This fabulous article is by Somerset wedding photographer 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.