What's the Right Length for a First Dance Song?

Timing really is everything.

cavin david wedding couple first dance
Photo: Tenth and Grace

When choosing a first dance song, many couples will start their search by considering the tunes that speak to their relationship: a song that was playing when they first met, one that contains lyrics that remind them of their partnership, or even a melody they feel tells the story of their courtship. Brides and grooms may also base their final decisions on any number of things—like how many other couples they know shared their first dance to this song, for example—but there's one detail they often don't think about until it's too late: length. That begs the question: Should the length of the song be a deciding factor? The experts we spoke with say yes.

The DJ's Take

Eric Herod says newlyweds should aim to spend about three minutes cutting a rug. However, he believes that the amount of time you spend on the dance floor is less important than what happens right before you step onto it. "The transition into the first dance should feel romantic in order to be romantic," he explains. "If the guests are connected with the couple's story, and the couple is connected to each other, that first dance is magic."

The Dance Instructor's Take

Dance instructor and DJ Paul Hoke of Heirloom Entertainment says that the way the event feels and flows is more important than the actual amount of time that the song is playing. That being said, he agrees that unless the couple is performing a compelling or entertaining dance routine, anything over three minutes may make your guests feel less engaged. But don't cut your song down too short, either. Hoke recommends keeping the song to a minimum of 30-45 seconds. Anything shorter will run the risk of being too little time for the photographer to capture a good shot of the first dance.

The Photographer's Take

A photographer may prefer a slightly longer time, if only so that he or she can capture the perfect shot. "A good length for a first dance song is anywhere from three to four minutes," says Keith Phillips of Classic Photographers. This gives the couple to enjoy their first dance while also giving the photographer time to adequately document the moment. "They'll want to get multiple shots of each of you, capturing your expressions at different stages of the dance, as well as reactions and emotions from your guests as they watch," the pro explains. He does advise against going over four minutes, though, adding that a very long song leads to couples beginning to feel self-conscious or guests losing interest.

The Wedding Planner's Take

Wedding planner Janessa White of Simply Eloped suggests going with the shortest song you're considering. "It's a nice experience for the people involved but all your guests are basically sitting around waiting for you to be done so they can celebrate with you," she explains.

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