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A Timeline for 3 Different Wedding Dances

wedding dances

Whether you’re looking up studios a year before the big day (you’re crazy, and I love you) or flying into one the week before and praying you won’t be sent away, you all want your wedding dance to look AMAZING. 

And good news is, they all can.

True, those last-minute wedding dances will likely have more of those romantic kitschy moments thrown in than the couple with the One-Year Master Plan, but unless you invited Nigel Lithgow or Simon Cowell, nobody’s going to care because you look so gosh-darn cute doing it!

Now that your worst fear – getting laughed at by an audience comprised of every person who ever raised you – is relieved, let’s look at 3 different kinds of wedding dances, and how each one makes you look the best you can on short (or long) notice.

“Last-Minute Rush” Wedding Dances: 1-4 Weeks Left

Learning the Steps: 1-3 lessons
Learning the Choreography: 1-2 lessons
Polish: 1-3 lessons
Recommended dances: Slow waltz, rumba, foxtrot

You were supposed to start months ago, but 10,000 other details got in the way! Now what??

Well to start, you need a repeating set of steps. Nothing too crazy, or too fast – just 2 or 3 moves you can do over and over. That’s your baseline, your last line of defence in case the unthinkable – spontaneous amnesia – strikes on the dance floor. It’s also what people will see the most of, so practice it the most!

Next, another step or two that will break up the rhythm a bit, inserted every 20-30 seconds to keep the audience riveted. Something that turns or travels more is always nice here, but the rule is it should be dramatic enough to grab the audience’s attention.

Finally, the kitsch! I recommend making this your entrance and possibly exit, simply because it’s hard to switch back into dance mode. Listen to your heart on this one, you romantic sap you. Whether it’s the stereotypical one-handed walk around or simply staring into each others eyes as you take your frame, pick something that feels authentic to you both, and the audience will love you for it.

“Simple Plan” Wedding Dances: 2-6 Months Left

Learning the Steps: 4-8 lessons
Learning the Choreography: 3-5 lessons
Polish: 5-10 lessons
Recommended dances: Slow waltz, rumba, foxtrot, tango, east coast swing, salsa (slow), cha cha

You actually started preparing for your wedding dance when you intended to, well done! I guarantee your instructor is happy with you… Well, LESS frustrated anyway.

One of the advantages of getting started earlier is you can explore some more interesting moves that will really show you off. No, you still can’t do the Dirty Dancing move, but you might get away with some no-feet-required moments. 

You can also start, to quote a certain SNL sketch: “exploring the space!” Great wedding dances use dramatic lines of travel – try rushing straight towards your audience on a tango, only to angle away at the last second! Even spot dances have some spectacular moving patterns that will catch the audience’s eye.

There is also a greater focus on the je ne sais quoi that will make your dance extra special – keeping your head up, holding up your frame, moving smoothly, and all that yummy stuff. Ever seen a dancer and thought “gee, I wish I could look/move like that”? THAT’S the stuff I’m talking about.

“Marriage-is-just-the-Excuse” Wedding Dances: 6 Months to 1+ Year Left

Learning the Steps: 10-15 lessons
Learning the Choreography: 8-12 lessons
Polish: 15-30 lessons
Recommended dances: Anything – it’s your day!

If you’re getting started this early, you are either one of the best prepared (and wealthy) people on the planet, or you don’t plan on stopping your dancing after the wedding.

At this point, your only restrictions are how quickly you learn, and the size of the dance floor. Wanna break out into the quickstep, then switch to a waltz in the outro? How about a romantic rumba that ends with a cheeky salsa? Heck, how about a salsa the whole way through? How can I say no?

That said, it’s easy to get carried away when you have this much time in advance, so set deadlines on when to have the steps, choreo and polish finished (just kidding – you’re never done polishing). Talk with your instructor to plan it out together.

Although a choreographed routine is the easiest way to get you performance-ready, you may opt to simply social dance instead. While you can’t just do a lift while social dancing (stop it, you two!), you can inject more playfulness and spontaneity into your dance. This puts a lot more responsibility on the leader however, so err on the side of caution.

Finally, expect to get a lot deeper into the technique of your dance – I’m talking Latin hip action, rise and fall, leading from your body, not your arms… Trust me, you’ll be a hit. With a bit of luck, you may actually start enjoying the technique, as you start seeing it transform you into the amazing dancer you’ve always wanted to be.

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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