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Video: Tips for Jessica and Cody's first dance

updated 5/1/2008 11:25:57 AM ET 2008-05-01T15:25:57

A graceful, fluid dance is a sweet metaphor for a good marriage. It looks effortless, but it actually takes practice, patience and passion to get it just right. Where to begin? Darcy Miller, editorial director of “Martha Stewart Weddings,” offers tips for your first dance and song:

Start by thinking about the mood you want to set as you step out for your spin on the dance floor: Will it be tender, joyful, sentimental, vivacious or lighthearted? What you desire can usually be evoked in a particular style of dance or by a single, meaningful song. You may select one first, then the other, or choose the dance and song together.

Many couples know right away that they want to do a traditional ballroom dance. The perennial favorites for weddings are the romantic waltz and the genteel fox-trot. The waltz is marked by turning movements and is danced to music of the same name (one familiar waltz is “Someday My Prince Will Come”). The fox-trot is a combination of slow and quick steps executed with smooth, gliding motions. It can be danced to any number of musical styles, ranging from ragtime to Big Band jazz to ’50s rock 'n' roll. Most beginners can learn the basics of either dance in a few hours, but you'll need additional time and practice to become confident with the steps.

A formal ballroom dance is not the only option — you can choose something less conventional that reflects your personalities or interests. Other popular choices include swing dances, the tango and the merengue.

If you are inexperienced in the dance style you want to do, or just need a bit of help choreographing some moves, a qualified dance instructor is a valuable resource. When you contact the studio, discuss your goals and ask how many lessons you will realistically need to meet them. If you have six months or more before the event, you can take group classes in a few different styles to find out which dances appeal to you. Prices for group classes range from $45 to $70 per person; the fee usually covers four hour-long lessons held over the course of a month.

If you have less time before your wedding or want specialized attention to refine your moves, consider taking a series of private dance lessons. They cost $65 to $85 and up for a couple per session, but there may be a discount when you buy blocks of multiple lessons. Most studios offer special wedding packages, which combine group and private lessons.

For some couples the first dance is inspired by a special song — perhaps the tune that was playing when they got engaged or a piece by a favorite artist with lyrics they love. You can also look for a song whose words resonate with you; standards by composers such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin are classic choices. If you're unsure of how to dance to your chosen tune, again, a professional can help.

If you've hired a band, talk with your bandleader about how the song will sound, based on the instrumentalists, to make sure it's what you want. If you have a DJ, provide him with a CD of your preferred version of the song, especially if you've chosen a classic that's been recorded by many artists.

The more you practice, the more dancing together will become second nature — and that, after all, is the idea.

For more helpful wedding tips, visit MarthaStewart.com.


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