The First Dance: Practice Makes Perfect
Group Lessons vs. Private
Not sure whether you’d rather practice promenading with a crew or solo?
Group lessons will likely be less expensive, and can help you conquer anxiety about dancing around other people, says Yolanda Crous, features and travel director for Brides magazine. Bud Walters, a dance instructor who worked with the Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire studios before founding Cincinnati-based Ballroom Dancing by Bud Walters, particularly likes including both sets of parents in the lessons.
“Everyone gets comfortable with each other and works on their ‘necessary’ dances,” he says.
On the other hand, both Walters and Crous note that with private classes you’ll have the instructor’s undivided attention, which means you’ll likely get the hang of the steps far faster and can practice to your actual first-dance song.
To avoid ending up in what he calls the “Frankenstein Butt Hugger” — groom’s hands on bride’s waist, bride’s hands on groom’s shoulders and you slowly rock yourselves (and your guests) to sleep — Walters’ three-lesson formula for beginners focuses on teaching men to lead and women to follow, with a variety of steps and simple spins, and a few dramatically romantic “Oh, baby” moments that couples can mix up on the fly. If you’re a bit more experienced, sign on for a few more classes and surprise your guests with something fast and fun, like a swing, samba or tango, says Crous.
Dress comfortably for your classes; however, if your dress will be a full ball gown, Walters recommends wearing a crinoline while practicing so that your fiancé knows how far away he’ll need to stand. Women also should wear the shoes they plan to dance in on their wedding day (or a comparable height), and men should sport leather-soled footwear rather than sneakers.
Ideally, you should start lessons about two or three months before the wedding, Crous says – early enough to nail your moves but not so far ahead that you forget them.