Your First Dance: Before or After Dinner?

For those of you looking forward to your first dance with nervous trepidation, unsure of how your moment in the spotlight will be – you’re not alone.

So many couples, most, in fact, dread that calls from the DJ to take to the dance floor. But, we can assure you, from experience, once you look into each other’s eyes, and you hear your track come on, everything just clicks. But how does the timing of your dance affect the moment itself?

If you’re nervous, does it help to have the first dance before or after dinner? Or maybe as soon as you enter the wedding reception?

The answer is that the timing of your first dance will come down to you and your wedding party.

To get it right, you’ll need to consider how the day will flow, overall, while also thinking about how its timing will make you feel. Will it bring you confidence if it’s straight after cocktail hour? Or will you need to relax a while before hitting the dance floor?

Today, we’ll break down whether your first dance should come before or after dinner, plus we’ll also throw in a third secret option! Just in case you didn’t have enough choices already!

first dance before or after dinner

Is the First Dance Necessary?

If you’re asking someone whether you really need a first dance on your wedding day, and they tell you that you have to have one. That’s just not true.

Almost every wedding planning decision is down to the individual, so if you, or your partner, hates being in the spotlight (literally), then don’t force yourself. It’s your dream wedding day after all!

On the flip side, if you’re just a bit nervous about the whole situation, but you don’t have any deep-rooted anxiety around the subject, you should follow through, and start deciding on your song!

As we said at the top, once you’re both there, together, at the moment, usually everything just clicks into place. Any nerves you previously had, turn into raw excitement. Plus, the pictures of you on the wedding dance floor will be stunning!

Nerves aside, if you just don’t want a first dance, or parent dance, because you think they’re both tacky, or not for you, you don’t have to have them! It’s a personal preference. Don’t let tradition or wedding etiquette dictate how your big day plays out.

How Long Should the First Dance Be?

Unless you’re an ex-contestant or professional on “Dancing with the Stars,” it’s better to keep your first dance short.

If you want the undivided attention of your wedding guests, and a wonderful celebratory moment together, don’t dance for longer than three minutes. Any longer than that and you’ll lose the crowd, and to be honest, your enthusiasm.

Choose a first dance wedding song that’s between 2-3 minutes long, and practice dancing to it way before your big day. That way you’ll be able to walk through some moves, feel comfortable dancing together (if it’s not a thing you do normally), and you’ll get a feel for how long the song really is.

It may well be that on the day, 30 seconds into your first dance, you both decide you want everyone to join you now, and that’s ok too! It’s perfect, in fact, if you want a relaxed wedding reception vibe.

Before Dinner


These days, couples often like to make a grand wedding reception entrance – the grand finale following the bridal party introductions.

Well, what better way to seize the moment, than for the married couple to head straight for the dance floor?

Choosing to have the first dance before dinner is a great option, energy-wise. Your wedding party will still be buzzing from your ceremony, the boozy cocktail hour, and the excitement of seeing your reception room for the first time. You can then ride that momentum, and steal the show.

Plus, having your first dance before the wedding meal means your whole look is more likely to be pristine!

You’ll of course be touching up here and there as the day progresses, but there’s no escaping the fact that the deeper you travel through your wedding timeline, the less fresh you’ll look. And the more likely you’ll pick up the odd wedding dress stain!


The first dance is often a signal to the entire wedding party that it’s time to dance. By having your first dance before the wedding meal, you’ll remove that natural segue.

There is, however, a simple solution: Plan for the father-daughter and mother-son dances to be after dinner. That way, they’ll kick off the evening’s dancing by focusing your guest’s attention on the dance floor.

After Dinner


It is traditional, within a wedding reception timeline, to have the first dance after the dinner service. So at the very least, your family will be happy if you have it then!

To be fair, timing-wise, going from dinner to dancing works because your audience is captive. The entire wedding party is sitting down together, enjoying the last of their desserts, and looking around for the next slice of entertainment. Cue, first dance.

Following dinner, everyone’s bellies are full, and they’re happy after a lengthy meal chatting and drinking. So, they are perfectly positioned, in the right frame of mind, to sit and enjoy your dances.

It also, as we suggested earlier, prompts the mood of the evening to shift. After eating, guests often feel a little lethargic after all the typically rich food consumed during a sit-down dinner at a wedding.

By having the first dance almost straight after the wedding meal, you’re signaling it’s time for loved ones to get off their butts, and join you on the floor!


If either of you suffers from performance anxiety, then the wait to get up and dance might be agonizing.

You may not enjoy your wedding meal if you’re focusing instead on getting that damn routine nailed later! This may also lead you to top up your glass one too many times to compensate for your beating heart and sweaty palms.

By having the first dance early, almost at the beginning of the wedding reception timeline, you’ll be getting it out of the way sooner and while your energy is also high.

Why Not Have the First Dance After the Wedding Cake Cutting?

This is our secret option and one we think you’re going to like!

Plan for the first dance to be straight after the cutting of the wedding cake. You’ll be harnessing all the excitement of your evening guests and using that energy to put on the best performance ever!

Plus, your captive crowd will already be focusing their undivided attention on you, so it will feel like a natural transition when you then move straight into your dance.

Just be sure to remove any wedding cake from around your face before your tune kicks in!

Wherever you decide to place your first dance, just remember to consider yourselves first and traditional wedding day formalities second.

If it feels right to enter the room and almost immediately begin your first dance routine, then go for it!

But if you’d prefer to enjoy your wedding meal, maybe soak up a bit of Dutch courage, and then hit the dance floor – that’s equally fine! The day is yours, do what feels right.

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