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Words by Peta Jo, guest columnist and author of
“Wedding Etiquette For Ferals”

Gone are the days of newlyweds shuffling awkwardly in the centre of an otherwise empty dance floor. Today’s happy couples – and almost as often, their entire bridal party – are busting serious moves to less than conventional music. From sexy rhumba or crazy jazz hands to hip-hop and even techno, bridal parties are certainly marking their territory on the dance floor, not to mention on YouTube.

Regardless of the number of dancers or the complexity of the routine, it’s clear how much fun an unexpected bit of “rug-cutting” can be for both the bride and groom and their guests.

So, how do you “bring the funk” to your wedding reception?

First, you must plan ahead. Brisbane and Gold Coast choreographers recommend couples have six weeks to three months before the wedding, allowing ample time to come up with a routine, learn and rehearse it. The more people or the more complicated the dance moves, the more time you’ll need.

“It’s best to have finished lessons two weeks before the wedding,” advises Stephen Sutton of A1 Dance Fever Studio on the Gold Coast.

“People get stressed out and can get emotional with each other by that stage.”

If time is on your side, you need to select your song. Most choreographers will ask what you’re dancing to before they commit to a dance style.

“Most people have a love song that they’re emotionally connected to but quite often they just ask for a waltz because that’s all they’ve heard.”

Stephen likens putting a waltz routine with a salsa number as “sticking a round peg in a square hole”. While it pays to heed the advise of the experts, you also need to find a dance instructor who listens to what you want.

Your pick of song, or the use of props (umbrellas or canes, for example) should not deter a professional, according to Dance Direct principal Michelle Hurney.

“The more information you give the instructor the better, and the happier you’ll be with the outcome.”

The venue’s dance floor and the style of dress are also key components to a polished performance. A small portable dance floor may not suffice for a large group routine, just as a long train on your dress may encumber your Viennese Waltz.

Have fun during rehearsals

Michelle recommends making rehearsals fun for the bridal party dancers.

“You can have a barbecue and have a few drinks. It’s sometimes better to have an instructor come to you, rather than using their studio,” she said.

Be wary of packages that include beginner dance lessons, separate to your private tuition.  Stephen believes they won’t necessarily improve your performance on the night and the money could be better spent on more private rehearsal time.

Much like the entire wedding planning process, the effort is worth it in the end. Richard and Vivienne, wed in October, began their rhumba rehearsals in July.

Self-confessed perfectionist, Richard admitted he wanted to do it well.

“Vivienne was intrigued by the idea and by the end of the first lesson it was clear just how much fun it was going to be.”

And as for stage fright?

“There’s been no time for nerves to build. It was always going to be one of the highlights of our night.”

In a nutshell

Plan ahead. You need between six weeks and three months.
Pick your song. It can be anything. Don’t be afraid of “dirty dancing” in front of your grandparents, if that’s what you want to do. People have even used Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as their song.
Rehearse. Practice the routine at the venue, and in your dress, so you’re aware of the restrictions.
Have fun. Refrain from tyranny! This is meant to be fun and if mistakes are made, it’s only going to add to the entertainment.

Dance styles

Latin American

About Peta-Jo

Peta-Jo, author of the book “Wedding Etiquette for Ferals”, works as a subeditor for regional Queensland newspapers and conducts regular book reviews on QUT’s MC Reviews website. Visit Peta-Jo’s website.


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