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First Dance: Tips & Advice for Getting It Right

The first dance- something that is planned and coordinated to perfection by some couples, yet feared or loathed by others. Often, the music is carefully & painstakingly chosen. Whether it’s “their song”, just one they love, or something they’ve chosen for fun, the first dance is often one of the key moments of the day.

Planning key parts of your day with photos in mind can really help you to achieve the tear jerking, heart stopping, beautiful photos that many couples lust after. So we’ve put together a guide which will help you achieve the best results for you.

Hertfordshire wedding at Tewinbury farm. Photo by Sam and Louise

Firstly, choosing your song.

Now, whilst we can’t advise on what you should choose (which is the hard bit really isn’t it!?) what we do always suggest is letting your photographer know what you have planned if it’s anything out of the ordinary. By out of the ordinary we mean, something other than a brief shuffle! If you’re planning to suddenly break into Gangnam Style at some point for example, it always good for your photographer to know what’s coming. Similarly, if you have a routine planned, let your photographer know. It may influence where we set our lighting up, or where we shoot from. Don’t worry if it’s a surprise for guests, we wont say anything!

Next is making sure your DJ is briefed on what you want.

Each do their own thing and have their own way of working. It is SO important to talk to them about what you want regarding other guests joining you on the dance floor during your special dance(s). Some will allow the full song to play out whilst you dance, but others will literally give you 10 seconds together before announcing that everyone else should join you. If you want those lovely, romantic, close, emotional, first dance shots that you see all over Pinterest, you really need to tell them NOT to do this. You need to give it some time. In fairness, 5 seconds can feel like 5 minutes when you’re nervously swaying in front of a crowd, but give it time. At least 30 seconds.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

As someone who hated doing a first dance myself, I know it’s tempting to get everyone else up there asap. It’s just one of those things though. If you want the photos, there has to be a bit of give and take. As much as I loathed the idea of doing a first dance and as uncomfortable as I felt, we do actually have one of our first dance photos framed in our house. So ya know, it might be a “keeper” moment.

Having said that you don’t have to have a first dance at all if you don’t want one. Check out these fun, alternative ideas for couples who just aren’t into bustin’ a move: Alternative First Dance Ideas. One of our couples recently did a first song instead- to kick off their Karaoke evening reception. And it was badass. Very personal and bags of fun!

wedding in Lincolnshire

Next is another DJ related point. Lighting.

London wedding at the Asylum and Kachette Photo copyright

Perhaps it comes down to personal taste, but within the photography community the verdict is basically unanimous. There is nothing that’s more of a romance killer than a couple being covered by hundreds of tiny little red and green dots. There is nothing romantic about a big red light thats apparently shaped like a rose being projected onto your dress. And a smoke machine can be a bit school disco. Smoke machines also have the ability to kill your photos entirely. To be honest, they’re a novelty best avoided.


We will of course shoot whatever you want, but we cannot correct these things after the fact. As such, if fogging and coloured dots is something you want to avoid, it’s worth thinking about. Once you’ve decided chat to your DJ about the kind of lighting they use and what their procedure is for the first dance. After the first dance is fair game. They can go crazy- whack the lights on and get the party atmosphere going. For just 1 song, if you want great results, party lighting, in an ideal world would be off. If you’re unsure, up lighters are a fantastic way of creating atmosphere without the funny spotted lights.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

It is absolutely your call. Some couples love the disco lights loo-  but whatever you decide you will need to reach a clear agreement with them about this before the wedding. If it comes to that time of the evening and all of a sudden the coloured lights come on, there isn’t much we can do. Many of the higher end DJ’s we’ve worked with over the years don’t even use these kind of lights at all for a wedding. Those who do are usually very accommodating and understanding of lighting issues. Ultimately, if you (the couple) ask, you will get. If we ask, we’ll probably be ignored and branded photographerzillas!

Other special dances

If you are having any other special dances, please make sure your photographers knows about these too. Many photographer contracts state that vendors will stay until the first dance is complete. Some take this very seriously and will be up and away the moment it’s over. If you’re planning a lovely dance with mum or dad (or anyone else) make sure they know so that they don’t miss it! Some of the loveliest, most touching photos we capture are those that show the bond between a parent and their child. The pride in their eyes gets me every time.

Wedding in Lincolnshire

Take home points:

  • If you have anything out of the ordinary planned for your first dance, make sure your photographer knows about it so they can plan accordingly.
  • If you want romantic first dance images, free from funky party lighting make sure you ask your DJ before the wedding for these to be off JUST FOR THE FIRST DANCE.
  • Discuss when you want guests to join you on the dance floor (if at all) during your first dance. Relay this to your DJ and to your photographer if it will be fairly soon.
  • Inform your photographer of any other special dances you have planned.
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