Where does this wedding tradition come from?
This interest has continued through my life to a point where I love finding out about the whys and wherefores of all parts of our life today and how things came about. This is also true when it comes to looking at wedding traditions and why they exist. By looking at how these traditions began it feels like it’s bringing the past to life. Why is there a first dance at a wedding? Just as interesting in my day-to-day working life is how couples choose to make the traditions their own, to reflect their own uniqueness in such wonderful ways. Some choose to stick to the traditions, some add their own take to them and some ignore them altogether in favour of starting their own new family traditions! There is no right or wrong way, just the right way for you. This is what makes photographing weddings such fun and so personal.
I’ll admit it…I have a bit of a fascination with history and learning interesting (or useless) facts. It probably comes from the fact my mum was a History teacher and brilliantly managed to bring the past to life with stories of dodgy monarchs, gruesome diseases, and everything in between. Now my son loved watching the series Horrible Histories for the same reason.
Today I want to talk about the first dance a newly married couple does and the symbolic meaning of the first dance. The first dance can come together in all sorts of ways – it can be surrounded by loved ones watching you, it can include your wedding guests, it can involve confetti bombs (I love this!) but it usually signifies the beginning of a good ole’ shindig that is the wedding reception. After the first dance the evening party kicks off and it’s time for everyone to relax and have a lot of fun.
To see Caroline and Simon’s Hatfield House wedding in full – click here
To see Sarah and Ade’s Pembroke Lodge wedding in full – click here
To see Warren and Andy’s Hatfield House wedding in full – click here
To see Olivia and Bryn’s Busbridge Lakes wedding in full – click here
To see Amanda and Steve’s Gaynes Park wedding in full – click here
I love the first dance, however it happens, and it’s particularly wonderful when it’s fun and heartfelt. A bit of action is always good to see, but a sweet dance between two people who are lost in the moment with each other is equally as lovely.
Related: How to make your wedding as unique as you are
Why is there a first dance at a wedding?
But how did the tradition start in the first place? Well, the common reason is that, just like the formal balls of days gone by, the guests of honour would open the dance. In this case, at a wedding, it’s the married couple. But actually, sources I found tell me it dates back further to the days when the groom used to steal his bride and would show off his new wife to his friends by dancing her around the fire before the celebrations could begin. This evolved into the era when brides were bought from their fathers and the first dance would be a sort of fertility ceremony. Whereas now it’s generally considered a romantic moment, a continuation of a couple’s marriage vows to one another.
Related: How to get two looks from one dress for your wedding day
Some couples find it a bit strange to have everyone stand and watch them dance, so often invite other couples to join in after the first verse and chorus. Usually, these include members of the wedding party or parents of the bride and groom. Sometimes the couple skips the first dance altogether and everyone hits the dance floor together. Sometimes the couple has been secretly (or not-so-secretly) practicing and has a pre-choreographed dance to perform. After all, it’s not every day that most of us waltz or ballroom dance around the bars is it?!
To see Sophie and David’s Pembroke Lodge wedding in full – click here
To see Sinhoue and Kevin’s Hedsor House wedding in full – click here
It’s not uncommon for the bride to dance with her father, connecting with the idea of being given away, and so too the groom dance with his mother. Some etiquette experts suggest that the bride and groom should dance with their in-laws too, to symbolise the new relationships started with this marriage. Halfway through the first dance, other couples are asked to join the wedding party on the dance floor so that no one is left out!
I love that the dancing captures the joy and celebration of the wedding day. However it’s done is up to you, it should represent you in whatever way you wish (even if that means not having one at all or having everyone involved) and that’s what I love about the couples whose weddings I photograph.
To see Som and Jonny’s destination wedding in Tuscany in full – click here
To see Emma and Fraser’s Thames Rowing Club wedding in full – click here
To see Lucy and Nick’s outdoor wedding in Kent in full – click here
To see Carl and Jack’s pub wedding in South London in full – click here
To see Catherine and James’ Stratton Court Barn wedding in full – click here
Thanks for popping by. Now you’ve had the party, it’s on to the tradition of what happens after the party here. Maybe you’ll choose a sparkler exit like this?
If you want to read more of the Wedding Traditions series, you can find out about The Tradition of the Wedding Ceremony, Why we have a Wedding Party, Why the tradition of the bride’s dress exists and more. Enjoy!
Very gorgeous wedding, I like it so much 🙂
thanks so much for the lovely comment
I loved this article, as well as your photography. I agree with what you said and appreciate the clarity and heart in your writing style. I’m a wedding dance choreographer based in portland, or. I’m sharing this article to my pinterest page. Thank you!
The mating dance maker 😉
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. It’s so great to hear you loved reading it. Thanks for sharing!