First Dance Before or After Dinner?

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Many brides and grooms wonder if they should do their First Dance before or after dinner at their wedding reception. This will lay out the pros and cons of either option. Either way works, but you’ll want to asses which fits best into the overall flow of your wedding.

First Dance Before Dinner

Brenda & James first dance under the stars and market lights at the Japanese Friendship Garden

Doing the First Dance before dinner has a nice flow to it especially if you are doing traditional bridal party introductions.  Aside from the ceremony, this is the one time you ‘should’ have absolutely everyone’s attention in the room.  (An experienced DJ/MC should not start this segment until he/she does)   After seating the guests, the introductions start. The party get’s introduced just before the bride & groom.  The energy builds, sometimes a new song is played and the couple is introduced, usually right into the center of the room on the dancefloor.  It’s a perfectly natural flow to transition into the couple’s first dance from this point.  Again, the attention is completely on the couple.  Guests are seated and the First Dance commences. After the dance, they take their seats and you transition into possibly a welcome speech and/or a blessing/prayer and then into the dinner service.  The family dances (Father/Daughter & Mother/Son) would then be done after dinner, and it a great way to segue into Open Dancing.

  • It flows very naturally with the order of events.
  • The focus is on you, and remains on you during this time of the reception.  As the reception rolls on, the focus gets spread about (toasts, family dances, drinking at the bar 😉 etc.)
  • Attention is higher at the start of the reception, rather than after dinner. It is the one other time aside from the ceremony that we truly have everyone’s attention – seated in the room, ready for dinner, etc.
  • It gets it out of the way.  Many couples are nervous at the thought of their dance so it’s nice to get it done with and out of the way.
  • Brides – your hair, makeup and other niceties will be that much fresher, regardless of what a touchup will do.  You both ‘may’ have less drinks in ya too 😉
Doing the First Dance before dinner is my preferred method and I usually recommend it of there are no other circumstances against it.

First Dance After Dinner

Michael & Abigail’s dinner was upstairs, outside on the patio at L’Auberge in Del Mar. The reception & dancing were downstairs so the First Dance was done later.

However, it may not always be preferred or it may not flow as natural as possible to do the first dance before dinner.  Therefore, it’s perfectly okay to do it afterwards.  I believe this is more of an older tradition, and it seems that through the 2000s into the 2010s it’s shifted more towards the later.   (I still meet with the occasional couple who seem totally surprised and never heard of doing it before dinner, which it’s totally fine too).  The guests would be seated for the reception, we’d go through the typical bridal introductions, all to their seats and then essentially into the dinner service, possibly after a welcome and/or blessing/prayer. After dinner, speeches/toasts and anything else done during that segment, the dances would begin with the couple’s First Dance, followed by the Family Dances (assuming those are being done)

  • Dancing is done in an entirely different room/area.  This is a no-brainer.
  • Logistically impossible – say you have a band or performer to sing your song that won’t be showing up until later into the dinner hour.
  • You will not get introduced onto the dancefloor.  Possibly the dancefloor is on the opposite end of the room (not symmetrical) or the flow is otherwise too disruptive.
  • The couple simply wishes to wait until after dinner to do all of the dances – either based on tradition, or simply personal preference.  That’s fine too.

Either is Okay, Just Plan It

At the end of the day either method is fine and your experienced DJ/MC should be able to integrate either into the flow and work it nicely with the crowd, energy levels, etc.  Just ensure you consider all circumstances and review it thoroughly with him/her during your planning sessions.

 

First Dance at Wedding Reception (1)

Michael & Abigail’s dinner was upstairs, outside on the patio at L’Auberge in Del Mar. The reception & dancing were downstairs so the First Dance was done later.

First Dance at Wedding Reception (2)

First Dance

First Dance at Wedding Reception (3)

Wedding First Dance!

First Dance at Wedding Reception (4)

Putting on some extra moves during their Tango First Dance.

First Dance at Wedding Reception (5)

Brenda & James first dance under the stars and market lights at the Japanese Friendship Garden

First Dance at Wedding Reception (6)

First Dance done before dinner at the Martin Johnson House.

First Dance at Wedding Reception (7)

First Dance at the Scripps Forum.

 

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