Seven Simple Ways to Ease Your First-Dance Nerves

First and foremost, remember that this classic wedding moment is supposed to be fun!

bride and groom sharing first dance
Photo: Eve Yarbrough

If you're feeling nervous about the first dance at your wedding, know that you are far from alone—this is one wedding moment that so many couples feel anxious about. "Especially if you're not used to performing or being in front of a crowd, it can be nerve-wracking!" notes Shimkiri Sawian-Figar, owner of Jersey City Ballroom, in Jersey City, New Jersey. "That's why some sort of dance lessons can be helpful—to give brides- and grooms-to-be a chance to perform in front of others and gain some experience with being the center of attention."

Whether you're taking classes at a studio or practicing with your significant other solo, here are some expert-approved tips that will help you calm those first-dance nerves.

Start sooner rather than later.

While you've probably got your hands full with a slew of other wedding to-dos, try not to leave your wedding dance plans to the last minute. "Dancing is an activity that engages both the brain and the body, and your muscles will need time to retrain to achieve that graceful, polished look that gives your dance a natural air," says Sawian-Figar. "It will also help your dancing go into your long-term memory and muscle memory, so if you have a blank moment on the day of, your muscle memory will take over." She recommends starting at least six months out from your big day so that you're not scrambling to nail it down the month before.

Consider seeking professional help.

If you're not used to dancing in front of an audience, classed with an instructor may help you both feel more comfortable. Additionally, dance classes serve as a wonderful pre-wedding bonding experience. Kathleen Senger, a dance teacher and owner of Peachtree City School of Dance, says "Dance teachers know they're working with inexperienced dancers and will work with you to become comfortable moving to the music," she says. "Make sure to communicate with the dance teacher the theme and style of your wedding as well as the type of wedding dress you're wearing."

Come up with a strategy—and structure.

Sawian-Figar recommends creating a plan with your instructor for the beginning, middle, and end of the dance so that you have a good flow of movement. "This is especially important if you are doing a medley of dances and songs," she says. "Even if you would like to improvise some of your dance, it will be much easier to be creative in the moment if you have an idea beforehand of what to do."


Yes, practice makes perfect, but it's also one of the easiest ways to cut down on first-dance nerves. Senger suggests spending about 30 minutes each day practicing the dance with your partner. "The more you work together the more you become comfortable with the dance movements," she says.

Visualize your wedding venue.

Before you start practicing your first dance, i's smart to have at least some kind of idea of what your reception layout will look like. Understanding where your dance floor is in relation to your tables is key. The reason? Sawian-Figar says this knowledge will determine which way to face when you start the dance. "If you have a chance to practice your dance in your venue before your wedding, take it!"

Dance for you, not your attendees.

Don't lose focus of the reason you're doing a first dance in the first place: to celebrate your marriage. Erica Hornthal, founder of Chicago Dance Therapy, recommends picking a dance form that is going to match your relationship style—a traditional waltz, a sensual tango, or a fun pop song—and leaving attendees moved by your love, not your choreography.

Have fun.

There are plenty of things to stress about when planning a wedding, but dancing together shouldn't be one of them, says Donald Stamper, manager and head of guests experience at Karina Smirnoff Dance Studio. "It can be a nice break from the chaos and something that you both get to learn together," he says. "Enjoy it every minute of it!"

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