork is fast and intricate. The possibility of a mistake is very real. For example, what if Vicki tripped on her dress??  This has actually happened in several wedding dances (where do you think the term "dress rehearsal" comes from?)  Only someone like Stephen King would write a horror story with a thought this disturbing!

So now we know why so few people Waltz at their wedding - it may be beautiful, but it is also much too difficult for the average dancer. If the pros are worried, what hope is there for the rest of us?

PROBLEM 2: NO ONE KNOWS WHERE TO FIND A GOOD WALTZ TO DANCE TO

Besides the difficulty of the Waltz, there is another important reason this dance is rarely used at weddings.  Most people are at a loss to even name a Waltz song.  The most famous Waltz I can think of is
Anne Murray's romantic Waltz classic "Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life?"   I have seen this song used a couple times, but not nearly as often as I would have suspected. 

Another famous Waltz is the "Godfather Waltz" from the movie. Somehow this classic tune might give the wrong impression.

Another very romantic Waltz is "Open Arms" by Journey if you are looking for a suggestion.

The point is, how are you going to dance a Waltz if you can't even find a song?  If you want to dance a Waltz at your wedding, there are three ways to find a good song.

One of the great undiscovered sources for beautiful Waltz music is in the Irish and Celtic traditions. As everyone is well aware, the Irish have a great affinity for moody, haunting songs. Much of Enya's music is beautiful, yet weird and vaguely unsettling at times. Every Christmas some new Irish or Celtic CD comes out. Invariably each CD has one or two of the most beautiful Waltzes imaginable. You are welcome to listen to our selection of Irish/Celtic Waltzes. 

The easiest place to look for a Waltz is Western music. There are many beautiful, romantic Waltzes in Western albums. George Strait has several as does Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire.

The third place to look is Ballroom dance music.  That is where Rick and I found our song.  

Rick and I danced a Waltz at our wedding.  Yes, there we are.  By the way, did you know I had a truly crazy wedding?  I called it my "oops wedding".  Believe it or not, Rick couldn't even find his own mother to start the ceremony!   Good story if you want a laugh.  Marla's Wedding

We danced to a Waltz instrumental of the Romeo and Juliet classic A Time for Us.  Great song. It was beautiful and had the perfect tempo.

I found the song in a compilation of Ballroom dance music.  I have several others like it. You can always ask to listen to our selection of Ballroom Waltz music. 

You know, while I am thinking of my own wedding dance, I have a couple of details to share.  Not every woman gets to marry a professional dance instructor like Rick.  Since Rick leads so well, all we did to prepare was to make sure we danced to our song twice a week starting about five months ahead of time.  This gave me enough familiarity with the moves to recognize my next step.

However, most men don't have the time to learn to lead at anywhere near the level necessary for a lead-follow routine like ours.

That is why I prefer to teach a memorized pattern to most of my couples.  You learn five or six moves in a row.  When you come to the end of the pattern, you repeat it.  Believe it or not, after three cycles, the song is over.  This Wedding Dance experience does not have to be excruciating.

One more thing.  My husband has been dancing professionally since the mid-Seventies.  He knows every Waltz move in the book.  Furthermore we followed the Wedding Dance cookbook and started practicing way early. 

And guess what?  Even Mr. Perfect Dancer made a mistake during my Wedding Dance.  And you know what?  No one cared.  I had one girlfriend giggle and that was the extent of it.

So what lessons can we learn from this?  

Well, the first thing to do is accept that your new husband will make at least one mistake while you are out there.  That's just the way it is, Ladies.  If Rick can't do it, then no man should be expected to be perfect.  So gauge your expectations accordingly and try not to be critical.  All that does is make your man more nervous... which will create more mistakes.  Let me do the fussing; you stick to the smiling.

The second thing to do is remember that your Wedding Dance does not have to be "Dancing with the Stars".  Yes, you want to look graceful and you want to look competent while you are out there.  However, what is MOST IMPORTANT to your guests is that the two of you look happy together.  The Wedding Dance is a demonstration of your love for one another. 

So even if Prince Charming does forget a move or gets so nervous he loses the rhythm or leads a pattern wrong, keep smiling.  Just remember you married him for a lot more important reasons than his dancing and that he is trying his best. 

I know one couple who practiced their Waltz for months on end.  Months!!  They were really good.

As a way to cut costs, she bought her dress on ebay.  The dress came at the last minute.  No time for alterations and definitely no time for the proverbial "dress rehearsal"... yes, that is where the saying comes from.

The dress looked wonderful, by the way, and it was quite a bargain from what I gather.  However, when they got out there for the Wedding Dance, the dress was just too long.  The poor husband could not help stepping on that dress.  She tripped repeatedly.  Finally the bride picked up the excess material and stuffed it under one of her arms.  Now she became two women - the dress doubled her in size!  Her husband couldn't get his arms around her back to lead her.  They stumbled for the entire song.  Yes, it was a comedy routine worthy of I Love Lucy

I won't lie to you... I grinned several times.  It was funny.  At the same time, I really felt for them too. 

You know what?  None of us cared.  Rick agreed with me.  We loved this couple so much that every trip and every stumble didn't matter a bit...because they kept smiling!  As long as they did their best to carry on with warmth and dignity, we felt for them and loved them even more for giving it the old college try.  I was proud of both of them!

"Style" can mean more than dancing to perfection.  In this case, they showed their Style in the way they dealt with their problem.

Patience. Patience. Patience.  Just remember.... when your husband goofs out there.... and he is bound to goof... all you have to do is love him and reassure him.  If you do that, your marriage is off to a great start.
 

Step Four: Learning to Dance

After you pick your song, now you have to learn the dance that goes to it.


After five years and five hundred couples, at this point, I have my Wedding Dance preparation down pat. If a couple wants to Slow Dance, I have a set pattern ending with a dramatic Oversway for the Grand Finale.

If the song is a Foxtrot, I
usually teach a form of Foxtrot known as "Box Fox". I will give you a memorized set of 5 patterns and have you repeat the cycle three times in the song.

Like any good sandwich, you need two slices of bread around the peanut butter. With that in mind, I wrap an entrance and a finale around the memorized pattern in the middle.

Obviously the main objective is to learn the "Master Pattern". 

That said, if time permits, I will be happy to
teach an Intro where the groom goes out on the floor first, then the bride makes a big entrance to thunderous applause. She gracefully walks around her new husband a couple times, presents herself into his arms, and hopefully begin to dance somewhere close to the start of the song.  

As for the Finale, if the couple is particularly ambitious, I can help
the couple learn how to execute a lunge or dramatic  to finish the dance. Ta da!!

So how good do we have to be?

Most people suffer under a huge misconception they have to be awesome at the first dance. I have found this to be untrue. America is not a nation of dancers and therefore we set the bar pretty low for wedding dances. Couples get 5 points out of 10 right off the bat for getting out there on Pass/Fall basis. If they just manage to stand up for the entire song,they Pass.  

Each couple will get 2 more points if they both can smile at each other through the entire song. This is no easy feat considering how nervous some of these people are!

And if the couple can actually dance a lick, they can earn 3 more points for artistic merit. Given how little time most couples devote to preparing for their wedding dance (2 one-hour private lessons is the norm), I usually have them concentrate just as much on reminding them to smile as on their footwork.

A good smile can go a long way!  If the couple demonstrates to the world the joy of dancing in each other's arms, very few people care less how good their dancing is.
 

I may be a dance instructor, but even I would prefer to watch a couple who look happy together shuffle around and stumble a couple times than watch a couple who can actually dance but look too serious or nervous.  Most people are so delighted for the wedding couple that any actual show of rhythm and style is icing on the cake.  Very few guests actually expect an amazing Waltz exhibition.

That said, all Wedding Couples have a strong desire to show a sense of Style on the floor.  Deep down every couple wants to put on a good Show.  I am only saying it is counter-productive if a couple worries so much about the footwork that they forget about that 'Look Happy' angle.  


Relax!  Take it Easy!!

As I said earlier, I have observed many times just how little the man knows about what is going on when it comes to the First Dance.  Wedding Planning and Pregnancy have one thing in common - the woman does 99% of the work in both situations. When it comes the dance lessons, the women usually pick the instructor and pick the music independent of the husband-to-be. Or if the guy actually does help pick the song, it turns out only the women know the words. The women are constantly reminding the men they better practice ahead of time.

That said, it is the great Cosmic Irony that Men, the sex least predisposed to dance excellence, have 90% of the responsibility for making the Wedding Dance work.  I have a hunch most guys would gladly let the woman lead if they had any choice in the matter at all, but it probably wouldn't work.  

For this reason, I have learned the KISS method is the safest strategy. I try to put as little pressure on the men as possible because they always look so overwhelmed. I figure there is no particular advantage to learning five steps versus four or six steps versus five. After all, Artistic Merit only gets you three points at best. If the man is over his head, I firmly believe in keeping things simple simple simple.

Unfortunately some of my brides don't always catch on.  The jokes about the Bridezilla Myth are funny because there really is a kernel of truth in the phenomenon.  Some women show up expecting to be twirled around like Cinderella only to find out she might be lucky if her future husband can barely master Step-Touch, Step-Touch, Walk Walk.

It doesn't happen often, but occasionally the ladies can be impatient. They expect the men to catch on faster than they do. The ladies frown, they roll their eyes, they have an edge to their voice, they get critical... you know what I am talking about.  Women forget many men have never "partner danced" in their lives.  This stuff isn't as easy as it looks!

Overlooking this fact, sometimes I have ladies who will embarrass their man by insisting I dance with him and 'straighten him out'.  Rarely does this pressure accomplish anything positive. Usually the man simply grows more tense than he already is.  Worried, confused, and helpless to catch on any faster, the man freezes up.  The hour is wasted.

Sad to say, I have discovered the truly phobic men are often the ones who put the Wedding Lessons off till the last minute.  This is probably not a coincidence.  These men know in their hearts they have never enjoyed one moment of success on the dance floor in their life and are overwhelmed with the thought of performing solo in front of so many important people.

It doesn't help that the more phobic the guy is, the longer the couple usually delays calling me. At this point I think I function more as a marriage counselor than a dance teacher. I go into my "take a deep breath, calm down, let's start over" approach.  Fortunately things usually get back on track, but there have been some pretty tense moments over the years.

There is no graceful way to put this, but the more patient the lady is, the better the man does.  Pressure has no place in learning to Slow Dance.  And, ladies, if you think your guy is likely to freeze up out there, DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! 

That is your body that will be on the floor if he messes up.  It's better to bring him in early and force him to face his fears while we have time to work it out than risk flubbing up your entire dance. 

One more thing - if you do make a blunder in your wedding dance, don't cringe or lose your cool by frowning!  It is much better to laugh it off.  That is what I did when Rick made his mistake in our dance.  I just laughed and stood there patiently waiting for him to recover.  He caught the very next beat and off we went again.  No big deal.

I remember Johnny Carson once said some of his biggest laughs came after he made a clever ad lib at his own expense dealing with a joke that fell flat.  Sure enough, people smiled even more after I laughed off my mistake. Just remember the golden rule - smile, smile and smile some more!  Your crowd will love you!

Be Sure to Pick Your Music Ahead of Time if possible!  Don't be Afraid to Edit the Song.

I have a few more suggestions for people who are getting ready for their Wedding Dance.

Couples can save a lot of valuable time by picking their music before the private dance lesson and by bringing it with them. Marla can remember one couple who wasted over thirty minutes of private lesson time arguing about what dance/what song/what constituted a romantic song. Meanwhile Marla got paid to practice her tap dancing. Always pick your music ahead of time!!

One thing you should not worry about is the speed of the music. The tempo of the song is not important - there is always some form of Slow Dance or Foxtrot that will work for any speed.  What is important though is the length of the song.  Two minutes plus a few seconds is probably the perfect length. Three minutes should be the maximum length.

A simple trick is to ask the band or the DJ to fade the song at two and a half minutes, but just between me and you, if it is my wedding, I am not going to trust anyone if I have a way to handle it myself.

In this modern era of computer technology, music editing using a computer is a much better bet than gambling on the DJ staying alert.  I remember attending the wedding of a personal friend.  I watched in horror as the couple started their dip at a key point in the song where the DJ was supposed to start to fade.  Unfortunately the volume never changed.  The DJ was unfamiliar with the music and didn't recognize his cue. Uh oh. The groom literally had to gesture to a friend to poke the DJ in the ribs.

Why leave this to chance??  If you can't do it on your own computer, I will ask Rick to do it for you during your lesson with me.  It takes ten minutes max.  No extra charge.

I remember one couple who brought me the beautiful western slow dance classic "From This Moment" by Shania Twain. Pretty song, but gee whiz, the song ran four and a half minutes long!  And these guys knew four steps… and not very well.

I knew this couple was going to get hammered with nerves standing out there for four minutes doing the same four steps over and over and over again. I made a suggestion. Shorten the song.  Really?   Sure. I took the CD and gave it to Rick.

While I worked with my couple, Rick
fed the song into the studio computer, put it into a music editing program, snipped two minutes off, added a "fade", burned the edited song onto a new $2 CD and boom - they were good to go.  Rick said his computer project took 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, my couple's gratitude was so overwhelming I wouldn't be surprised if one of their kids has the first name "Richard" as a middle name. Hope it isn't a girl.

Did you know you can alter the tempo of a song?  Every dance has a speed range where it feels the best. 

Unfortunately, music artists don't care about how fast or how slow their song is when they record it.  So a lot of really great music is 5 beats too slow or 5 beats too fast to feel comfortable dancing to. 

These days a computer music editing program can easily speed up or slow down a song.


For example, when I taught a couple how to Foxtrot to the Bobby Darin song "More", I immediately felt the song was too fast for a Foxtrot. I made a suggestion: Why not let my husband slow it down?  He put the song on the computer and programmed it to slow the song down by 10 beats per minute. We continued to practice while the computer did its work. The slowed-down version sounded just fine and the tempo was perfect for a Foxtrot.

Why not let us slow a song down or shorten it?   It is easy to do and very practical in my opinion. 

One more thing.  Sometimes a couple will ask my advice on whether it is better to use a CD or let their band play the song.  I always say use the CD. I am sorry to say, but I have a horror story on this issue as well.

One couple asked their band to play "Peaceful Easy Feeling" for their first song.  At the speed the Eagles recorded this beautiful song, it was just a little too slow to fit into the Twostep tempo range.  So they told their band to "speed it up a little".  By the time the band got through, the song had turned into a polka.  In addition, they played the song too loud. 

Again, if you have control, then keep it.  The band can play before and after your song.  Use a CD for your wedding dance.


When is the best time to start to prepare?  

The advice is to put dance lessons in the "Wedding Timeline" at the earliest opportunity.  Some people say six months ahead of the wedding date is the right time.

Four to six months ahead is clearly the best time frame to allow the couple to prepare their dance in the least stressful atmosphere possible.  With less pressure and a chance to learn at a slower pace, the man might even find he likes dancing!  After a couple lessons, he might realize dancing isn't so difficult after all and perhaps he will even think about going out and try some dancing for the fun of it!  (Don't be cynical; stranger things have happened!)

A lot of people forget there is more to dancing at weddings than just the important first dance.  More than one couple who prepared strictly for the first dance has confided in me after the wedding was over that their one regret was not learning how to Swing dance or Twostep to the music at their wedding.  One lady wiped a tear from her eye and said she wished she had felt comfortable getting out and dancing to the great band they had hired.

So another huge advantage of starting early is the chance for the wedding couple time to learn how to partner dance to the music the band or DJ plays during the Reception in addition to the First Dance.

I don't want all brides to get their hopes up because dancing is clearly not for everyone.  But all men know they have an obligation to dance at their wedding, so you ladies should seize this opportunity. The wedding countdown is the best chance you will EVER have to get your future husband into dance class.

Even if the Groom doesn't take the bait and fall in love with dancing, it is always a nice consolation to know he will at least dance well for the first dance so they feel more relaxed and confident on the "Big Day".

However if dancing at the Reception after the First Dance is not important, then one
or two months should be plenty of lead time.  

But like the Ants and the Grasshopper, not everyone thinks ahead.  After all, if it wasn't for the last minute, lots of things in life would never get done!  Let's face it, procrastination is part of human nature.

So what if you don't have six months?  What if you have three days?  Then
the middle of the week will have to do in a pinch.  However don't be surprised if you are so nervous you will find "smiling" easier said than done.

Obviously the more lead time, the better because you will have a chance to practice and get your act down. I have heard several anecdotes about marathon hours of slow dancing on the carpet the night before the wedding. But even this cram session may prove difficult.  Wedding couples have so many commitments to juggle!  Don't be surprised if "night-before" social engagements make even this last-ditch effort impossible!

What about the Parents?

I love working with parents!   I get Dads in here all the time.  Moms too.

The Fathers of the Bride are some of the kindest, happiest men I have ever met.  Trust me, they are thrilled for the opportunity to dance with their daughter at her Wedding.  It is a true blessing for them.

If you have a parent who wants to participate in your Wedding Dance ceremony, by all means, try to include them.  I know it sounds corny, but I danced with my own daughter at her Wedding!   I had a blast.

Parents love to dance at weddings!  Trust me.  I know.

Marla and daughter Marissa

Marla and son-in-law Glenn

Glenn and Marla's daughter Marissa

From: Cathy M
To: marla@ssqq.com
Subject: New to SSQQ

Good morning, Marla.  My husband and I have decided to learn to dance something cool before our daughters wedding this May.

We have never done anything like this but I did get him to agree to go and he seems truly interested. LOL
So what is the best way to get started. I have read as much as I can on the wed site and I guess we should just come on down and get signed up?

What do we need to know before getting there??  Any suggestions would be appreciated!!

thanks so much!! Cathy

MARLA'S FIRST REPLY

Cathy, what you are suggesting is a great idea. This is a fun project sure to reward you on your daughter's Wedding Day.

What you should do is approach your goal from two angles.

1) Are either of you going to dance with daughter or son in law in a spotlight dance? If so, you have to pick a song and identify which dance is appropriate... typically Foxtrot, Waltz, or Slow Dance.
2) For the wedding reception, you need to ask your daughter what the music theme is: Salsa, Swing, Country, or a little bit of everything. Then pick the appropriate dance.

Typically the best place to start is a Western class if there will be Western music or Salsa if there will be Salsa music.

Otherwise I recommend East Coast Swing, aka Swing Dancing. This dance is used to widest range of music.

Marla Archer

Abraham and Donna, daughter/father!

Meredith and Ron, daughter/father!

 

From: Cathy
To: marla@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: New to SSQQ

Good idea!  I didn't even think of the father daughter dance!

I am definitely going to send my husband and daughter to you as well.

Then if time permits, maybe my husband and i can learn some salsa. And like most young people these days I assume they will have a lot of Rock and hip hop. I can handle the rock not too sure about the hip hip but Salsa I love so since we are paying for the DJ I guess we can make request too!! LOL

thanks again and looking forward to dancing!!!!!

MARLA'S SECOND REPLY

My own daughter Marissa got married not too long ago (2008). I noticed from my own experience that the parents don't have that many opportunities to dance during the Reception.  Parents have just as many duties being the host/hostess as the bride and groom do... maybe even more!  I remember spending a great deal of my time going from table to table to say hi to people.

That is why I recommend a spotlight dance for the parents in addition to the bride and groom.  If the parents are going to miss dancing at the Reception, why not at least have a special moment to remember?   Trust me, I have pictures of me dancing with my daughter and my new son-in-law in a place where I see them every day... and I always smile.

Let the parents pick songs specific to the moment and let me know.  I will be more than happy to help you prepare.  A father-daughter dance or a mother-son dance will be sure to create plenty of smiles all around.

Marla Archer

 

Marla's Final Thoughts

Gradual learning
always beats learning at the last minute.  In addition to your lessons, force yourself to practice at home.  I realize a major drawback to private lessons is there is no place to practice after the lesson is over, but many a Wedding Dance has been perfected on a living room floor.  

Pick your music ahead of time, figure out a way to get it under three minutes, email me to set up a lesson, and schedule some practice time for after the lesson. Depending on your dance experience, three to five Private Lessons and you should be ready for the Show.

Most important - Remember to smile. Both of you.  No matter how poorly you dance, if you can still your nerves enough to show your love for one another, no one will mind a bit. The heart will always be more important than the feet.

And one more thing - no one expects you to do "Dancing with the Stars".  Keep your expectations in line relative to your previous dance experience.

That said, once in a while a couple comes along who has been dancing for years and decides to really go for it at their Wedding.  Aubrey Smith and Billye Kidner were a couple who met at SSQQ, my husband's dance studio.  They were already experienced dancers when they met.  They decided to put all their energy into making their first dance wonderful.  Let me tell you, they succeeded royally!

Aubrey and Billye put on the best show I have ever seen at a Wedding!!  They had a Cinderella Wedding.  I think you would enjoy reading their story and seeing the pictures.

Marla Archer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please Note there are three other stories to review 

 Wedding Home Page  Marla's First Year of Wedding Lessons The Cinderella Wedding
   
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SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ