Groom kisses bride during wedding first dance at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago | PartySlate
photographer: KingenSmith | planner: Hope Weis Consulting | décor: HMR Designs | venue: Four Seasons Hotel Chicago | entertainment: Arlen Music Productions
The Best of | National | Weddings

7 Ways to Wow With Your Wedding First Dance

Groom kisses bride during wedding first dance at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago | PartySlate

Many years later, I still remember my wedding first dance. My husband and I were understandably nervous; neither of us could dance. For months, we fretted over how we would be able to enjoy such a nerve-wracking moment. Finally, a lightbulb went off…

One night, while watching You Only Live Twice for what must have been the millionth time, the opening credits rolled — and with it, Nancy Sinatra’s iconic theme song for the movie came on. Immediately, we turned to each other, as if reading the other’s thoughts.

When the lights dimmed for our first dance, the crowd hushed — but only for so long. By the first few notes, murmurings were heard. Once the lyrics started, excited whispers exploded. 

While we managed to make it through the song without tripping (huge success), it probably didn’t matter. Though truth be told, I’m pretty sure we could have fallen flat on our faces, and it still would have been a hit. To this day, friends and family talk about our unique song choice — and how it perfectly fit our personalities.

Ken Arlen, Director of Arlen Music Productions, shares, “We always advise our couples to pick a song that has special significance to their relationship.” He goes on to say, “Sometimes it is the first song they danced to when they started dating or a song they both loved hearing when they started to fall in love. For this reason, we tell all of our clients that we will learn any song for their first dance. It is such a special moment, and they deserve to have their perfect song.”

Of course, song selection is just the beginning. PartySlate asked eight top entertainment companies for unique ways to make a wedding first dance memorable. From inviting loved ones onto the dance floor to creating custom video backdrops, these insider tips will make your first dance a cherished part of your celebration — even if you hate dancing.

1. Find the Perfect Wedding First Dance Song

First dance at transparent tented wedding with chandelier focal point | PartySlate
photographer: Anerino Originals | planning & design: Evantine Design | venue: Philadelphia Museum of Art | entertainment: Starlight Music

Bradley Jones, Bandleader of Aragon Artists’ party band Village Theory, says, “A memorable first dance should always start with a memorable song. Of course, what’s ‘memorable’ can be very subjective.”

Knowing this, Aragon Artists will ask couples to imagine their relationship made into a movie — then imagine the theme song. “This is a particularly helpful approach for couples who may get overwhelmed in their search for the ‘perfect’ song. The truth is, there’s no such thing as a perfect song — but there’s always a song out there that’s uniquely perfect for every couple.”

Aragon Artists suggests that couples work closely with their bandleader when selecting music for a first dance. This will save each couple significant time in narrowing down their choices.

Jones says, “Once that’s figured out, your dance can be creative, traditional, or something in between. Big time dancers? Work with a choreographer to create the next viral wedding moment. Got four left feet? Keep your routine short and sweet by inviting guests to join you on the dance floor. Consider yourselves on the quirky side? Use props (or a costume change) to make your dance truly one-of-a-kind.”

Most importantly, Aragon Artists reminds couples to just have fun and be themselves. “Ultimately, nothing will be more memorable to your family and friends than just seeing you happy and totally in love.”

Danny Chaimson, President and CEO of Gold Coast Events agrees. “Your first dance song choice should be a reflection of you as a couple. It’s a great chance to go outside of the box, since whatever you pick will work. Try and find a song or artist that encapsulates a special moment for you, or has a significant meaning in your relationship. Then, just have fun with it. It can be choreographed or totally off the cuff.  Either way, your guests just want to see the love that you have for each other — the reason why they’re all there in the first place!”

Still need help sifting through endless song rosters? Here are a few more insider tips:

Dance to Your Song

Lloyd Snyder, Co-Bandleader of Evolution Orchestra of Arlen Music Productions, reminds couples that this is the obvious choice. “Love and relationships always have a soundtrack. You can’t go wrong in picking that special song that reminds you of when you were falling in love. And a good band will be able to arrange it and play it no matter what it is.”

Myoshi Marilla, Creative Director and Band Leader of Starlight Music, concurs. “My best advice on how to make your first dance memorable is to choose a song that has real meaning to you both and fits your personality! If it’s that one song that was playing when you first met in college, go for it! If it’s something fun and upbeat with a silly dance you both like doing at parties, don’t be afraid to let loose.”

Starlight Music also reminds couples to make the moment truly about themselves. “Everyone at your wedding knows you and loves you. So be yourself! This is truly the one moment in the reception where it’s all about you and your new spouse.”

Go With a Popular Song…or a Classic

Evolution Orchestra also suggests looking to the latest hits for inspiration. “Every year, an artist comes out with a good slow dance. Music is magical in the way it can transport you through time. If there’s a good love song that comes out around the time of your wedding planning, why not timestamp your first dance, so that every time it comes on, you’ll instantly travel through time and be right back on the dance floor?”

On the other hand, Starlight Music reminds couples to consider the long game. “If longevity is important to you, choose a song that is meaningful and yet recognizable. You may want to be able to ask the band or DJ at a party to play your first dance song in twenty years! Just remember, recognizable doesn’t have to mean boring!”

Create a Medley or New Arrangement

Starlight Music shares, “There are many times where we’re asked to customize a first dance, whether it’s jumping to a specific part of the song, changing the tempo or vibe, or mashing it up with something else because you have TWO favorite songs and can’t choose. We are flexible. We just want you to have your moment the way you want it.”

Lisa Ciampi Borres, Director of Sales at On The Move, agrees that custom arrangements makes any wedding first dance stand out. “One of our favorite ways to make the first dance memorable is by creating a medley or new arrangement of one or two different songs for the couples’ first dance.”

On The Move recommends one option for creating a medley. “One option that we really love is picking a song that is important to the couple and starting off slow — whether it’s the original rendition of the song or a scaled black, acoustic version — and then picking up the pace and making it more upbeat, ultimately asking all of the guests to join them.”

Amy Yassinger, Owner of Yazz Jazz Music & Productions, states, “Another option is to have a medley of a slow song with a more upbeat one.” On The Move agrees and recommends “allowing the band to find a creative way to transition between the two songs.” On The Move goes on to confirm how this is a great option for couples who can’t decide on just one song.

Evolution Orchestra of Arlen Music Productions sums it up perfectly. “With the popularity of viral videos and TikTok, nothing is more fun than starting off with a classic song like ‘The Way You Look Tonight,’ and then after one chorus, break into another song and watch everyone’s jaw hit the floor. We recently played ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ with a surprise break into ‘The Middle’ by Zedd.”

2.  Retell Your Love Story With an Introduction

Couple gives speech on dance floor in front of band | PartySlate
photo courtesy of & entertainment: Yazz Jazz Music & Productions | planner: Clover Events | décor: Fleur Inc | venue: University Club of Chicago

Artem Lomaz, Wedding & Event MC at NinetyThree Entertainment, knows there’s a variety of ways to make a wedding first dance memorable. But for him, it all has to tie back to the couple.

“It needs to be reflective of their style, spirit, and character,” he tells us. “Personally, I love incorporating a quick introduction that leads to their first dance: a retelling of their love story, and how it all culminates in the very moment that everyone is about to witness. It gives guests a deeper glimpse into their story, while also giving the couple a sentimental (mental) stroll through their courtship.” 

3. Include a Personalized Message

Couple smiles happily during their first dance | PartySlate
photographer: Jenna Brianne Photography | planner & design: Designer Events Inc. | venue: The Mansion on Main Street | entertainment: Artem Lomaz – NinetyThree Entertainment

NinetyThree Entertainment also encourages couples to record a short message stating what this moment means to them. Then, they work with the band or DJ to “infuse that recorded message into the first dance song.”

The entertainment company goes on to say, “Although the couple may be aware that their significant other will also be incorporating a line, it serves as a sentimental surprise when they actually hear what their partner pre-recorded for them.” 

4. Bring Guests Onto the Dance Floor

Couple dance to first song at Mayne Stage with friends seated around them on dance floor | PartySlate
photographer: Jason Kaczorowski Photography | venue: Mayne Stage | entertainment: Yazz Jazz Music & Productions

“I’m also a big believer in breaking the guest/VIP barrier as early as possible,” Lomaz of NinetyThree Entertainment tells us. “I always have guests line the dance area to welcome everyone in for the grand entrance, and having everyone around helps to beautifully transition into the first dance, with the couple literally surrounded by their friends and families.” 

Yazz Jazz Music & Productions agrees. “Bringing friends and family to circle you on the dance floor during the first dance, and to capture the looks on everyone’s faces, is one great way to make it memorable.”

5. Bring in Guests Halfway Through Your Song

Couples dance at wedding under string lights and on paisley-lit dance floor surrounded by friends and family | PartySlate
photographer: Olivia Leigh Photographie | planner: NSWE Events | floral: A Stem Above | venue: Artifact Events | entertainment: Arlen Music Productions

Johan Nebb, Bandleader of Aragon Artists’ party band The Social, explains, “Memorable moments occur because of how the moment made you feel. First dances can give couples anxiety with all eyes being on you. One minute can feel like an eternity on the dance floor.”

To combat this anxiety, Aragon Artists recommends inviting guests to join the couple a few moments into the first dance. “Being surrounded by your loved ones during your first dance creates a lasting memory. They are there with you, celebrating, as you embark on this life journey — and will be there with you every step of the way.”

Arlen Music Productions feels similarly. “Halfway through the song, we often invite all the guests to join in, which allows our couples to share this special moment with everyone. That also serves as the catalyst for a very high energy dance set of 2-3 more songs that completely sets the tone for the evening. It is all about heart and soul, fun and energy and getting the evening off to a great start.”

6.  Complement Your Wedding First Dance With Unique Production Elements

Couple kisses during wedding first dance with backdrop of band, performers, firework projections, and cold fireworks | PartySlate
photographer: Erika Dufour | planning & design: Birch Design Studio | décor: Revel Decor | venue: tented wedding | entertainment: Aragon Artists

Andrew McLaughlin, Founder of Aragon Artists, recommends adding unique production elements to make your wedding first dance a memorable experience. 

“For the first dance pictured above, our clients requested a custom soundtrack with some ‘magic’ for their first dance (a nod to their love for Disney and ‘The Greatest Showman’). We joined forces with Birch Design Studio, Revel Decor, and Frost Chicago to produce this cinematic first dance. A 22-piece orchestra, fog, fireworks, custom LED animations, robust surround sound, and a ringmaster (that was actually me!) conducting the magic, all contributed to this once-in-a-lifetime moment for one of our very favorite couples!”

Douglas Johnson, President and Executive Producer of Entertainment Plus Productions, tells us, “Custom is always the way to go.” They recommend mirroring a meaningful song with a custom video that celebrates the couple’s relationship journey. “As the dance moves forward, family members and friends surprise guests by joining in the choreography as their images are seen on the screen. This immersive experience will create a once in a lifetime custom pop-up experience for everyone.” 

However, Evolution Orchestra of Arlen Music Productions reminds couples to avoid over-choreographing, while still indulging in a big finish. “Nothing gets a better reaction than a classic dip, an elegant twirl, or an epic lift! One of our most favorite recent trends is timing the end of the song with the band for a big ending with firework sparklers!”

7. Have a Dance-Off for Your First Song

Couple bump hips during first dance at wedding | PartySlate
photographer: Bob & Dawn Davis Photography & Design | planner: Great Events | designer: Epic Events | venue: Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago | entertainment: The Gold Coast All Stars

Entertainment Plus Productions also suggests using a dance-off to create a memorable, customized experience. “This pre-designed moment is a surprise to the first dance traditional approach. Once the loving couple has been spotlighted, music changes and the entire wedding party joins in the fun. Girls vs guys create a magical experience as each takes center stage to show off their talents.” 

People Also Ask…

When is a first dance at a wedding?

The first dance usually occurs immediately after the couple makes their grand entrance into the reception area. Arlen Music Productions recommends that “the wedding dance occur when the couple is first introduced into the room. This puts the spotlight directly where it belongs.”

Another popular alternative is to cut the wedding cake first and then transition into the first wedding dance.

Of course, it’s up to you and your significant other to determine what works best for you as a couple. There’s no right or wrong answer. You can even wait until after the reception meal is over to transition into dance mode.

What is the most popular first dance wedding song?

Arlen Music Productions recommends these top 10 first dance tunes: 

  • Perfect Symphony (Ed Sheeran + Andrea Bocelli)
  • I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing (Aerosmith)
  • Everlong (acoustic version) (Foo Fighters)
  • You Are the Best Thing (Ray Lamongtagne)
  • God Only Knows (Beach Boys)
  • Sweet Tides (Thievery Corporation)
  • Simply The Best (Noah Reid from Schitt’s Creek)
  • Better Together (Luke Combs)
  • Best Part (H.E.R.)
  • Amazed (Lonestar)

Where can I find a wedding band or DJ?

Use PartySlate’s curated wedding entertainment directory to find a talented and available band or DJ near you. Make sure to use the filters to narrow your search by location, services, and more. We also highly recommend using one of the premier entertainment companies quoted within the article.