Genius tips for your first dance – with real bride + groom photos!

Published by Claire Gould on

This fabulous article is by Somerset wedding photographer Simon Biffen Photography

groom epic lift of bride during first dance, image by Simon Biffen Photography

It can be some people’s idea of a nightmare, but for others a chance to cut loose and go wild. The first dance is a wedding tradition that’s not going away anytime soon. There are so many ways that you can tackle this particular moment on your wedding day that I thought I’d share some of the wonderful first dances that I have witnessed, and why they are all perfect in their own way.

So let’s begin with the why. Where did this tradition come from? Turn the clock back a few hundred years and imagine the scene: a grand ball in a fancy stately home, guests from high society gathered and after a sumptuous meal the music begins and two distinguished guests are invited to open the evenings entertainment with a dance. Fast forward to weddings today and the newly married couple are the most important people present and they have the honour of opening the evening proceedings, which has now become a feature of weddings the world over.

guests joining in for the first dance, image by Simon Biffen Photography
romantic slow wedding dance, image by Simon Biffen Photography

But do you need to follow tradition? Well, going by the hundreds of first dances I have seen then the answer is definitely no! Do what you feel comfortable doing, if you like the excitement and added element of a rehearsed dance go for it! Alternatively, just go with the first 30 seconds of a song before welcoming your friends and family to join you, or if you want to keep it really low-key then everyone dancing at the same time is an easy way to not have the attention all on you!

modern choreographed first dance routine, image by Simon Biffen Photography
epic drop for a couple's first dance, image by Simon Biffen Photography

When it comes to choreographed dances, if you have the ability and the confidence to throw even a few moves you can be sure of a great reaction! Some couples pay for dance lessons to help them get the basic footwork and come up with a routine.

slow dancing first dance wedding, image by Simon Biffen Photography

Song choices obviously have an effect on the feel of a dance, slow, romantic songs really work best with a slower dance and upbeat songs love a lively dance to match them. Here’s an idea though: if you want to incorporate both, search for a song mix that switches things up or you can get your DJ to do some magic, starting slow and then dropping in a funky jam will really get people cheering when you change tempo with your dance!

bride and groom dancing gangnam style, image by Simon Biffen Photography
first dance wedding photographer smoke haze, image by Simon Biffen Photography

When I am photographing wedding first dances I will look at the setting and decide whether I need to add any off-camera flash, which can add more dynamic and creative lighting.

I’ll check to see where the music is coming from, it might be a song played from a phone in which case if there’s a band I’ll move to a position where I don’t see them standing waiting till the song has finished!

Often the backdrop of friends and family is best. I always check with couples as to whether they are planning a choreographed dance so I can be ready for any crowd-pleasing lifts or maybe there will be confetti cannons fired at the end.

bride and groom enter the room for their first dance, image by Simon Biffen Photography

The ‘left-right shuffle’ that many couples say they’ll do because ‘we’re terrible dancers’ actually results in some really romantic photos, mostly because it is actually a lot easier to capture than a spinning whirlwind!

For the latter I am looking for the energy and peak moments of the dance and the challenge of getting this right results in some wonderful images.

lift and spin first dance routine, image by Simon Biffen Photography
A kiss just after the first dance, image by Simon Biffen Photography

When a first dance has finished and everyone flocks to floor the join in it’s a perfect moment for you to stay together for a few more seconds and enjoy the love that surrounds you! I will often be close by and the photos I capture immediately after a first dance can be really special: from crowd-surfing to serenading, anything can happen!

first dance crowd surf at wedding, image by Simon Biffen Photography

bride lift in first dance routine, image by Simon Biffen Photography
first dance wedding photography UK, image by Simon Biffen Photography

First dances come in all forms, some traditional, some not, and if you choose not to do a first dance that’s cool too! It is your day and you should do whatever makes you happy.


epic first dance moments, image by Simon Biffen Photography

first dance kiss captured by Simon Biffen Photography

Simon Biffen is a Somerset wedding photographer and a member of English Wedding

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epic groom first dance moves, image by Simon Biffen Photography

wedding first dance with trumpets, image by Simon Biffen Photography
choreographed routine for bride and groom's first dance, image by Simon Biffen Photography

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.


Matt Stephens · April 28, 2020 at 10:49 pm

Oh god! Reading this and seeing these pictures has REALLY made me miss my job. All my work has been cancelled due to coronavirus so I’m just sat here. I have a newborn baby and my wife on maternity leave too – so we have zero money coming in for god knows how long it’s going to be! I love my job (I’m a wedding singer/guitarist and DJ) and looking at this post has reminded me what I’m missing. These days are the best and mean so much. I feel a bit emotional now to be honest.

    Claire Gould · April 30, 2020 at 8:01 am

    Oh Matt, I’m so sorry you’re struggling right now. There are going to be some amazing weddings at the end of all this – and I hope you’re right in the middle of things. That absolute joy and celebration is waiting for us all at the end of this bumpy road… but in the meantime, enjoy and celebrate your new baby with all your heart.
    Claire x

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