Wedding Day Secrets book cover

An extract from the book “Wedding Day Secrets – Facts The Industry Would Prefer Brides Didn’t Know” by Derek Pengelly.

If you would like to receive the first two chapters of this book in PDF format so that you can view it on your computer, phone or tablet, then please let me know and I’ll email it to you. If you’d like to receive the full book in PDF format, then please contact me to arrange a meeting to discuss your wedding and what I can do for you.

In this instance, the term “Party Hosts” refers to a DJ who has undergone professional training with Derek Pengelly and/or Mark Ferrell.

Traditionally your first dance as husband and wife signals the start of the dancing, and the end of the “Formal” part of the day. Some Brides and Bridegrooms relish the idea of being in the spotlight, for three or four minutes, while others are quite shy.

Generally, your photographer will want to capture this memory, as will your guests, and the videographer, if you have one? In my opinion, it is important to make sure that this dance is presented in such a way that everybody is involved and aware of what is happening. Sometimes this moment can be understated and poorly managed, resulting in guests not being aware of what is happening. Difficult to imagine I know, but very often I hear stories of the first dance going almost unnoticed.

First dance at Caswell House

I’ve met Brides-to-be who have shared their experience of weddings that they have attended where “Nobody danced”. I find it hard to believe. However they insisted it happens. I can also put this down to a disconnection between the DJ or Band, and the lack of preparation and staging prior to the first dance.

Timing of the first dance is very important. There is a window of opportunity, which will depend upon the time-line. Generally speaking, the time for the first dance is when all of the guests are in place, and everybody is relaxed and happy. If the wedding is one where everyone is present for the Wedding Breakfast and Evening Reception, then sooner rather than later, is a good time.

If you are having a split day, with a separate evening reception, and expecting a significant number of extra guests, then later in the evening is preferable.

Top Tip

Once you have consulted with your Party Host and decided on the right time for your first dance, stick to it. Ensure your photographer knows and understands what time your dance will take place. It is not uncommon for photographers to pressure Brides into bringing forward the time of the first dance. Why they should try to do this is beyond me. I know many of them are contracted to photograph the first dance, after which their work is done. [The cynic in me is saying an earlier first dance is to the benefit of the photographer and not the Bride]. Please remember that time-lines have a habit of slipping. If people are having a good time, no one will want to rush them. Very often the best weddings run late. Your photographer needs to understand this and be flexible. Make sure this scenario has been discussed and that your photographer is happy to accommodate your wishes.

There is a formula that needs to be followed to generate a great reaction to your first dance.

Communication and staging are vital. First of all, the entire bridal party needs to know what you intend to do. Some couples prefer to dance throughout alone. Other couples decide they would like to be joined by their guests part-way through the song.

First Dance at The Ashmolean Museum

Your Party Host understands how to guarantee the end result. He or she will offer ideas on how your wishes can be achieved. What follows is one example. Each Party Host will have his own way of achieving what you want.

The first thing required is an announcement of intent. A ten-minute warning will prepare guests for what is about to happen. The Best Man and Bridesmaids should be aware that their responsibility is to make sure the rest of the bridal party is gathered together. Another announcement should be made three or four minutes before the agreed time. By now the bridal party and the photographer, as well as all of the guests, should be in the loop and expect the first dance.

Finally, your Party Host will introduce you onto the dance floor, for your first official dance as husband and wife. He may, for even greater effect, ask you to re-enter the room or position yourself in a far corner. Bringing you into the room or having you walk through the room to the dance floor prolongs the moment and adds atmosphere and excitement. It is also a good idea for there to be a change in lighting while this is taking place. People only take in ten percent of the spoken word, so adding a change of lighting will help underscore what is happening. The final ingredient to a successful introduction is the choice of music. The choice is endless. Your Party Host will have loads of ideas. I often use a traditional fanfare followed by the “Bridal March”.

I’ve also been known to use the theme from “Star Wars” or “Superman”. You may wish for more classical piece of music. Whatever you feel comfortable with, will work for you. To recap;

communication, lighting, music and positioning will result in an introduction to a first dance which everyone will be aware of.

Once you are on the dance floor and ready to go it’s a good idea to pause for a moment. This is when your photographer will want a couple of shots and no doubt your guest will too. It can also be a nice touch if one of you takes the opportunity to thank the guests for being there. This doesn’t need to be a full-blown speech, a simple, “Thanks for coming, enjoy yourselves, and mine’s a vodka and tonic”, is all that is required.

First dance at Phyllis Court Club

Some venues often believe that this is a good time to cut the cake, either for the first time or once again for the evening guests to see. This can work and there is no right or wrong here. Again preparation and communication is the key to success. If the cake is to be cut, then the venue staff need to be ready to remove the cake once the cutting is over.

Now we are ready to start your special music selection for your first dance. The choice of music should be one of significance to you. If you choose to dance to this song entirely alone this is fine. However if you wish for the bridal party to join you, they need to be familiar with the choice of music. This is also true of any second or third choices you may have. It’s difficult to persuade people to dance to a tune they do not know. In fact, the reverse is true. If people recognise a tune in the first ten seconds they are more likely to dance to it.

I would always recommend building the atmosphere when it comes to first dances and family dances. Usually the purpose is to encourage the guests to join the Bride and Bridegroom on the dance floor. This process also needs to be staged and produced and directed by your Party Host.

Very few Brides appear to be aware of the tradition of Father and Daughter dances or Mother and Son dances. I’ll come back to them in a moment. Meanwhile let’s take a look at building the dance floor during and after a first dance.

If the intention is for the Bridal Party to join the Bride and Bridegroom mid-way through their first dance, this is what I would suggest. Ask your Part Host to introduce both sets of parents [if applicable] by name. The more personalised the introduction the better. “Would John and Sue Jones please join Paula and Paul on the dance floor” is better than saying “can the parents of the Bride please join Paula and Paul on the dance floor”?

First Dance at Kingston Bagpuize House

Likewise the same is true for the Best Man and Bridesmaids. If first and last names are used it creates a more personal and intimate atmosphere. Introducing the Bridal Party in this way also introduces them to guests who may not know who they are.

If the first dance is Bride and Bridegroom only; the second dance needs to be something similar to the first. Keeping the tempo the same lets the transition flow more easily. Once again I would advise selecting a song that is well known. Introducing the bridal party, either collectively or individually will be your choice. Most importantly the Bride, Bridegroom and Bridal Party all need to remain on the floor for the third dance. This is the dance where we would like everybody else in the room to join in.

The third choice of music may well be similar to the second. I suggest this as mentally the guests expect this to be a fairly low-key kind of dance. Something slow to mid-tempo will be safe choice. Songs like “My Girl” by the Temptations or “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by Andy Williams fit this slot perfectly. However you may wish to use this third dance to crank up the atmosphere and really get the party started. In which case “Get This Party Started”, and “I Gotta Feelin’” may well hit the spot and transition into a more dynamic atmosphere. All of the music choices should be made in consultation with your Party Host. He or she will have the experience and the expertise to know what will work and what won’t.

Best wishes


Oxfordshire Wedding Entertainment

01235 426333 or 07870 134826

[email protected]

I run Oxfordshire Wedding Entertainment, based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. I’m a DJ who has the belief that weddings can be so much more… I can provide the musical accompaniment to your whole day, from ceremony to drinks reception to wedding breakfast and finally, the evening reception. I can be your Master of Ceremonies, helping to guide and inform your guests.

I’m so much more than just a DJ…

I’d like to talk to you about your wedding day, to offer up ideas, to help and advise you.
If you’d like to arrange an appointment, then please contact me.