Wedding dances date all the way back to 16th-century European royalty. Guests would honour their newlywed king and queen by gliding across the ballroom, as the couple sat and politely watched. It was a tradition full of pomp and ceremony, reserved solely for the aristocracy.
It wasn’t until centuries later that cutting shapes became more widespread. The working class started to put the focus of dancing on the newly married couple (who typically hosted weddings in the bride’s family home, rather than lavish ballrooms). What type of dance? In 1800s England, even the waltz was considered scandalous. In her book Etiquette, published in 1922, author Emily Post observed: “On leaving their table the bridal party begin the dancing—or possibly join the dancing which by now has started in the living room or wherever the wedding group received. The bride and groom dance at first together.”
For decades, traditional wedding etiquette prevailed: the first dance took place at the reception, shortly after dinner. As time passed, the first dance song became more reflective of the here and now. Long before the Internet and music-streaming services, couples found inspiration from the silver screen. Baby boomers gravitated towards romantic songs from films: Frank Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight from Swing Time, Unchained Melody and Etta James’At Last, featured in Sun Valley Serenade dominated wedding halls for decades.
As the Internet became mainstream, tech started opening brides and grooms to a new world of inspiration. Slowly but surely, wedding receptions began to break free from buttoned-up convention. Couples started choosing more unconventional ballads like rock and country, such as Aerosmith’s wildly popular I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.