Wedding Dance Information
Written by Marla Archer
In the five
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!
Lessons are Necessary?
This is the most
frequently asked question. "How many lessons will it take?"
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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?
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
Email me to set up an appointment
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
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: email@example.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
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.
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.
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.
- Foxtrot (40%)
- Slow Dance (30%)
- Twostep (10%)
- Waltz (5%)
- Swing (5%)
- Polka (2%)
- Night Club (2%)
- Tango (2%)
- Cha Cha (2%)
- Rumba (2%)
Marla agreed with me that most couples dance a
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
When it comes to Foxtrot, Frank
Sinatra is VERY popular, especially his song "The Way You Look
Tonight". Good choice. Classy song, great lyrics.
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
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 is used a lot more often than you
One popular Wedding
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
There is the occasional off-the-beaten path song choice.
I recently prepared a couple to dance
to another sexy Van Morrison song "Brown Eyed Girl".
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
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
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.
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
So why not? Why isn't Waltz ever used? There are two
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
there is no particular advantage to learning
five steps versus four or six
steps versus five. After all, Artistic Merit only gets you
points at best. If
the man is over his head, I firmly believe in keeping things 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,
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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!
I love working with
parents! I get Dads in here all the time. Moms
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
From: Cathy M
Subject: New to SSQQ
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
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.
Abraham and Donna,
Meredith and Ron,
Subject: Re: New to SSQQ
I didn't even think of the father daughter
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'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
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
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.